NFC West: Mario Haggan

The St. Louis Rams entered their first season under coach Jeff Fisher with a starting lineup averaging 26.7 years old. That was eight months ago. At least eight of the starting spots figure to change over this offseason. The new starters are almost invariably younger.

As a result, the current projected starters average about one year younger overall even though 14 of them are eight months older than they were entering last season.

Some of the positions remain open for competition, but the trend is unmistakeable. One of the NFL's youngest teams has gotten younger in lots of places. Seven of the 10 oldest players entering last season are no longer with the team (Mario Haggan, Quintin Mikell, Wayne Hunter, Rocky McIntosh, Steven Jackson, Robert Turner and Matthew Mulligan).

We can easily see the Rams' leadership putting its stamp on the organization in ways that make sense for the long term. It's tough to know in some cases whether the benefits will be immediate. There figure to be growing pains and a few disappointments along with the excitement that comes with developing dynamic young talent.

D'Marco Farr, Randy Karraker and I discussed expectations surrounding the Rams in relation to their NFC West rivals during our conversation Tuesday on 101ESPN St. Louis. We'll be talking Rams and the NFC West on Tuesday afternoons from this point forward. This will replace my Tuesday conversations with Bernie Miklasz on the same station. Bernie recently vacated his show. I'm looking forward to the new arrangement and to reconnecting with Bernie as he takes on an expanded role at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its website.
PHOENIX -- The Seattle Seahawks and especially the San Francisco 49ers added to their 2013 NFL draft hauls Monday when the NFL awarded compensatory selections to offset net losses in free agency last year.

The 49ers received the 131st overall pick, a fourth-rounder, plus the 246th and 252nd choices, both in the seventh round. The Seahawks received the 241st and 242nd overall choices, also in the seventh round.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," the NFL announced. "Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula."

The 49ers received compensatory choices because free-agent losses Blake Costanzo, Josh Morgan and Madieu Williams outweighed free-agent addition Mario Manningham according to the formula. The Seahawks received picks because free-agent losses Atari Bigby, John Carlson, David Hawthorne and Charlie Whitehurst outweighed free-agent additions Matt Flynn and Jason Jones. Update: The NFL clarified that Adam Snyder, who signed with Arizona from San Francisco, factored into the equation awarding the 49ers three comp picks.

I've put together lists below showing all unrestricted free agents added, lost and re-signed by NFC West teams last offseason.

Update: I've also made available for download an Excel file with tentative 2013 draft order, reflecting comp picks and known trades. This is unofficial. The league has not yet released the official order; additional trades could affect it.

The 49ers have a league-high 14 picks, including two picks in each of the second through fifth rounds. They're in prime position to stock their roster for the future.

By my accounting, the Cardinals hold the 7th, 38th, 69th, 103rd, 140th, 174th and 176th picks. The 49ers hold the 31st, 34th, 61st, 74th, 93rd, 128th, 131st, 157th, 164th, 180th, 227th, 237th, 246th and 252nd choices. The Seahawks hold the 56th, 87th, 123rd, 138th, 158th, 194th, 220th, 231st, 241st and 242nd choices. The Rams hold the 16th, 22nd, 46th, 78th, 113th, 149th, 184th and 222nd picks.

Update: The Seahawks sent the 214th choice, acquired from Buffalo in the Tarvaris Jackson trade, to Minnesota as part of the Percy Harvin trade.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed: D'Anthony Batiste, Mike Leach, Early Doucet, Jay Feely, Dave Zastudil
Added: Adam Snyder, William Gay, James Sanders, Quentin Groves
Lost: Richard Marshall, Sean Considine, Deuce Lutui

San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed: Tavares Gooden, Carlos Rogers, Alex Smith, Ted Ginn Jr.
Added: Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson
Lost: Josh Morgan, Adam Snyder, Blake Costanzo, Reggie Smith, Madieu Williams, Chilo Rachal

Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed: Heath Farwell, Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy
Added: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Deuce Lutui, Barrett Ruud
Lost: John Carlson, Atari Bigby, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Hargrove, David Hawthorne

St. Louis Rams

Re-signed: Kellen Clemens
Added: Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, Quinn Ojinnaka, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Mario Haggan, Barry Richardson
Lost: Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain, Donnie Jones, Jacob Bell, Bryan Kehl, Gary Gibson

2013 UFA counts for NFC West teams

March, 12, 2013
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The NFL has released its official list of restricted and unrestricted free agents.

The chart breaks down the UFA counts by team in the NFC West.

