NFC West: Julius Jones

A look at where Steven Jackson stands

February, 26, 2013
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No NFL player has more offensive touches or yards from scrimmage since 2004 than the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson.

That is both good and bad for the Rams' career rushing leader.

Jackson, who plans to void his contract to become a free agent March 12, has accomplished a great deal since entering the NFL as the 24th player chosen in the 2004 draft. He also has high miles as his 30th birthday approaches in July, raising questions about how much longer he can produce.

The two charts show where Jackson ranks in scrimmage yards and rushing yards over the course of his career. Note that NFC West rivals Frank Gore and Larry Fitzgerald also rank among the top five in scrimmage yards over the same period.

Separately, Jackson's rushing total (10,135) is easily best among players who also entered the NFL in 2004. Michael Turner (7,338), Willie Parker (5,378), Julius Jones (5,068) and Kevin Jones (3,176) trail him on that list.

Jackson ranks 26th on the NFL's all-time rushing list after posting his eighth consecutive season with at least 1,000 yards rushing. He needs 509 yards to overtake Ricky Watters for 20th. He needs 1,561 yards to overtake Fred Taylor for 15th. He needs 2,145 yards to overtake former teammate and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk for 10th on the list.

Jackson would need 3,550 yards to overtake LaDainian Tomlinson for fifth.

Setting expectations for Pead, James

August, 8, 2012
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The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers used second-round draft choices for running backs this year.

Both teams have established, older runners coming off productive seasons.

The Rams' Isaiah Pead got extensive reps Wednesday while veteran Steven Jackson received a day off. The 49ers' LaMichael James returned to practice after missing time with illness. Both young backs should get extensive work during the exhibition season, but what about when the games start counting?

Change-of-pace roles seem most likely. Jackson and the 49ers Frank Gore, while older, have remained productive lately. Both are good all-around players.

The Rams envision Jackson posting an eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season while Pead provides a few hundred yards. That was the model for Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer when he was running the New York Jets' offense.

For some perspective, I put together a list showing the 10 second-round draft choices with the most rushing yardage as rookies since 2000. Three of the 10 produced as rookies in tandem with 1,000-yard rushers:
I'm looking forward to seeing James in 49ers camp upon arriving there Sunday.

Good teams tend to become popular. Popular teams tend to attract wagering.

Teams attracting significant wagering become heavier favorites as oddsmakers hedge against potential losses.

The San Francisco 49ers provide a case study for Vegas 101. Success last season helped them rank eighth in popularity among American fans in recent ESPN polling. So, when sports books set the 49ers' championship chances at a relatively modest 10-1, fans and/or wise guys apparently couldn't resist.

Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Weekly says heavy betting on the 49ers has moved their Super Bowl-winning odds to 4-1 recently, making San Francisco the heaviest favorite in the NFL. Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports at MGM: "Is this an accurate reflection of what I believe to be the case, that they’re the favorites for the Super Bowl? No. We’re trying to manage (the) liability at this point." Noted: The 49ers were 40-1 long shots to win the Super Bowl a year ago. That kind of relative skepticism sets up well for a motivational-minded head coach. When the 49ers enjoyed success last season, the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh would sometimes refer to Frederick P. Soft, a fictitious character representing accolades that can soften up a team. Mr. Soft would certainly welcome news that the 49ers are now Super Bowl favorites, at least according to Vegas.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com updates the 49ers' safety situation minus unsigned franchise player Dashon Goldson. He cites a source saying Goldson wants a deal averaging $8 million per season, and the 49ers probably would not go past a $7 million average. Noted: The franchise tag sets Goldson's value at $6.2 million per year, an average favorable to the team.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says stories about Alex Smith having an edgier attitude have become an annual rite of 49ers offseasons.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News sits down with 49ers receiver Mario Manningham to relive the former Giants receiver's pivotal catch against New England in the Super Bowl.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News passes along 49ers notes, including one about wireless data upgrades at Candlestick Park.

Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic says rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley has earned high praise for a player drafted in the sixth round. Quarterbacks coach John McNulty, on accuracy issues that affected Lindley late in the quarterback's career at San Diego State: "He was doing some things footwork-wise to get himself kind of overextended, which was taking a little off his accuracy. But I don't think that's a problem anymore. And you see at times when he just kind of presses and gets pressured and he's (thinking) he's going to complete the ball no matter what. That sometimes happens to a guy with that much experience and success, but sometimes you just have to throw it away and go on to the next play."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com, mindful that Cardinals first-round choice Michael Floyd had DUI troubles in college, says this following the DUI arrest of Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon: "There had to be a little feeling about 'there-but-by-the-grace-of-God-go-I' vibe. ... There are no real parallels between Blackmon and Floyd, other than they play the same position. But obviously, the Cards are counting on their guy to work out well and make all the right choices."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com looks at ways fullback Michael Robinson is preparing for life after football. Farnsworth: "Robinson’s first on-camera reporting gig was covering Penn State basketball games. From that acorn of an assignment, the tree that is 'The Real Rob Report' has blossomed. In 2006, his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, Robinson started doing 'The Rookie Report.' That morphed into 'The Real Robinson Report,' which became 'The Real Rob Report' last offseason. As anyone who has seen Robinson’s video reports knows, they are long on personality and short on strategy."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times appreciates the way Justin Forsett approached his job during the running back's time with the Seahawks. O'Neil: "He was a great teammate and a more productive player than anyone had a right to expect from a seventh-round pick. Remember all the time and money Seattle spent on free agents? Guys like Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Edgerrin James. Well, Forsett averaged more yards per carry than all of them. Forsett was great pro who wanted the best not necessarily for himself, but for the team."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers thoughts on the Seahawks' linebacker situation as part of his latest chat. Williams: "At linebacker, I think the middle linebacker job is Bobby Wagner’s to lose, but he should get some stiff competition in Barrett Ruud and Matt McCoy. Look for K.J. Wright to play middle linebacker in obvious passing situations because of his length and familiarity with the scheme."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says on-field success could be a big key for the Rams as the team seeks stadium upgrades. Burwell: "Sometimes, public sentiment can be a bit impulsive and swayed by the whims of playoff fever. A bad team doesn't render much passion for public support. But what could happen if the Dome is filled every weekend with delirious supporters caught up in NFL fever? What if new coach Jeff Fisher and his tag-team partner general manager Les Snead put together a squad in their first year that is in playoff contention all season long? What if they perform some sort of major miracle and really do find a way to do one of those worst-to-first overhauls that the NFL is known for? Could that be the sugar that makes the price tag for the Dome a bit easier to swallow?"

