NFC West: Pacman Jones

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson's attempt to play meaningful snaps at wide receiver invites a look at other defensive backs with value as pass catchers.

There have not been many.



The chart shows defensive backs with more than one reception since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Mike Furrey, who spent three seasons with the St. Louis Rams, leads the way with 221 receptions. I thought of Furrey primarily as a receiver, but he did play safety as well.

Rashied Davis, who converted to receiver after entering the NFL as a cornerback, ranks second with 92 receptions.

Peterson is next with a mere four receptions.

The numbers in the chart suggest we should remain skeptical about any defensive back making significant contributions as a receiver, particularly when the player remains a core player on defense, which Peterson obviously is going to be.

Peterson is a special athlete. How much he contributes will hinge on how much the Cardinals need him and how well Peterson fares when given opportunities.

The staff in Arizona does appear serious about giving Peterson a chance. That's a start.
Two Arizona Cardinals mainstays, Adrian Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald, kick off this Thursday in the NFC West.

The team's latest offering in a series of well-produced videos profiles Wilson on and off the field. We see footage of a young, skinny Wilson playing high school basketball in High Point, N.C. We see the much more fearsome-looking current version leveling opponents on the football field. We see Wilson at the clothing store he owns in Arizona.

Watching this video should get any football fan anxious for the season. Wilson ranks high on a short list of NFC West players I've enjoyed watching the most over the past decade. He played well last season and expects to play faster in 2012 now that he has a firmer grasp of the defense Ray Horton installed on short notice a year ago.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald was putting into perspective his standing as the seventh-rated player on NFL Network's Top 100 list, as voted on by current players.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has the word from Fitzgerald: "Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement. I've completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal. Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players." The message continues with Fitzgerald's thoughts about returning to the championship stage.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals players following their participation in the rookie symposium. Michael Vick and Pacman Jones were among the speakers. Rookie Michael Floyd: "To hear a couple guys like that talk about their life journey and to hear their stories was a big eye-opening experience."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com has the details on Todd Brunner's hiring to replace Charlie Jackson as area scout for the Northeast. Noted: Brunner worked for the San Francisco 49ers from for the last decade. His former boss with the 49ers, Scot McCloughan, is entering his third season as a senior personnel executive with Seattle.

Also from Farnsworth: All Seahawks players are finished at the team's facility until training camp now that undrafted rookies have departed.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a look at the Seahawks' depth on the offensive line. O'Neil: "2011 showed that you never know where you're going to find -- or for that matter need -- able-bodied hosses to hold down the line. How many people projected Breno Giacomini to play such a significant role in 2011? ... And then there was [Paul] McQuistan, who didn't finish 2009 on an NFL roster."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Patrick Willis jumped from 23rd last year to 10th this year on the NFL Network's Top 100 list. Justin Smith was 17th after (somehow) not appearing on the list a year earlier. Noted: Every list will have oversights. It's unfathomable to think Smith did not appear a year ago. Maiocco notes that Frank Gore (28th), Vernon Davis (43rd), Joe Staley (67th), Carlos Rogers (69th) and NaVorro Bowman (85th) joined Smith and Willis on the list this year.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says various 49ers players are working out with a former kickboxing champion.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News explains why Santa Clara City Council members approved Joe Montana's plan for a hotel and restaurant near the 49ers' planned stadium. Rosenberg: "Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor, another stadium backer, said she was 'perplexed' and found it 'unbelievable' that anyone would oppose the idea. She said the land has been sitting vacant for years without interest, and now they have an opportunity to bring some 'star power' to the area."

Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times sorts through the Rams' options at outside linebacker. Van Bibber: "The truth of the matter is that the linebacking picture will always be something of a rotating image, with the notable exception of [James] Laurinaitis in the middle. You can count on seeing the nickel package often, and with it an extra defensive back. Hopefully, improvements in the middle of the defensive line and in the secondary limit the exposure of the outside linebackers. Chris Long and Robert Quinn could stand to improve in run defense as well." Noted: Outside linebacker figures to remain a weakness for the Rams simply because they could not realistically funnel sufficient resources toward every position. More on this subject in a bit.
The fourth and sixth cornerbacks drafted in 2012 are heading to the St. Louis Rams.

Johnson
Montana's Trumaine Johnson, chosen 65th overall and in the third round, joins second-round choice Janoris Jenkins (39th) in a rapidly evolving secondary.

