NFC West: Mike Adams

One new note per NFC West team while passing along audio from a weekly conversation with Dave Grosby, Bob Stelton and Dave Wyman at 710ESPN Seattle:
  • Rams ate some money: Jason Smith's trade from St. Louis to the New York Jets will not cost the fourth-year tackle in the wallet. The Rams will pay $1.55 million of Smith's already reduced $4 million salary. The Jets will pay the rest. Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had the news.
  • 49ers OLB update: News that Parys Haralson and Eric Bakhtiari missed practice while Aldon Smith was recovering from a hip injury highlighted potential depth concerns at outside linebacker for San Francisco. In looking for ways to maximize roster spots, I wondered earlier in the week if the 49ers could save a spot at linebacker, keeping seven. The 49ers have kept eight linebackers on their Week 1 roster every year since 2006, but with Blake Costanzo gone, Tavares Gooden is the only elite special-teams player among the group. Haralson can play both both outside spots. The 49ers have options with their defensive front. Keeping three outside linebackers is still an option. Keeping a fourth could come at the expense of a superior special-teams player at another position, such as running back.
  • Lynch's back: Buzz over Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback situation has drowned out other issues, including Marshawn Lynch's continued back-related absence from practices. Re-signing Lynch was one of the team's key moves this offseason. Seattle built its offense around his powerful running. Lynch has missed two of three exhibition games. Cause for concern? I doubt it. Lynch has missed at least two preseason games in each of the past three summers. Looks like he's on schedule.
  • Cardinals' tackles: The 2012 second-round pick Arizona traded to Philadelphia in the Kevin Kolb deal wound up being the 51st overall choice. Arizona had no picks between Nos. 13 and 80. With the Cardinals hurting for tackle depth with Levi Brown on injured reserve, I revisited the draft to see which tackles went between the 51st and 80th choices. Kelechi Osemele (Baltimore), Mike Adams (Pittsburgh) and Donald Stephenson (Kansas City) fit into that window. None is a projected starter. Osemele was initially projected at guard, but he's a backup right tackle for the Ravens. It's looking like Cardinals fourth-rounder Bobby Massie will start at right tackle.

All for now. Enjoy your Tuesday night.
The San Francisco 49ers visit the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 25 this season.

The pregame show is already under way.

Saints linebacker Scott Shanle blasted 49ers safety Donte Whitner after Whitner suggested his team's character would prevent San Francisco from engaging in the bounty tactics that landed New Orleans in trouble this offseason.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has the play-by-play. Shanle via Twitter: "Guy needs to shut his mouth and mind his own business. Don't remember them winning the superbowl. U still ringless. We got one and working on two now. Try to keep up." Noted: Now, now. Both guys are out of line here. Whitner suggested over-the-line comments from former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams reflected the character of Saints players. That wasn't fair. But the fact that Shanle, not Whitner, has a Super Bowl ring has more to do with Drew Brees and the Saints' team than it has to do with a linebacker such as Shanle. The fact that Whitner does not have a Super Bowl ring has more to do with the quarterbacks and teams Whitner has played with throughout his career, not anything Whitner has done wrong.

Also from Barrows: a chat transcript in which he says Colin Kaepernick appears in good position to win the No. 2 job behind Alex Smith. Barrows: "I think it's Kaepernick's job to lose. He's looked a lot more accurate in [training camp] than he did in the spring. It may have been that that he was working on weaknesses in the spring -- hey, that's what spring ball is for -- which skewed the perception of him. Johnson has by far the sweetest delivery and mechanics. But despite that, the ball doesn't always end up where it should."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers tight end Delanie Walker deserves credit for returning so quickly from a broken jaw last season. Walker also comments on his future with the team and how he played last season. Walker: "I had a great year blocking. And that was a big concern people had about me. Can he block? And I showed it last year. So I think everyone knows that I can catch the ball and I can make things happen once I have it in my hands. I’m playing for the Niners. When that time (free agency) comes, we’ll see what happens."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says defense dominated the Seahawks' fourth day of training camp. O'Neil: "The defense had the upper hand in Tuesday's practice with three notable interceptions (two of them on passes thrown by rookie Russell Wilson). Rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner picked off a pass thrown by Wilson. So did rookie safety Winston Guy. The play of the day in the eyes of Pete Carroll, however, was when rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin chased down a reverse from behind, knocking the ball out."

Brian McIntyre of NFL.com breaks down the Seahawks' new contract with defensive end Chris Clemons. McIntyre: "Clemons received a $6.5 million signing bonus and his $2 million base salary in 2012 is fully guaranteed. The $8.5 million more than doubles the $3.85 million in base salary and incentives Clemons could have made this season. ... Clemons is slated to earn $6 million in base salary in 2013, but just $1.5 million of that is fully guaranteed, bringing the official guarantee in the new contract to $10 million." Noted: Clemons was not in optimum position to maximize this deal because of his age (30) and the fact that a season remained on his previous deal.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals expect Kevin Kolb to start the team's exhibition opener Sunday if the quarterback resumes practicing Wednesday, as expected.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com analyzes the numbers at cornerback, where five players on the roster have started more than one regular-season game. Mike Adams is working in the nickel role at present. William Gay: "Everyone wants to compete and start, but that’s not the main focus. You want a good group, so if a team comes at us with more than two or three receivers, we have quality corners that can match that. Out of a whole game, say there are 70 defensive plays, your third corner is going to play 30 to 45 plays. Everybody’s goal in the league is to be a starter as soon as you get to the league, but the way the game has evolved, there are a lot of ways to be involved."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees good things from Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Burwell: "He's relatively healthy again, and with an additional 10 pounds of muscle added during the offseason, he intends to stay healthy. And if he does, we should see more than flashes of his potential. We should see the full realization of every prediction that he can be as good and dangerous as a young Troy Aikman. That's the sort of ability he displays as he strong-arms balls into ridiculously tight windows in heavy coverage. That's the sort of ability he flashes when he lofts splendid spirals on 50-yard bombs down the sidelines."

Also from Burwell: Rams players are eager to put on the pads. Defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 309 pounds, higher than his listed weight of 295: "Big, tough and physical? Yeah, I'm all of the above. I'm a big, tough guy. I'm a physical player. I'm ready to get this thing going. I can't emphasize enough how much I'm ready to get the pads on."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Chris Long's new deal with the Rams includes $50 million in new money, to be paid beginning in 2013. Long's salary for 2012 remains unchanged at $10.3 million. Thomas: "Because nothing was done to Long’s 2012 salary, he still counts $18.3 million against the salary cap this year -- the extension creates no cap relief in '12. But that is indicative of how the Rams have handled contracts under executive vice president Kevin Demoff. He doesn’t like back-loading contracts. As much as possible, it’s a pay-as-you-go approach."

Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the latest on overweight Rams rookie Rokevious Watkins.
We're back to where this 2012 NFL draft discussion began, with the St. Louis Rams.

The team needs a No. 1 wide receiver, a difference maker. Justin Blackmon could be the choice. But what if tackle Matt Kalil or even running back Trent Richardson were available? Cornerback Morris Claiborne?

"Kalil has to be the pick if he's there," Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. said during our final NFC West conversation Tuesday.

Sando: The Rams recently reworked Jason Smith's contract in a manner that makes him the projected starting right tackle. Left tackle Rodger Saffold could conceivably play guard if Kalil were the choice. But the need for a top wide receiver is arguably greater.