Howard Balzer takes a closer look at contracts for the Rams' rookie draft choices. Balzer: "In the last four days, the Rams have signed wide receiver Chris Givens (fourth round), guard Rokevious Watkins (fifth), linebacker Aaron Brown (seventh) and running back Daryl Richardson (seventh). All players signed four-year contracts with Givens receiving $2,597,028 including a signing bonus of $490,028, while the total value of Watkins’ deal is $2,291,300 including a signing bonus of $191,300."

Four 1,100-yard rushers in one division?

December, 7, 2011
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Passing is generally the key to victory in the NFL.

This helps explain why quarterbacks earn the most money, why teams often draft pass-blocking tackles over top runners and why fullbacks have become endangered.

Teams still value running the ball, of course. Defenses would have an easier time defending quarterbacks if they knew with certainty a run was not coming. And every team seeking support for young or average quarterbacks would be better off with a strong ground game.

NFC West teams fall into this group. Each team in the division is on pace to produce a 1,000-yard runner.

One division has produced four 1,000-yard rushers in a season five times since divisional realignment in 2002. Each NFC West team's leading rusher is on pace for at least 1,100 yards. Only one division, the AFC North in 2010, has produced four players with at least 1,100 yards since realignment.

Frank Gore's yardage production for the 49ers has leveled off in recent weeks. Continued strong defense and increased production from quarterback Alex Smith have helped the team keep winning. Facing two backup quarterbacks -- Arizona's John Skelton and St. Louis' A.J. Feeley -- simultaneously lowered the bar for the 49ers in recent weeks.

I would expect the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch to gain the most rushing yardage in Week 14 among NFC West backs. Seattle wants to field a run-first offense, which makes sense this week.

The Rams rank second in most sacks per pass attempt, a threat now that Seattle's best pass protector, Russell Okung, has landed on injured reserve. The Rams are averaging fewer than one offensive touchdown per game. That gives Seattle a good chance to win without taking as many chances through the air. The Rams have allowed more rushing yards than any team in the NFL.

Note: With an assist from Anicra in the comments, I updated the projected totals for Jackson, Lynch and Wells to reflect their participation in only 11 games this season. I had previously divided their rushing totals by total team games (12 apiece), using the average to project totals for the remaining four games.
The Arizona Cardinals think rookie running back Ryan Williams tore a patella tendon in his right knee.

That was the preliminary word from coach Ken Whisenhunt following the Cardinals' 28-20 preseason defeat at Green Bay on Friday night. Williams would miss the 2011 season if that were the case. He would then face a grueling rehabilitation.

St. Louis Rams running back Cadillac Williams has had torn patella injuries, one to each knee, while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He returned the next season in each case and hasn't missed a game over the past two seasons.

This would be a costly injury for the Cardinals because their other primary back, Beanie Wells, remains unproven. Wells has also missed time with injuries during his two seasons in the NFL.

The Cardinals used a second-round draft choice on Williams this offseason. Whisenhunt said they had him rated as one of the 15 best players available. Williams did not disappoint during training camp, either. He showed an ability to change directions without sacrificing much speed. I thought he had a chance to supplant Wells in the starting lineup at some point during this season.

This injury could lead to more playing time for LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Cardinals have used Stephens-Howling increasingly over the past couple seasons, sometimes with three wide receivers and another running back.

Arizona has stocked up on tight ends this offseason, giving the team additional flexibility with its personnel groups. But just about every grouping includes at least one running back. Wells hasn't been consistent in pass protection and he missed a block against Green Bay.

Among the running backs available: Laurence Maroney, Kenneth Darby, Julius Jones and Brian Westbrook.

Leading Questions: NFC West

February, 14, 2011
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With the offseason in full swing, let’s take a look at one major question facing each NFC West team as it begins preparations for the 2011 season:

ARIZONA CARDINALS

What happens to the offensive line?

We've been asking, answering and asking some more questions about the Cardinals' quarterback situation for months. Let's tap a few brain cells to discuss the guys up front.

