NFC West: Joe Toledo
I've been putting together roster breakdowns similar to this one for roughly 10 years. They're a quick read and worthwhile exercise because they require thinking through each position. The numbers in parentheses shows how many players the team has on its roster. The average number kept since 2003 reflects Week 1 counts by position.
In some cases I've used the "looking safe" category for players that could qualify as "keepers" (the term "locks" is one I used previously). The Seattle Seahawks remain somewhat unsettled at quite a few positions and they could be active in claiming players off waivers. Some players looking safe one day could become expendable quickly. The same could be said for some keepers.
Here's what I'm thinking Monday:
Average number kept since 2003: 2.9
Keepers: Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst
Looking safe: J.P. Losman
Comment: Some teams keep only two quarterbacks when other positions demand special considerations. Seattle could have some interest in Matt Leinart if the Arizona Cardinals released him. I wouldn't expect the Seahawks to invest anything trade-wise, however.
Running backs (6)
Average number kept since 2003: 5.3
Keepers: Justin Forsett, Leon Washington, Julius Jones, Quinton Ganther
On the bubble: Owen Schmitt
Also: Louis Rankin
Comment: Schmitt isn't a top special-teams player and he isn't versatile enough to carry the ball. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates says he has room for traditional fullbacks on his roster. We'll see if that's enough to spare Schmitt. I don't think the team would release Jones even though Forsett and Washington have sometimes looked better.
Wide receivers (9)
Average number kept since 2003: 5.3
Keepers: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Mike Williams, Golden Tate
Looking safe: Deon Butler
On the bubble: Ben Obomanu, Brandon Jones
Also: Ruvell Martin, Kole Heckendorf
Comment: Jones probably needs to make an impact over the next week, including during the final exhibition game, to prove he's worth a roster spot. Obomanu can play multiple positions, he's good on special teams and he's caught the ball when given chances. Jones has shown more during past regular seasons and he can also provide special-teams value. Butler's strong offseason should be enough. Houshmandzadeh seems to be gaining momentum following an injury-affected offseason.
Tight ends (5)
Average number kept since 2003: 3.1
Keepers: John Carlson, Chris Baker
On the bubble: Anthony McCoy, Cameron Morrah
Also: Nick Tow-Arnett
Comment: McCoy has dropped too many passes, but he's a draft choice and he also scored a touchdown during the preseason. It's possible the Seahawks could keep four tight ends. They'll use more double-tight personnel groupings this season, most likely. Carlson and Baker are clearly the top two. I'm not sure McCoy or Morrah would rank among the 53 best players overall.
Offensive linemen (15)
Average number kept since 2003: 8.9
Keepers: Russell Okung, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Max Unger, Mansfield Wrotto, Mike Gibson, Ray Willis, Chester Pitts
Not sure what to think: Steve Vallos, Ben Hamilton
Also: Mitch Erickson, Jeff Byers, Joe Toledo, Gregg Peat, Jacob Phillips
Comment: This position is difficult to figure. The Seahawks expect Willis back at some point early in the season. If that holds true, the team wouldn't want to place him on injured reserve. Pitts falls into the keeper category if his knee holds up (reserve/PUP is not an option for him after Pitts passed a physical). Spencer and Unger can both play center, and Gibson could start at guard, making me wonder if there's a spot for Vallos. Hamilton entered camp as a starter. Line coach Alex Gibbs values him as a mentor for Okung. But with Gibson overtaking Hamilton recently and with Pitts getting medical clearance, Hamilton appears less valuable. Seattle might want to keep 10 while the injury situation settles out. Expect the Seahawks to check out the waiver wire, too.
Defensive line (15)
Average number kept since 2003: 9.6
Keepers: Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Colin Cole, Kevin Vickerson, Nick Reed, Kentwan Balmer, E.J. Wilson, Dexter Davis
Looking safe: Quinn Pitcock
On the bubble: Craig Terrill
Also: Ricky Foley, Rob Rose, Amon Gordon, Jonathan Lewis
Comment: Clemons suddenly rivals Okung as the non-quarterback Seattle could least afford to lose. This reflects Clemons' strong play during preseason and the lack of attractive alternatives. Pitcock's youth and third-round potential could give him an edge over Terrill, at least in my view. Terrill has fought through knee trouble to remain in the mix.