Muench: Last year, A.J. Green went fourth and Julio Jones went sixth. I don't think Justin Blackmon is as good as either of those guys. But he separates better than Michael Floyd, and is better after the catch as well. Six is a little early. You can't ignore positional value.

Sando: The Rams do hold the 33rd and 39th picks, so they've got options.

Muench: This offensive tackle class is not as deep as the wide receiver class. You can find receiver help atop the second round better than you can find tackle help. Let's say they take Blackmon at No. 6. Mike Adams might be there in the second round, but he has issues. He is one of those guys who is off and on.

Sando: Why do you feel so strongly about Kalil?

Muench: There have been a number of sources coming out who are down on Kalil, four or five people we have talked to. I'm not backing off. They question his leverage, his run blocking, his ability to roll his hips and generate power that way. But to me he is the best left tackle in this class, a Day 1 starter, and he is going to help someone a lot. Again, I like Justin Blackmon and understand they want to get a playmaker at wide receiver, but you can wait and still find a guy to help you there.

Sando: The assumption here is that St. Louis stays at No. 6. We'll have a better idea once we see which players are available when the Rams select. Having two top players available unexpectedly would give the Rams flexibility.

Muench: They're in a great spot. I don't see how it unfolds where they don't get a good player. Richardson is going to go before the Rams pick. It could come down to Kalil or Blackmon. Either way, they will get a guy who helps their team. If Tampa trades ahead of Cleveland to get Richardson, then Cleveland possibly takes Claiborne. Minnesota would take Kalil and the Rams wouldn't have to make the choice to take Blackmon. Tampa is in one of the more interesting positions. The worst-case for Tampa is Claiborne going to Minnesota and Richardson to Cleveland. Then they're the one in a jam near the top.

NFL Blog Network mock draft 2.0

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
3:05
PM ET
The first six picks of ESPN’s Blogger Mock Draft unfolded pretty much as expected.

That’s when James Walker, our AFC East representative, put out the word: “I’m willing to make a trade back with Buffalo at No. 10.”

Before anyone could respond, AFC South representative Paul Kuharsky announced he’d swung a deal with Dan Graziano of the NFC East. The Jaguars had traded the seventh overall choice and a sixth-rounder to Philadelphia for the 15th, 88th and 153rd selections.

The Eagles took defensive tackle Fletcher Cox at No. 7.

“By the way,” I wrote in an email to the group, “Seattle would love to trade back from 12.”

Then came the word from Walker, sent only to me, the NFC West rep: “Don’t make your pick at No. 12 yet. I have an offer from New England coming. Working out the point chart. First, I have to figure out Buffalo’s pick at No. 10.”

A few seconds passed before the AFC West’s Bill Williamson, unaware Walker had already made contact regarding the 12th pick, reached out to me in another email.

“If Melvin Ingram is on the board at 12,” Williamson wrote, “I might have San Diego come up from 18.”

This was intriguing. Seattle’s actual leadership had swung a deal with San Diego for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst a couple of years ago, so trade talks for the 12th pick seemed realistic. But the Seahawks also have a working relationship with the Patriots, having traded Deion Branch to them not all that long ago.

“Sounds good,” I replied to Bill. “James might also make an offer here.”

The potential deal with Williamson and San Diego was fleeting. Walker executed a trade with himself, allowing the New York Jets to move into Buffalo’s spot at No. 10. The Jets took Ingram, the player Williamson had wanted for San Diego.

The fun was only beginning.

Our eight divisional bloggers made four trades involving the seventh, 10th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 27th, 31st and 32nd overall choices, plus later considerations.

Five of our first-round selections in this mock failed to appear in our previous one. Jerel Worthy, Kevin Zeitler, Chandler Jones, Shea McClellin and Coby Fleener pushed out Rueben Randle, Andre Branch, Peter Konz, Kendall Wright and Mike Adams.

Courtney Upshaw, Dontari Poe and Stephen Hill made double-digit drops from then to now. Michael Brockers, Cordy Glenn, Stephon Gilmore and Cox climbed at least eight spots since last time.

We drafted seven defensive ends/outside linebackers, six offensive linemen, five defensive backs, four defensive tackles, three receivers, three quarterbacks, two inside linebackers, one tight end and one running back.

Mostly, we had some fun with the process. Thanks for coming along.

***

ESPN.com's NFL bloggers went through one final mock draft leading up to Thursday's start of the NFL draft. Here is how #ESPNbloggermock played out.

Big Board Bar
QB
6-4
234

Analysis: We're going to hit at least one of the AFC South's four picks here, so we thank the Colts for that. Luck draws raves from all corners and gives Indianapolis another quarterback who could set high standards for more than a dozen years, like the guy he's replacing did. (Paul Kuharsky)

Analysis: A no-brainer for Washington, which traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to move into this spot to take the young man they believe will be their next franchise quarterback. Skins fans have already been wearing Griffin's name and face on T-shirts for weeks. (Dan Graziano)

OT
6-6
306

Analysis: I burned up the email lines trying to drum up interest for this pick, much as I imagine Vikings general manager Rick Spielman will do in the coming days and heading into Thursday night. But my colleagues were too smart for that, and I was more than happy to scoop up Kalil and presumably put quarterback Christian Ponder's mind at ease. (Kevin Seifert)

RB
5-9
228

Analysis: Not buying into the Browns' interest in wide receiver Justin Blackmon or quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Richardson is clearly the best offensive player in the draft outside of Luck and RG3. The Browns' struggling offense needs an identity, and Richardson can instantly give it a tough one. (Jamison Hensley)

CB
5-11
188

Analysis: Once Richardson went off the board, this became an easy call. The Bucs need to add a top-notch cornerback because Ronde Barber is nearing the end of his career and Aqib Talib could face prison time or a suspension. Even if Talib is able to play this season, he's headed into the last year of his contract. The Bucs addressed the position they needed to most. They can get a running back early in the second or third round. (Pat Yasinskas)

WR
6-0
207

Analysis: Blackmon has long been a popular projection for the Rams. I'm not convinced he'll be the choice or even the first receiver drafted, but there was also a fear of overthinking the situation. (Mike Sando)

DT
6-4
298

Analysis: The Eagles fell in love with Cox and were convinced he wouldn't get past Carolina at No. 9. So after the Rams picked Blackmon, Philadelphia offered Jacksonville the No. 15 pick and the No. 88 pick (third round) for the Jaguars' overall No. 7. Jacksonville countered by asking for a fifth-round pick (No. 153) and offering a sixth (No. 176), and the Eagles said yes. They get the guy they wanted and still have their two second-rounders. (Dan Graziano)

QB
6-3
221

Analysis: There was speculation that Tannehill wouldn't make it to No. 8. The Dolphins do the right thing by not trading the farm to move up to No. 3. Miami gets its quarterback of the future to reunite with Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. (James Walker)

LB
6-3
242

Analysis: Defensive tackle is a consideration, but Cox is the only sure-fire player at that spot. With him gone, the Panthers go with another low-risk player. Kuechly was exceptionally productive in college and is NFL-ready. He can contribute right away and that's something the Panthers want from this pick. (Pat Yasinskas)

