NFC West: Mike Gandy

Where NFL teams rank in line continuity

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
2:06
PM ET
NFL teams strive for continuity along their offensive lines.

Seattle Seahawks fans remember the five players largely responsible for their team's Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season. Left tackle Walter Jones, left guard Steve Hutchinson, center Robbie Tobeck, right guard Chris Gray and right tackle Sean Locklear started every game.

When the Arizona Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl a few years later, the same five linemen started all season: left tackle Mike Gandy, left guard Reggie Wells, center Lyle Sendlein, right guard Deuce Lutui and right tackle Levi Brown.

Teams shuffling their lines during a season usually do so for negative reasons such as injuries or poor performance.

The chart ranks NFC West teams by percentage of offensive snaps played by the most frequently used combination of five offensive linemen this season. The Seahawks' leading five has played 26.2 percent, third-lowest in the NFL behind those for Indianapolis (19.6 percent) and Buffalo (24.1). Download full NFL rankings here.

The most frequently used five for Seattle featured left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Robert Gallery, center Max Unger, right guard John Moffitt and right tackle James Carpenter. They have played 183 snaps together. That is two more than than a group featuring the same five, but with Paul McQuistan instead of Gallery at left guard. The current group, this one featuring Gallery at left guard, McQuistan and right guard and Breno Giacomini at right tackle, has 130 snaps. Three others line combinations have at least 50 snaps.

The Houston Texans (98.9) and Denver Broncos (95.8) are the only teams to use the same five linemen on more than 85 percent of snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They rank among the NFL's top three teams in rushing yardage, with Denver's totals including 455 yards from quarterback Tim Tebow.

The 49ers' most frequently used fivesome ranks 13th at 62.8 percent. The Cardinals' primary five ranks 16th at 53.1 percent. The Rams' five ranks 29th at 34.5 percent.

San Francisco has averaged 5.1 yards per carry with Adam Snyder at right guard (418 total plays) and 3.1 per carry with Chilo Rachal in that spot (201 plays). No other frequently used combinations in the division feature such disparities. Seattle has averaged 3.6 yards per carry with its current line, down from the 4.2 and 4.3 range with the lines it used most frequently earlier in the year. Sack percentage is also up slightly.
Kevin KolbChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesSigning Kevin Kolb signals that the Cardinals are ready to bounce back after a transition season.

Kevin Kolb's arrival from Philadelphia gives the Arizona Cardinals renewed hope at quarterback and clear direction following Kurt Warner's retirement.

It provides a fresh start after a forgettable 2010 transition season for Arizona.

So much has changed for the Cardinals since their Super Bowl appearance following the 2008 season. Other rosters around the league have turned over since then, of course, but not every team was coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

Quite a few teams have sought change. For the Cardinals, it just happened.

Warner's departure, while easily the biggest change, was far from the only one. Between five and eight starters from that Super Bowl game project as starters in 2011, depending upon how many of the team's unrestricted free agents re-sign.

When Steve Breaston left the Cardinals for Kansas City this week, drawing attention to the cumulative effect of Arizona's roster upheaval, a Seahawks fan drew parallels between Seattle's post-Super Bowl decline and the Cardinals' plight last season.

"Don't misunderstand," Ricky Frey wrote on my Facebook wall, "I'm a Hawks fan, but it seems eerily familiar to watch this happen and know what happened to Holmgren/Mora. Writing on the wall?"

Not if Kolb has anything to say about it. Acquiring a relatively young, potentially ascending quarterback puts Arizona in position to avoid the decline Seattle experienced as a Matt Hasselbeck struggled with injuries while the roster around him withered away. The NFC West remains in transition overall, and the Cardinals know it.

"It’s obviously winnable, but it’s funny to think that everybody thinks you can just step in and win it," Kolb told reporters Friday. "You’re talking about NFL football teams here. I know last year 7-9 is what won it, but it doesn’t matter. ... The door is open, we know, and we’ll be ready to kick it in when it’s time, but it’s not going to be an easy task."

Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson and the recently re-signed Lyle Sendlein started for Arizona in the Super Bowl and remain starters in 2011. Another starter from that Super Bowl game, Gerald Hayes, was released this week. Three more are becoming unrestricted free agents: Deuce Lutui, Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson.

Six Arizona starters from that game are retired or did not play last season: Mike Gandy, Warner, Edgerrin James, Terrelle Smith, Chike Okeafor and Monty Beisel. Seven more play for other teams: Reggie Wells, Leonard Pope, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Smith, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and the recently traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Some were role players. Others were tougher to replace.

Breaston was a backup on that team, but he played extensively as the third receiver and finished the season with more than 1,000 yards.

Kolb's addition headlined a flurry of transactions the Cardinals announced Thursday and Friday.