A quick look at the lists, which include a couple players who have already reached agreement on new contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

UFA offense (4): D'Anthony Batiste, Pat McQuistan, Rich Ohrnberger, LaRod Stephens-Howling

UFA defense (8): Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Quentin Groves, Vonnie Holliday, Rashad Johnson, Paris Lenon, James Sanders, Greg Toler

RFA: Brian Hoyer, tendered to second-round pick.

Note: The Cardinals announced Johnson's agreement to a three-year contract.

St. Louis Rams

UFA offense (8): Danny Amendola, Kellen Clemens, Brandon Gibson, Steven Jackson, Barry Richardson, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Chris Williams

UFA defense (6): Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Mario Haggan, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Rocky McIntosh

RFA: Darian Stewart, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: The Rams announced Hayes' agreement to a three-year contract.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA offense (4): Leonard Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Randy Moss, Delanie Walker

UFA defense (6): Dashon Goldson, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Clark Haggans, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga

RFA: Tramaine Brock, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: Walker has reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Seattle Seahawks

UFA offense (2): Cameron Morrah, Frank Omiyale

UFA defense (5): Alan Branch, Patrick Chukwurah, Leroy Hill, Jason Jones, Marcus Trufant

UFA special teams (2): Steve Hauschka, Ryan Longwell

RFA: Clint Gresham and Chris Maragos, tendered to right of first refusal; and Clinton McDonald, tendered to seventh-round choice.

UFA market revisited: How NFC West fared

February, 28, 2013
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Those eagerly awaiting the start of NFL free agency March 12 with visions of your favorite team loading up on accomplished veterans should revisit the list of unrestricted free agents NFC West teams signed last season.

St. Louis, badly in need of a talent infusion following the worst five-year run in NFL history, opened its checkbook to sign a long list of veteran players, some of them at high cost.

That was the exception in the NFC West and I'd be surprised if St. Louis took a similarly aggressive approach this offseason. The Rams have stabilized their roster and positioned themselves to build around young talent.

With that in mind, I'll take a team-by-team look at the unrestricted free agents each NFC West team signed last offseason. UFAs are defined as veterans who reached the market when their contracts expired. Teams also acquired players by other means.

Arizona Cardinals

2012 UFA signings from other teams: cornerback William Gay, linebacker Quentin Groves, safety James Sanders and guard Adam Snyder

Comment: Gay started and played 93 percent of the defensive snaps as a replacement for Richard Marshall, who left in free agency. He wasn't a star, but the defense was solid. Gay gave Arizona the snaps it sought. Groves played 43 percent of snaps as a situational pass-rusher. The Cardinals needed him when an injury sidelined O'Brien Schofield. Sanders played 11 percent. Snyder started 14 games and played much of the season with an injury for a line that was among the NFL's least effective for much of the season. Arizona's young tackles made progress. I thought the team overspent for Snyder, a player San Francisco eagerly replaced with the undrafted Alex Boone, who provided a clear upgrade. Note that three of the four UFA additions last offseason played defense. Arizona needs to target offense this offseason. New coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim have praised the existing talent. Arizona might not load up on free agents the way some teams do when new leadership takes over.

St. Louis Rams

2012 UFA signings from other teams: linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, linebacker Mario Haggan, defensive end William Hayes, defensive tackle Kendall Langford, defensive lineman Trevor Laws, guard Quinn Ojinnaka, tackle Barry Richardson, receiver Steve Smith, center Robert Turner and center Scott Wells

Comment: The Rams were major players in the UFA market. Results were mostly positive. Finnegan gave the Rams the production and veteran presence they sought. He was instantly a playmaker for St. Louis. Dunbar was much better than I had anticipated and well worth his contract, which included a $1 million signing bonus and $1.5 million annual average. Hayes provided good depth on the defensive line, and at a reasonable cost ($900,000 for one year). Langford needed time to transition from the 3-4 scheme he ran previously in Miami. The Rams signed him after Jason Jones signed with Seattle instead. Injuries prevented Wells from stabilizing the offensive line, a major disappointment and a reminder of the risks associated with signing older players from other teams.

San Francisco 49ers

2012 UFA signings from other teams: fullback Rock Cartwright, quarterback Josh Johnson, receiver Mario Manningham

Comment: Does this look like a team poised to strike for Darrelle Revis in the trade market? Does this look like a team ready to throw around cash in free agency? Not based on the list of signings last offseason. The interest San Francisco showed in Peyton Manning doesn't apply here. Indianapolis released Manning. Manning was not a UFA. I'd put him in a separate category, anyway. Teams make exceptions for Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Back to the 2012 UFA list. Cartwright and Johnson never played for the team. Neither earned a spot on the 53-man roster. Both served a purpose by initially increasing competition at their positions. For example, Anthony Dixon moved fro halfback to fullback and became a more valuable player, including on special teams. Johnson provided early insurance, but in retrospect, Colin Kaepernick was obviously ready to serve in the No. 2 role before becoming the starter. Manningham provided sufficient value before a knee injury ended his season. The 49ers missed him late in the season, including during the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks

2012 UFA signings from other teams: quarterback Matt Flynn, defensive lineman Jason Jones, guard Deuce Lutui and linebacker Barrett Ruud

Comment: Flynn would have started if Russell Wilson hadn't emerged unexpectedly as the clear choice. Seattle invested $6.5 million per year in Flynn, a sum the team could live with even if Flynn became the backup. It's tough to fault the Seahawks for signing Flynn. They had no idea Wilson would be available in the draft, or that Wilson would perform at such a high level so early in his career. Jones finished the season on injured reserve. That made it impossible for him to provide the interior pass-rushing push Seattle sought when signing him to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Lutui and Ruud never earned roster spots. Neither was a liability financially. Both were low-cost insurance policies. Seattle parlayed Ruud into a 2013 draft choice by trading him to New Orleans after the Saints lost Jonathan Vilma.

Who cleans up when Rams send pressure

December, 29, 2012
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The item Friday on the St. Louis Rams' blitz tendencies showed how many sacks the team has collected by the number of pass-rushers deployed.

This followup shows which players collected those sacks.

Rookie first-round pick Michael Brockers is one player to watch Sunday when the Rams face the Seattle Seahawks. He was just returning from a high-ankle sprain when the teams played in Week 4. Brockers has dominated at times in recent weeks. He has two of his four sacks when the Rams sent seven or more pass-rushers.

Safety Quintin Mikell is another player to watch for the Rams. He has three sacks on all-out blitzes.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 13, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals placed quarterback Kevin Kolb on injured reserve, where he joins left tackle Levi Brown, center Lyle Sendlein, backup center Rich Ohrnberger, outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, running back Ryan Williams and others. Rookie Ryan Lindley will start at quarterback against Detroit. Receiver Early Doucet (concussion), defensive lineman Ronald Talley (ankle) and nose tackle Dan Williams (hamstring) did not practice. Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), defensive tackle Nick Eason (ankle), tight end Rob Housler (knee), safety Kerry Rhodes (abdomen), receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) and cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) were limited. Coaches and players have long said training rooms tend to clear out when a team is winning because players are so eager to get onto the field. Arizona's nine-game losing streak robs the Cardinals of that additional incentive.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), safety Craig Dahl (head), running back Steven Jackson (foot), middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (back), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and center Scott Wells (knee). Linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow) was a full participant. The one player limited in practice, receiver Danny Amendola, is the most volatile variable. Coach Jeff Fisher indicated Amendola needs to be near full strength to function at a high level. That is presumably because Amendola depends on his quickness and ability to change directions, attributes compromised by a foot injury. The Rams have won their past two games without Amendola. Rookie receiver Chris Givens has filled some of the void. But having Amendola in the lineup would certainly improve the Rams' chances.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers listed linebacker Tavares Gooden (ribs), receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder), fullback Bruce Miller (shoulder) and linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder) as limited. Kicker David Akers (pelvis), linebacker Navorro Bowman (shoulder), cornerback Tarell Brown (shoulder), cornerback Chris Culliver (knee), running back Frank Gore (wrist), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), defensive tackle Will Tukuafu (wrist) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder) are listed as full participants. Manningham's status is most compelling. While most or all the other injured players are expected to play against New England, Manningham missed the Week 13 game at Miami, so his status is in a bit more question. Randy Moss figures to play extensively regardless, but if Manningham misses the game, the 49ers could feature Moss a bit more against his former team.

Seattle Seahawks: Seattle held out receiver Sidney Rice (foot), cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring), safety Kam Chancellor (groin) and defensive end Red Bryant (foot) missed practice Wednesday. The team continues to list running back Marshawn Lynch (back) as limited despite every expectation he'll be able to play. Cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) was a surprise addition to the injured list Wednesday. He's had injury problems in the past. Durability is a concern. Depth at corner isn't as strong with Brandon Browner serving a suspension and Trufant sidelined recently. Seattle is no longer listing linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle). Malcolm Smith could wind up keeping the job.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 5, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb (ribs) does not appear close to returning. John Skelton will start at quarterback. Receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) and defensive end Ronald Talley (ankle) did not practice. Defensive end Calais Campbell, held out of the Cardinals' Week 13 game, practiced on a limited basis. He's recovering from a calf injury. Campbell has six career sacks against Week 14 opponent Seattle. That is the most for Campbell against a single opponent. Safety Kerry Rhodes (quadriceps), linebacker Reggie Walker (knee) and running back Beanie Wells (knee) were also limited. Wells played 43 percent of the snaps against the Jets. Fellow running backs William Powell (35 percent) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (19 percent) also played extensively. Cornerback Justin Bethel (shoulder), receiver Early Doucet (ribs), snapper Mike Leach (back) and linebacker Paris Lenon (shoulder) practiced fully Wednesday.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out receiver Danny Amendola (foot), linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow), center Scott Wells (knee), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and running back Steven Jackson (foot). Amendola's status is one to monitor closely. He played against Arizona two weeks ago despite being listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report. He did not play against San Francisco last week. Rookie receiver Chris Givens appears to be developing quickly and has taken over some of the shorter routes previously reserved for Amendola. With Amendola out, Givens and Brandon Gibson each played 90 percent of the snaps at receiver. Givens was the player quarterback Sam Bradford targeted. He has 16 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. Austin Pettis (66 percent) and Brian Quick (15 percent) also factored.