DE
6-1
264

Analysis: Buffalo didn't like its spot at No. 10, and the Jets are hot on Ingram. So the two division rivals worked out a trade. The Jets get the dominant pass-rusher Rex Ryan covets, while the Bills get additional picks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds (Nos. 77, 154, 187). (James Walker)

G
6-4
316

Analysis: The Chiefs take a sure thing and an instant starter who strengthens a good offense. (Bill Williamson)

S
6-1
213

Analysis: The Patriots pull off a blockbuster trade with Seattle by giving up their two first-round picks (No. 27 and No. 31) for No. 12 overall and a fourth-rounder (No. 106). The Patriots, who were 31st against the pass, get the best safety in the draft. (James Walker)

WR
6-2
220

Analysis: Floyd is arguably the most promising wide receiver in the draft. He would fit well in the Cardinals' offense while providing better value than the offensive tackles available at this point. (Mike Sando)

Analysis: They wanted Barron, and after the Pats made the bold move to trade up and take him at 12, the Cowboys looked into trading down. But they found no takers, so they took the highest defensive player on their board -- a versatile defensive lineman who deepens them at a key position and allows them to be flexible both with roster decisions and on-field alignments. (Dan Graziano)

CB
6-0
190

Analysis: I didn't get a great haul in the trade. But the Jaguars could consider Gilmore at No. 7 and get him at 15 while picking up a third-rounder and swapping a sixth-rounder for a fifth-rounder. Corner is not the biggest need after the acquisition of Aaron Ross, but no defensive end or receiver screams to be taken at No. 7 or 15. Trade details: Eagles sent 15, 88, 153 to Jaguars for 7, 176. (Paul Kuharsky)

OT
6-5
313

Analysis: Buffalo is happy it moved down six spots and still landed its target in Reiff. Left tackle was a rotating door in Buffalo last season, and Reiff has the ability to be a Day 1 starter to protect Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side. Trade details: Jets sent 16, 77, 154 and 187 to Bills for 10. (James Walker)

DE
6-5
284

Analysis: Things didn't go as planned in the first half of the draft for the Bengals, who watched guard David DeCastro, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Stephon Gilmore all get taken in the top 15. Defensive end isn't a major need for the Bengals, but it would be hard to resist taking a talent like Coples. Even though Coples has boom-or-bust potential, this is a pick based on best player available. (Jamison Hensley)

Analysis: The Chargers go for the best value on the board and take an impact defensive player. (Bill Williamson)

Analysis: The Bears were forced to play their starting defensive ends, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, on more than 80 percent of their plays last season. Depth, and a possible replacement for Idonije, was sorely needed. Mercilus seemed a better fit than Syracuse's Chandler Jones or Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. (Kevin Seifert)

DE
6-2
271

Analysis: Perry provides a combination of size and speed that should round out the Titans' top four defensive ends and solidifies the position for the foreseeable future. If he can get to the quarterback with some regularity as a rookie, Tennessee can make a nice jump on defense. (Paul Kuharsky)

OT
6-5
345

Analysis: The decision here came down to Glenn, wide receiver Kendall Wright or cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. You could argue wide receiver is the bigger need, but Glenn is the better prospect. After failing to get DeCastro at No. 17, the Bengals turn to Glenn to make an immediate impact at right or left guard. (Jamison Hensley)

OT
6-5
312

Analysis: This was a tough call because the Browns need speed at wide receiver, and Wright and Hill are sitting there. But that's the reason the pick is Martin. There are so many more wide receiver prospects available than offensive tackles, so the Browns have a better chance of seeing a wide receiver fall to them early in the second round. (Jamison Hensley)

CB
6-1
185

Analysis: The Lions' secondary was their weakest link in 2011, and starter Eric Wright signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during free agency. General manager Martin Mayhew isn't a need-based drafter, but the position is a high priority. I had hoped for Kirkpatrick's former teammate Mark Barron here, but he was long gone, and I didn't have the guts to take North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins. (Kevin Seifert)

DT
6-3
346

Analysis: Could the Steelers have envisioned a better draft unfolding than this? Pittsburgh would've been happy with Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw or even Amini Silatolu. Instead, Poe falls into their laps. He becomes the heir apparent to Casey Hampton. (Jamison Hensley)

DT
6-2
309

Analysis: The Broncos would have pounced on Poe, but Worthy is a highly valued player who fills a huge hole. (Bill Williamson)

G
6-3
314

Analysis: The offensive line was a team strength a year ago, but gone are the right guard (Mike Brisiel) and the right tackle (Eric Winston). Houston loves Wisconsin players, and Zeitler will be ready to be plugged right in. We also thought hard about Bobby Massie and Rueben Randle. (Paul Kuharsky)

DE
6-5
266

Analysis: Trading back was the plan all along. Jones has the length Seattle covets in its players on defense (think Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor, etc.). Jones also fills an obvious need for a pass-rushing defensive end. Trade details: Patriots sent 27 and 31 to Seattle for 12 and 106. (Mike Sando)

LB
6-3
260

Analysis: There were a number of possibilities here, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers loves to develop wrinkles off his 3-4 base, and McClellin is said to be versatile. It's possible the Packers could trade down and still get him at the top of the second round. (Kevin Seifert)

DE
6-1
272

Analysis: The Ravens are always looking for pass-rushers, and Upshaw gives them another tone-setter on defense. He replaces Jarret Johnson in Baltimore's base defense and plays opposite Terrell Suggs as an edge rusher in passing situations. Upshaw has drawn comparisons to LaMarr Woodley, so you know he's an AFC North type of player. (Jamison Hensley)

CB
5-10
193
N. Alabama

Analysis: The 49ers face a long list of top quarterbacks this season. They lack glaring needs and should be able to find guard help later in the draft. Coby Fleener was a consideration, but the 49ers like their existing tight ends and could extend Delanie Walker's contract. (Mike Sando)

TE
6-6
247

Analysis: The Seahawks need another tight end after losing John Carlson to the Vikings in free agency. Adding Jones at No. 27 gave them flexibility in this spot. Seattle entered draft week with 19 players from the Pac-12. Fleener would give them 20. Trade details: Patriots sent 27 and 31 to Seattle for 12 and 106. (Mike Sando)

WR
6-4
215

Analysis: The Bills aren't done with a busy day of trading. Buffalo gets back in the first round by swapping a second-rounder and two fourth-rounders with the Giants. Hill is a big-play receiver to pair with Bills starter Steve Johnson. Hill averaged an astounding 29.3 yards per catch last season. Trade details: Giants trade 32 to Buffalo for 41, 105 and 124. (James Walker)

We've reached the point where college prospects make pre-draft visits to NFL teams and analysts try to figure out what it all means.

Teams visit with players they hope to select. Teams also visit with players they're unlikely to select. Sometimes they select players who never once came through their facilities before the draft.

The St. Louis Rams are picking high enough, sixth overall, to almost ensure they'll wind up with one of the 30 players scheduled to visit.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are beginning to hold those meetings as they head toward the 2012 draft. Thomas: "Under former general manager Billy Devaney, the Rams brought in all of the so-called 'top 30' visits over a two- or three-day period. But under new general manager Les Snead, the visits are being staggered over a two-week period. Tackle Mike Adams, receiver Justin Blackmon, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and cornerback Janoris Jenkins visited Monday. Thomas lists 10 other players among those scheduled to visit, including cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive end Quinton Coples, running back Trent Richardson, receiver Michael Floyd and receiver Rueben Randle.