Average number kept since 2003: 6.9
Keepers: Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne
Looking safe: Matt McCoy, Tyjuan Hagler, Will Herring
Also: Joe Pawelek
Comment: Leroy Hill will open the regular season on the reserve/suspended list. He'll join the keepers once eligible. Hill, Curry and Tatupu have never played a full game together during the 2009 regular season or the 2010 exhibition season.
Defensive backs (15)
Average number kept since 2003: 7.9
Keepers: Marcus Trufant, Earl Thomas, Josh Wilson, Lawyer Milloy, Walter Thurmond, Kam Chancellor
Looking safe: Kelly Jennings, Jordan Babineaux
On the bubble: Kevin Ellison, Jamar Adams, Roy Lewis
Also: Cordelius Parks, Kennard Cox, Josh Pinkard, Marcus Brown
Comment: Trufant's return to form stands out as one of the most welcome developments for Seattle this summer. Thomas upgrades the coverage and playmaking ability of the secondary. The more Milloy plays, the more he looks like an enforcer type. Thurmond's return from knee surgery qualifies as the most pleasant surprise for Seattle in the secondary. Jennings' durability could be a concern. Babineaux's versatility makes him valuable even though it's looking as though the team doesn't have significant long-term plans for him.
Average number kept since 2003: 3.1
Keepers: Olindo Mare, Jon Ryan, Clint Gresham
Also: Clint Stitser
Comment: Mare missed from 43 yards against Minnesota on a strange night for kickers in the NFC West. Joe Nedney and Shane Adrus missed for the San Francisco 49ers.
Also from Urban: sees more good things from free-agent receiver Stephen Williams. Urban: "Stephen Williams had another fine showing. He was open deep on one play although the ball by Matt Leinart was slightly underthrown, allowing CB Tru McBride to knock it away. Williams also caught a nice 42-yard bomb from Leinart in the back of the end zone during the two-minute drill that looked close to good."
More from Urban: Breaking down video forces players to be accountable.
Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are gambling on Brandon Keith at right tackle.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' Gerald Hayes has a chance to be ready for the regular-season opener. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "I wouldn't rule it out, but I wouldn't say it's probable, either. I think the next couple weeks are going to be critical. Hopefully we'll have him."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com takes a player-by-player look at the 49ers' offense during the team's exhibition opener at Indianapolis. Maiocco on center David Baas: "Baas played very well at center. If he continues to improve, he will hold off Tony Wragge for the starting job to open the regular season. Moreover, he'll be in position to compete for playing time when Eric Heitmann returns from his broken leg."
Also from Maiocco: a player-by-player look at the 49ers' defense. On Taylor Mays: "Entered game after nine plays and wore the green dot on his helmet, signifying he was responsible for relaying the play calls to the defense. He was much better as a tackler than in coverage. Gave up a 16-yard catch to Jacob Tamme. But showed exceptional ability on one play when he was 10 yards off the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball, closed quickly and tackled Brown for a 3-yard loss on a short third-down pass. He tried to disguise coverage in the second quarter, but did not get back in time to fulfill responsibility in two-deep coverage. But the deep pass for Taj Smith was not caught."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are taking things slowly with newly signed running back Brian Westbrook.
Also from Barber: Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. continues to impress. Barber: "Alex Smith's best throw of the day may have been a strike to Ginn down the left sideline, right on target vs. CB Shawntae Spencer's coverage. Ginn made an even better catch later when he reached back to get Smith's throw with one hand. The starting QB was off-target on some passes, but finished with a flourish in simulated 2-minute drill. He completed it with a touchdown throw to WR Jason Hill."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with Westbrook and Frank Gore.
Also from Barrows: Ginn is more likely to contribute on kickoff returns than on punt returns.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks like what they've seen from rookie Dexter Davis. Johns: "Now three weeks and one preseason game into training camp, the Seahawks appear to have found a hidden gem. Davis, 23, had a sack and four quarterback hits in Saturday's 20-18 victory over Tennessee while continuing to flash the speed and athleticism that have been opening eyes since camp opened."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com takes a look at newly acquired defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer. Also, depth on the offensive line is diminished without Ray Willis. Farnsworth: "Without Willis, the No. 1 line remains the same with -- from left tackle to right -- Russell Okung, Ben Hamilton, Chris Spencer, Max Unger and Locklear. But Mansfield Wrotto is now at left tackle with the No. 2 line, where Willis was getting most of his work. In practice today, the rest of the No. 2 consisted of Steve Vallos at left guard, where Wrotto and Mike Gibson had been working; Jeff Byers at center, because Vallos was at guard; and a right side of guard Mitch Erickson and tackle Joe Toledo."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says rookie tight end Anthony McCoy continues to drop passes. I saw him drop at least three while attending Seattle practices.