San Francisco 49ers: Receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) and cornerback Tarell Brown (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday. Nickel corner Chris Culliver (illness) was limited, as was kicker David Akers (pelvis) and outside linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder). The team listed cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder), running back Frank Gore (wrist), linebacker Tavares Gooden (elbow, knee), guard Mike Iupati (shoulder) and linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder) as full participants in practice. Depth at wide receiver is more of a concern with Manningham hurting and Kyle Williams on injured reserve. Michael Crabtree (62 percent), Randy Moss (41 percent), Manningham (36 percent) and Ted Ginn Jr. (18 percent) logged snaps at receiver against St. Louis. The 49ers have hinted that rookie running back LaMichael James could make his 2012 debut shortly. Gore played 87 percent of the snaps against the Rams, an unusually high number. Veteran Brandon Jacobs played 11 percent. He does not represent the change of pace Kendall Hunter provided before landing on injured reserve. James would.

Seattle Seahawks: Starting left guard James Carpenter is finished for the season. His absence requires an adjustment, but the change could produce an upgrade in the short term. Carpenter wasn't healthy and it showed in his play. John Moffitt is a natural candidate to start. Seattle has had eight linemen start this season. That is tied for third-most in the NFL behind Philadelphia (nine) and St. Louis (nine). The Seahawks held out defensive end Red Bryant, who surprised the coaching staff by playing -- and playing well -- against the Bears despite a foot injury. Bryant wore a boot on his foot in the locker room after the game in Chicago. Cornerback Marcus Trufant also missed practice. He has a hamstring injury. It sounds like the team will try Jeremy Lane at nickel corner while Trufant recovers. Walter Thurmond is expected to play right corner while Brandon Browner serves a four-game suspension. It's possible Thurmond could play inside as well. Receiver Sidney Rice does not have a concussion, according to the team, but he was listed as limited with a head injury after absorbing a hard hit while making the winning touchdown catch Sunday. Leroy Hill (ankle) was limited. Coach Pete Carroll sounded excited about Hill's replacement, Malcolm Smith.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

November, 28, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb is expected to miss another week, at least, with the rib injuries he suffered against Buffalo in Week 6. Receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) missed practice Wednesday. Safety Justin Bethel (shoulder), receiver LaRon Byrd (head), defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), receiver Early Doucet (ribs), running back William Powell (shoulder), running back Beanie Wells (knee) and Kolb were limited. Long snapper Mike Leach (back) and safety Kerry Rhodes (back) were listed as full participants. Tight end Todd Heap, who has not played since suffering a knee injury in Week 2, was not listed on the report. He was a healthy scratch last week. Campbell's status is of great interest for Arizona. He has a chance to return this week.

St. Louis Rams: The team held out receiver Danny Amendola (foot), linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow), running back Steven Jackson (foot), defensive end Robert Quinn (concussion) and center Scott Wells (knee) from practice Wednesday. All but Haggan are key players for the Rams. Haggan is closer to a key player this week because the Rams' opponent, San Francisco, uses heavier personnel groupings. A healthy Haggan would have factored into the game plan more heavily. Quinn's concussion stands out as the most intriguing injury. He played 81 percent of the defensive snaps against Arizona in Week 12.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers enter Week 13 with a different look at the skill positions. Running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Kyle Williams are done for the season. Rookie LaMichael James or veteran Brandon Jacobs could get playing time in Hunter's place. Rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins is one step closer to the field now that Williams is out, but the 49ers have other options. Randy Moss could get more playing time, with Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham getting additional slot work in Williams' absence. Tight end Delanie Walker is hurting with hip and rib injuries. He missed practice Wednesday. The 49ers listed kicker David Akers with a pelvis injury. He missed one field-goal try and had another blocked against New Orleans. The team brought in kickers for tryouts just in case. The NFL's leading sacker, Aldon Smith, has been dealing with shoulder trouble recently. He came out of the New Orleans game briefly as a result. The team listed him as limited in practice Wednesday. Cornerback Tarell Brown (knee), tackle Anthony Davis (finger), safety Dashon Goldson (ribs, calf), linebacker Tavares Gooden (elbow), running back Frank Gore (wrist, ribs), Manningham (shoulder), safety Donte Whitner (knee) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder) are listed as full participants.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive end Red Bryant (foot) and linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Bryant's injury situation was newly revealed. It could explain some of the Seahawks' troubles in run defense recently. He hasn't been as active or effective as in the past. The Seahawks otherwise appear quite healthy. Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) and defensive end Greg Scruggs (oblique) were limited. Lynch appears on the injury report regularly and plays in the games anyway. Seattle welcomed back guard James Carpenter from a concussion last week. He has played in 15 of 27 games since Seattle made him a first-round draft choice in 2011.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