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic says the NFL and the Cardinals have issues with the city of Glendale over allocation of parking spots. Harris: "The Arizona Cardinals are accusing cash-strapped Glendale of financial mismanagement and could sue the city over the loss of parking for roughly 9,000 of the team's ticket holders at Westgate City Center near University of Phoenix Stadium. Glendale, which has spent heavily to try to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in neighboring Jobing.com Arena, is working with the team on a solution to the dispute, Mayor Elaine Scruggs said. The Cardinals and the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority, which manages the stadium, sent Glendale a four-page demand letter Monday seeking written assurances the parking problem would be addressed by May 1. If not, the letter said, legal action may follow. Representatives from the National Football League, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, which landed the 2015 NFL title game in Glendale, and the Fiesta Bowl, a fellow stadium tenant, also signed the letter asking the city to keep past promises to tenants not to take away any nearby parking."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals' final practices before training camp will be June 12-14.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Marcus Trufant's re-signing with the Seahawks makes sense in part because another cornerback, Walter Thurmond, apparently suffered a setback in his return from a broken leg. O'Neil: "Thurmond is expected to begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which would indicate a setback in his recovery from the injury. If a player is on the PUP list after the final roster cuts, he must miss at least the first six games before being activated."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com has this to say about Trufant's return: "Where he fits in a defense that ranked ninth in the league last season remains to be seen. In his absence in 2011, rookie Richard Sherman stepped in and played well on the left side. On the right side, Brandon Browner finished his first NFL season by playing in the Pro Bowl. And the coaches remain high on Walter Thurmond, a third-year corner who missed 10 games last season with a broken ankle that required surgery. But coach Pete Carroll is all about competition, and Trufant definitely has been a competitor during his career with the Seahawks."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com recaps the past week for the San Francisco 49ers. Maiocco: "Safety Reggie Smith, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the Carolina Panthers. Smith was the 49ers' No. 3 safety last season. In his season-ending meeting with general manager Trent Baalke, the sides agreed it was in the best interest of both sides for Smith to look for a better opportunity elsewhere. Currently, C.J. Spillman is the 49ers' third safety behind starters Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. The club will look for another veteran safety and/or add at the position in the draft."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Randle and Floyd are among the college receivers who have met or plan to meet with the 49ers before the draft.

NFL Blog Network mock draft

April, 2, 2012
4/02/12
11:14
AM ET

The NFL's transformation into a pass-happy league has sent teams scrambling for ways to keep up defensively.

Perhaps that explains why defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebacker types dominated ESPN.com's first NFL Blog Network mock draft for 2012.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson snapped up three of them for the division he covers. Six other defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers found homes elsewhere in the first round.

Offensive linemen (seven), defensive backs (five) and wide receivers (five) accounted for most of the remaining first-round selections.

In keeping with the pass-oriented theme, Alabama's Trent Richardson was the lone running back selected, landing in Cleveland with the fourth overall choice.

And, of course, we kicked off the mock with a couple of quarterbacks.

Big Board Bar
QB
6-4
234

Analysis: They look at Luck and see a young guy who reminds them of the quarterback the franchise selected first overall in 1998. (Paul Kuharsky)

Analysis: Not much mystery here. The Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to get to this spot, from which they believe they're taking their next franchise quarterback. The only way they don't take Griffin here is if the Colts take him, in which case the Redskins will happily take Luck. (Dan Graziano)

OT
6-6
306

Analysis: The Vikings would love to trade down a few spots, presumably with a team that wants to draft Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But barring a deal, Kalil is the best player remaining on the board and the Vikings just so happen to need a long-term starter at left tackle. We're not buying (yet) any of general manager Rick Spielman's posturing about LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. (Kevin Seifert)

RB
5-9
228

Analysis: Not buying the speculation that the Browns will take Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill here. The Browns tipped their hand when coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert skipped Tannehill's pro day to watch Richardson, the draft's only elite running back who can be the centerpiece of Cleveland's offense. (Jamison Hensley)

CB
5-11
188

Analysis: The Bucs could be considering Richardson and he's a possibility if he stays on the board. But Claiborne is the top cornerback in this draft. The Bucs need a long-term replacement for veteran Ronde Barber and could need a short-term replacement for Aqib Talib, who could face prison time or a league suspension. (Pat Yasinskas)

WR
6-0
207

Analysis: The Rams are eager to find weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford. They had a tough time addressing that area during free agency despite an aggressive approach that led to deals with Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells and others. The last time the Rams drafted a WR sixth overall, they landed Torry Holt. (Mike Sando)

DE
6-1
264

Analysis: If he catches on quickly and can have an impact as a pass-rusher, Ingram can be the final piece for a very good defense. (Paul Kuharsky)

QB
6-3
221

Analysis: Tannehill shot up the draft boards fast and may be a tad overrated at No. 8. But Miami needs a quarterback of the future in the worst way, and this is the best of what's left. Both Matt Moore and David Garrard have one year left on their contracts, leaving it open for Tannehill to take over in 2013. (James Walker)

LB
6-3
242

Analysis: There's a common assumption the Panthers are locked in on getting a defensive tackle. That could end up happening. But they're open to all options and Kuechly might be the best player available. This team needs help anywhere it can add it on defense. (Pat Yasinskas)

OT
6-5
313

Analysis: Going receiver here is the sexy pick. But getting an offensive tackle to protect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side is the smart pick. Reiff received great coaching at Iowa, which has become Offensive Tackle U. He closes Buffalo's revolving door at left tackle for the foreseeable future. (James Walker)

DT
6-3
346

Analysis: The Chiefs would be thrilled to see Poe on the board at 11. He is the best player available who fits their biggest need. Poe has a chance to be a dynamic player on a defense full of young talent. (Bill Williamson)

DE
6-5
284

Analysis: The Seahawks ranked fifth in takeaways, seventh in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed last season, but their pass rush was lacking. Coples would give them a badly needed pass-rusher opposite Chris Clemons, who had 11 of the team's 33 sacks during the 2011 season. Linebacker is another need position. (Mike Sando)

DE
6-1
272

Analysis: The Cardinals could also use an offensive tackle and possibly another receiver. Michael Floyd was a consideration here. But in Upshaw, the team would be targeting a potential No. 1 pass-rusher, providing welcome support for promising youngsters Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. The Cardinals have no second-round pick, and pass-rush help is at a premium. (Mike Sando)

S
6-1
213

Analysis: They were hoping Upshaw would fall to them, as he'd upgrade the pass rush instantly and could make Anthony Spencer expendable before long. But with Upshaw gone one pick before, the Cowboys stick with the national champs and take a safety to upgrade their biggest 2011 weakness: the secondary. (Dan Graziano)

DT
6-4
298

Analysis: Michael Brockers was tempting, but the pick here is Cox because he provides a pass rush from the interior of the defensive line right away and could be more NFL-ready than Brockers at this point. The Eagles are a win-now team that relies on its defensive line to pressure the passer, and Cox fits nicely into their interior line rotation. (Dan Graziano)

WR
6-2
220

Analysis: The Jets would like to go defense here under head coach Rex Ryan. But with Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw and safety Mark Barron both off the board, drafting Floyd is a good fallback option. Floyd has a chance to start from Day 1 opposite Santonio Holmes and gives quarterback Mark Sanchez a much-needed weapon. (James Walker)