Percy Allen of the Seattle Times says Balmer is getting a second chance to realize his potential.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with veteran Seahawks defensive tackle Craig Terrill, who was mistaken for musician Tom Petty during a recent practice.
Also from Boling: a look at where Willis' injury leaves the Seahawks' offensive line. Also: "Ben Obomanu has been a little bit of a forgotten man in the receivers corps with addition of Mike Williams, the drafting of Golden Tate and the return of Deion Branch. After Saturday’s two catches for 36 yards, Obomanu had another good practice Monday."
John Morgan of Field Gulls says the Seahawks picked up a talented player at a bargain price in acquiring Balmer, but there's no guarantee the team will come out ahead.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams had more fights in practice Tuesday than they had victories last season. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "There is a fine line, no question. And I'm always harping on them that you can practice physical and aggressive and still take care of each other. Don't pull jerseys. Don't try to throw guys on the ground. We're getting there. But some guys haven't figured it out yet."
Also from Thomas: The Rams cut safety David Roach and signed Brett Johnson. Both are safeties.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jordan Kent is trying to make his mark in Rams camp. Coats: "The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Kent appears to be firmly in the mix. He's displayed improved receiving skills, plus he has desirable versatility as a strong special-teams contributor and possibly as an emergency place-kicker."
Also from Thomas: The Rams will not retain Ray Ogas, who has headed up the team's player programs department for the past 10 years.
The 49ers' website offers a transcript from a recent interview with guard Chilo Rachal. Rachal on working with new line coaches Mike Solari and Ray Brown: "I’m just trying to be a sponge to both of them. I’m excited to work with both coach Solari and coach Brown, especially because coach Brown was a player at my position for 20 years in the league. I’m looking forward to finding out how he was able to play for so long, and at such a high level. With Coach Solari, he’s so technical. I’m really looking forward to this offseason with him. He understands the game of football, angles, hand placement and those types of things. Those are things I need to get better at in order to have the type of season I want to have. I’m really focusing in on all those details."
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle sizes up new 49ers running back Anthony Dixon. White: "At 6-foot-2, 233 pounds, Dixon looks like he can pack a wallop. He runs like a smaller back with his short-area quickness and burst. Raye wants to see him run like a big back, dropping the boom at the end of the run instead of getting cute with it. Add a little pass-protection work, and Dixon will be very much in the race for backup snaps with Glen Coffee when training camp starts in late July."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with 49ers rookie linebacker Navorro Bowman, a player the team hopes might one day earn a spot alongside Patrick Willis. Bowman: "I'm gonna focus on inside [linebacker] for now. They see me fitting that the most, and I'm excited about it. I haven't really played straight inside backer since high school, and I felt like I could've done it in college. And for them to have this confidence in me, I'm really excited about it and gonna give it 100 percent."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects newly signed Cardinals cornerback Justin Miller to compete with LaRod Stephens-Howling as a kick returner. Miller went to a Pro Bowl in that capacity after the 2006 season.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains how he thinks Miller might fit in the Cardinals' secondary. Urban: "He never really made an imprint at cornerback (he does not have a career interception), but he does give a veteran presence in an area where the Cards have little. This won’t rule out the Cards looking at other veteran cornerbacks. Of that, I am pretty sure. But as I have said before, I think the Cards will continue to sort through who is on the roster this summer and maybe not look at actually bringing in another veteran until training camp."
Also from Urban: The Cardinals' postseason success has shortened their offseasons, cutting into coach Ken Whisenhunt's practice time on the golf course. The team made it out on the course this week, however. Urban: "It doesn’t take much for many of the players to have fun on the course. Darnell Dockett doesn’t play, but he gave the practice green a little work with his putting (with help from Joey Porter) before riding around on a cart during the tourney, ostensibly to check out his teammates that do play."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says former 49ers guard Joe Toledo turned down a chance to play for Pete Carroll at USC in 2001, instead choosing the University of Washington. Toledo accepted a tryout offer with the Seahawks last week and the team signed him Monday. Johns: "Now 27 and about 60 pounds heavier than his tight end days, Toledo worked as the second-string right tackle for most of the Seahawks' three-day minicamp that concluded Sunday. Toledo said Carroll got into the recruiting process late during his senior season in Carlsbad, Calif., having just taken the Trojans' job. He was happy to cast his lot with the Huskies and is just as eager now to land a return invitation to Seattle after spending time with four different NFL teams in the past four years."