Sendlein, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Michael Adams, tackle D'Anthony Batiste, center Ben Claxton, punter Ben Graham, fullback Reagan Maui'a and tight end Stephen Spach re-signed.

Five draft choices have signed. Guard Daryn Colledge, defensive end Nick Eason, tight end Jeff King, receiver Chansi Stuckey and linebacker Stewart Bradley have signed as free agents from other teams.

Re-signing Sendlein while adding Kolb, Colledge and Bradley suggests the 2011 team is still coming together, not necessarily falling apart.
DALLAS -- The Arizona Cardinals experienced more roster turnover than most from 2009 to 2010.

They felt it, too.

Arizona finished with a 5-11 record largely because quarterback Kurt Warner retired. The team hoped it had enough veteran strength throughout its roster to keep the Cardinals competitive. A favorable schedule and division in transition made it seem possible.

Looking back, the roster turnover played a leading role in the Cardinals' fall, coach Ken Whisenhunt said from the Super Bowl media center Friday.

"What you lose more than anything is that equity buildup that you have had for a couple years," Whisenhunt said.

Specifically, Whisenhunt said the Cardinals too often couldn't draw on shared experiences -- say, adjustment that worked against an opponent the previous season.

"Even though you have a Kerry Rhodes, you have Paris Lenon, you have guys you are comfortable with that are good players in the league, they don't know what you have gone through to get to that point," Whisenhunt said. "To have those guys step up and say, 'Listen, we are not practicing the right way, we are not making these plays like we should be,' you don't have that history with them. You can get away with that if it is one or two, but if you have five or six -- especially if they are good football players -- that is hard to overcome."

The Cardinals parted with a long list of players featuring Warner, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle, Bryant McFadden, Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Reggie Wells, Neil Rackers, Anthony Becht, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban, Matt Leinart, Ralph Brown, Monty Beisel and Dan Kreider.

"You can never go in and say, 'Gosh, woe is me because we lost those guys,' because you are counting on the other guys to step in and you always want to be positive," Whisenhunt said. "But you have to recognize it's a pretty big blow to lose [key] guys."

Whisenhunt called the situation a "perfect storm" with Warner retiring, key players hitting the market and the NFL heading toward an uncertain labor situation.

"There is no operating plan for what you do or how you do it," he said. "It doesn't really matter at this point. You just have to move forward."

Quite a few younger players gained more experience than anticipated. That could help Arizona build back some of that equity Whisenhunt said was missing. But so much comes back to the quarterback situation. An upgrade at that position would cover for imperfections elsewhere on the roster.

NFC West left tackles in Week 9 spotlight

November, 7, 2010
11/07/10
10:49
AM ET
The last time Chester Pitts started at left tackle in a game at Qwest Field, injuries and other considerations prompted his Houston Texans to use four combinations on their offensive line.

In the first quarter.

"You have to do what you have to do," Pitts said after the Texans' 42-10 defeat in Seattle five years ago. "They aren't going to cancel the game just because of an injury."

Those words ring true for Pitts' Seahawks against the New York Giants in Week 9.

Pitts becomes the Seahawks' eighth player to start at left tackle over the team's last 29 regular-season games, an unnecessary reminder of the value Walter Jones provided as a perennial Pro Bowl choice at the position. Pitts will be facing Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who leads the NFL with seven forced fumbles while ranking tied for second in sacks with eight.

Teams can help offensive tackles in protection multiple ways. Tight ends and running backs can help with blocking. Coordinators can call designed rollouts, moving the pocket away from potential trouble. Running the ball directly at elite pass-rushers can also help. But almost any offense at least occasionally asks its left tackle to hold up on his own.

How well NFC West left tackles handle the job Sunday stands as an important storyline.

Arizona's Levi Brown is the Cardinals' third starting left tackle in the team's last 11 regular-season games, succeeding Mike Gandy and Jeremy Bridges at the position. He faces Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen when the Cardinals visit the Minnesota Vikings for an early game Sunday. Allen's sack production has lagged this season. Bridges largely contained him when the teams played last season.

Brown has been stronger at run blocking than pass protection throughout his career.

That seemed to be the case against Tampa Bay in Week 8. I watched the game again Saturday night and made four notes on Brown. Two pass-protection breakdowns killed plays in the first half. A strong run block freed Beanie Wells for an 11-yard gain. Strong pass protection helped Derek Anderson complete a 25-yard pass to Early Doucet in the third quarter.

Allen, meanwhile, ranks tied for 119th in the league this season with one sack.

"I'm looking for him to have a bust-out game," Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said this week.

Rams dodge Alex Barron's 22nd holding call

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
10:20
AM ET
The St. Louis Rams sacrificed depth on their offensive line when parting with Alex Barron, who had started for them at tackle since 2005.