G
6-4
316

Analysis: The Bengals need a starting right guard, and DeCastro is the best guard in the draft. Smart and fundamentally sound, DeCastro is one of the safest picks this year and would extend the Bengals' recent good fortune in the draft. (Jamison Hensley)

Analysis: Mercilus is the best pass-rusher on the board at No. 18 and the Chargers would be happy to take him. He could be a slight over-draft, but he has big league potential. (Bill Williamson)

OT
6-5
312

Analysis: Coach Lovie Smith expressed confidence last week in left tackle J'Marcus Webb, but rarely will you hear a coach say otherwise until he has an upgraded replacement. Webb was penalized 15 times last season and gave up 12 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Martin would provide an upgrade at a key position. (Kevin Seifert)

DE
6-2
271

Analysis: They can go many different directions, but Kamerion Wimbley doesn't solve their pass-rush issues by himself, and Perry can help. (Paul Kuharsky)

CB
6-1
185

Analysis: Cincinnati has done a great job in bolstering the depth at cornerback in free agency, signing Jason Allen and Adam Jones. But the Bengals, who eventually need to replace veteran Nate Clements, can't pass on the second-best cornerback falling into their laps. (Jamison Hensley)

WR
6-4
215

Analysis: The Browns need speed and a deep threat. Look no further than Hill, who averaged 29.3 yards per catch last season (albeit 28 receptions) and ran faster than Baylor's Kendall Wright at the NFL combine. (Jamison Hensley)

CB
6-0
190

Analysis: ESPN.com colleagues chose Gilmore in my absence based on an obvious need the Lions have at cornerback. Starter Eric Wright departed via free agency, and the Lions' pass defense collapsed in the second half of 2011. General manager Martin Mayhew doesn't draft for need, but Gilmore would address a big one. (Kevin Seifert)

Analysis: Inside linebacker is a big need for the Steelers after they released James Farrior. Hightower excelled in Alabama's 3-4 defense and was the unquestioned leader on the nation's top defense. Seems like a perfect fit. (Jamison Hensley)

Analysis: The Broncos would gladly snag Brockers. Defensive tackle is, by far, their most pressing need, and the versatile Brockers is a good value at No. 25. (Bill Williamson)

WR
6-2
210

Analysis: Randle's size will make him a nice target for Matt Schaub and the Texans, and he brings a lot of upside to an offense that's already quite good. (Paul Kuharsky)

DE
6-4
259

Analysis: The Patriots need athleticism on defense and the ability to rush the passer from the outside. Branch can help replace the combined 20 sacks New England lost this offseason with the departures of DEs Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. (James Walker)

C
6-5
314

Analysis: In my absence, ESPN.com colleagues chose Konz, the draft's top center, knowing that veteran Jeff Saturday is likely a one-year bridge from departed starter Scott Wells. General manager Ted Thompson will almost certainly draft a center, but he might wait until a later round knowing he has 2012 insurance in Saturday. (Kevin Seifert)

G
6-5
345

Analysis: The Ravens have a history of top prospects falling to them in the first round. Their luck would continue with Glenn, an athletic and versatile blocker who would start immediately at left guard. (Jamison Hensley)

WR
5-10
196

Analysis: Receiver was the team's obvious top need heading into free agency. Adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham bought some flexibility, but Moss represents a short-term investment. The 49ers could use another young receiver to grow with Alex Smith and, eventually, Colin Kaepernick. (Mike Sando)

CB
5-10
193
N. Alabama

Analysis: The Patriots were surprised such a top-end talent is available at No. 31. Sure, Jenkins comes with some character concerns. But New England's strong locker-room leadership will make sure it gets the best out of Jenkins, who has the physical ability to develop into a legit No. 1 corner. (James Walker)

OT
6-7
323

Analysis: This was a tough call, because Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones just looks so much like a Giants pick. He's a super-athletic, high-upside pass-rusher from Tom Coughlin's alma mater. I mean, if Adams weren't on the board, this would have been a slam dunk. And the Giants still could go this way, or with Nebraska LB Lavonte David or Stanford TE Coby Fleener. But there's nothing wrong with Adams' upside potential, either. He becomes the Giants' starting right tackle right away, and if Will Beatty doesn't pan out, Adams has the ability to someday play on the left side. (Dan Graziano)

Around the NFC West: Combine kickoff

February, 23, 2012
2/23/12
9:00
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL combine media work room is beginning to buzz with about an hour remaining before NFL coaches, executives and college players begin filtering through Lucas Oil Stadium.

Bill Williamson, Kevin Seifert, Paul Kuharsky and I will be providing regular updates once things get going.

In the meantime, let's take a look around the division.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at Frank Gore's future in terms of the career expectancy of running backs. Branch: "With his 29th birthday looming in May, the 49ers running back ranks fifth among active players in career rushing attempts and his medical dossier includes two torn ACLs (University of Miami), a fractured hip (2010) and nagging knee and ankle injuries that limited his effectiveness and workload during the latter stages of 2011. Given the wear-and-tear factor with Gore, it’s possible the Niners could draft a running back for the third straight year. Anthony Dixon (sixth round, 2010) isn’t guaranteed a roster spot next season and Kendall Hunter (fourth round, 2011) looks like a keeper, but not a bell cow of the future at 5-foot-7 and 199 pounds."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sizes up the Rams' needs heading into the combine. Chief operating officer Kevin Demoff on Jeff Fisher's draft preferences: "He's going to want someone who's physical, who's tough, that plays fast, obviously. Bigger running backs have been his style; bigger offensive linemen. But I think one of the things, and we talked about this at Jeff's (introductory) press conference, he's been able to adapt and win with a lot of different types of players." Noted: The Rams began to favor bigger offensive linemen during their one season under coordinator Josh McDaniels, but the transformation was only beginning.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com previews the combine from Seattle's perspective. General manager John Schneider: "The first draft (2010), we were proud of. But we had the two high picks. But Pete (Carroll) and I also were together for the first time. We had a new coaching staff. We had an old scouting system, and I came in with a new system. So we kind of plugged everything together and just kind of pounded through it. Last year, obviously it was a fluid process because it was our first time through as one group – with one grading scale and more of a clear focus on everybody speaking the same language. We were proud of that group last year because we really focused on the toughness of the group."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at some of the Seahawks' needs, including for a pass-rusher. Williams: "The Seahawks finished with just 33 sacks in 2011, tied for 19th in the league."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic outlines his projected Cardinals coverage from the combine. Somers: "Those watching on television will know about the workouts than the reporters inside the building. With the exception of a limited Sunday session, we are not allowed to watch the actual workouts. That's not such a bad deal, because the days are full of interviews with players, coaches and GMs. It would be tough to do both, and given the choice, I'll take the interviews. We get the results of the combine drills later, anyway."