Johnson has good size for a corner, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 204 pounds. Scouts Inc. gave him high marks Insider in all categories except intangibles and durability.

"Would benefit highly from a structured environment and demanding coach who will challenge him and hold him accountable," Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki wrote. "Has the tools to become a No. 1 corner if he can be managed properly and stay focused."

The Rams are clearly leaning on coach Jeff Fisher and staff to provide the structure and coaching needed for Jenkins and Johnson to realize their potential. Fisher has worked with mercurial players in the past, from Albert Haynesworth to Pacman Jones to Vince Young and others. He'll need to be right on Jenkins and Johnson for the Rams to maximize their first draft class with Fisher as head coach.
The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks get high marks from Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. Insider for their offseason moves and overall plan for the future.

Horton also ranks in order what he sees as the top six needs for each NFC West team heading toward the 2012 NFL draft.

Most of his needs line up with my perceptions, but one ranking jumped off the page: Horton ranks receiver as only the No. 6 need for the 49ers, behind guard, defensive line depth, cornerback depth, linebacker depth and tight end depth.

"While this position also looks deep, there are some question marks," Horton writes. "The 49ers have added Randy Moss (un-retired) and Mario Manningham (Giants) to the mix with Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. (re-signed), but how much does Moss have left? In a perfect world, Ginn would have a bigger role in the return game than at WR. This could be a luxury draft pick."

We might quibble with where receiver ranks among the 49ers' needs, but I would consider Horton's ranking yet another sign of the team's flexibility heading into the draft. Receiver is a need, but perhaps not a glaring one.

This is a nearly 2,000-word file from Horton covering lots of ground. I've singled out one note from each NFC West team for additional consideration. We've covered the 49ers at receiver. On to the other teams.

Arizona Cardinals

Horton on the receivers: "After Larry Fitzgerald, there isn't a lot to like about this position group for Arizona. The other potential starter is untested Andre Roberts, and Early Doucet fits best as a No. 3 WR. The Cardinals desperately need a true No. 2 to team with Fitzgerald because right now this is an easy pass offense to defend."

My take: I've offered a counterpoint, suggesting the Cardinals need better quarterback play to make fuller use of their offensive weapons. The points are not necessarily exclusive. Arizona definitely needs better quarterback play. We do not know whether Roberts can become a solid No. 2 receiver. Horton ranks offensive tackle as the bigger need for Arizona, and I would agree. It'll be tough to justify drafting a receiver 13th overall without having a second-round choice available to address the offensive line. That is a concern as long as the Cardinals are without a second-round choice.

Seattle Seahawks

Horton on the running backs: Re-signing Marshawn Lynch was a huge help for this run game, but the depth behind him needs to be upgraded. Veteran Leon Washington is the only legitimate backup and he is primarily a third-down back, although the Seahawks did re-sign the underrated Michael Robinson. Lynch is a violent runner, and that means he takes a lot of big hits, so a solid backup who could share some of his carries would help.

My take: This is a position to watch in the draft. Seattle did sign Kregg Lumpkin, a running back with good size, as a potential backup to Lynch. That signing doesn't necessarily settle the position, however. The Seahawks could not run their desired offense last season when Lynch wasn't available. That was because both backups, Washington and the unsigned Justin Forsett, fit the change-of-pace mold. Identifying a power runner for the No. 2 role would give the Seahawks needed insurance.

St. Louis Rams

Horton on the cornerbacks: The acquisition of UFA Cortland Finnegan from Tennessee was a huge move because this secondary was arguably the weakest unit in the NFL in 2011. Injuries devastated this group, and the unit they were forced to send out onto the field each week was embarrassing. Finnegan can match up against No. 1 WRs, but the Rams really need more quality CBs.

My take: Horton listed cornerback as only the Rams' fifth need. That was understandable because the Rams have so many needs throughout their roster. The team will have a dilemma if cornerback Morris Claiborne is the highest-rated player on their board when St. Louis is on the clock with the sixth overall choice. Adding Claiborne would dramatically upgrade the talent in the Rams' secondary, but it would not address the team's primary need for offensive weaponry. Coach Jeff Fisher's Tennessee Titans drafted a corner, Pacman Jones, with a sixth overall choice. General manager Les Snead was with Atlanta when the Falcons made cornerback DeAngelo Hall the eighth player chosen.