November, 22, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: Running back Beanie Wells is back on the 53-man rosters after recovering from a toe injury. He's expected to play against St. Louis in Week 12. Wells, who had 228 yards rushing against the Rams in Week 12 last season, returns just as injured ribs are limiting running back LaRod Stephens-Howling. Quarterback Kevin Kolb remains limited by injury and is not expected to play Sunday. Ryan Lindley was already named the starter. Tight end Todd Heap was a full participant in practice for the first time since Week 2. Defensive end Calais Campbell, who missed the team's game at Atlanta with a calf injury, was limited in practice Wednesday.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are getting center Scott Wells back from injured reserve following a foot injury. Wells upgrades depth and quality. His experience could help the Rams deal with the Cardinals' frequent blitzes. Steven Jackson (foot) and Danny Amendola (foot) did not practice Wednesday. Jackson is expected to play. Amendola's status could be more tenuous. He was reportedly wearing a walking boot. The team expects to be without linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow), possibly for the long term. He's a situational player. The team gave tight end Lance Kendricks rest Wednesday. He has a knee issue.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith has not yet been cleared to play following the concussion he suffered in Week 10. Smith has been practicing, however, and could be available. Colin Kaepernick is expected to take the first-team reps and start against New Orleans. The 49ers are otherwise mostly healthy after having their bye two weeks ago.

Seattle Seahawks: Guard James Carpenter has been cleared to return from a concussion. He could start at left guard against Miami. Carpenter was limited Wednesday. Seattle, like San Francisco, appears mostly healthy following a recent bye. The team continues to list running back Marshawn Lynch (back) on its participation report. He practiced fully. Linebacker K.J. Wright is back at practice after missing time with a concussion. He's expected to start against the Dolphins.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
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Arizona Cardinals: Running back Beanie Wells is practicing for the first time since suffering a turf-toe injury and landing on the injured-reserve list with a designation for return. He expects to play Nov. 25, in which case Wells would miss one more game. Arizona has a bye in Week 10, followed by a game at Atlanta. Tight end Todd Heap's knee injury is in the news this week amid suggestions that the Cardinals think he should have returned long ago. Quarterback Kevin Kolb did some limited throwing this week, but he's not yet ready to return from injured ribs. The Cardinals do not have to submit an injury report this week. They'll be healthier upon returning from the bye, at least.

St. Louis Rams: Left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) and receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder) remain on course to return against San Francisco in Week 10. Both were limited in practice, as were backup left tackle Wayne Hunter (back) and linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh). Center Scott Wells (foot) is practicing on a limited basis, opening a three-week window for activation. The Rams signed Wells to a lucrative contract in free agency with the expectation Wells would take pressure off quarterback Sam Bradford by handling more of the protection calls. The center-quarterback relationship was supposed to help Bradford. Instead, the Rams head to San Francisco with backups at center and left guard. Saffold figures to be rusty if he plays. The 49ers' Aldon Smith and Justin Smith won't let him ease back into things. Safety Darian Stewart (knee), defensive end Eugene Sims (knee) and linebacker Justin Cole (illness) did not practice.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers were healthy going into the bye. They are healthier coming out of it. The team had not yet released injury-related information following practice Wednesday as this item posted. Quarterback Alex Smith's finger was obviously healed going into the bye. He completed 18 of 19 passes against Arizona after struggling some over the previous two games. The week off had to help running back Frank Gore as well. He suffered a rib injury against Seattle in Week 7. Update: The 49ers listed linebacker Tavares Gooden (elbow), Gore (hand), guard Daniel Kilgore (concussion), punter Andy Lee (hand), receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder), Smith (finger) and defensive lineman Will Tukuafu (wrist) as participating fully in practice.