Center Lyle Sendlein and right guard Deuce Lutui are without contracts for 2011. Left guard Alan Faneca might retire. Right tackle Brandon Keith is coming off hamstring and knee injuries that shortened his first season as a starter. The Cardinals do not have fresh talent in reserve. They have drafted only one offensive lineman in the first four rounds since Ken Whisenhunt became head coach in 2007. Twenty-seven teams have drafted more. As much as the team trusts assistant head coach Russ Grimm to get the most from its offensive line, Arizona could use fresh young talent for him to groom.

The Cardinals went through the 2010 season with the NFL's oldest offensive linemen, counting backups. That wouldn't matter so much if left tackle Levi Brown were meeting the Pro Bowl expectations that came with his status as a top-five overall selection in the 2007 draft. Brown was underwhelming at right tackle to begin his career and a liability at left tackle last season. His salary balloons in 2012, so this could be his last season in Arizona.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Can the defense take the next step?

The Rams allowed 328 points last season, tied for the third-lowest total since the team moved from Los Angeles for the 1995 season. They allowed seven rushing touchdowns, their lowest total since 1999 and down from 50 combined over the previous two seasons. But with starting defensive linemen James Hall and Fred Robbins turning 34 this offseason, and with questions at linebacker, the Rams' defense will not automatically go from competitive toward dominant.

Hall will be looking to become the 14th player since 1982 (when the NFL began tracking sacks as an official stat) to collect 10 sacks in a season at age 34 or older. The others: Trace Armstrong, Chris Doleman, William Fuller, Kevin Greene, Rickey Jackson, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Tony McGee, Steve McMichael, John Randle, Warren Sapp, Bruce Smith, Michael Strahan and Reggie White.

Robbins is coming off one of his finest seasons. He joined Keith Traylor, Jeff Zgonina and Ray Agnew among defensive tackles to set career highs for sacks at age 32 or older in the free-agency era (since 1993).

Getting similar production and continued good health from two older players is no given. The Rams also need to find help at outside linebacker after losing 32-year-old Na'il Diggs to a torn pectoral muscle 12 games into the 2010 season. The Rams are set at middle linebacker with James Laurinaitis, but they could stand to upgrade around him.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

How well can Jim Harbaugh coach up a quarterback?

When the 49ers' new coach needed a quarterback at Stanford, he recruited one. Andrew Luck set records and led the Cardinal to national prominence. Recruiting isn't a significant part of the equation in the NFL, so Harbaugh will have to settle for the best quarterback he can draft or otherwise acquire. He might even have to give Alex Smith a shot.

The 49ers will need Harbaugh to do what his recent predecessors could not: get good production from limited or flawed talent at the most important position.

Rich Gannon was well-established as an NFL quarterback when Harbaugh arrived as his position coach in Oakland for the 2002 season. The pairing reflected well on all parties. Gannon set career highs for completed passes, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards and passer rating. Gannon was already a good quarterback and the Raiders were already a good team, so it's tough to measure Harbaugh's impact.

Gannon is long since retired. Harbaugh is back in the NFL for the first time since the two were together on the Raiders in 2003. The 49ers don't have a legitimate starting quarterback under contract. Harbaugh has been meeting with Smith and keeping open his options. The stakes are high in the short term because the 49ers have enough talent elsewhere on their roster to compete for a playoff spot.

Outside expectations for Smith are so low that Harbaugh could appear heroic if he could get even a 9-7 record out of the 49ers with Smith in the lineup.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

How much more roster turnover lies ahead?

The Seahawks were fearless in overhauling their roster during their first year under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.

The team added Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Chris Clemons, Stacy Andrews, Tyler Polumbus, Kentwan Balmer, Kevin Vickerson, Robert Henderson and LenDale White, though Seattle parted with Vickerson, Henderson, White and 2009 regulars Deion Branch, Julius Jones, Owen Schmitt, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Josh Wilson, Lawrence Jackson, Rob Sims, Darryl Tapp, Deon Grant and Seneca Wallace. The Seahawks watched a couple other starters, Nate Burleson and Cory Redding, leave in free agency.

If those were the moves the Seahawks felt comfortable making right away, I figured there would be quite a few to come after the team's new leadership watched players for a full season. And there still could be, but similar wheeling and dealing could be impractical or even impossible if the current labor standoff continues deep into the offseason.

Teams cannot make trades without a new labor agreement. They cannot know for sure whether or not a salary cap will come into play as part of any new deal. It's just tough to act as decisively as Seattle acted last offseason without knowing the rules. That's a disadvantage for Seattle and other teams with much work to do this offseason.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune says 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky appears close to taking the same job with San Diego after interviewing with Arizona and Dallas. This news affects the Cardinals more than it affects the 49ers. We already knew Manusky was likely to leave the 49ers after Jim Harbaugh's hiring. We do not yet know how the Cardinals plan to fill their vacancy at defensive coordinator after firing Bill Davis. Reports have suggested Pittsburgh's Keith Butler, a person the Cardinals pursued for the job in 2009, might be off-limits. Do the Cardinals have a viable plan beyond Manusky and Butler? It's too early to answer that question, but not too early to ask it. The team hired from within when coach Ken Whisenhunt fired previous defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects no significant changes to the Cardinals' offensive staff this offseason. Somers: "Whisenhunt clearly doesn't think changing his offensive staff is warranted. I look for him to turn more of the play calling duties, perhaps all of it, to passing game coordinator Mike Miller next year. I think that will be the only significant change, unless one of his position coaches gets an offer he can't pass up."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team has re-signed fullback Charles Ali.

