NFC West: NFC Roster Analysis 2011

Seattle Seahawks cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
9:23
PM ET
Surprise move: There really weren't any because the Seahawks had already parted with so many familiar names over the past couple seasons. Colin Cole was the most established player shown the door. He had been injured, his salary was $3.75 million and the team had re-signed Brandon Mebane with an eye toward moving Mebane to nose tackle. Those factors worked against Cole sticking around.

Receiver Isaiah Stanback, valued on special teams, landed on injured reserve along with defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson and tight end John Carlson. Rookie safety Mark LeGree, a fifth-round draft choice, was the Seahawks' only 2011 selection to miss the initial cut. Jeron Johnson, one of three undrafted rookies to earn roster spots, beat him out.

No-brainers: Golden Tate's status had drawn considerable attention in recent weeks, but the Seahawks never planned to release him. Tate came through with a strong performance in the final exhibition game, putting to rest questions about his status. Running back Justin Forsett wasn't in danger, either, even though Leon Washington could be moving past him on the depth chart behind starter Marshawn Lynch. With Washington and Forsett sticking around, there was no room for Thomas Clayton. Undrafted rookies Josh Portis (quarterback) and Doug Baldwin (receiver) had clearly done enough to earn spots initially. Both stuck.

What's next: The situation at fullback and tight end bears monitoring with Carlson landing on injured reserve, as expected. Dominique Byrd stuck as the third tight end for now. Assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable has valued h-back types in his offense and it's unclear whether the Seahawks' current personnel addresses that function adequately. Fullback Michael Robinson stuck on the roster as well. Seattle will have to wait six games before bringing back receiver Deon Butler, cornerback Roy Lewis and tight end Cameron Morrah. All are on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The severity of left guard Robert Gallery's knee injury could influence how the team proceeds on the offensive line.

St. Louis Rams cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:10
PM ET
Surprise move: The situation at wide receiver carried the most intrigue through training camp and the exhibition season. Mardy Gilyard, Donnie Avery and Danario Alexander seemed to have the most to gain, with Mark Clayton's recent signing adding another dynamic. Alexander made it. So did Dominique Curry, a dominant special-teams player last summer until he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Gilyard and Avery missed the cut. That surprised me a great deal, given Alexander's injury history, Avery's recent surge and Gilyard's value on special teams. Clayton went onto the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning he'll miss the first six games.

Curry is a special-teams player and a receiver in name only. He made the team despite a broken hand. That's a victory for special-teams coach Tom McMahon.

Veteran defensive lineman Dan Muir, signed in free agency, was also among the cuts.

Gilyard was a fourth-round pick in 2010. The team has drafted 16 players in the first four rounds since Steve Spagnuolo became coach. Gilyard is the only one no longer with the team. He has no eligibility for the practice squad after appearing on the game-day roster more than eight times last season (11).

Unknown rookie Ben Guidugli was one of four tight ends to stick on the initial 53-man roster, beating out Fendi Onobun. Guidugli could be providing depth while the team waits to see whether Michael Hoomanawanui is available for Week 1.

No-brainers: The Rams weren't going to cut rookie receivers Greg Salas or Austin Pettis even though neither rookie lit up the preseason. They took precedence over Gilyard, who was selected when the Rams had a different offensive coordinator. Free-agent linebacker Zac Diles became expendable once the Rams added other veterans at the position.

What's next: Depth at cornerback was and is a potential concern. The Rams kept only eight offensive linemen, including veteran backup Adam Goldberg. They could be in the market for an interior offensive lineman with good size and strength. With seven wide receivers on the roster for now, the team has only four running backs. This is the initial 53-man roster, not the final one, however. There will be changes before Week 1, most likely.

San Francisco 49ers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:38
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the San Francisco 49ers' roster moves.

Surprise move: Releasing veteran backup quarterback Josh McCown was a mild surprise, not a shocking one. The team sought veteran depth behind Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick. McCown was on the roster for those purposes and could conceivably return if needed down the line, but the 49ers want to upgrade there if they can.

Keeping sixth-round safety Colin Jones seemed odd on the surface after Jones played sparingly on defense during preseason. He played extensively on special teams, however. Keeping Jones could qualify as a victory for assistant head coach/special teams Brad Seeley. Veteran guard Tony Wragge was let go after the team drafted interior linemen and developed Adam Snyder as an option at center. Keeping only two tight ends on this initial roster was a mild surprise but also a reflection of Nate Byham's season-ending injury. Rookie Konrad Reuland will presumably wind up on the practice squad.

No-brainers: Rookie receiver Ronald Johnson was a draft choice with ties to the coaching staff from his days at USC, but he didn't do enough during preseason to warrant releasing a superior player. Johnson appears to be a candidate for the practice squad. Keeping safety Reggie Smith despite injury concerns also was a smart, predictable move. He was in line to start entering camp and should factor at the position eventually. Backup running backs Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter made it, with Hunter as the apparent favorite for the No. 2 role.

What's next: The 49ers will want to add a veteran backup quarterback at some point in the near future. Smith has durability and performance-related concerns. Kaepernick, though talented, does not appear ready to step in as a starter in the near term. McCown knows enough of the offense at this point to come back in a pinch, but the team could sign another veteran for Week 1.

Arizona Cardinals cutdown analysis

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
5:26
PM ET
The Arizona Cardinals have made their initial cuts to comply with the 53-man deadline Saturday.

Surprise move: Nothing too weighty here. The team kept four safeties initially instead of five, an indication that Adrian Wilson might be ready for the regular-season opener despite a torn biceps tendon. Veteran backup safety Matt Ware, signed as insurance when Wilson was hurt, was among those let go. Sixth-round pick Quan Sturdivant appeared to be on the bubble, but he made the initial 53-man roster. A couple veterans, namely punter Ben Graham and fullback Reagan Maui'a, lost roster spots to less-established players.

No-brainers: Deuce Lutui's status became topical throughout camp as he battled weight issues and played deep into the final preseason game. Keeping him around was a no-brainer, I thought, because Lutui can be an above-average starter. The Cardinals have him under contract on their terms after Lutui failed a physical with Cincinnati in free agency. Arizona is better on its line with Lutui as one of its options.

What's next: The Cardinals will be in the market for help at running back after losing rookie Ryan Williams to season-ending injury. Alfonso Smith made the cut initially, joining a group featuring Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling and rookie fullback Anthony Sherman.

The team has eight offensive linemen after placing Floyd Womack on injured reserve. That number is one lower than typical for NFL teams, but the Cardinals had only eight on their Week 1 roster last season. They opened their previous three seasons under Ken Whisenhunt with nine.

The secondary is another area to watch after Greg Toler landed on injured reserve earlier in the week. The team has eight defensive backs on its roster, including four corners (Patrick Peterson, A.J. Jefferson, Richard Marshall and Michael Adams). Arizona has had 11, nine, eight and 10 defensive backs on its Week 1 rosters, respectively, under Whisenhunt.

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