2012 Kiper mock 1.0: Rams thoughts

January, 18, 2012
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Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2012 provides the foundation for discussing how NFC West teams might proceed this offseason.

I'll conclude with a look at Kiper's plans for the St. Louis Rams, who hold the second choice.

2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.


Kiper's give: There's a clear value question here, because I think St. Louis could leverage this position to trade down for more picks for 2012 and into the future, and then still target Blackmon perhaps a few spots later. But if the Rams can't find a dance partner for a trade, Blackmon still represents precisely what this offense needs. It should be noted there are a number of teams drafting behind St. Louis that need an elite wide receiver.

Sando's take: Jeff Fisher will put his stamp on this draft class. Trading down makes the most sense given the Rams' many needs. Fisher wants to emphasize running the ball, protecting the quarterback and forcing turnovers. All coaches value those things, of course, but Fisher focuses more on them. Some offensive-minded coaches might be more inclined to talk about quarterback play, for example. Fisher's Titans twice used first-round picks for receivers, taking Kevin Dyson 16th overall (1998) and Kenny Britt 30th (2009). Adding a receiver early in the draft carries obvious appeal for the Rams. They appear less likely to re-sign Brandon Lloyd now that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has left for New England. Fisher's Titans and Houston Oilers picked among the top 10 overall three times. They chose Vince Young third (2006), Adam Jones sixth (2005) and Steve McNair (1995) third. Fisher was not the ultimate voice in personnel, however.

Silver linings: Seahawks vs. Bengals

October, 31, 2011
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The facts: The Seattle Seahawks fell to 2-5 with a 34-12 home defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • The team gained short-term clarity at quarterback when Tarvaris Jackson came off the bench to throw for 323 yards. He's the starter.
  • Seattle finished with two 100-yard receivers even though starter Mike Williams did not play. Sidney Rice caught seven passes for 102 yards. Ben Obomanu caught four passes for 107 yards. Rookie Doug Baldwin came relatively close to joining them, catching five passes for 73 yards. The team has upgraded dramatically at wide receiver.
  • The Seahawks held an opponent below 4.0 yards per rushing attempt for a 10th consecutive game. That includes all seven games this season, both playoff games last season and the Week 17 game against St. Louis.
  • Rookie cornerback Richard Sherman picked off a deep pass. He tipped another pass, leading to an interception for safety Kam Chancellor. Sherman was making his first start. He played well.
  • Punter Jon Ryan caught Bengals return specialist Pacman Jones, preventing a touchdown.
  • Leon Washington gained 14, 12 and 12 yards on his punt returns. He had kickoff returns of 34 and 43 yards. He gained 28 yards and six yards on his two rushes.
  • The Seahawks had five offensive plays gain at least 28 yards. They allowed one such play.
  • Heath Farwell made three tackles on kickoff returns. Those returns averaged 22.7 yards.
Looking ahead: The Seahawks visit the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9.

Rapid Reaction: Bengals 34, Seahawks 12

October, 30, 2011
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SEATTLE -- Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 34-12 home defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8:

What it means: The Seahawks are going to have a very hard time challenging within the division after losing back-to-back games against Cleveland and Cincinnati. They trail the San Francisco 49ers by four games in the standings with nine games remaining. No team since realignment in 2002 has overcome greater than a 3.5-game deficit this late in a season.

What I liked: Rookie cornerback Richard Sherman tracked the ball nicely and picked off Andy Dalton's deep pass down the right sideline when the Bengals were threatening to build on a 17-3 lead. Sherman was starting after the team lost Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond to season-ending injuries. He broke up another pass, enabling teammate Kam Chancellor to collect an interception. Punter Jon Ryan tracked down Bengals return specialist Pacman Jones to prevent a touchdown. Tarvaris Jackson's deep pass to Ben Obomanu against cornerback Leon Hall covered 55 yards and gave the Seahawks a needed jolt late in the third quarter. Jackson topped 300 yards passing, making it clear he needs to remain the starter moving forward.

What I didn't like: Seattle's offensive line, playing with its projected starters for the first time since Week 1, struggled in all phases. Tight end Anthony McCoy had another drop. Even Sidney Rice had some issues. On defense, Seattle gave up the big play to A.J. Green. Linebacker David Hawthorne, who picked off a pass against Cleveland last week, appeared to have the coverage when the Bengals, playing without starting tight end Jermaine Gresham, found Donald Lee for a big gain over the middle. The Bengals fared better than expected on the ground even though they were without Gresham and suspended running back Cedric Benson.