That sacrifice resembled addition by subtraction when Barron's holding penalty Sunday negated the Dallas Cowboys' winning touchdown pass as time expired. This was the third holding call of the game against Barron and the 22nd of Barron's career. The Rams traded Barron to the Cowboys for linebacker Bobby Carpenter, a player St. Louis released.

Barron had run his course in St. Louis, becoming known for penalties and inconsistent play. As the chart shows, Barron ranks third among NFL players in offensive holding penalties (through last season) since entering the league as a first-round choice in 2005, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Rams' offensive linemen were not flagged for holding in Week 1.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
2:06
PM ET
Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)


Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)


Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)


San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)


The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
Tags:

San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Dre' Bly, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Mike Teel, Justin Green, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Brian St.Pierre, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, Steve Vallos, David Carr, Randy McMIchael, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Shaun HIll, Leroy HIll, Chris Patrick, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Ricky Schmitt, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Nick Reed, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Jerome Johnson, Derek Walker, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Ken Lucas, Seneca Wallace, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Anquan Boldin, Trevor Canfield, Marc Bulger, Mike Hass, Nate Davis, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Jason HIll, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Jay Feely, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Clayton, Deon Grant, LaJuan Ramsey, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Rob Sims, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Nate Ness, Louis Rankin, Brandon Frye, Ruvell Martin, Paris Lenon, Leger Douzable, Ryan Neill, Danny Gorrer, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy, Clinton Hart, Earl Thomas, Leon Washington, Andre Roberts, Chester Pitts, Dan Williams, Mike Iupati, Ben Hamilton, Ryan McKee, Kennard Cox, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, Chris Baker, William James, Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley, Mark Clayton, Quinton Ganther, Na'il Diggs, Chris Clemons, John Skelton, Mardy Gilyard, Rodger Saffold, Daryl Washington, Golden Tate, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie, Thaddeus Lewis, Max Hall, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Max Komar, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Jim Dray, Dominique Curry, Josh Hull, Phillip Adams, Trumaine McBride, Kevin Dockery, Shane Andrus, Tyler Polumbus, Clint Gresham, Roger III Allen, Cyril Obiozor, Brandon McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Junior Siavii, Troy Smith, Ted Jr. Ginn, Raheem Brock

Camp Confidential: Arizona Cardinals

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
11:44
AM ET
ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 15

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- You know what the 2010 Arizona Cardinals are not.

They're not the team with Pro Bowl-caliber talents Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle. They're not the team with established veterans Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Bertrand Berry and Mike Gandy. They're not the team that won the past two NFC West titles and posted a 4-2 postseason record.

They're not dead, either. Who are these new-look Cardinals? A trip to training camp at Northern Arizona University provided some clues.

This team will be easy to underestimate for those analyzing from afar. What I saw up close was a team with strong leadership -- both vocally and by example -- throughout its roster. The Cardinals are accountable to one another. I saw an organization with a track record for developing young talent (think Calais Campbell, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, to name three). I saw a head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, who loves a challenge and thinks the Cardinals will do just fine in one of their favorite roles -- underdogs.

This team has an edge to it. The Cardinals will compete and they can make another playoff appearance with a little help from their quarterback.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeLeinart
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Cardinals have confidence that Matt Leinart can succeed in this offense.
1. What's up with Matt Leinart? Let's take a listen to Whisenhunt: "You see it in his body language, you see how he handles himself in the huddle and then you also see it in the confidence when he takes a step and he throws the football, or even when he makes the checks in the run game. There is not the hesitation that there used to be." If you think that quote reflects renewed confidence in Leinart heading into the 2010 season, you'd be wrong. That's what Whisenhunt said about Leinart in training camp two years ago, before the Cardinals switched to Warner and won back-to-back division titles.

What's he saying now? Whisenhunt dismisses Leinart's shaky 2009 performance against Green Bay in Week 17 as a product of unusual circumstances (the Cardinals watered down their game plan with an eye toward playing the Packers in the wild-card round). He points to Leinart's performance against the Tennessee Titans last season -- 21 of 31 passing for 220 yards and an 88.1 rating -- as evidence the quarterback knows the offense well enough to succeed even without getting practice reps (Warner was scratched from the lineup shortly before kickoff). For that reason, Leinart will not get extra playing time during the upcoming preseason. Whisenhunt doesn't think it's necessary.

"I feel like there's a hurdle you have to cross as a young quarterback where no matter what situation you're thrown into, you have to perform," Whisenhunt said. "He is at a point with our offense where he is comfortable and he may not get the reps."

Leinart has four seasons in Whisenhunt's offense. He's playing for a new contract, backed by two productive running backs and one of the NFL's elite receivers in Larry Fitzgerald. Leinart will never be Warner, but he will not have to be. He'll be leading a re-made offense with increased emphasis on the running game. I'm not entirely sold. Leinart has much to prove.

