NFC West: Kenny Wiggins

Where NFC West stands on offensive lines

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
7:40
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The San Francisco 49ers' offensive line approaches the 2012 NFL season with the same starters in four of five spots.

The new starter, right guard Alex Boone, has been with the team since 2010.

This was by design. The 49ers have used first-round picks for three of their five starters on the line. They'll be looking for a jump in performance as they enter another season together.

"You look at guys around the league who have had success as an offensive line and a lot of times they’ve played together in the same system for a while," left tackle Joe Staley said from 49ers training camp. "You see that moreso on the offensive line than at any other position."

You don't see it much in the NFC West, at least outside the 49ers.

The chart shows offensive linemen for every NFC West team, sorting them by starters, reserves, practice-squad players and those placed on injured reserve. Asterisks identify linemen who started for their current teams last season. Seattle has seven such players after shuffling its line constantly last season.

The Cardinals have two key linemen on injured reserve, Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges. Two others, Blake DeChristopher and Ryan Bartholomew, landed there after being waived/injured.

I've shaded the backups to highlight depth. The backups for Arizona and San Francisco started zero NFL games last season. Seattle's backups combined for 26 starts, with each of the four starting at least three games. The Rams' Wayne Hunter started 16 games for the New York Jets. No other Rams backups started in 2011.

Rookie Rokevious Watkins projects as a likely starter for St. Louis -- if not now, then at some point -- after the team released Quinn Ojinnaka. How he plays this season could determine how seriously the Rams need to address left guard in free agency or the draft. The Rams could also consider drafting at least one tackle, at which point Rodger Saffold could become a candidate to move from left tackle to left guard. In the meantime, the Rams appear likely to continue combing the waiver wire.

Arizona, having already lost Brown, appears most vulnerable to injury. As it is, D'Anthony Batiste will be making his fifth career start and first at left tackle when Arizona faces Seattle in Week 1. Right tackle Bobby Massie is a rookie.

The 49ers could find themselves scrambling if one of their tackles were lost. Boone, the swing tackle last season, has moved into the lineup at guard. The team doesn't have another true tackle on its roster. Boone could move to tackle in a pinch, with Leonard Davis or Joe Looney stepping in at guard. Looney, a rookie coming off foot surgery, could project as a long-term starter at right guard. Boone will have something to say about that, however.

The Seahawks have options, particularly on the interior, after rookie J.R. Sweezy emerged as a surprise candidate at right guard. Incumbent starter John Moffitt can back up the three interior spots if he's not starting, as can Lemuel Jeanpierre. Former starting right tackle James Carpenter will become a candidate to start at left guard if his knee rehabilitation continues on schedule. He was expected to practice with the backups this week.

49ers at 53: Roster with practice squad

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
4:38
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The San Francisco 49ers announced their initial eight-man practice squad Saturday.

That provides a chance for me to pass along an updated version of the 49ers' roster for download. This Excel file features 27 columns for every 49ers player, plus those no longer on the roster (dating to roughly 2007, when I started maintaining theses for each team).

The chart shows positional counts for the 49ers' active roster and practice squad.

San Francisco signed to its practice squad two linebackers (Cam Johnson, Michael Wilhoite), two offensive linemen (Kenny Wiggins, Al Netter) and two defensive linemen (Matthew Masifilo, Tony Jerod-Eddie). The 49ers also signed receiver Nathan Palmer and safety Michael Thomas.

Johnson provides practice depth at outside linebacker. Wilhoite was one of the NFC West's more impressive young inside linebackers during preseason. Thomas was a player 49ers veteran safety Donte Whitner singled out as likely to stick on the practice squad, with a chance to develop into a regular-season contributor.

The New York Jets claimed tight end Konrad Reuland off waivers. The Indianapolis Colts claimed offensive lineman Mike Person.

2012 NFC West practice squad eligibility

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
12:33
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NFL teams can begin forming practice squads once eligible players clear waivers Saturday.

A look at which players released by NFC West teams have eligibility:

Arizona Cardinals

Eligible: Crezdon Butler, Antonio Coleman, Blake Gideon, Ricky Lumpkin, Colin Parker, Larry Parker, Steve Skelton, Quan Sturdivant, Everrette Thompson, Martell Webb, Scott Wedige, Brandon Williams, Isaiah Williams, D.J. Williams.