Poor game management: The first-half clock ran out on Seattle after the team went for it on fourth down deep in Bengals territory with no timeouts remaining. The sequence resembled what happened to the team against San Diego last season. Yes, officials arguably should have stopped the clock when Bengals players lingered on the pile, preventing Seattle from attempting another play. But every coach must factor for such risks. Seattle went into halftime trailing 17-3 when the score should have been 17-6, at worst. Down 17-12 with 8:55 to play in the game, Carroll opted for a two-point conversion, which failed.

Questionable QB juggling: Carroll left himself open to further criticism with his handling of the quarterback situation. Charlie Whitehurst started even though Jackson was available. Whitehurst struggled. Carroll switched to Jackson. If Jackson were healthy enough to play, why not start him? It was defensible for Carroll to see how things went with Whitehurst, possibly buying additional time for Jackson to make a fuller recovery. The team listed Jackson as its starter before the game, only to send Whitehurst onto the field for the first series. Jackson took a hit late in the game, after the outcome was decided, and doctors checked out his knee on the sideline. He went back into the game and tossed an interception for a touchdown, turning a sound defeat into an embarrassing one.

CB thinking rewarded: The Seahawks traded Kelly Jennings to the Bengals before the season as part of an overall effort to get bigger at cornerback. That thinking appeared sound when Sherman used his size to make that leaping interception along the sideline. Sherman also contributed on the interception from Chancellor. Meanwhile, Seahawks undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin beat Jennings for a 31-yard gain up the right sideline.

Special-teams implosion: The Seahawks' special teams have dropped off this season through a combination of injuries and poor play. Brandon Tate's 56-yard punt return for a touchdown put away the game for the Bengals. Jones probably should have scored on an earlier return, but Ryan caught him. Jones apparently injured his hamstring injury on the play.

Injuries of note: Defensive end Chris Clemons left the game with a knee injury, then returned.

What's next: The Seahawks visit the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9.

2011 NFL draft: Cornerback conundrum

March, 11, 2011
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LSU's Patrick Peterson might be the best player in the 2011 NFL draft, but history stands firmly against him becoming the first overall choice.

A cornerback has never gone first overall in a draft.

Pat Yasinskas' piece on the matter got me thinking about the Arizona Cardinals' and San Francisco 49ers' outlook for the position this year. Arizona picks fifth. San Francisco picks seventh. A cornerback could stand as the highest-ranked player available when the Cardinals and 49ers choose. San Francisco in particular has a clear need at the position.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireCoverage skills and the ability to return kicks make Patrick Peterson a valuable commodity.
What to do? And what about that history on taking cornerbacks early in the draft?

Let's set aside quarterback for the sake of this discussion. The 49ers and Cardinals both need one. Both would have to strongly consider drafting one in the first round if they had one of the prospects rated highly. Let's assume, for our purposes, that they head in another direction near the top of the draft.

Scouting reports on Peterson suggest he's a special talent, not only at cornerback but as a returner. The 49ers could use his services in both capacities.

The Cardinals have more pressing needs in other areas. Their new defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, is a former secondary coach and NFL cornerback. He'll have a strong opinion on Peterson, but he also badly needs pass-rush help at outside linebacker. If the Cardinals have an outside linebacker rated nearly as high as Peterson, they'll have to consider upgrading their pass rush.

A quick look at the eight cornerbacks drafted among the top seven overall choices in the past 15 drafts, ordered by overall position:

Third overall

Shawn Springs, Seattle Seahawks (1997): Springs picked off 33 passes and went to one Pro Bowl in 13 seasons. Injuries dogged him. He started 10 or fewer games six times. Springs also served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and anabolic substances. Springs was a good player for a long time, but his raw talent suggested he would make a greater impact.

Fourth overall

Charles Woodson, Oakland Raiders (1998): Woodson is a seven-time Pro Bowl choice. He was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He played a key role in Green Bay's development into a Super Bowl champion. Woodson has 47 interceptions and has returned 10 of them for touchdowns. These are the sorts of credentials that will make Woodson a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Fifth overall

Terence Newman, Dallas Cowboys, 2003: Newman has two Pro Bowl appearances in his past four seasons and 28 career interceptions. He has started 16 games six times in eight seasons. The Cowboys signed Newman to a lucrative extension in 2008. They like him. Newman is a very good player. Sometimes that is good enough, even for prospects drafted this early. The two players drafted immediately after Newman -- Johnathan Sullivan and Byron Leftwich -- make the Cowboys' decision look quite smart by comparison.