Also from Somers: a few combine notes and observations. Somers: "Offensive linemen are scheduled to meet with reporters tomorrow. I'm especially interested in talking to some guys in this group. The Cardinals will have some openings in the starting unit and are expected to draft their first o-linemen since 2009. They haven't drafted one higher than the fifth round since Levi Brown in 2007. There are some intriguing tackles: USC's Ryan Kalil, Iowa's Riley Reiff, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Ohio State's Mike Adams."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the intersection of faith and football has helped the Seahawks' Aaron Curry show improvement on the field. Brewer: "Because Curry's problems aren't physical, he still has a chance to be a rare, late-blooming linebacker if he can relax, study harder and develop a better feel for the game. Many don't see it and breathlessly declare him a bust. But Curry, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft, is only 25. There's still time. There's little question about his athletic ability. And there's no doubt his newfound faith is changing his mental approach."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says coach Pete Carroll is concerned about the team's issues in pass protection. Carroll: "It’s a race against time, and we’re not staying with the race right now."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on the Seahawks' third preseason game. O'Neil: "Starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson can cut up a second-string defense just as efficiently as Charlie Whitehurst the first two exhibition games. The question is whether this offensive line can give anyone enough time in the pocket to have a reasonable chance of success this season. Seattle has allowed eight sacks in three games, and while that's tied for eighth-most of all NFL teams in August, it doesn't give a true indication of the pass pressure that has been constant and unrelenting."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune confirms a Pro Football Talk report noting that Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant has accepted a pay reduction from $5.9 million to $3 million for the 2011 season. I had thought the Seahawks would take this step earlier in the process; Lofa Tatupu's situation seemed to foreshadow something for Trufant as well. Both had signed Pro Bowl-caliber deals when they were Pro Bowl-caliber players.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals cornerback Greg Toler has suffered a sprained knee of unknown severity. Somers: "There was no immediate word on the seriousness of Toler's injury. The Cardinals could receive a boost soon if cornerback Mike Adams returns from knee surgery as expected. Adams underwent arthroscopic surgery early in training camp and was expected back in a few weeks. While Adams won't compete for a starting job, he has plenty of experience in nickel and dime schemes. And he's one of the club's better special-teams players."

Also from Somers: Kevin Kolb prefers sustained drives to big plays. Somers: "They strung more good plays together in the loss to the Chargers than they did in either of their previous two games. But mistakes, especially penalties, continue to hurt. Right tackle Brandon Keith was called for three penalties. Andre Roberts and Levi Brown each had a false start. There were big-play opportunities that were missed. Kolb overthrew Larry Fitzgerald early. And Beanie Wells was a stumble or two from breaking long runs."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Kolb clearly understands the importance of getting the ball to Fitzgerald.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams rookie Robert Quinn was pleased, but not overly so, to collect his first sack of the preseason. Quinn: "It definitely felt good. It's been a while since I had one of those. I feel like I'm getting my legs back up under me. And with the good group of core veterans on the D-line -- and really on the defense -- they just support me, trying to help me, I guess, mature faster as a young player. I really try to take their advice, learn from them, and help make a play."

Also from Thomas: The Rams feel like they are making progress on offense. Quarterback Sam Bradford: "I think everyone looked and felt more comfortable out there this week than they had in the past two weeks, including myself. I just felt much better with our operation. I felt we were quicker in and out of the huddle. I felt like our communication was better at the line of scrimmage. I just felt like everything [Friday] was almost normal in the sense that everyone's kinda starting to jell."

More from Thomas: Steven Jackson's preseason playing time has spiked this summer. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "We talked extensively during the week about the two issues we thought we had in the Tennessee game, which was we didn't run the ball effectively and we didn't stop the run very well. So we wanted to have a mindset of being able to do that. Steven was all for it."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says cornerback Dionte Dinkins' high-ankle sprain was the Rams' most serious injury of the third preseason game.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams appear on the rise. Burwell: "Don't start organizing a parade, but this is actually starting to look promising. In three preseason games, we have noticed enough of the right stuff happening; draft picks that honestly look like they can contribute to something more substantial than a CFL roster; veteran free agents who don't look like horrid flops; coaches whose X's and O's come alive on game days; a growing radio and preseason television network that suggests the organization's venture into turning the Rams into a regional marketing phenomenon just might work, too."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at 49ers players whose stock is rising -- and falling. Maiocco on safety Madieu Williams: "The veteran has been a sure tackler on defense and a willing special-teams performer. ... He provided one of the 49ers' best defensive plays with a forced fumble that led to a takeaway."

Also from Maiocco: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh says it is "possible" Michael Crabtree could return from a foot injury this week. I heard Harbaugh's comments and thought he sounded noncommittal. Crabtree is, by definition, closer than ever to returning. That will always be true until he returns.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee outlines problems the 49ers faced against Houston. Barrows: "The Texans mostly rushed the same four linemen on every play and those linemen simply beat the 49ers on one-on-one matchups. The 49ers made Antonio Smith, a guy who has never had more than 5.5 sacks in seven seasons, look like the second coming of Michael Strahan."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are heading in the wrong direction.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Frank Gore wants a new contract to help get his mind "right" for the season.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains the history behind the recent special-teams collision featuring veterans Joey Porter and Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald busted Porter's lip on the play. Fitzgerald pointed to his special-teams contributions from 2004, his rookie year. Fitzgerald: "Remember [gunner] Alex Bannister from Seattle, made All-Pro? We shut him down two games in a row, didn’t have a tackle in Seattle or here in Arizona. … I did do that. [Assistant defensive backs coach] Rick Courtright used to coach me on the technique. I don’t know if I could do it anymore …" In looking at NFL gamebooks from 2004, Bannister did have two special-teams tackles against Arizona in one game. The Cardinals totaled minus-2 yards on the two returns in question. Bannister also downed a punt at the Arizona 3. He was on injured reserve for the second game against Arizona that season. Bannister lasted the first two games in 2005 before suffering another season-ending injury. He never played for Seattle again and was out of the league after two games with Baltimore in 2006.

Also from Urban: a look at some personnel changes on the fringe of the Cardinals' roster. The team signed safety Aaron Rouse and linebacker Pago Togafau. Gone are defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi and linebacker Ali Highsmith.

More from Urban: Fitzgerald and Mike Adams got into a tussle Tuesday. Adams: "It was just a normal Fitz-and-Mike day. If Mike gets the better of Fitz … you can take it back to my rookie year, me and Fitz. We get into scuffles all the time. I get a little bit emotional at times. I guess it is that short man’s syndrome in me." The Cardinals list Adams at 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds. Fitzgerald checks in at 6-3 and 218.

More yet from Urban: Dominique Byrd is a candidate to help at fullback.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Deuce Lutui is enjoying a strong start to camp. Lutui has much on the line in camp, something I'll expand upon in a Cardinals Camp Confidential later Wednesday.

Also from Somers: First-round choice Dan Williams reported to Cardinals camp at 325 pounds, lighter than his target weight. He also passed a conditioning test.