Not eligible: DeMarco Sampson, Alfonso Smith, Ronald Talley, Stephen Williams, Clark Haggans, Russ Hochstein

St. Louis Rams

Eligible: Cornell Banks, Tim Barnes, Tom Brandstater, Mason Brodine, Aaron Brown, Sammy Brown, Kendric Burney, Ben Guidugli, Cory Harkey, T-Bob Hebert, Jamaar Jarrett, Nick Johnson, Joe Long, Deangelo Peterson, Chase Reynolds, Scott Smith

Not eligible: Vernon Gholston, Bryan Mattison, Jose Valdez, Kellen Clemens, Ovie Mughelli

San Francisco 49ers

Eligible: Derek Hall, Joe Holland, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson, Matthew Masifilo, Anthony Mosley, Kyle Nelson, Al Netter, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Mike Person, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Michael Thomas, Kenny Wiggins, Michael Wilhoite

Not eligible: Eric Bakhtiari, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson, Brett Swain

Seattle Seahawks

Eligible: Pierre Allen, Allen Bradford, Kris Durham, Cooper Helfet, Rishaw Johnson, Jermaine Kearse, Kyle Knox, Cordarro Law, Pep Levingston, Ricardo Lockette, Sean McGrath, Kris O'Dowd, Josh Portis, DeShawn Shead, Vai Taua, Korey Toomer, Lavasier Tuinei

Not eligible: Phillip Adams, Deon Butler, Paul Fanaika

Note on eligibility

Straight from the collective bargaining agreement:
"The Practice Squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad:
  • "players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience;
  • "free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s).

"An otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.

"A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season.

"(For purposes of this Section, a bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)"

San Francisco 49ers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:28
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Most significant move. The San Francisco 49ers' decision to keep running back Anthony Dixon played into a broader special-teams theme. Veteran fullback Rock Cartwright, once seen as a key special-teams addition following Blake Costanzo's departure in free agency, received his release. The 49ers traded another core special-teams player, safety Colin Jones, to Carolina for what was thought to be a 2014 seventh-round choice.

The 49ers' decision at quarterback was also among those I found most significant. The team kept Scott Tolzien over Josh Johnson in the No. 3 role even though Johnson played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. Johnson also outplayed Tolzien in the final exhibition game. Keeping Tolzien appealed, however, because his ceiling appears less defined. Johnson has played in the NFL without setting a sharply upward career trajectory. Colin Kaepernick's emergence as a stronger No. 2 quarterback bought some insurance for carrying a less-experienced third-stringer, perhaps.

Onward and upward: Linebacker Michael Wilhoite, offensive lineman Mike Person and safety Michael Thomas appear to be young players with futures in the NFL. Defensive lineman Matthew Masifilo impressed in the final exhibition game. The 49ers' practice squad will be an option for some of the players let go, but I won't be surprised if waiver claims from other teams get in the way. The 49ers have done a good job building talented depth throughout their roster.

The team also released Eric Bakhtiari, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Derek Hall, Joe Holland, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson, Anthony Mosley, Kyle Nelson, Al Netter, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Brett Swain and Kenny Wiggins.

Reuland could get another chance. It was a mild surprise, perhaps, to see Garrett Celek stick ahead of Reuland as the third tight end.

What's next: The 49ers will watch closely to see which players clear waivers. Wilhoite is one they would like to re-sign, according to his agent, but teams looking for young depth at linebacker could submit claims. The team could use another outside linebacker, at least on paper, but the 49ers got through last season with only three of them.

The 49ers are carrying only eight offensive linemen. Their swing tackle, Alex Boone, is starting at right guard. If there's an offensive tackle out there worth claiming, the 49ers could consider adding one. But two of their division rivals, Arizona and St. Louis, have greater needs and higher waiver priorities.
Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the San Francisco 49ers' offense.

Quarterbacks (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Safest bets: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Scott Tolzien

Comment: Johnson has more experience than Kaepernick and could project as the No. 2 quarterback if an injury forced Smith from the lineup on short notice. Johnson's history with coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego probably helps his chances in that regard. Kaepernick gets a chance this summer to prove he's ready to take the next step following a more regular offseason. Tolzien could project for the practice squad.