Bryant Westbrook, Detroit Lions, 1997: Injuries derailed Westbrook's career, preventing complete analysis. Westbrook suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in his fourth season and another one in his sixth season. He was out of the league by age 28. Westbrook picked off 13 passes and bounced back from injuries admirably, but they caught up to him in the end.

Quentin Jammer, San Diego Chargers, 2002: The Chargers named Jammer one of the 50 greatest players in their history despite perceptions that he hasn't quite lived up to expectations. Those perceptions could be misguided. Jammer is not flashy, but he is a good, durable cornerback. Nnamdi Asomugha and Champ Bailey have overshadowed him in the AFC West and made it tough for Jammer to earn Pro Bowl recognition.

Sixth overall

Pacman Jones, Tennessee Titans (2005): Off-field problems ran Jones out of the league. He returned with Cincinnati but has not come close to meeting expectations.

Seventh overall

Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns (2010): Haden picked off six passes during his rookie season. It's too early to size up his career, obviously, but Haden is off to a promising start.

Champ Bailey, Washington Redskins (1999): Ten Pro Bowl appearances and shutdown coverage skills make Bailey an obvious choice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not much more to say.
Seth from Newport News, Va., writes: As a Rams fan I am excited for the new draft class, but to hand out Orlando Pace's and Torry Holt's numbers should not happen. While I am hoping Rodger Saffold and Mardy Gilyard will be good, I don't agree with giving them those numbers.
Mike Sando: I'm with you to an extent, particularly with the Seahawks retiring Walter Jones' number upon his retirement Friday. But with more than 90 players in camp, a few players are already doubling up and teams can't realistically withhold jersey numbers for every top former player.

I also think it matters how a player leaves an organization. The Rams' new regime cut Pace and Holt. Might things have been different if both players had retired as Rams instead of moving on to play elsewhere?

The Cardinals traded all-time receiving leader Anquan Boldin to the Ravens, then gave his No. 81 jersey to seventh-round rookie tight end Jim Dray. Seahawks rookie Russell Okung is wearing Steve Hutchinson's old No. 76 jersey. Roger Craig was a Hall of Fame finalist this year; the 49ers gave his No. 33 to rookie sixth-round running back Anthony Dixon.

At least the Rams had the good sense to give tight end Brandon Manumaleuna's old No. 86 to rookie tight end Mike Hoomanawanui.


Glenn from Seattle writes: Mike, on the ESPN homepage top stories links, the title of the Walter Jones link is, "Seahawks' four-time All-Pro tackle Jones retires." So, was he in FOUR Pro Bowls as they said there? Or was he in TEN, as you said in your article?

Mike Sando: My pieces on Jones actually said he was a nine-time Pro Bowl choice, which was accurate. He was also a four-time All-Pro choice. There is a distinction. The Associated Press holds voting for All-Pro honors, which are more exclusive because they are league-wide honors, whereas Pro Bowl honors are conference-based. Fewer players earn All-Pro status than Pro Bowl status. Former Rams great Isaac Bruce was a four-time Pro Bowl choice, but he was never selected to an Associated Press All-Pro team.


Jeremy from Phoenix writes: Hey, Mike. My question is in regards to the Cardinals' cornerback situation. With the Bryant McFadden trade, Greg Toler clearly becomes the starter opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. I'm no expert, but I think Toler will develop into a good starter. Beyond that, there is a clear depth issue. It appears as though the third and fourth corners on the depth chart will be Michael Adams and sixth-rounder Jorrick Calvin.

I'm not too comfortable with that idea and I'm confident many other Cards fans aren't as well. What do you think about the Cardinals pursuing Adam "Pacman" Jones? He would come at a reasonable price and could potentially provide solid depth once he gets re-acclimated to the game. He could provide some competition for punt/kick return duties.

The Cards seem to have the coaching staff and locker room that can handle a character like Pacman. Who knows, maybe Pacman is finally serious about getting his career on track and living up to the potential he came into the league with. Why not take a chance on a guy of his potential talent, at a position of need, for a reasonable price?