Also from Urban: a look at plays that defined the 2010 season for Arizona. Urban: "The quarterback shuffle clearly became a major storyline of the season. The first imprint came in San Diego. With the Cards struggling on both sides of the ball and trailing 21-7 (with a Kerry Rhodes fumble return the only Arizona score), Anderson threw an interception returned by linebacker Shaun Phillips 31 yards for a touchdown. When the Cards got the ball back moments later, it was rookie Max Hall – who had briefly played at the end of the Atlanta loss – getting his first significant playing time. It turned into his first start the following week, and from that point on, Hall, Anderson and rookie John Skelton all received their own chunk of time in the starting lineup."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with ESPN's Trent Dilfer for thoughts on Matt Hasselbeck's prospects at Chicago. Dilfer: "If you do what he thinks you’re going to do, and he has any time in the pocket whatsoever, he’s going to slice and dice you. That’s well known throughout the league. I was shocked that the Saints didn’t change things up on him more. They know that about him. And I’m just moving forward to this Bears’ game -- same thing. And I went back and watched the Week 6 matchup -- and I know very little carries over from earlier in the season, I get all of that -- but he was so comfortable with what he was looking at in that game, too. ... Rod Marinelli has to give him some change-ups, especially in the first quarter to occupy some space in his brain. If his brain isn’t cluttered, look for Matthew to deal in this game as well."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seattle linebacker Will Herring, who can't recall quite when he suffered a broken wrist in the wild-card game against New Orleans.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times puts Marshawn Lynch's run in perspective by ranking 10 moments in Seattle sports history. Condotta: "The most memorable moment of the first era of Seahawks football might have been an a unlikely play from a most likely source -- a hit by Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent on Denver DB Mike Harden on Dec. 11, 1988. Harden had earlier in the season delivered an illegal hit on Largent that drew a $5,000 fine in a Seahawks loss in Denver. A few months later, when Harden picked off a pass, Largent got his revenge, forcing a fumble with a hard shoulder-first hit that leveled Harden. Better yet, Largent got the recovery as Seattle earned a key victory on its way to its first division title."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a step-by-step look at Lynch's run.

Also from Condotta and O'Neil: Seahawks notes, including one on Raheem Brock's contributions to the Seattle pass rush.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says Russell Okung hasn't been healthy all season. Kelley: "Drafting Okung was the right call. But it seems he's lived a haunted life since draft day. Because he held out, he missed the early days of camp, the important tutoring and technique days before the games began. Then he injured his right ankle in August and missed the first three regular-season games. Then he injured the other ankle in his third NFL start. When he left the practice field Thursday, Okung still noticeably was favoring his left ankle."

Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com looks at ways the team will stay warm and hydrated in cold conditions at Soldier Field. Malcolmson: "More than 3,000 extra pounds of equipment is being transported to Chicago, raising the cargo load from 14,000 pounds to 17,000 pounds. Besides the suspected winter gear, the equipment department is also packing battery-heated jackets and gloves, cases of hand and foot warmers and enough thermal gear to suit up the traveling party of more than 130 players and staff."

Rod Mar of seahawks.com offers photos from practice Thursday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams general manager Billy Devaney gives outgoing offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur credit for helping to develop quarterback Sam Bradford. Devaney: "He played a huge part, on and off the field. He helped Sam through the trials and tribulations that a rookie quarterback goes through, dealing with a lot of issues. And then obviously, with the on-field stuff, Pat was a tremendous asset. I think Sam would be the first to tell you what a huge part Pat played in his development."

Also from Thomas: What happens next for the Rams? Thomas: "The two names most commonly mentioned as possible replacements are former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels and former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress. Both were fired in the 2010 regular season, and both have backgrounds in offense. McDaniels already has been interviewed by Minnesota for the offensive coordinator job there; Childress is headed to Miami to interview for the same position there, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Childress is one of Spagnuolo's best friends in the business; they worked together for several years on Reid's staff in Philadelphia. Childress would run a version of the West Coast scheme. McDaniels' background is different. The former Bill Belichick protégé in New England favors a more wide-open passing game with more downfield throws. Spagnuolo didn't talk specifics about candidates Thursday."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ranks Ndamukong Suh and Maurkice Pouncey as the top two rookies for 2010, ahead of Bradford. Bradford, through the nature of his position, had a greater impact on his team than Suh or Pouncey. Suh and Pouncey were better at their positions. It then comes down to criteria for the award. Miklasz: "Bradford is the most valuable rookie in the league, because he had more impact in transforming a franchise than any player that entered the NFL in 2010. There is absolutely no question about that. I don't know if any NFL player was more valuable -- when we consider off-field impact -- than Bradford this season. But again, if we're limiting the discussion to on-field performance, I have no problem with Suh getting the honor."