More from Somers: classic quotes from Russ Grimm as the Cardinals' line coach and former Washington Redskins guard prepares for Hall of Fame induction. Grimm: "They have the schedule," said Grimm, the team's run-game coordinator and offensive-line coach. "I know there is something on Thursday night. My [clothes] are marked, 'This is what you wear on Thursday. This is what I have to wear Friday.' If it looks good, it looks good. If it doesn't ..."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch likes the championship banners coach Steve Spagnuolo has displayed in honor of the Rams' past, but he also thinks it's time for the team to show significant improvement in the present. Burwell: "I believe that while this isn't necessarily the breakthrough year for the Rams, it has to be the year when we see strong evidence that this is finally an ascending team. They have a new franchise quarterback (Sam Bradford) to groom, two potential young offensive tackles (Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold) to transform into reliable anchors, a superstar running back on the mend (Steven Jackson) and a stable of unproven young wide receivers who will be given every opportunity to confirm the unsubstantiated support they've been given by the coaches and front office."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams still have interest in Brian Westbrook and the team is "hopeful" it can sign him. Adding Westbrook would help lots on paper. The Rams would have addressed an area that needed addressing. Westbrook could be a good fit in a backup role because he would be less prone to injury. It's just tough to expect much from 30-year-old running backs. Westbrook turns 31 in September.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams expect Jackson to practice Saturday for the first time since back surgery. Also, the Rams are holding evening practices during this training camp in an effort to beat the heat and allow more fans to attend.

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript in which he says the Rams never made an offer to Terrell Owens.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers highlights from the 49ers' annual "State of the Franchise" gathering. Coach Mike Singletary called new offensive line coach Mike Solari "one of the finest coaches anywhere in America." Singletary also said the 49ers were as talented as any team.

Also from Barber: Fred Dean, John Henry Johnson, Ronnie Lott, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Montana, Joe Perry, Bob St. Clair, Dave Wilcox and Steve Young are expected to attend Jerry Rice's Hall of Fame induction.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers expect to have their draft choices signed in time for camp.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers plan to sell seat licenses that never expire and can be transferred once the team's new stadium is finished.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers 49ers-related notes, noting that first-round choice Anthony Davis has been working out at the facility since organized team activities ended in June. Also, the 49ers think their new stadium will empty 50 percent faster than Candlestick Park following games.

Also from Barrows: a look at the 49ers' situation at safety and a reminder that Reggie Smith could be in the mix eventually. Barrows: "Because it takes a while to develop young safeties and because of the uncertainty among the 49ers' starting safeties -- starter Michael Lewis is 30 and his salary is creeping upward -- the 49ers very well may keep all of their young safeties on the 53-man roster this year, although (Curtis) Taylor still has practice-squad eligibility. Look for undrafted rookie Chris Maragos, who teamed with Mays to compose the third-team safety duo this spring, to be another practice-squad candidate."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says improving the offensive line was the 49ers' top priority this offseason.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says there was less bluster from the 49ers at their annual gathering this year.

Scott Allen of Raising Zona checks in with Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts, who has this to say: "I do believe I have a great chance at being the number 3 or 4. I just need to learn my plays and gain the confidence of the quarterback and I believe I’ll be right there in the hunt."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals' Gerald Hayes and O'Brien Schofield to open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals released tackle Devin Tyler to make room on the roster for the newly signed Schofield.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com raises 10 questions heading into the Cardinals' training camp. The fourth question -- where will the pass rush come from? -- is one the Seahawks and Rams also might be asking. Urban: "The Cardinals piled up 42 sacks last season, their highest total in years and they did it by committee. Defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell tied for the team lead with seven. The idea in signing linebacker Joey Porter, who had 9.0 sacks for Miami, is that he can provide more of a dynamic pass rush than what the Cards were getting last season from Bertrand Berry or Chike Okeafor. Campbell, at end in a 3-4 look, should increase his total, and Dockett comes across like a man on a mission (and in search of a new contract). Even if Porter doesn’t revert to his stellar 2008 (17 sacks), he needs to be a difference-maker. The Cards also need help from some unknown factor, whether it is Cody Brown, Will Davis, Mark Washington or Stevie Baggs." It's reasonable to expect more from Porter than the Cardinals got from Berry and Okeafor last season.

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 checks in with Cardinals receiver Onrea Jones. Jones on what it takes to earn a roster spot: "Well I know one thing -- it's special teams -- to find the right spot on special teams. Mike Adams was big as a gunner last year on special teams. I kind of look up to him for that. Because he's been in the Super Bowl and he knows what he's doing. And that's one thing I've learned from Sean Morey also. I'm really concentrated on special teams, gunner, trying to get a spot on the kick off team, kick off return, any special teams I can get on, that's my ticket. Obviously you have to make plays as a wide receiver. I'm battling for a number 4 and 5 between me and Andre. Whoever gets that spot, he has to have a big role on special teams. As long as I can produce on special teams, I know I'll be alright."

Pro Football Weekly's NFC West preview singles out Laurent Robinson, Alex Smith, Justin Forsett and Ben Patrick as potential fantasy sleepers in 2010. On Forsett: "Although he is expected to battle Jones for touches in every game, Forsett has the kind of big-play ability (5.4 yards per carry in '09) as a runner, receiver and returner to develop into a surprisingly effective fantasy force. Forsett twice ran for 100 yards when Jones was out with injuries last season and could be increasingly effective both running and catching passes out of the backfield behind what figures to be a more stable offensive line." It's just tough to know how much playing time each Seattle running back will get this season. Leon Washington's status is one key variable.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com describes how Arizona coaches are promoting competition and camaraderie at organized team activities. Even coaches had to run after practice if their side of the ball came up short. Urban: "There was whooping and hollering from the defense when cornerback Greg Toler broke up the first Matt Leinart-to-Larry Fitzgerald pass. And there was the same from the offense when Fitz made a wonderful one-handed grab on the sideline. There was a lot of arguing when a first down pass from Derek Anderson to Early Doucet might have come after a 'sack' of Anderson. And there was an explosion of happiness from the red shirts when Money Mike Adams broke up the final pass to Andre Roberts." These are fairly typical exercises in NFL camps as teams try to keep players engaged.

Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic looks at receiver Darren Mougey's efforts to earn a roster spot with the Cardinals. Gintonio: "Mougey, signed as a free agent, knows the level of talent of the Cardinals receivers. He said he feels lucky to be in the mix and wants to learn as much he can, while at the same time not ruling anything out."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch examines the working relationship between Rams quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Sam Bradford. Feeley: "He's a bright guy, he's big, he's strong, and he can throw the football. He's accurate with it. And you can tell he wants to learn and he enjoys playing the game. Nowadays, I think that's most important. Some of these guys that come into the league don't love the game and they don't embrace it. I can tell with [Bradford] that he does ... he definitely does."

Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Steven Jackson this way regarding Feeley: "With A.J., you can see the leadership, and you can see he has the offense down pat. He knows what he is doing, and he is going to be good for us."

Turf Show Times' VanRam cites stats suggesting tight end Daniel Fells can be a relatively important player for the Rams. Agreed. I think it reflected deficiencies elsewhere on the team. Fells was a better option than he would have been playing for a more talented team.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com looks at rosters moves made since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took control of the Seahawks. Farnsworth: "This no-stone-unturned approach has produced 55 transactions in the 122 days since Schneider was hired -- and that doesn’t include the nine players the Seahawks drafted or the 15 rookie free agents they signed just after the draft."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Leroy Hill received a continuance in his court case stemming from a domestic-violence arrest. Williams: "According to a representative of the municipal court, a victim’s advocate asked on behalf of the victim that a no-contact order keeping Hill away from the victim be lifted. Hill’s attorney agreed with the request, but the prosecutor did not, and Stewart determined the order will remain in place."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers aren't necessarily considering making a move for Oshiomogho Atogwe if the Rams safety becomes available in June. Maiocco: "On the surface, it appears the 49ers' selection of safety Taylor Mays in the second round of the draft would end any thought the organization might have had about pursuing Atogwe this offseason. And Singletary suggested the 49ers will not make a move."