Some thought Pascoe might become a good second tight end, mostly as a blocker. Despite early reviews, Pascoe did not earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
The lesson: Let's not get too excited about what happens or what is perceived to have happened when players are running around in shorts during late April and early May.
We do know this: A few players earned spots on NFC West 80-man rosters after participating in postdraft camps on a tryout basis. Teams still have most of the next three months to evaluate their rosters and decide which players to bring to training camp. Teams will also release players to make room for draft choices to sign or for other reasons.
The Cardinals, perhaps seeking depth in the secondary and for the return game, signed cornerback Justin Miller after he participated in minicamp on a tryout basis. The move makes sense because Henderson was the Jets' defensive coordinator when they selected Miller in the second round of the 2005 draft. The Cardinals previously acquired safety Kerry Rhodes from the Jets.
Miller has made his greatest impact on special teams, returning five kickoffs for touchdowns (two with the Raiders in 2008, two with the Jets in 2006 and another with the Jets in 2005). The most recent Scouts Inc. report on Miller called him a player with the talent to succeed as a cornerback. "But he is undisciplined in his effort and technique, which has led to marginal performances," the report concluded.
The Rams, who went into their postdraft camp with seven players from the NCAA Division II level, added two more among the four tryout players they signed Monday. The rest of the division has eight Division II players (five in Arizona, two in Seattle and one in San Francisco).
Newly signed Rams receiver Dominique Curry played at California University of Pennsylvania. Defensive tackle Ernest Reid -- featured here -- played at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. The Rams also signed Fresno State cornerback Moses Harris and Nevada cornerback Antoine Thompson.
The 49ers announced they have signed California-Davis receiver Bakari Grant after Grant participated on a tryout basis. I'll add the Seahawks' signings when I get them (no promises, however, as high winds just knocked out power and I'm working on battery for the time being).
Update: Seahawks cut Patrick MacDonald and Reggie Carter. They signed Joe Toledo, formerly of the 49ers, and Chris Richards.
- Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh underwent hernia surgery recently. He's expected back in a couple of weeks.
- Former 49ers Roderick Green and Joe Toledo are participating in Seahawks camp on a tryout basis.
- Former Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell told reporters covering the Bears that he had no plans to bring along any Seattle personnel people to his new job as personnel director in Chicago. The Bears' situation appears less stable and by extension less appealing than the situation in Seattle right now.
- First-round choice Earl Thomas will be a coverage safety for the Seahawks, basically playing center field. That makes sense because Thomas looks like a cornerback out there. He is listed at 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds. Starting corner Marcus Trufant goes 5-11 and 197.
- Speaking of Trufant, he made a statement with two impressive interception returns, jumping routes on passes from Matt Hasselbeck to Deon Butler. Trufant had trouble recovering from back issues last season. He appeared flexible and nimble Friday.
- Receiver Deion Branch is sidelined after having surgery to clean out a knee. The surgery was considered minor, but any lingering knee issues are a concern for Branch.
- Rookie second-round choice Golden Tate was one of the stars of practice. He made a leaping grab down the middle between Trufant and safety Jordan Babineaux, then followed up by getting behind cornerback Josh Wilson for a catch up the left sideline. Tate later used his body to shield Wilson from the ball, making another grab. Tate dropped one pass.
- The offensive staff crammed far more plays into the team session than might be typical. Coach Pete Carroll keeps score, too, periodically announcing whether the offense or defense is leading.
- With most of the 101 signed or tryout players participating, competition was the No. 1 theme.
- First-round choice Russell Okung made a positive impression in run-blocking drills. He crouches low to the ground, helping with leverage.
- Second-year linebacker Aaron Curry was offside a couple times, but I didn't necessarily take that as a bad sign for the team. Curry appeared very active. That's a good idea as long as linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. is out there. Norton is one of the more vocal coaches on the staff and he's not afraid to let players know how they are performing.
- Newly acquired running back LenDale White appears slimmer than I would have expected. White said he weighs 225 pounds. Carroll thought White's weight was closer to 217. Either way, White appears to be in shape.