"The last two years, I've learned really how to prepare mentally and studying and all that," Leinart said. "I finally get to take that to the field every single day and get the reps and make mistakes, but come back and learn from them. I worked extremely hard just to get to this point."

2. What does Joey Porter have left? The former Pro Bowl pass-rusher showed up for training camp in vastly better condition than he appeared during offseason minicamps. His speed and quickness stunned me during the Cardinals' afternoon practice Monday. Porter even kept pace with Fitzgerald on a special-teams coverage play 35 yards downfield. And he stayed home defending bootlegs.

The team's training camp practice jerseys do not feature players' names across the backs, and with so many new faces in camp, I double-checked the roster to make sure No. 55 was indeed the 33-year-old Porter. It was him.

The Cardinals knew they were getting a fiery personality and potential mentor for some of their younger players. The first few days of training camp have given them reason to think Porter might have more left physically than first anticipated. He had nine sacks for the Miami Dolphins last season and 17.5 the year before. Arizona will put him on the same side as Campbell, who had seven sacks at defensive end. There's potential for Porter to help this defense more than expected. Let's see if he can sustain the fast start.

[+] EnlargeWashington
AP Photo/Matt YorkRookie Daryl Washington may be called on early to contribute.
3. Are the Cardinals in trouble at inside linebacker? Veteran Gerald Hayes called out defensive teammates after a rough stretch of practice Tuesday. They were getting pushed around by the offense in the running game. There's reason to wonder if the Cardinals should expect more of the same, on a larger scale, when the regular-season schedule serves up Steven Jackson and Michael Turner in the first two weeks.

Hayes could return from back surgery by then. The Cardinals will find playing time for second-round choice Daryl Washington. They'll lean on veteran Paris Lenon. They'll move strong safety Adrian Wilson into the box for run support as needed.

It might not be enough.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Rashad Johnson. The second-year safety appears more physical and closer to contributing. His rookie season was a wash. Johnson might not be needed for extensive snaps, but they might not have to dread turning to him in a pinch.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Hayes' injury status. The Cardinals downplayed their key run defender's back situation during the early stages of the offseason. They hoped Hayes would overcome the back problems that slowed him last season. Hayes finally underwent surgery. He's a spectator and the Cardinals miss him.

OBSERVATION DECK
[+] EnlargeLarry Fitzgerald
AP Photo/Matt YorkWide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is one of several veteran leaders on the team.

  • Guard Deuce Lutui was arguably the Cardinals' best offensive lineman last season. He could have a hard time staying active for games in 2010. Alan Faneca's addition at left guard sent 2009 left guard Reggie Wells to the right side at Lutui's expense. If Lutui fails to win back the starting job -- contract issues kept him away from the team this offseason and he reported to the team overweight -- his inability to play another position on the line could make it tough for the Cardinals to make him one of the two active backups for games. Jeremy Bridges can play guard or tackle. Rex Hadnot can play center or guard. Even Wells could play tackle in a pinch.
  • This team has strong, outspoken leaders everywhere. Fitzgerald organizes offseason workouts with Cris Carter, Jerry Rice and various current NFL stars, setting a standard for receivers. Faneca provides the offensive line with a needed voice and identity. Wilson is the enforcer in the secondary and the most credible leader on the team. Porter adds veteran leadership and attitude at linebacker. Darnell Dockett holds the defensive line accountable.
  • The Cardinals do not fear the truth. They confront issues directly. Free agent Kerry Rhodes came to Arizona with a reputation as Mr. Hollywood. Even Rhodes acknowledged that former New York Jets teammate Kris Jenkins was likely targeting him with comments suggesting the team had added "real men" to replace the "women" they had lost. Rhodes didn't like it much when Dockett questioned his work ethic amid globe-trotting tweets from the vacationing safety. Whisenhunt's response? No big deal. "Besides," Whisenhunt said of Rhodes' reputation, "our guys have been on him hard enough about it that they're not going to cut him any slack."
  • Speaking of Rhodes, the Cardinals think he can be a good blitzer for them, particularly in combination with Wilson.
  • Fitzgerald's capacity for self-motivation borders on the ridiculous, but it works for him. "I'm getting older. The window of opportunity is closing. I was sitting around talking to Cris Carter this offseason and it seems like seven years has gone by so fast. The hourglass is turned over on me now. The sand is going down and my career is on the downward side now. I have to really pick it up and try to help this team get a playoff win and win a Super Bowl."
  • Faneca, 33, struggles in one-on-one pass-rush drills. The Jets released him even though his salary was guaranteed, making a strong statement as to what they thought he had left. The Cardinals couldn't pass up adding Faneca to their line. They can benefit from his leadership and experience. I just wonder whether he'll be one of the two best guards on the team this season, particularly once Lutui rounds into shape.
  • Beanie Wells benefited from his first full offseason in the NFL. Graduation rules at Ohio State prevented him from joining the team until mid-June last offseason. Wells then reported to training camp slightly late and immediately suffered an injury. He appears much better prepared for the upcoming season. Wells is still fine-tuning some aspects of his pass-protection skills. He catches the ball well, though, and his running will set him apart this season. The versatile Tim Hightower remains the starter early in camp and Wells will have to beat him out. I expect that to happen.
  • The Cardinals ran more four-receiver personnel groups than any team in the league last season. I noticed one four-wide play in five practices and that was with backups playing receiver. Teams tend to focus on base packages early in camp. That could partially explain the proliferation of two-receiver personnel groups. Still, the offense appears different from last season and that will carry over into the regular season.
  • Arizona emphasized continuity over the past two seasons, particularly on its offensive line. Only the Seattle Seahawks have fewer players returning from Week 17 last season, however. Center Lyle Sendlein is the only starting offensive lineman returning at the same position.