Also from Maiocco: Nate Clements is forfeiting a $500,000 workout bonus to work out on his own, away from the team. Clements is scheduled to earn $352,941 per week during the regular season. Maiocco: "This is clearly a big offseason for Clements, whom the 49ers benched Nov. 1 against pass-happy Indianapolis. Clements' main duty that day was to return punts, and he sustained a season-ending broken shoulder blade. Clements is penciled in as a starter this season, but his scheduled $6 million salary puts the onus on him to prove during training camp he's worth the big money."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks 49ers rookie Navorro Bowman could be a player to watch in training camp. Barrows: "Bowman has plenty of speed, both from sideline to sideline and on blitzes up the middle. Bowman played both 'Mike' and 'Ted' linebacker this week."

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat passes along notes from 49ers camp, quoting team president Jed York as saying he thinks the Bay Area will host a Super Bowl once a new stadium is built.

Also from Barber: an early look at the 49ers' offensive line.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says first-round pick Sam Bradford made the Rams smile during their post-draft camp. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur: "Sam did a terrific job. All the reasons for drafting him were obvious. He's very smart. Got a great command of the huddle. He's got great attention to detail. By the end of the weekend, he was repeating things like he got 'em in the installations. And he's very talented. So you take the talent and then the 'work hard' and I think he progressed well in five practices."

Also from Thomas: checking in with some of the Rams' long-shot rookies.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has a plan for Bradford, but not a concrete timetable.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says it's time for Rams fans to move on from a troubled recent past.

Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams kept Bradford under center during his first camp. Shurmur: "He's a natural quarterback. The focus of this camp was to do pretty much everything under center, so we could work on the 1-, the 3-, the 5-, the 7-step drop. As time goes on, what naturally happens is (he’ll) get smoother and smoother."

Also from Rodenbush: Spagnuolo thought rookie Mardy Gilyard appeared natural fielding punts.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up position battles for the 49ers. Barrows: "Make no mistake. Anthony Davis is the favorite to win this battle [at right tackle] beginning in Week One, but he won't be handed the job. Adam Snyder was rolling with the first-team offense at right tackle while second-year player Alex Boone already has worked himself into the conversation after transforming his body in the offseason. [Jimmy] Raye called Boone's conditioning 'tremendous' and the best competition might end up being between Snyder and Boone for the backup spot. Conditioning will be one of the hurdles for Davis. His feet were as quick and impressive as advertised during the rookie minicamp, but he wilted toward the end of each session. He might want to do a few (hundred) gassers between now and the next OTA."

Also from Barrows: Taylor Mays knows where he needs to improve.

More from Barrows: Free-agent cornerback William James is expected to visit the 49ers.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat passes along comments from 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Raye on Alex Smith: "There's a tremendous change in him from the way he carries himself and walks in and out of the building with an air of confidence, a totally different guy. If you want to digress to when he came here a year ago and he was six or seven weeks into the year, it's a totally different guy. In terms of his confidence, familiarity with what he's doing, his sense of entitlement, I think all of those things are manifesting themselves right now because of the success that he had, even though some people may deem it as minimal or maybe even being a little suspect about it. For him, from what I've seen, there's been a tremendous change."

Also from Barber: Quotes from defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

More from Barber: Observations after watching the 49ers' rookies. Also, Mays says his post-draft beef with Pete Carroll won't linger. Mays: "I haven't talked to him. But I'm sure I'll talk to him, and I know he didn't take it personal. And if I saw him right now, I know there wouldn't be any bad blood. I'm sure I'll talk to him in the next couple weeks. There's definitely no bad blood. I wouldn't think he'd feel that way toward me, and I hope he wouldn't think that I feel that way towards him."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers first-round choice Mike Iupati is getting advice from former NFL guard Jerry Kramer. Both played at Idaho. Kramer: "He can move for a big sucker. I haven't seen a guy pull like that in a long time."

Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News says some Santa Clara residents might not want Raiders fans descending on the 49ers' new stadium as part of a shared-stadium arrangement.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are exploring whether Ted Ginn Jr. can help them at receiver, not just as a returner.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says defensive tackle Red Bryant is among the players getting work at defensive end in the Seahawks' new scheme. This is more evidence the Seahawks' 4-3 defense will have 3-4 characteristics and even look like a 3-4 at times.

Also from O'Neil: Mike Williams looks like he's headed for a career revival in Seattle. Carroll: "He's definitely at a place where he's really competitive physically. It's the best I've seen him since maybe his sophomore year of college. He's very serious about it, so maybe he gets a chance to give us some help."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says cornerback Marcus Trufant enjoyed a strong minicamp after injuries slowed him last season. Trufant did make multiple plays on the ball, although the photo associated with this item appears to show Trufant getting beat deep.

Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com offers photos from minicamp weekend, including one showing University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com passes along Bryant's thoughts on playing in a new spot. Bryant: "The only difference is it's just more space. As far as me being able to take the line of scrimmage and hold the point, I'm pretty good at that. So it almost feels natural. The transition isn't as hard as I first thought it would be. When he first told me, I didn't know. But I've been doing it a few practices now an steadily getting better. I still have a lot to work on, but the coaches believe I can play it, I believe I can play it, my teammates believe I can play it. So we'll see what happens."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks first-round choice Russell Okung had plenty to digest during his first minicamp.

Also from Williams: The Seahawks like what they see from rookie receiver Golden Tate. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates: "I know one thing, over the past two days he’s been very impressive. His work ethic has been unbelievable. He’s very aggressive as far as attacking the ball when the ball’s up in the air. He still has to learn the offense. He has a long way to go, and he has a big playbook to study. But we’re excited to have him."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Okung was impressive Friday, then faced some challenges Saturday -- a typical pattern for rookies at their first camp. Ben Hamilton, Matt Hasselbeck and Lawyer Milloy are among the veterans lending their expertise.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals feel no need to rush out and sign a veteran cornerback for depth. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to monitor players through May and into June. Whisenhunt: "Then we'll be doing more of our sub-receiver sets where we've go three and four [receivers]. That's really where you've got the chance to see different players in different spots. I liked what I saw from the standpoint of the numbers of guys that look like they have the ability to play."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals held their annual rookie dinner. Also, Matt Leinart wasn't wearing a glove on his throwing hand during the recent camp, a change.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Toler, who is looking to seize a starting job at cornerback following Bryant McFadden's departure via trade. Whisenhunt: "Greg's got to earn it. "Physically, he's very gifted and we're going to have to see him do it on a consistent basis in order for him to become a starter. But you're excited because he does have the athletic tools and you have seen him do it in a game. But can he continue to do that? That's the big question."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals expect to have each of their rookies back for organized team activities -- unlike last season, when Ohio State's graduation schedule prevented Beanie Wells from participating.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' young defensive backs are fighting to improve their spot on the depth chart. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: "When B-Mac got traded, that hurt me a little bit because he was a good, good, good friend of mine. When he was gone it was like, 'Damn, who is going to step up and be that leader?' It put pressure on us young guys to step up and do the right thing. I feel confident. I’ve got a player in Mike Adams. And G.T. [Toler], once he gets in that book, there will be no drop-off."

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