Mike Sando: I agree that the cornerback situation appears worse without McFadden. Sure, McFadden was making lots of money and Toler's emergence could provide a cheaper alternative, but the depth did take a hit along the way.

Adams was working with the first unit when the post-draft minicamp opened, but Toler is clearly the player Arizona expects to emerge eventually. This is a case where the Cardinals know their young, unproven depth and like it better than outsiders would.

I see little reason to waste anyone's time with Pacman Jones. The Cowboys already gave him that second chance and it didn't work out. Jones has not played since the 2008 season and he has not played well since the 2006 season. I think the Cardinals' track record shows they can develop younger players. Jones' track record shows he isn't going to develop at all, most likely.


Connor from Tampa, Fla., writes: Hey Mike, great blog! Is it conceivable that Taylor Mays is a better fit at linebacker for the 49ers? All I hear about him are his lack of coverage skills, but that he is excellent against the run, what are your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Connor. I think Mays could be good against the run -- for a safety, but not for a linebacker. The conversion from run-support safety at USC to run-support safety with the 49ers would be easier than the conversion from run-support safety to all-around linebacker.

It's not like Mays was horrible at USC. People just thought there was a big gap between his physical talent and his actual production, particularly against the pass.

The 49ers need to help Mays become more well-rounded for the long term. In the short term, they need to find ways to use the skills he does offer as a safety. Seattle is doing this with first-round pick Earl Thomas. They will make Thomas a coverage safety because that role suits his skills and relatively small frame. They will not pretend he's an enforcer.

Mays should become a hard-hitting safety for the 49ers, not an underpowered linebacker trying to learn a new position. League-wide, the distinction between strong safeties and free safeties has largely gone away. Teams generally want their safeties to be good in coverage. The 49ers will not want to leave Mays exposed in coverage, at least for now.

Draft Watch: NFC West

March, 31, 2010
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NFC History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: History in that spot.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams' decision at No. 1 will likely come down to quarterback Sam Bradford or defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy.

NFL teams have taken three quarterbacks first overall in the past five years. Alex Smith (49ers, 2005) has been mostly disappointing, although he has shown signs of progress lately. JaMarcus Russell (Raiders, 2007) is looking like a flat-out bust. Matthew Stafford (Lions, 2009) hasn't played long enough for anyone to know.

The Rams won't find much comfort in analyzing defensive tackles taken first overall lately. NFL teams haven't drafted one first overall since the Bengals selected "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson in 1994.

Nine of the last 15 top picks were quarterbacks. Four were linemen. One was a running back. One was a receiver.

Seattle Seahawks

The sixth overall choice is high enough for Seattle to select the top-rated player at one of the less important positions. That's what the Redskins did when they drafted safety LaRon Landry sixth in 2007 and what the 49ers did when they chose tight end Vernon Davis sixth a year earlier.

The alternative could be selecting the second-rated player at one of the marquee positions. Andre Smith (Bengals, 2009) was the second offensive tackle selected in his class. Vernon Gholston (Jets, 2008) was the second defensive end in his class, though he became a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

It's also possible the Seahawks could find the first offensive tackle or defensive end available at No. 6. The probably won't look for a cornerback that early. Adam "Pacman" Jones (Titans, 2005) was the last corner taken sixth overall.

The Seahawks also hold the 14th overall choice. Three of the last five players taken in that spot were defensive backs, including the Jets' sensational Darrelle Revis. The Bears found the third-rated tackle at No. 14 when they drafted Chris Williams in 2008, but Seattle probably will not have that option in this draft. Too many teams ahead of the Seahawks could be targeting tackles. It's one reason Seattle could take one sixth.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers could use an offensive tackle. The 13th overall choice hasn't been particularly lucky at the position. The Saints' Jammal Brown, chosen 13th in 2005, is the only offensive lineman selected in the spot since the Houston Oilers drafted Brad Hopkins in 1993.

Relatively few offensive linemen have gone between the 11th and 16th picks during that time.

The last four picks at No. 13: defensive end Brian Orakpo (Redskins, 2009), running back Jonathan Stewart (Panthers, 2008), defensive lineman Adam Carriker (Rams, 2007), defensive end Kamerion Wimbley (Browns, 2006). Orakpo and Wimbley are 3-4 outside linebackers. The 49ers could use another one of those.