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Shurmur's hiring in Cleveland comes as Rams fans complained about the offense's approach. Ross Tucker: "It's so easy in hindsight to blame a play-caller for a certain play because it didn't work. That's always in hindsight. There are a lot of good plays where it was a horrible play call but the defense just screwed up. And vice-versa. There's some great play calls but an offensive lineman misses a block or does this . . . and it doesn't work either. I've never been a big guy second-guessing play-callers or offensive coordinators. There's really only about three, maybe four fan bases in the NFL that really like their offensive coordinator. Think about this, Sean Payton, of the Saints. People like Sean Payton. Then he has that handoff to Julius Jones on fourth and one and now people are criticizing him."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis offers names of potential candidates to replace Shurmur. John Ramsdell, Bill Musgrave, Jim Zorn and Chris Palmer are on his list. Stull: "Ramsdell helped in the development of Kurt Warner and also helped Marc Bulger to one of his career best years in 2004. Since leaving the Rams, he has been the quarterbacks coach in San Diego, where he has developed Philip Rivers. Ramsdell could be in demand elsewhere, as his name has come up as a possibility to join Ron Rivera in Carolina. One other note, Ramsdell graduated from Springfield College -- same as Steve Spagnuolo."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says during a chat that he doesn't see Donovan McNabb as a good fit for the 49ers. Maiocco: "Mike Shanahan had him for less than a year and decided he wanted no part of him. And he runs the West Coast system. Is McNabb going to work with a young QB? If the 49ers get a guy in the draft they think is their future, that’ll influence which vet they pursue — a short-term fix (Matt Hasselbeck?) or long-term solution (Kevin Kolb?)."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are closer to putting together a staff now that Stanford has named a head coach.

More from Maiocco: Nate Clements will not be back under terms of his current contract. Clements' salary moves past $7 million in 2011. Maiocco: "The 49ers are expected to approach Clements in the next six weeks to negotiate a new deal. If the sides are unable to reach an agreement, the 49ers would release Clements -- either before the collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3 or after the new CBA is agreed upon."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provides updates on the 49ers' coaching staff. Barrows: "Tight ends coach Pete Hoener, a favorite of tight end Vernon Davis, interviewed with the Redskins this week, according to a team source."
Seattle: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is practicing enough to suggest he'll be available to start Saturday. The Seahawks could have started Hasselbeck against St. Louis, but the team determined Hasselbeck might not move well enough to avoid trouble. Coach Pete Carroll has not declared whether Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst will start against the Saints. I expect Hasselbeck to start, but Carroll has shown he can pull a surprise.

Everyone but right tackle Sean Locklear participated in practice Wednesday. The team excused Locklear from practice to tend to an undisclosed family matter. The Seahawks lack depth on their line. Seattle placed guard Chester Pitts on injured reserve. That means former starting right guard Stacy Andrews could be active for the first time since Week 14. Andrews is better suited at tackle. He's been working at right tackle with Locklear unavailable. Left tackle Russell Okung continues to fight through ankle problems. He wore down against the Rams and could be vulnerable as the game progresses. Pitts' replacement, Tyler Polumbus, was also limping at times Sunday. Receiver Brandon Stokley could return from his latest concussion. He has reportedly suffered more than 10.

New Orleans: The Saints lost running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory for the season this week, affecting their ground game. Ivory had 99 yards against Seattle in Week 11. Former Seahawk Julius Jones figures to play a more prominent role. Reggie Bush did not play against Seattle in the previous matchup. He'll play Saturday.

Linebacker Danny Clark (hamstring), tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle), defensive tackle Tony Hargrove (knee) and safety Malcolm Jenkins (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Tight ends Jeremy Shockey (groin) and David Thomas (knee) were limited. Defensive end Alex Brown (shoulder), receiver Marques Colston (knee) and linebacker Anthony Waters (ankle) participated fully. Colston missed Week 17. Having him back gives Drew Brees one of his favorite weapons. Colston caught eight passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle during the regular season.

For more on the Saints' injury situation, check out Pat Yasinskas' report.
Jackie MacMullan's piece on Deion Branch for ESPNBoston.com includes some items of potential interest for Seattle Seahawks fans.

Branch caught nine passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in his first game back with New England. He added three catches for 133 yards and two scores in his most recent game for the Patriots.

These were the sorts of performances Seattle expected from Branch upon acquiring him from the Patriots in 2006. The Seahawks sent him back to New England after four games this season, thrilled to recoup even a fourth-round choice in return.

Branch told MacMullan the Seahawks were never quite sure how to use him, and that the game plans were hit-and-miss in terms of quality.

Trading Branch back to New England was a deal that worked well for both teams. Branch was more valuable to New England than he was to Seattle. The Seahawks' Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu are enjoying strong seasons.