Seattle Seahawks: Guard James Carpenter (concussion), receiver Braylon Edwards (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (back/wrist), defensive end Red Bryant (foot), linebacker K.J. Wright (concussion), defensive lineman Clinton McDonald (groin) and safety Kam Chancellor (quadriceps) did not practice Wednesday. Defensive tackle Jason Jones (ankle) was limited. Receiver Doug Baldwin (ankle), guard John Moffitt (knee) and center Max Unger (finger) were full participants. Seattle is a little more beat-up than it has been to this point in the season. Having a bye in Week 11 should help the team recharge for a stretch run. Jones hasn't played since Week 7. Seattle's nickel pass rush has missed him. The fact that he is practicing, even on a limited basis, should be encouraging for the Seahawks. Having Baldwin back allowed Seattle to release receiver Charly Martin and re-sign him to its practice squad. The Seahawks have activated cornerback Walter Thurmond from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He helps with depth and gives the team another option in the nickel role, possibly affecting Marcus Trufant.
The St. Louis Rams' defense could not stop the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots from flourishing on third down.

Those teams converted 16 of 27 chances in recent victories over St. Louis.

Early downs could present the biggest challenge for the Rams against San Francisco in Week 10. The 49ers like to line up with multiple backs and/or tight ends to stress opponents' base defenses. That will be a key matchup Sunday at Candlestick Park.

As the chart shows, the 49ers are averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 9.2 yards per pass attempt against 4-3 defensive personnel on early downs. Those figures both rank third in the NFL.

The Rams allow 4.0 yards per rush and 7.9 per pass attempt from their 4-3 defense in those situations. League averages are 4.4 and 7.8, respectively, for the 20 teams regularly running 4-3 alignments as their base defenses. Those are respectable figures overall, but a look inside the numbers reveals some inconsistencies.

The Chicago Bears, playing without Matt Forte, managed only 2.8 yards per carry on 20 first- and second-down rushes against the Rams' base defense. Advantage, Rams.

The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins fared better. Seattle carried 23 times for 141 yards while also averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt in these situations. Washington used play-action from regular personnel to strike for a 68-yard touchdown when the Rams' base defense stacked eight in the box on first-and-10.

Former NFL assistant Rick Venturi, in grading the Rams' defense for 101ESPN St. Louis, gave high marks for linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar and James Laurinaitis. But that was only part of the story.

"The SAM backers, whether it was [Rocky] McIntosh or [Mario] Haggan, have just been a wash," Venturi said. "They've been totally mediocre, but they don't play very much. Very few people play 21 or base personnel [frequently] any more. That is going to change this week in San Francisco. Those guys are going to have to earn their money."

The 49ers have executed 65.6 percent of their first- and second-down rushes from two-back sets. They have averaged 5.5 yards per carry when doing so.

Rams' inactives: Third-string LT vs. Pack

October, 21, 2012
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ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams are healthier this season than last, but not at left tackle.

Joe Barksdale will make his first career NFL start Sunday and will match up against Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who has eight sacks this season.

Barksdale replaces the injured Wayne Hunter, who was replacing the injured Rodger Saffold. Hunter, acquired from the New York Jets before the season, missed practice Friday and was named inactive Sunday. A back injury was the culprit.

The Rams will presumably help Barksdale with tight ends, running backs and their game plan. They are also playing with their third-string left guard and second-string center.

Barksdale, Shelley Smith, Robert Turner, Harvey Dahl and Barry Richardson will start. Tim Barnes and Quinn Ojinnaka are the backups. They are the only other healthy linemen on the roster. Teams typically keep seven linemen active for games.

Smith is replacing Ojinnaka, who has struggled. Smith could provide an upgrade in run blocking.

The Packers, meanwhile, will be without receiver Greg Jennings and defensive tackle B.J. Raji. Both were named inactive.

The Rams' inactive list: Austin Davis, Danny Amendola, Terrance Ganaway, Mario Haggan, Matt Conrath, Hunter and Saffold. The Packers' list: Johnny White, Sam Shields, Nick Perry, Greg Van Roten, Jennings and Raji. The Packers have one open roster spot, meaning they could list one fewer player on the inactive list.

Teams can have 46 players active for games under NFL rules.