On the radar: Surprise injuries

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

A sore hip bothered Kurt Warner at Arizona Cardinals camp last summer. It wasn't a big deal.

[+] EnlargePatrick WIllis
Brett Davis/US PresswirePatrick Willis has already practiced after his offseason knee surgery and will seemingly be ready for training camp.
Two summers ago, the Seattle Seahawks downplayed Matt Hasselbeck's bad back because they didn't know the full extent of the problem. That one turned out to be more serious than expected.

Having the right feel for each injury situation can be tough. I'm sure a surprise injury or two will become a story after NFC West teams report for training camps in late July.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (knee), St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (back), Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee) and Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (pectoral) are among the high-profile NFC West players coming off surgery rehabs. Their situations will bear monitoring.

The following players ended last season on injured reserve (some are no longer with NFC West teams):

Arizona Cardinals

Matt Ware, Mike Gandy, Justin Green, Cody Brown

San Francisco 49ers

Tony Pashos, Ricky Schmitt, Thomas Clayton, Jeff Ulbrich, Walt Harris, Kentwan Balmer, Curtis Taylor

Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Roehl, Walter Jones, Kevin Houser, Brandon Frye, Tatupu, Mike Hass

St. Louis Rams

Marc Bulger, Adam Carriker, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Eric Bassey, C.J. Ah You, Brooks Foster, Gary Gibson, Jacob Bell, Daniel Fells, Chris Massey, Bradley Fletcher, Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton
The earlier item quantifying NFL roster turnover since last season ranks the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals among the three teams with the most changes.

Some of the research used for that project shows up in the latest version of the anabolically enhanced rosters found here periodically. Specifically, the 26th and final column shows which players were starters, backups or on injured reserve for NFC West teams in Week 17 last season.

Download the rosters here.

The column showing player ages makes it easy to see how roster attrition affects older players. I'll list below the players currently 30 or older who have been released, traded, announced their retirements or were not re-signed as unrestricted free agents since last season:

Seattle Seahawks (9)

Patrick Kerney, Walter Jones, John Owens, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Sean Morey, Ben Hamilton and Chris Baker.

Arizona Cardinals (9)

Kurt Warner, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Bertrand Berry, Neil Rackers, Morey, Brian St. Pierre, Ralph Brown, Dan Kreider,

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Jay Feely, Paris Lenon, Joey Porter and Alan Faneca.

San Francisco 49ers (6)

Shaun Hill, Arnaz Battle, Mark Roman, Walt Harris, Dre' Bly, Jeff Ulbrich

Note: The team added 30-plus vets David Carr and William James. In looking at the chart, note that receiver Isaac Bruce, 37, is still on the 49ers' roster for the time being.

St. Louis Rams (5)

Leonard Little, Marc Bulger, Lenon, Clinton Hart, Randy McMichael

Note: The team added 30-plus vets A.J. Feeley, Na'il Diggs, Hank Fraley and Fred Robbins.
Bad teams tend to change coaches and overhaul their rosters.

It should come as little surprise, then, to see the Seattle Seahawks retain a league-low 66.1 percent of their players from last season. It should likewise make sense to see the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings retain a league-high 94.4 percent over the same period.

But when the two-time defending NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals rank right behind Seattle and the Detroit Lions with a 70.2 percent retention rate, third-lowest in the league, we gain context for the magnitude of change in the desert. Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, Bryant McFadden, Mike Gandy, Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry combined to start 107 games for the Cardinals last season. All are gone.

Not that change is always bad, even for good teams.

The Indianapolis Colts (73.0 percent retained) and Philadelphia Eagles (74.6 percent) made quite a few changes this offseason. The Colts annually field one of the NFL's youngest teams while funneling massive amounts of cash toward their star players. The Eagles sought to get younger.