A quick look at how some other Seattle castoffs are faring:
  • Rob Sims, Lions guard. Sims has played well enough with Detroit for the Lions to sign him to a four-year extension.
  • Nate Burleson, Lions WR. Detroit paid a relatively high price in free agency. Burleson has 40 receptions, four for touchdowns.
  • Lawrence Jackson, Lions DE. Has 2.5 sacks in his last two games. A concussion sidelined him last week.
  • Josh Wilson, Ravens CB. Has started the last three games. Was on the wrong end of a no-call when the Falcons' Roddy White ran over him.
  • Owen Schmitt, Eagles FB. The latest ex-Seahawk to start at fullback for Philadelphia.
  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ravens WR. Has made a couple of key catches, including one game-winner, but hasn't factored much into the offense overall.
  • Mansfield Wrotto, Bills RT. Wrotto has started the Bills' last three games. The team won two of them and came within a dropped pass of winning the other.
  • Deon Grant, Giants S. Has three interceptions, one sack and four starts for the NFL's second-ranked defense.
  • Darryl Tapp, Eagles DE. Has two sacks in nine games, with no starts. Seattle has gotten 7.5 sacks and 11 starts from Chris Clemons, acquired from the Eagles in the Tapp trade.
  • Seneca Wallace, Browns QB. Has four touchdowns, two interceptions, an 88.5 rating and 1-3 starting record with Cleveland.
  • Julius Jones, Saints RB. A 54-yard run against Carolina has helped Jones average 4.6 yards per attempt on 37 rushes with New Orleans.
  • Cory Redding, Ravens DE. Has six starts for the NFL's eighth-ranked defense.

Some on the list weren't going to play prominent roles in Seattle. The team's new leadership wanted to turn over the roster, which is typical. A few castoffs invariably find success elsewhere. Of the group, Sims is the one Seattle could use the most.
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints named Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Jeremy Shockey and Darren Sharper inactive against the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle, meanwhile, has left tackle Russell Okung and slot receiver Brandon Stokley back from injuries.

Inactive for New Orleans: Thomas, Bush, Shockey, Sharper, cornerback Patrick Robinson, safety Malcolm Jenkins, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and tackle Charles Brown. Former Seahawks Julius Jones starts at running back for the Saints. Usama Young starts at free safety. Jimmy Graham starts at tight end.

Inactive for Seattle: running back Michael Robinson, guard Mike Gibson, receiver Golden Tate, receiver Ruvell Martin, tight end Anthony McCoy, defensive tackle Colin Cole and defensive lineman E.J. Wilson. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.

Having Okung available for the first time since Week 7 gives Seattle a shot at improving its offensive line, particularly in run blocking. Okung has battled ankle injuries this season. He has been active for only three regular-season games previously.

Playing without Robinson and McCoy, a backup tight end, limits some of the personnel groups Seattle might otherwise employ. The team used four tight ends at times last week, including with John Carlson lining up at fullback.

Update: NFL roster turnover since 2009

November, 18, 2010
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The Seattle Seahawks are making their way through "Turnover Thursday" with a league-low 23 players on their 53-man roster from last season.

Turnover, indeed.

The chart, based on information from rosters I maintain for every team in the league, shows how many players from 2009 Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists now reside on the same teams' 53-man rosters (but not IR). The numbers measure turnover and attrition -- by design, injuries, etc.

The bottom line: Seattle has the freshest 53-man roster in the league. The team has subtracted Red Bryant (IR), Deion Branch (trade), Julius Jones (released), Leroy Hill (IR), Mansfield Wrotto (released) and Max Unger (IR) since the 2010 regular season began.

NFC West roided-out rosters: Updated

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
9:54
PM ET
Keeping up with roster movement and lineup changes in the NFC West has become a part-time job this season.

Marshawn Lynch in, Julius Jones out. Deion Branch traded. Michael Lewis cut. Mark Clayton to injured reserve. Max Hall into the starting lineup.

My 26-column roided-out rosters, updated and available for download here, can help bring the bigger picture into focus. They'll let you know how NFC West teams compare with the rest of the league in age, positional counts, college conference affiliations and more. They'll let you sort by 2009 roster status, draft status, three position types, age, college, college conference, starting status, games started over the last three seasons, Pro Bowl honors and more. Plus, there's information for former players going back about three years.

The chart shows position counts for NFC West 53-man rosters.

Around the NFC West: Moss, Lynch, Rams

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
9:53
AM ET
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams were wise to pass on Randy Moss and Marshawn Lynch. Miklasz: "This isn't Fantasy League Football. In real football, personality and character matter. A willingness to accept a role is important. Devaney still must come up with that No. 1 receiver and No. 2 running back. But it's more important to find the right fit, rather than be seduced by big names in an effort to appease Fantasy League fans." Just as the Seahawks' decision to release T.J. Houshmandzadeh helped the Rams land Mark Clayton, the Lynch acquisition in Seattle made available a running back the Rams could seemingly use. No word yet on where Julius Jones might land, however. Moss would have been a bad fit in St. Louis for reasons similar to the ones that led to his departure from New England. Giving up draft choices for Lynch wouldn't have made much sense, either, given that the Rams' need is for a backup runner, not a starter.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the Rams value Fred Robbins for his on-field contributions and his elder-statesman status. Chris Long: "Fred is a great personality first off for this defense and for this locker room. He's another great veteran that you can learn a lot from. But he's still playing at a really high level. It's pretty unbelievable the way he's playing -- and the way James (Hall) is playing. They're playing like they're my age, 25 years old. Man, they're out there disrupting things, getting after the quarterback, stopping the run."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams practice-squad player Danario Alexander.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers might have an easier time using Brian Westbrook now that Delanie Waker is sidelined by injury. It's tough finding a role for a backup running back when the starter, Frank Gore, is so good. Teams spend all offseason practicing core personnel groupings. They generally do not put two halfbacks on the field at the same time because the second halfback proves less valuable than a wide receiver, tight end or fullback in most cases. Coach Mike Singletary: "The plan we had when we got him here was make sure as we go forward and find out what he can and cannot do and letting it develop. As time goes on, I think you'll see that."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' Taylor Mays is validating the team's decision to move him into the starting lineup.