2012 Rams defensive snaps: Weeks 1-5

October, 13, 2012
10/13/12
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A periodic look at which players are playing and when, starting with the St. Louis Rams' defense:

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

October, 10, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: Life without the injured Ryan Williams at running back begins Sunday against a Buffalo defense that allowed 621 yards to San Francisco, including 311 on the ground. Utility back LaRod Stephens-Howling expects to return from a hip injury. He was limited Wednesday. Arizona will presumably incorporate Stephens-Howling into its no-huddle offense and into its spread passing sets. He's not an every-down back, but when healthy, Stephens-Howling provides big-play ability in doses. The Cardinals did not sign a veteran back after losing Williams (for the season) and would-be starting back Beanie Wells (until Nov. 25). William Powell and Alfonso Smith are the leading candidates to carry the ball on early downs. Defensive end Darnell Dockett (hamstring) played sparingly in Week 5 and was limited Wednesday. Tight end Todd Heap practiced on a limited basis. A knee injury has kept Heap out for the past three games. Cornerback Greg Toler, who pulled up with a hamstring injury while allowing a touchdown pass at St. Louis, did not practice. Cornerback Michael Adams also missed practice with a hamstring injury. The Cardinals figure to need their cornerbacks against Buffalo, a team that uses three-plus receivers extensively. Fullback Anthony Sherman (22 snaps at St. Louis) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (six snaps) also sat out. Sherman has a knee injury. Groves has a hamstring injury. Quarterback John Skelton is back from his ankle injury, but he's not full strength. Kevin Kolb remains the starter.

St. Louis Rams: Leading receiver Danny Amendola will miss roughly six weeks, beginning with St. Louis' game at Miami. That will probably affect the Rams' ability to throw quickly and productively against pressure, and to convert on third down. Amendola ranks third in the NFL behind Wes Welker and Victor Cruz with 24 receptions from the slot. He made eight of those receptions on third down. Safety Quintin Mikell practiced without limitation Wednesday less that a week after suffering a concussion against Arizona. Linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh), fullback Brit Miller (ankle) and left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) did not practice. Saffold has missed three games and was expected to miss at least four. Defensive linemen William Hayes (back) and Eugene Sims (head), key contributors both, were limited in practice.

San Francisco 49ers: Coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Alex Smith told reporters they're not concerned about the injury Smith suffered to the middle finger on his throwing hand. The injury did not appear serious, but it was initially a concern. This could be the week San Francisco debuts running back Brandon Jacobs, who has not played since suffering a knee injury during camp. Letting Jacobs suit up against the New York Giants, his former team, would seem fitting. The 49ers are getting good play from their existing backs, however, and Jacobs doesn't offer much on special teams. One question is whether the 49ers could use Jacobs in short-yardage situations. Frank Gore has two first downs on six third-and-1 carries this season. Anthony Dixon has one first down (a touchdown) on his only third-and-1 carry. Gore converted the team's only fourth-and-1 rush. Add it up and San Francisco has converted four times in eight short-yardage chances, the same figures Jacobs posted with the Giants during the 2011 regular season.

Seattle Seahawks: Center Max Unger will join the injury report for Seattle this week with a hip injury that was expected to keep him from practicing Wednesday. Former starting guard John Moffitt, a contingency at center when healthy, was also among those missing practice. A knee injury will keep him inactive this week. Eight players have started on the offensive line for Seattle this season, tied with Jacksonville for most in the league. Seattle does have options at center. Lemuel Jeanpierre has started there. Defensive linemen Clinton McDonald (groin) and Jaye Howard (foot) did not practice. The team continues to list running back Marshawn Lynch as limited with a back injury. He has 121 touches this season, second-most in the NFL behind Arian Foster (142). Lynch had 313 touches last season.

Around the NFC West: Playoff fallout?

September, 25, 2012
9/25/12
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The Seattle Seahawks' improbable, disputed victory Monday night over the Green Bay Packers reverberated through the NFC West.

Thanks to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News for gathering several incredulous tweets from disgusted San Francisco 49ers players.

"This will be the biggest blunder in the history of sport!" 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin marveled.

The thought did occur to me: What if Seattle's 14-12 victory over Green Bay, enabled by Golden Tate's disputed touchdown on the final play, winds up bumping another NFC West team from the playoffs? The division appears as competitive as it's been in years. The possibility exists, finally, for more than one NFC West team to reach postseason. If that happens, one game in the standings could wind up being pivotal.

Not that the Seahawks are going to apologize. They've been on the wrong end of memorable calls over the years, including in a Super Bowl. But at the very least, the ledger evened out a little bit Monday night.

Mike Salk of 710ESPN Seattle says Seattle fans should offer no apologies. Salk: "Just ask a Steelers fan how much he cares when he's taunted about the phantom holding call in Super Bowl XL? Notice how hard a Patriots fan laughs when someone mentions the tuck rule, or a Yankees fan when he's told that the entire 1990s dynasty never would have happened were it not for a truant named Jeffrey Mayer. The point is that bad calls happen and sometimes you catch a break. But the Seahawks put themselves in position to capitalize on it when it came."