San Francisco also holds the 17th overall choice. Guard Steve Hutchinson (Seahawks, 2001) was the last true star taken in that slot. More recently, defensive ends Jarvis Moss (Broncos, 2007) and David Pollack (Bengals, 2005) haven't panned out. Moss reportedly contemplated retirement amid struggles adapting to a 3-4 scheme last season. A neck injury forced Pollack into retirement before he had a chance to develop.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals could use another linebacker and they could do much worse than finding a player as good as Clay Matthews, who went to Green Bay at No. 26 last year.

The 26th spot, which also produced potential Hall of Famers Alan Faneca and Ray Lewis years ago, hasn't been as kind to other teams recently.

Tackle Duane Brown (Texans, 2008), defensive end Anthony Spencer (Cowboys, 2007), defensive tackle John McCargo (Bills, 2006), center Chris Spencer (Seahawks, 2005) were 26th overall picks.

The Cardinals can't do much worse than the 49ers have fared at No. 26. San Francisco drafted tackle Kwame Harris (2006) and quarterback Jim Druckenmiller (1997) in that spot.
Adam "Pacman" Jones' agent might need to update plans for his client.

Trent Baalke, the 49ers' top personnel man after Scot McCloughan's departure, said the team has no interest.

That settles that.

It's been a while for Pacman

March, 26, 2010
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Adam "Pacman" Jones' value to the 49ers or any team would presumably include what he offers in the return game.

Jones is only 26, but he hasn't played since 2008, when he averaged 4.5 yards per punt return on 21 chances over nine games with Dallas. He previously returned punts for the Titans in 2006, averaging 12.9 yards and scoring three touchdowns on his 34 returns.

This would have to be a low-risk transaction for the 49ers or any team to seriously consider Jones, whose off-field troubles have overshadowed anything he accomplished in the game. Significant money presumably would not be on the line.

Teams talk about wanting high-character players and that's genuine to a degree, but these decisions often come down to how much money is at risk. If a team could sign Jones and then easily cut him, the risks are minimized.

The 49ers could certainly use help in their return game.

Update: 49ers player personnel director Trent Baalke says the 49ers have no interest in Jones, contrary to comments from Jones' agent.

Around the NFC West: Porter watch

March, 16, 2010
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Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals appear to be a good fit for Joey Porter, although nothing is imminent. Urban: "The combination of a) the right type of defense, b) an opening at his position, c) a city near his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. and d) a coaching staff with which he is comfortable just seems to smart for the two sides not to eventually come together. And until there is another team that brings him in for a visit, I’m not sure of Porter’s options anyway."

Also from Urban: a photo showing Derek Anderson and Paris Lenon visiting Cardinals headquarters. Anderson and Charlie Whitehurst remain options at quarterback. Matt Leinart and the retiring Kurt Warner are the only quarterbacks on the Cardinals' roster. Warner will presumably wind up on the reserve/retired list at some point.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News passes along a transcript from David Carr's first media interview since signing with the 49ers. Carr on getting a chance to compete for the starting job: "Specifically, those words haven’t been said, but they have said that competition is what they love around here. It makes you feel better. One of Singletary’s things is, 'Iron sharpens iron.' The thing that I wanted to hear, from all those guys, was I'll have a chance to be on the field if I play the way I know I can play and they said, 'Yes.' Once I get on the field, I feel confident that we are going to play well."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers coach Mike Singletary will not attend a workout for Pacman Jones, contrary to some reports. Barrows: "In fact, the 49ers are holding their premiere fundraising event, the Celebrity Winter & Wine Fest, at Lake Tahoe this weekend, and Singletary will attend that."

Also from Barrows: Carr hasn't run the digit system since playing for Jeff Tedford at Fresno State.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Shaun Hill takes pride in the 49ers' 10-6 record when he started. Hill: "Yeah, no question. I feel like every time I was on the field, everybody around me really stepped up and played well. And we were able to put together a pretty decent record. I had a lot of fun doing it. It's just unfortunate that it wasn't enough. Like I said, I'm excited to get a fresh start."

Also from Maiocco: audio from an alarming interview with Carr (alarming as in, a car alarm was going off in the background).

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the Seahawks began their offseason program with meetings Monday. Coach Pete Carroll is already looking forward to practices down the line.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks safety Deon Grant knew about his impending release for a few days. Grant: "I don't have anything bad to say about them. They gave me the opportunity to come and continue my career."