Also from Branch: a long list of 49ers-related notes, including this one: "After four games, Brian Westbrook has three touches and has been paid about $375,000 -- or $125,000 per touch. Westbrook's lack of use seems puzzling. Is he simply, like so many 31-year-old running backs, finished? Have the Niners not been able to find a role for him? Is he not up to speed on the playbook?"

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Singletary's refusal to shake Mike Smith's hand following a loss to Smith's Falcons marks the second incident in as many years involving Singletary and the Falcons. Last season, Singletary got into a shouting match with a Falcons player.

Also from White: Ted Ginn Jr.'s return restores some speed to the 49ers' offense.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Marshawn Lynch is seeking a fresh start on multiple levels, including with his new head coach, Pete Carroll. Lynch said he couldn't stand Carroll when Lynch was at California and Carroll was at USC. Lynch: "He was one of the only coaches you’d see running up and down the field like he was playing in the game. Running up, jumping, high-fiving his players. They’re over there dogging us, and you’re just sitting there watching them have all this fun, like, 'Man, what is he doing? Run me to that sideline so I can hit him one time.' But man, I just always thought he was a fun guy, somebody that likes to have fun and win, which is something he’s had a career of doing -- winning. I could probably get used to it a little better now that I’m on the same side."

Rod Mar of seahawks.com offers photos from the team's game at St. Louis.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at which 2011 draft choices the Seahawks hold after trading for Lynch. I had also forgotten about the seventh-rounder Seattle sent to Philadelphia for Stacy Andrews. The team used a 2012 pick in the Tyler Polumbus deal.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Matt Hasselbeck remains the best option at quarterback for the Seahawks. Receiver Mike Williams: "Matt's a good dude. He's a leader. He's done that in this league. Just like it's my job to catch passes, it's my job to protect the team. People can say whatever they want, but they're wrong. You can be an armchair quarterback or an armchair coordinator, but our play isn't all Matt's fault. It's about all of us. We're still working to get this thing right."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks could do much worse than Lynch when looking for a power back. Boling: "This was a big move, an aggressive move, one that shows that the front office continues its own relentless approach. They, too, are in Beast Mode. And this is a franchise that needs it."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Beanie Wells and Ken Whisenhunt have discussed Well's role since the running back complained about playing time. Wells: "I did tell him I didn't mean it in a disrespectful way. If you read the headlines, it came off like Beanie is really angry about a certain situation. I'm angry about not being out there contributing. I love being an Arizona Cardinal. Coach understood where I was coming from. No doghouse at all."

Also from Somers: New starting quarterback Max Hall does not look the part. Center Lyle Sendlelin: "He's a little, fiery competitive guy. I'm sure no one ever gave him a chance but he's got great command out there. He's real assertive and very confident."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Hall is the starter, but he's still a rookie -- and that meant carrying receiver Larry Fitzgerald's pads after practice.

Marshawn Lynch should upgrade Seattle

October, 5, 2010
10/05/10
3:01
PM ET
The Seattle Seahawks finally landed the physical running back they've coveted when the Buffalo Bills agreed to part with Marshawn Lynch nearly six months after drafting another back, C.J. Spiller, in the first round.

This can only be a good thing for Seattle from a personnel standpoint.

Lynch instantly becomes the most physically gifted runner on the team. He is 24 years old and was a Pro Bowl choice two seasons ago. Expect Lynch to share time with his former college roommate, Justin Forsett, and veteran Leon Washington. Julius Jones, already the odd man out of the rotation, presumably has no place on the roster.

Lynch's carries and rushing yardage declined every season in Buffalo and his departure from the team appeared more likely once the Bills used a high choice for Spiller.

Lynch does come with baggage. He ran afoul of the law multiple times while with the Bills. One NFL personnel evaluator told me years ago he thought bringing Lynch back to the West Coast could carry risk if it meant reuniting the running back with negative influences from his youth.

A fresh start could also serve Lynch well and he'll get that in Seattle.

The Seahawks were expected to trade a fourth-round choice to the Bills as part of the deal. The team already sent its 2011 third-rounder to San Diego in the Charlie Whitehurst deal, but Seattle subsequently added a mid-round choice in the Josh Wilson deal with Baltimore. The pick from Baltimore is a fifth-rounder that could become a fourth-rounder based on how Wilson performs for the Ravens.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he was most disappointed with the Seahawks running game following a 20-3 defeat at St. Louis in Week 4. Personnel issues on the offensive line were one obvious issue. The Seahawks also wanted a more physical presence in the backfield. They signed LenDale White, then released him.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are looking for their first victory over Seattle since the 2004 season. Chris Massey and Steven Jackson are the only current St. Louis players to experience victory over the Seahawks as members of the Rams. Thomas on that 2004 victory: "The entire Rams rookie class was in high school. The Rams were the defending NFC West champions. And sellouts, the kind where every ticket actually gets sold, happened every Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome." Shaun Alexander rushed for 176 yards in that 2004 game, but Matt Hasselbeck completed only 15 of 36 attempts with one interception and a 45.1 rating. Marshall Faulk carried 18 times for 139 yards. Jackson, a rookie, had 10 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown. Chike Okeafor (Seattle) and Adam Archuleta (St. Louis) were the leading tacklers for each team.