Rosters throughout the league will change significantly again as teams comply with 53-man limits in September.

The chart shows how many Week 17 starters, backups and players from injured reserve remain with their 2009 teams. The retention rate divides those totals by the sum of 53 plus all players who were on IR lists in Week 17. The starter totals can be somewhat misleading for teams that rested key players before the playoffs, but the retention rates apply equally. Every team had 53 players on its roster in Week 17.

In double-checking totals, I noticed that teams have parted with 107 of the 294 players listed on IR in Week 17. That works out to 63.6 percent retention for players who were on IR, compared to 82.1 percent retention for players who were on 53-man rosters. The total retention rate -- 79.4 percent -- reflects both sets of players.

The chart breaks down totals based on rosters I have updated through moves made Thursday. I also accounted for the Denver Broncos' reported release of quarterback Tom Brandstater, who was with the team in Week 17. I'm counting unsigned franchise players (Aubrayo Franklin) and unsigned restricted free agents as still being with their 2009 teams, based on the fact that their teams hold rights to them.

Update: I adjusted the San Diego Chargers' total and the Tampa Bay Bucs' total after accounting for trades involving Tim Dobbins and Byron Leftwich, respectively. San Diego dropped two spots. Tampa Bay dropped one spot. The overall retention rate fell slightly.

NFC West thoughts

San Francisco (.833): The 49ers like their team and they have been proactive in re-signing younger players. Continuity has been a top priority and that shows in the totals. The 49ers' retention rate fell because the team has not brought back five of the seven players it listed on IR in Week 17 (Thomas Clayton, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Ricky Schmitt and Jeff Ulbrich).

St. Louis (.773): It's a little surprising, on the surface, to see the rebuilding Rams rank second only to the 49ers in retention rate within the division. The Rams made massive overhauls last offseason, however, so there were fewer moves to make in recent months. Only the Lions and Baltimore Ravens brought back more players from IR, a total that could grow if Oshiomogho Atogwe re-signs. How well some of those players recover and hold up will be important for the Rams.

Arizona (.702): The turnover in Arizona has been documented thoroughly. Only Seattle has fewer players back from Week 17.

Seattle (.661): New coach plus new general manager plus a mandate for change leaves the Seahawks with only 39 players on their roster from Week 17 (counting those listed on IR). Every other team in the league has more. The league average is 49.4 players back.

Unrestricted free agency has come and gone for the NFL in 2010 after no teams made qualifying offers to the more than 100 unsigned UFAs by June 1.

The following former UFAs from NFC West teams remain free agents able to sign with any team that will have them, but none will factor into the formula used for awarding compensatory draft choices:
Arizona: left tackle Mike Gandy, outside linebacker Chike Okeafor, outside linebacker Bertrand Berry (retiring), cornerback Ralph Brown, fullback Dan Kreider, quarterback Brian St. Pierre

Seattle: fullback Justin Griffith, linebacker D.D. Lewis, cornerback Ken Lucas, tackle Damion McIntosh, snapper Jeff Robinson, snapper Kevin Houser

San Francisco: safety Mark Roman, cornerback Dre Bly, cornerback Walt Harris, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich (retiring)

St. Louis : defensive end Leonard Little, tight end Randy McMichael, safety Clinton Hart

The chart breaks down the players by team and 2009 starts.

Bad teams aren't the only ones churning their rosters during the offseason.

The defending NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals have parted with 15 of the 53 players on their Week 17 roster from last season. Only the rebuilding Seahawks have parted with more -- 16 -- among division teams this offseason. The Rams have parted with 11. The 49ers, seeking continuity as they try to build on an 8-8 season, have parted with only three.

The first chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have returned to each NFC West team.

The second chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have left each NFC West team.

I'll first list the players by team.

Seattle (16): receiver Nate Burleson, quarterback Seneca Wallace, linebacker Lance Laury, defensive end Cory Redding, guard Trevor Canfield, quarterback Mike Teel, tackle Damion McIntosh, linebacker D.D. Lewis, snapper Jeff Robinson, fullback Justin Griffith, cornerback Ken Lucas, safety Deon Grant, defensive end Darryl Tapp, guard Rob Sims, tight end John Owens and defensive end Patrick Kerney.

Arizona (15): linebacker Pago Togafau, safety Antrel Rolle, receiver Jerheme Urban, receiver Sean Morey, kicker Neil Rackers, linebacker Bertrand Berry, fullback Dan Kreider, cornerback Ralph Brown, quarterback Brian St. Pierre, defensive end Jason Banks, receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Karlos Dansby, quarterback Kurt Warner, cornerback Bryant McFadden and linebacker Chike Okeafor. Note that Rolle did not start in Week 17.