Also from O'Neil: The Seahawks have scheduled a visit with running back Quinton Ganther after watching Mike Bell leave without a contract.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Democrat says the Rams could target former Panthers linebacker Na'il Diggs to replace Lenon after Lenon signed with the Cardinals. Diggs played for Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole in Carolina. Thomas: "Diggs came to Carolina as a weakside linebacker from Green Bay in '06, only to switch to the strongside spot a couple of years ago to make room for Thomas Davis on the weak side. Diggs is considered a solid veteran who's good against the run."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Marc Bulger was at Rams headquarters for the start of the offseason program despite expectations that his salary and other issues could make him vulnerable to release. A year ago, the Rams asked Orlando Pace and Torry Holt to stay away from offseason workouts, a prelude to their release.

Also from Balzer: Receiver Danny Amendola was the largest earner among Rams players tapping into the bonus pool for players exceeding expectations for playing time. Balzer also lists league leaders, including Dashon Goldson and Josh Morgan from the Rams and David Hawthorne from the Seahawks.

2005 DB class finds way to NFC West

March, 10, 2009
3/10/09
12:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Pick
Team First 20 Defensive Backs in 2005 NFL Draft
Status
6
TEN Pacman Jones
Free Agent
8
ARI Antrel Rolle
Starting FS
9
WAS Carlos Rogers
Starting CB
14
CAR Thomas Davis
Starting LB
23
OAK Fabian Washington
With Ravens
29
IND
Marlin Jackson
Knee Rehab
34
CLE Brodney Pool
Starting FS
38
OAK
Stanford Routt
Nickel CB
40
NO Josh Bullocks
UFA
43
NYG Corey Webster
Starting CB
50
STL Ron Bartell
Starting CB
51
GB Nick Collins
Starting FS
56
DEN
Darrent Williams
Deceased
57
NYJ Justin Miller
Raiders Backup
60
IND Kelvin Hayden
Starting CB
62
PIT Bryant McFadden
With Cardinals
66
STL Oshiomogho Atogwe
Starting FS
72
DET Stanley Wilson
UFA
75
ARI
Eric Green
UFA
76
DEN Karl Paymah
UFA
Four of the first 20 defensive backs chosen in the 2005 NFL draft call the NFC West home after the Cardinals signed Bryant McFadden from the Steelers in free agency.

A fifth, Eric Green, recently paid a free-agent visit to the 49ers after four seasons with Arizona. A sixth, Karl Paymah, also visited San Francisco.

The Rams' former front office qualifies for criticism on numerous fronts, but the team did emerge from the 2005 draft with half its projected starting secondary in Ron Bartell and Oshiomogho Atogwe.

The Cardinals can feel better about selecting Antrel Rolle with the eighth pick now that the sixth choice, Adam "Pacman" Jones, is out of the league. Rolle made a successful transition to free safety after failing to realize his potential as a cornerback.

Mailbag: More carries for Gore, please

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
11:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Thanks for filling the mailbag. In the early days of this blog, I responded to almost every mailbag submission, usually in the mailbag itself. We're getting lots more submissions as the blog hopefully gains some momentum. I read them all, respond to many and use quite a few of them here in the mailbag. Thanks again for your contributions. Now, on to the mailbag ...

Adam from Onarga, Ill., writes: Frank Gore is averaging 4.9 yards a carry, yet he isn't getting the touches you would expect. Is Mike Martz still stuck in his woeful Lions mentality where the running back talent was quite weak? I feel that Martz is wasting talent in a great running back many teams wish they could have.

Mike Sando: I think Mike Martz has remained committed to Gore most of the time. However, we've seen a couple of key situations when going away from Gore proved costly. The 49ers ran only a few plays in the third quarter of the New England game. Gore got no carries. That would be one example. The way Martz handled the fourth quarter against the Eagles also opened him to criticism on this subject.

Gore is averaging 17.8 carries per game, 13th in the league. I've got Gore with 129 touches (carries plus receptions). These five players have more: Matt Forte (154), Clinton Portis (145), Adrian Peterson (140), Marion Barber (140) and Michael Turner (131). Those players' teams have all run more offensive plays this season, in some cases quite a few more.

The criticism you make seems fair situationally, if not cumulatively. By the way, if anyone has a link to stats that include most touches, please provide it. I imported receiving and rushing stats and then set up a formula to total receptions and rushes. Thanks in advance.

(Read full post)

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