Also from Thomas: thoughts on whether James Laurinaitis is approaching elite status.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with new Rams running back Chauncey Washington, who considers himself famous even without "Hard Knocks." Washington: "I think I was famous before that. Just maybe you guys didn't know about me. But on the West Coast, I'm famous."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat passes along this comment from Washington: "I got drafted by Jacksonville and I was there with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and then I got the opportunity to go to the Cowboys with Marion Barber and Julius Jones, and then I got the opportunity to go to the Jets and be with Thomas Jones and L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson). I think everywhere I have been I have been blessed to be able to learn from the great backs. I think here I am going to continue to learn from Steven Jackson." He was with Reggie Bush and LenDale White at USC.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says John Greco gave the Rams' running game a boost when he got reps at right guard against the Redskins.

Also from Wagoner: The Rams sought to move on from their 30-16 victory over Washington even though victories have been scarce.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team practiced in full pads for 100 minutes Wednesday. Also: "Rookie Walter Thurmond worked at left cornerback for (Marcus) Trufant, Will Herring was at strong-side linebacker for (Aaron) Curry and Junior Siavii and Kentwan Balmer got work at tackle for (Brandon) Mebane."

Also from Farnsworth: a look at changing dynamics on the Seahawks' offensive line.

John Morgan of Field Gulls offers thoughts on the Seahawks' blitzes against San Diego. Morgan: "Maybe not all of the blitzes worked, but quite a few did, and while San Diego was chewing yards, they were playing snap after snap on the verge of turnover."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers an interview transcript featuring comments from Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Bradley on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford: "Even if he does get sacked or throws a bad ball, he bounces back and will come back and throw a nice ball. One stat that impressed me, I think he's like third in the league with passes over 30 yards. So he has done a nice job for their team, and doesn't make many mistakes. He's real impressive."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks were happy to have Russell Okung and Chester Pitts practicing Wednesday. Ben Hamilton and Sean Locklear rested knee injuries.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Okung wore a brace on his heavily wrapped ankle.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says newly acquired Seahawks receiver Brandon Stokley could give the Seahawks what Bobby Engram once gave them. Stokley on what he can offer: "Veteran leadership … a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to help win football games. … I just love to compete. I’m a guy who’s not worried about stats or individual accolades, I just try to do whatever it takes to win games."

Todd Fredrickson of the Everett Herald says Seahawks safety Earl Thomas felt like he was back at Texas Tech when defending the Chargers' all-out passing attack.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the challenges Arizona faces at receiver with Steve Breaston and Early Doucet unavailable. Somers: "Playing with inexperienced receivers is not ideal, however, and the Cardinals could make adjustments in scheme and personnel to compensate. They could go to more to formations using two tight ends, or use a running back as a slot receiver."

Also from Somers: Philip Rivers once served as Adrian Wilson's chauffeur.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says LaRod Stephens-Howling met with the couple for whom his return touchdown secured a new home as part of a promotion. Said the husband: "He's got a place to stay forever."

Also from Urban: why it's tough to add a new quarterback during the season.

More from Urban: The Cardinals liked their young receivers better than any they might have signed off the street.

More still from Urban: Arizona could have an edge on special teams against the Chargers in Week 4.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along these thoughts from Mike Singletary regarding 49ers quarterback Alex Smith: "I don't think I've ever underestimated the quarterback situation. I think the quarterback is very important. Do I think he's the most important? No, I don't. A great example is the game we played on Sunday. I think (Chiefs quarterback) Matt Cassel is a good quarterback. Do I think he's a great quarterback? Do I think he's the most important part of that offense? No, I do not. But they won the game. If I'm a passing team, if I'm the Indianapolis Colts, yes, I think the quarterback is the most important part of the team. If I'm the New England Patriots, I think the quarterback is the most important part of that offense. The 49ers right now, I feel the quarterback is very important. But I don't think he's the most important part of our offense. I think there are 11 guys, and on this offense I want 11 guys to know that each and every one of them on every play is important." Quarterback is the most important position on any team, and if he is just one of 11 equals, the team will have a harder time beating the best teams.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary went with Mike Johnson at offensive coordinator after Johnson provided Singletary a list, upon request, of things he would do differently. Smith: "I do think there will be more variation. I think personnel and formations and things like that, there will be some different things. I think we'll find out how they're going to play certain personnel, find out how they're going to play certain formations and then go from there."

Also from Barrows: Singletary lost his cool and got into a shouting match with Falcons guard Harvey Dahl the last time the 49ers faced Atlanta. Almost forgot about that one.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' offense will strive to be more flexible. Barber: "Smith conceded the offense hasn't been 'real dynamic' this season and suggested that its inability to adjust to opposing defenses was part of the problem. Smith stressed the importance of being flexible and said Johnson shares his beliefs."

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says the 49ers' defense shouldn't get a free pass with all the focus on the team's new offensive coordinator.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are not considering a quarterback change. They don't appear to have a viable alternative.

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