St. Louis (11): defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, cornerback Jonathan Wade, receiver Ruvell Martin, quarterback Mike Reilly, defensive end Leonard Little, safety Clinton Hart, snapper Ryan Neill, running back Samkon Gado, linebacker Paris Lenon, tackle Alex Barron and tight end Randy McMichael.

San Francisco (5): receiver Arnaz Battle, cornerback Marcus Hudson, quarterback Shaun Hill, safety Mark Roman and cornerback Dre Bly.

The third chart shows what happened to players who were on injured reserve in Week 17.

I'll first list by team the players who were on IR but are no longer with their teams.

San Francisco (5): tackle Tony Pashos, punter Ricky Schmitt, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, cornerback Walt Harris and running back Thomas Clayton.

Seattle (4): running back Tyler Roehl, tackle Walter Jones, snapper Kevin Houser and tackle Brandon Frye.

St. Louis (3): quarterback Marc Bulger, defensive tackle Adam Carriker and safety Eric Bassey.

Arizona (2): tackle Mike Gandy and fullback Justin Green.
The St. Louis Rams were of course happy to select Alex Barron with the 19th overall choice of the 2005 NFL draft.

"He is a terrific left tackle; he has the athleticism to do that," then-coach Mike Martz said at the time. "He is as close to Orlando Pace without being Orlando Pace in terms of that type of natural athleticism."

Times change. Coaches change. Front offices change.

A change might do Barron good. The Rams' starting left tackle last season signed his one-year tender as a restricted free agent Friday, clearing the way for the Rams to trade him to Dallas for linebacker Bobby Carpenter (a player Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once expected to become a team leader).

The question for the Rams is whether having Barron for one more year would be better than taking a chance on Carpenter, the assumption being that the Rams would not retain Barron for the long term after using early draft choices for Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold. The Rams' offensive line would have better depth this season with the durable, if inconsistent, Barron still in the mix.

The chart lists Barron as one of several tackles leaving the NFC West after the 2009 season. Walter Jones, Mike Gandy and Barron stand out as the three starting-caliber players on the list (at least when Jones and Gandy were healthy). I included Tony Pashos and Brandon Frye even though they were veteran backups.

NFC West teams added tackles Russell Okung (Seattle), Anthony Davis (49ers) and Saffold (Rams) among the top 33 choices in the 2010 draft. Saffold could also play guard.
Three NFC West teams could be breaking in new left tackles this season. A quick look at each team's situation at the position:

Arizona Cardinals

2009 starters: Mike Gandy (12), Jeremy Bridges (4)

Projected 2010 starter: Levi Brown

The plan: Brown has started all 32 games at right tackle over the past two seasons. There was some thought initially that he might stay there as a blindside protector for left-handed quarterback Matt Leinart, but coach Ken Whisenhunt put to rest that thinking during the Cardinals' recently concluded post-draft camp. Brown, the fifth player chosen in the 2007 NFL draft, will move to the left side. Gandy had played pretty well there in recent seasons, but injuries caught up to him in 2009. Gandy became an unrestricted free agent and the Cardinals did not re-sign him. Bridges played well enough in relief to stick as a swing player on the line.

Seattle Seahawks

2009 starters: Sean Locklear (10), Brandon Frye (3), Damion McIntosh (2), Kyle Williams (1)

Projected 2010 starter: Russell Okung

The plan: There will be no grace period for Okung. Line coach Alex Gibbs made it clear on draft day that Okung would be the starting left tackle from Week 1. Popular perception says Okung is filling king-sized shoes, but long-time starting left tackle Walter Jones didn't play at all last season. Okung should have little trouble providing an upgrade over the four-man rotation that manned the position last season. Locklear should be more comfortable back on the right side. Frye played reasonably well last season and might have fit with the current scheme, but a neck injury intervened.

St. Louis Rams

2009 starter: Alex Barron

Projected 2010 starter: Jason Smith

The plan: The Rams haven't said how they'll handle Smith, the second overall choice in the 2009 draft, this season. The team has simply said it plans to play its five best linemen. The feeling has been that Smith would take over at left tackle eventually, but nothing has been made official to this point. Barron has been durable and his agent said he plans to sign the team's one-year offer. Second-round rookie Rodger Saffold gives the Rams another option at tackle or guard. This situation is still a little fluid to make a firm projection for 2010, but it's safe to say Smith will be the long-term starter on the left side no later than 2011. Barron appears best suited on the left side, however, so if he is part of the mix and the Rams determine he is one of their best five, Barron could start there again in 2010.

San Francisco 49ers

2009 starter: Joe Staley

Projected 2010 starter: Staley

The plan: The 49ers have long-term options at the position after using the 11th overall choice for Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis. Davis was working as a backup right tackle during the post-draft camp, however, and he appears more likely to play on that side, at least initially. Staley has been a solid player at both tackle spots. The 49ers re-signed him for the long term and Staley has declared his intent to hold down the left side. The 49ers have to like their situation at left tackle. They can stick with Staley and be fine. If Davis proves better on the left side eventually, the 49ers come out fine that way, too.