- Safety Lawyer Milloy said he signed in time for the post-draft camp because he thinks he'll have a better chance to play this year in a role more suited to his skills. Players sound optimistic about the new staff's ability to use personnel. That was supposed to be a theme last season, but the results weren't there.
Players wore helmets but no pads for this practice. It's important to remember how much things change once players put on the pads. A week or two into training camp is when it becomes easier to tell which players are truly on their way to making an impact.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
"The 49ers released Kory Sheets!" loses some of its drama when Sheets quietly re-signs to the 49ers' practice squad after none of the other 31 NFL teams submit a waiver claim for him.
I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.
The chart shows results for San Francisco.
The 49ers' initial cut list featured only one vested veteran, cornerback Eric Green. The other 19 players had practice-squad eligibility and the 49ers brought back six of them in that capacity.
The remaining 14 players are unsigned.
Offensive lineman Jacob Bender had a tryout with the Seahawks. The Jets showed interest in tight end Bear Pascoe, only to receive another tight end via waivers.
Sheets impressed during the preseason, but the 49ers were stacked at running back with Frank Gore and Glen Coffee. They valued the versatile Michael Robinson far too much to carry a rookie runner on their 53-man roster in his place.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.
Every player the 49ers released on the reduction to 53 players -- minus cornerback Eric Green -- possesses eligibility for the practice squad. Tackle Alex Boone, guard Matt Spanos, fullback Brit Miller, defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell and running back Kory Sheets could make sense as options. The team will presumably keep one of the tight ends it released, Bear Pascoe or J.J. Finley. Cornerback Terrail Lambert could provide another option.
Some 49ers fans have expressed to me surprise over Sheets' release in particular. The depth San Francisco enjoys at that position made Sheets' release likely.
We likewise should not be surprised if backup running back Glen Coffee plays sparingly as a rookie. Like Sheets, Coffee showed promise during the exhibition games. But with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye having already committed to Frank Gore as the workhorse back, there won't be many carries left over.
As long as Gore is healthy and his usually productive self, I think Coffee would have to break long runs when given opportunities to siphon significant carries in the No. 2 role.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: The 49ers kept only four running backs, two tight ends and eight offensive linemen on the initial cutdown to 53 players, suggesting the team will consider adding players at those positions. This is a power running team, after all. The decision to release both Bear Pascoe and J.J. Finley was a bit of surprise. One of them was expected to serve as the third tight end. Undrafted free agent Diyral Briggs earned a spot at linebacker, edging out Jay Moore. Fullback Brit Miller, running back Kory Sheets and receiver Dominique Zeigler had made positive impressions with fans, but none enjoyed strong roster security. Their releases were not surprising in that context. Coach Mike Singletary had said the 49ers faced few significant roster decisions heading into the final exhibition game. The team did not cut any big-name players.
No-brainers: The 49ers' cut list ran 20 deep and also featured tackle Jacob Bender, tackle Alex Boone, receiver Dobson Collins, defensive end Pannel Egboh, cornerback Eric Green, guard Kyle Howard, cornerback Terrail Lambert, defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell, receiver Maurice Price, fullback Bill Rentmeester, linebacker Justin Roland, offensive lineman Matt Spanos, tackle Joe Toledo and linebacker Mark Washington.
What's next: The 49ers could use a veteran offensive tackle after Marvel Smith retired. They will presumably scan the waiver wire for a fullback. The team will also likely want to add a third tight end.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The race for the No. 3 job behind them deserves some attention. Veteran Damon Huard has a 15-12 record as an NFL starter. He provides value as an experienced backup. The team also wants to develop fifth-round rookie quarterback Nate Davis.
What to do?
Davis is a project. He will not help the 49ers this season. The question becomes whether another team would sign him to its 53-man roster if the 49ers waived Davis and tried to sign him to their practice squad.
As noted, NFL teams selected 19 quarterbacks in the fifth round from the 2000 through 2008 drafts. Eighteen earned opening-day spots on 53-man rosters as rookies. The Steelers' Omar Jacobs was an exception in 2006, the year Ben Roethlisberger opened on the bench following a motorcycle accident.
The factors that pushed down Davis in the draft -- notably a learning disability that the 49ers see as overstated -- still exist. If teams fear Davis might struggle to learn their system -- and for the sake of this discussion, it doesn't matter if such fears are justified -- the 49ers might have an easier time getting
Davis onto their practice squad.
What would you do?
The chart shows all 31 current 49ers players with eligibility, arranged by position. I left first-round choice Michael Crabtree off the chart because he has not signed with the team.
NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.
As the NFL puts it:
After 12 noon, New York time, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.
The 49ers also face dilemmas at other positions, including what to do at receiver while Crabtree and Brandon Jones are not available, but that third quarterback race stands out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
RENTON, Wash. -- The Seahawks are about to hold a practice open to fans. I just arrived and will be heading out momentarily. Hope to file some observations afterward.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' roster appears most interesting at running back and receiver.
The more I think about how much the 49ers want to pound the ball on offense, the more I see them keeping two fullbacks on the Week 1 roster.
Zak Keasey's broken forearm prevents him from becoming part of the equation early, and it's tough to see a team waiting two months for a backup fullback to get healthy. Enter Bill Rentmeester. Formerly of the Chargers, Rentmeester offers what preseason touchdown machine Brit Miller does not: experience at fullback. For the sake of this roster exercise, I'll pencil in Rentmeester for Week 1.
The chart provides a framework for how many players the 49ers might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Cardinals.
Here's a quick look at which 49ers players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players (I made one change, moving Cody Wallace into the group of offensive linemen at Joe Toledo's expense):
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike SandoJim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams running back Steven Jackson is adjusting to a physical camp. Thomas: "Chris Chamberlain diagnosed the screen play quickly from his weakside linebacker spot, knifed through traffic and dropped the ballcarrier with a brutal shot around knee level. It was one hellacious hit. It just so happened that the ballcarrier was Steven Jackson. ... In those first moments after contact, it looked as if coach Steve Spagnuolo stopped breathing."
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat checks in with Rams safety and franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe. Atogwe: "I believe leaders lead by example first. That means being a professional in what you are doing, knowing your job and doing your job. And from there, other guys will raise their level of play to do exactly what you are doing."
Also from Korte: thoughts on Jackson's close call, plus an update on how Jackson is digesting the offense. Jackson: "It's really a lot of hard work on me at nighttime, to make sure I know the different formations, because I can be the 'X' receiver at any time, as well as a running back."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have generally avoided injuries despite a physical start to camp under Spagnuolo.
Also from Coats: Spagnuolo might be a sharp guy, and he is, but he won't be writing a column about emerging technology or social networking trends anytime soon.
VanRam of Turf Show Times looks at best- and worst-case scenarios for the Rams' cornerbacks.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with new Cardinals backup center Melvin Fowler, whose parents live "about 12 minutes" from University of Phoenix Stadium. Sounds like Fowler was biding his time and hoping for this chance. He said he had other offers. Also, Somers thinks Dominique Byrd has a chance to earn a roster spot after a strong first week, while Matt Leinart is showing more zip on his passes.
Also from Somers: Cornerback Bryant McFadden was back at Cardinals practice after resting an ankle injury.
More from Somers: Keilen Dykes' absence from the practice field and surrounding area could signify a more serious injury, which would hurt the Cardinals.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals' defense emerged with bragging rights following an under-the-lights practice in Flagstaff.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says second-year Cardinals running back Tim Hightower is noticeably quicker after dropping weight.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along additional details about Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant's back injury. Coach Jim Mora: "He came out of a break, reached for a ball, got in an awkward position when he reached for the ball and it kind of locked up on him. Just one of those things."
Also from O'Neil: Seahawks receiver Deion Branch rested his surgically repaired knee Thursday night. The knee was sore. A bad sign? Not necessarily. But it's obviously not a good one.
More from O'Neil: Seahawks guard Ray Willis tends to be the one involved in fights and scraps at practice. Willis doesn't smile when O'Neil asks him about this.
Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks are counting on Julius Jones to carry most of the load at running back. Mora on the ground game: "In the zone scheme, there's an element of patience and then burst, and it looks like all of them are starting to get the feel for being patient and then putting their foot in the ground and one cut and go. It's a work in progress. It takes a while. They have to learn how to work with their offensive line, with the tight ends, when to make the cut, the timing. But it appears that they're getting a feel for it."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks offensive lineman Max Unger passes the "eyeball test" and could project as a Robbie Tobeck type in terms or athleticism. Boling: "Tobeck was a little smaller than the 6-foot-5, 309-pound Unger. But Tobeck had far better athleticism than he was given credit for, and although he was glib and a noted prankster, you could always tell that, inside, he had the competitive ferocity of a bull terrier."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Mike Singletary has no plans to reduce contact in practices after several players suffered injuries. Crumpacker: "Having several starters out means some players are getting more reps than they normally would. Tony Wragge stepped in for Baas at left guard and Ahmad Brooks is getting time at Haralson's outside linebacker spot on the weak side."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat updates the Micheal Crabtree situati
on by saying there's nothing to update. On the quarterback front, he's still going with Shaun Hill as the favorite.