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times wonders whether the officiating disaster could provide the impetus for a new deal between the NFL and its regular officials. Kelley: "As great as this win was for Seattle, as deliciously improbable as it was, as dramatic as this Monday Night classic became, the final play was a huge embarrassment for the league. And the controversy from this last play will linger for weeks. This is what happens when amateurs are asked to call a professional game."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune saw little from Wilson after halftime until the final play. Boling: "Until the offense stalled in the second half, Wilson benefited from solid line blocking, which also created running room for Marshawn Lynch (25 carries for 98 yards). It also kept Wilson upright and largely untouched. That would have been considered an upset in its own right as the Packers led the league in sacks coming into the game, with linebacker Clay Matthews having six himself. The Seahawks’ offense schemed around Matthews, occasionally going to an unbalanced line -- flopping left tackle Russell Okung to the right side -- away from Matthews. A number of times they lined up two tight ends to that side, or brought a tight end in motion to help Okung with Matthews."

Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest says there's little question Seattle benefited from a bad call. Thiel: "As the parabola of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s final pass became apparent —- in play, in the end zone –- there was no doubt that the Seahawks, the Packers, a stadium of fans, and the world that cares about Monday Night Football were about to witness the worst collision between clown cars in the history of the circus."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic asks whether the Cardinals' dominant defense will need additional help from the offense. McManaman: "If the Cardinals plan to ride an aggressive and opportunistic defense to glory in 2012, they're more than likely going to need an offense that ranks a heck of a lot better than 31st in the league. That's where they find themselves today, averaging just 263.3 yards in total offense. The good news is, there's plenty of room for improvement and head coach Ken Whisenhunt and several Arizona players on both sides of the ball can see a slow, but steady progression."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic credits Ken Whisenhunt for keeping the Cardinals on a steady course. She also points to comments Vonnie Holliday and Nick Eason made about Whisenhunt being a former player. Boivin: "Eason and Holliday mention the street cred that comes with Whisenhunt having played in the NFL. Not all coaches in this league have. Seattle's Pete Carroll, for example, briefly sold roofing materials after graduating from the University of the Pacific before starting his coaching career. Whisenhunt played nine seasons in the NFL as a tight end with the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and New York Jets."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Daryl Washington's speed is paying off for the Cardinals.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams aren't looking for sympathy following a 1-2 start. Burwell: "Monday at Rams Park, there wasn't a hint of that gloominess to be found. The locker room was remarkably upbeat. Nowhere to be found was the chippiness of an overly sensitive losing team. Consider this part of the emphatic stamp of the Jeff Fisher era. No excuses. No capitulation. Just find a way, any way, to win. Fisher didn't waste any time on alibis for his ineffective offense. A week after putting up 452 total yards and three touchdowns against Washington, the Rams gasped and wheezed their way to 160 yards and zero TDs against Chicago. Sam Bradford was sacked six times, harassed on a dozen more plays and threw two interceptions, which is perfectly understandable when you look at all the mistakes made around him."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Brian Quick isn't factoring into the offense for St. Louis.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Fisher contested a costly penalty called against Rams linebacker Mario Haggan in Chicago.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers would not confirm Ricardo Lockette's addition to their practice squad. Barrows: "Lockette, 26, is a former track star who played football at Fort Valley State and who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Seahawks in 2011. He spent the first 13 games that season on Seattle's practice squad but was activated on Dec. 22 and had a 44-yard reception against the 49ers the following game. He also had a 61-yard touchdown catch the next week against the Cardinals, the longest reception of the year for the Seahawks. Lockette was among the Seahawks' final cuts this year."

Also from Barrows: Patrick Willis and Isaac Sopoaga apparently avoided serious injuries in Week 3.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' performance against the Vikings served as a reminder against anointing the team prematurely. Cohn: "Some fans already have anointed Jim Harbaugh a genius, although he’s been in the league a little more than one season and has not won a Super Bowl. We learned such anointing is a little premature. He and his minions got outcoached by the lowly Vikings’ coaches, among them assistant head coach Mike Singletary. Early in the second quarter, Harbaugh had a chance to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-1 at the Vikings’ 11-yard line, but cautiously kicked a field goal instead. In a similar situation, the Vikings went for a touchdown and scored. The Vikings showed more courage than Harbaugh and set the tone for the game -- i.e. took the play away from him."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts on how the Randy Moss experiment is going. Kawakami: "The 49ers coaching staff clearly needs to see more out of Moss in practice before he’s going to get a bigger role in the game plan. And he’s obviously not out-performing their expectations in the role he’s been given, since he’s not playing a ton late in games, including Sunday, when the 49ers were comeback mode for the first time this season."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Hall of Famer Jim Brown visited the 49ers in Ohio.

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