Around the NFC West: Khan cruising?

March, 23, 2010
3/23/10
10:03
AM ET
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Colts owner Jim Irsay as saying Shahid Khan's bid to purchase the Rams could be headed for approval. Irsay: "I think indications are that (Khan's) strength of wealth is there. His background and those sort of things are really positive. It's not something that we've got our final reports on, but all indications are that it's trending in a positive direction for him." Thomas also checks in with part-owner Stan Kroenke, who isn't saying how he'll proceed. Thomas: "In reality, Kroenke probably has only two options: maintain his 40 percent share or sell it. Because in pretty strong language Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that the league wasn't inclined to bend its cross-ownership rules to allow Kroenke to match (Shahid) Khan's offer." Kroenke also owns the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates there's a 20 percent chance Marc Bulger could return to the Rams in 2010. Miklasz: "Unless something unexpected develops, the Rams will draft Sam Bradford and they have A.J. Feeley to serve as an interim QB while they get the rookie ready to play. And what would be the point of keeping Bulger -- who makes big money -- around as a highly expensive third quarterback? That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. If the Rams back away from Bradford AND decline to draft a QB in the 2nd or 3rd round -- a QB that figures in their short-term plans -- then I could see them revisiting the idea of keeping Bulger. But that is unlikely." I can't see Bulger returning.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat provides a general Rams update, noting that the team did not work out Sam Bradford or give him a physical examination during a recent meeting with him in Florida.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lists the Seahawks' additions and subtractions to this point in free agency. O'Neil on Cory Redding: "Redding lost his starting job after three games. He got his first sack in the 10th game. But when coach Pete Carroll was hired, Redding was one [of] the players he mentioned in radio interviews as a lineman the team was hoping to find an effective role for. And to be fair, Redding was one of the most impactful players on the defense over the final month of the season. Coincidence or contract? You be the judge on that one."

John Morgan of Field Gulls isn't expecting much from new Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Morgan: "A team can wager a lot or a little on a low-value asset. It can see Whitehurst for what he is, a backup quarterback with some warts and some potential not unlike Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson, or it can lock onto one player, forego negotiations and pay the sticker price for his services. Seattle did the latter." I think the Seahawks settled for Whitehurst after determining they did not like Seneca Wallace, could not get Kevin Kolb for a reasonable price and did not feel comfortable with the quarterbacks most likely to be available in the draft. That doesn't seem like the best way to find a quarterback. The question then becomes whether the Seahawks paid too much for what they're getting.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com isn't sure where the Cardinals go from here in free agency. He thinks Sean Morey wants to return to the team despite making a free-agent visit to Seattle. I think there's a decent chance Morey winds up with the Seahawks. It's looking like Arizona will be overhauling much of its receiving corps. Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban are already gone. Morey was more of a special-teamer, but he counted as a receiver on game days when the Cardinals configured their 45-man roster. Taking him out of the mix could give Arizona three new receivers on game days who weren't part of the regular rotation when the 2010 season opened. Early Doucet supplanted Urban during the season. Also from Urban: "Veterans who are waiting now for bigger potential deals probably aren’t going to get them, and historically it’s even harder to get a decent deal after the draft because teams have filled up their holes with new talent that can be home-grown. What happens to Mike Gandy or Chike Okeafor, for instance (other than that they won’t be in Arizona)?"

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers need to hire another general manager after parting with Scot McCloughan. Knapp: "There are NFL teams that can afford to be creative and defy the standard structure of a front office. The 49ers are absolutely, categorically, definitively not one of them. They have a team president and head coach with less than three years' experience between them, a roster that has not been properly updated this offseason and a seven-year absence from the playoffs."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provides an overview of Jed York's comments regarding Scot McCloughan's departure as general manager. Barrows: "York said that he has yet to decide on the structure of the team's front office moving forward, and that he wasn't sure whether he would have a general manager in the future. He said those decisions would be made after the draft. He was resolute, however, in stating that neither he nor his top lieutenant, Paraag Marathe, would become the team's general manager."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat passes along York's commitment to Alex Smith as the starting quarterback. York sounded a lot like McCloughan. York: "I think it's great this is the first time he's had continuity at the offensive coordinator. When you have some weapons around him with Crab (Michael Crabtree) with Vernon (Davis) with Frank (Gore), I think Alex is poised to have a good season for us. And (we're) more excited that Alex is our starting quarterback."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says York's comments raised more questions. Cohn: "If the Niners don't have a GM what will they have?"

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says McCloughan would have kept his job absent personal issues, according to York.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC WEST SCOREBOARD