Running backs (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 4.9

Safest bets: Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, Bruce Miller

Leading contenders: Rock Cartwright, Anthony Dixon

Longer odds: Jewel Hampton, Cameron Bell

Comment: Moran Norris is out after spending five of the past six seasons as a 49ers fullback. That was one of many changes in the backfield this offseason. Jacobs' arrival suggests Dixon must step up his game significantly to stick on the roster -- and will probably have to demonstrate special-teams value as well. He won't be able to compete with Miller or Cartwright in that regard. If the 49ers find a way to keep six running backs, Cartwright would likely be in the picture almost exclusively for his special-teams value. Hampton could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Wide receivers (11)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.7

Safest bets: Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins

Leading contenders: Kyle Williams, Ted Ginn Jr.

Longer odds: Brett Swain, Joe Hastings, Nathan Palmer, Chris Owusu, Brian Tyms

Comment: The first four appear set as long as Moss continues on his current trajectory. The 49ers kept five at the position in Week 1 last season. Despite talk of opening up the offense, the team could have a hard time justifying six roster spots for wideouts for a coaching staff that seems to relish using multiple tight ends. Williams and Ginn carry obvious special-teams value in the return game, a huge consideration. I have a hard time envisioning the 49ers, stung by Williams' miscues in the NFC Championship Game, taking undue chances in the return game at Green Bay in the opener. Ginn is the most proven return specialist on the team and a game-breaker when healthy. Owusu could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Tight ends (5)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Safest bets: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker

Leading contenders: Nate Byham, Konrad Reuland

Longer odds: Garrett Celek

Comment: Byham was emerging as a top-flight blocking tight end before a knee injury ended his 2011 season during training camp. Reuland, then an undrafted rookie, had a chance to gain ground while spending last season on the practice squad. Reuland played for Harbaugh and staff at Stanford.

Offensive linemen (15)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.0

Safest bets: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney

Leading contenders: Mike Person, Jason Slowey

Longer odds: Derek Hall, David Gonzales, Garrett Chisolm, Chase Beeler, Kenny Wiggins, Al Netter

Comment: Boone has become the prohibitive favorite to start at right guard even though he remains in the early stages of a conversion from tackle. Boone could move back to tackle if the 49ers were to lose Staley or Davis to injury. Boone remains the third-best tackle on the team. Kilgore once stood as a candidate at right guard, but he now projects as Goodwin's eventual successor at center. Looney, a rookie fourth-round choice, could be the long-term right guard, but he's recovering from foot surgery.
The following recently released and waived/injured NFC West players are eligible for practice squads if they clear waivers:
Arizona Cardinals

Jared Campbell, Marshay Green, Sean Jeffcoat, Ricky Lumpkin, Jeremy Navarre, Aaron Nichols, Bryant Nnabuife, Kris O'Dowd, Tom Pestock, William Powell, Steve Skelton, Kendall Smith, Thad Turner, Isaiah Williams, D.J. Young.

St. Louis Rams

Damario Ambrose, Tim Atchison, DeMarco Cosby, Tae Evans, Marlon Favorite, Pete Fleps, Cody Habben, John Henderson, Kevin Hughes, Randall Hunt, Thaddeus Lewis, Greg Mathews, Jeremy McGee, Ryan McKee, Jonathan Nelson, Fendi Onobun, Chase Reynolds, Van Stumon.

San Francisco 49ers

Chase Beeler, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Brian Bulcke, Jack Corcoran, Phillip Davis, Derek Hall, Joe Hastings, Chris Hogan, Ronald Johnson, Alex Joseph, Chris Maragos, Cory Nelms, Xavier Omon, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Sealver Siliga, Monte Simmons, Curtis Taylor, Kenny Wiggins.

Seattle Seahawks

Pierre Allen, Dorson Boyce, Chris Carter, Paul Fanaika, Maurice Fountain, David Howard, Michael Johnson, Jameson Konz, Mark LeGree, Ricardo Lockette, Michael Morgan, Josh Pinkard, William Robinson, Owen Spencer, Vai Taua, Patrick Williams.

A few younger players are not eligible, including former St. Louis Rams receiver Mardy Gilyard, who spent 11 games on the game-day roster last season. Players with no accrued seasons or fewer than nine appearances on game-day rosters in their only accrued season are among those eligible. Players can spend a third season on a team's practice squad as long as their team keeps its 53-man roster full at all times.

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