Also from Maiocco: Alex Smith is pushing Hill for the starting job. Maiocco: "Smith is healthy and throwing the ball impressively on intermediate and deeper pass routes. Hill's forte is pinpoint passes on the underneath throws."
More from Maiocco: Smith's best is better than Hill's best, but exhibition games will be critical in determining which quarterback prevails.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says offensive lineman Joe Toledo is having a strong camp. Toledo is eligible for the practice squad.
Also from Barrows: Singletary was actually pleased with a practice. That must represent progress.
More from Barrows: The 49ers have been pushed around in the past, but they probably will not cave to Crabtree's demands, which Barrows considers excessive.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says during a chat he's a "big admirer" of second-year 49ers receiver Josh Morgan, who has so far faced no threat from Crabtree for supremacy among young receivers.
Also from Brown: Rookie linebacker Scott McKillop enjoys steady feedback from Singletary and the coaches during practice.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
A quick look at 53-man rosters from Feb. 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, provides a reference point for seeing how NFC West teams have changed so far this offseason.
I'll start with San Francisco.
Gone from the 49ers' 53-man roster and injured reserve list in the 58 days since the Super Bowl (13):
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images J.T. O'Sullivan is a former 49er.
Jamie Martin, QB
J.T. O'Sullivan, QB
Billy Bajema, TE
DeShaun Foster, RB
Sean Ryan, TE
Bryant Johnson, WR
Keith Lewis, SDonald Strickland, CB
Roderick Green, LBRonald Fields, DL
Tully Banta-Cain, LB
I've updated the NFC West roided-out rosters to include moves made this week. Those are available for download.
I'll tack on a Steelers version in the next edition, scheduled for Super Bowl week. In the meantime, let's take a quick look at players NFC West teams have signed to future contracts. These players will become part of the 80-man rosters after the Super Bowl.
Arizona: punter Waylon Prather, quarterback Tyler Palko, running back Justin Green, guard Ben Claxton.
St. Louis: receiver Nate Jones, defensive tackle Willie Williams, receiver Joel Filani, receiver Travis Brown, running back Samkon Gado, defensive end C.J. Ah You.
San Francisco: tight end J.J. Finley, tackle Joe Toledo, receiver Mark Bradford, linebacker Justin Roland and kick returner Michael Spurlock.
Seattle: defensive back Marquis FLoyd, tight end Joe Newton, receiver Michael Bumpus, defensive tackle Kevin Brown, tight end John Tereshinski, long snapper Ryan Senser, receiver Mike Hass and Receiver Billy McMullen.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams expect newly signed cornerback Ricky Manning to contribute right away. The team needed corner help after rookie Justin King landed on injured reserve. Manning's arrival precipitated the release of safety Eric Bassey, as expected.
The Rams have also agreed to terms with linebacker Gary Stills, who will help on special teams. Stills was a special-teams standout for the Ravens. The team cut him even though new head coach John Harbaugh has a special-teams background.
St. Louis lacks depth. Manning and Stills provide both. Safety Brannon Condren, claimed off waivers from Indianapolis, also helps with depth and special teams.
Elsewhere in the division this afternoon ...
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee is happy to have an English major at quarterback for the 49ers. J.T. O'Sullivan can apparently diagram plays and sentences. He is also keeping open his options (as opposed to keeping his options open). O'Sullivan, signed to a one-year deal, continues to live in a hotel.
Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers also appreciates O'Sullivan's attention to language. Maiocco: "You're an English major?" O'Sullivan: "Was. Yeah, I graduated."
Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read has information on the latest practice-squad signings, plus a note on guard Joe Toledo, whose Secret Service father protected former president Gerald Ford from 2002 to 2004.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Matt Leinart handled his demotion professionally. Tulumello also sees outstanding depth at the position given Brian St. Pierre's strong camp.
Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com says recently signed linebacker Ahmad Brooks was surprised when the Bengals cut him. Brooks is wearing No. 55.
Note: The Seahawks are practicing this afternoon. We hope to make sense of their injury situation as the week progresses. Deion Branch's health is one key issue.