NFC West: Pete Hoener
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects no significant changes to the Cardinals' offensive staff this offseason. Somers: "Whisenhunt clearly doesn't think changing his offensive staff is warranted. I look for him to turn more of the play calling duties, perhaps all of it, to passing game coordinator Mike Miller next year. I think that will be the only significant change, unless one of his position coaches gets an offer he can't pass up."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team has re-signed fullback Charles Ali.
Also from Urban: a look at plays that defined the 2010 season for Arizona. Urban: "The quarterback shuffle clearly became a major storyline of the season. The first imprint came in San Diego. With the Cards struggling on both sides of the ball and trailing 21-7 (with a Kerry Rhodes fumble return the only Arizona score), Anderson threw an interception returned by linebacker Shaun Phillips 31 yards for a touchdown. When the Cards got the ball back moments later, it was rookie Max Hall – who had briefly played at the end of the Atlanta loss – getting his first significant playing time. It turned into his first start the following week, and from that point on, Hall, Anderson and rookie John Skelton all received their own chunk of time in the starting lineup."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with ESPN's Trent Dilfer for thoughts on Matt Hasselbeck's prospects at Chicago. Dilfer: "If you do what he thinks you’re going to do, and he has any time in the pocket whatsoever, he’s going to slice and dice you. That’s well known throughout the league. I was shocked that the Saints didn’t change things up on him more. They know that about him. And I’m just moving forward to this Bears’ game -- same thing. And I went back and watched the Week 6 matchup -- and I know very little carries over from earlier in the season, I get all of that -- but he was so comfortable with what he was looking at in that game, too. ... Rod Marinelli has to give him some change-ups, especially in the first quarter to occupy some space in his brain. If his brain isn’t cluttered, look for Matthew to deal in this game as well."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seattle linebacker Will Herring, who can't recall quite when he suffered a broken wrist in the wild-card game against New Orleans.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times puts Marshawn Lynch's run in perspective by ranking 10 moments in Seattle sports history. Condotta: "The most memorable moment of the first era of Seahawks football might have been an a unlikely play from a most likely source -- a hit by Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent on Denver DB Mike Harden on Dec. 11, 1988. Harden had earlier in the season delivered an illegal hit on Largent that drew a $5,000 fine in a Seahawks loss in Denver. A few months later, when Harden picked off a pass, Largent got his revenge, forcing a fumble with a hard shoulder-first hit that leveled Harden. Better yet, Largent got the recovery as Seattle earned a key victory on its way to its first division title."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a step-by-step look at Lynch's run.
Also from Condotta and O'Neil: Seahawks notes, including one on Raheem Brock's contributions to the Seattle pass rush.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says Russell Okung hasn't been healthy all season. Kelley: "Drafting Okung was the right call. But it seems he's lived a haunted life since draft day. Because he held out, he missed the early days of camp, the important tutoring and technique days before the games began. Then he injured his right ankle in August and missed the first three regular-season games. Then he injured the other ankle in his third NFL start. When he left the practice field Thursday, Okung still noticeably was favoring his left ankle."
Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com looks at ways the team will stay warm and hydrated in cold conditions at Soldier Field. Malcolmson: "More than 3,000 extra pounds of equipment is being transported to Chicago, raising the cargo load from 14,000 pounds to 17,000 pounds. Besides the suspected winter gear, the equipment department is also packing battery-heated jackets and gloves, cases of hand and foot warmers and enough thermal gear to suit up the traveling party of more than 130 players and staff."
Rod Mar of seahawks.com offers photos from practice Thursday.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams general manager Billy Devaney gives outgoing offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur credit for helping to develop quarterback Sam Bradford. Devaney: "He played a huge part, on and off the field. He helped Sam through the trials and tribulations that a rookie quarterback goes through, dealing with a lot of issues. And then obviously, with the on-field stuff, Pat was a tremendous asset. I think Sam would be the first to tell you what a huge part Pat played in his development."
Also from Thomas: What happens next for the Rams? Thomas: "The two names most commonly mentioned as possible replacements are former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels and former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress. Both were fired in the 2010 regular season, and both have backgrounds in offense. McDaniels already has been interviewed by Minnesota for the offensive coordinator job there; Childress is headed to Miami to interview for the same position there, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Childress is one of Spagnuolo's best friends in the business; they worked together for several years on Reid's staff in Philadelphia. Childress would run a version of the West Coast scheme. McDaniels' background is different. The former Bill Belichick protégé in New England favors a more wide-open passing game with more downfield throws. Spagnuolo didn't talk specifics about candidates Thursday."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ranks Ndamukong Suh and Maurkice Pouncey as the top two rookies for 2010, ahead of Bradford. Bradford, through the nature of his position, had a greater impact on his team than Suh or Pouncey. Suh and Pouncey were better at their positions. It then comes down to criteria for the award. Miklasz: "Bradford is the most valuable rookie in the league, because he had more impact in transforming a franchise than any player that entered the NFL in 2010. There is absolutely no question about that. I don't know if any NFL player was more valuable -- when we consider off-field impact -- than Bradford this season. But again, if we're limiting the discussion to on-field performance, I have no problem with Suh getting the honor."
Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Shurmur's hiring in Cleveland comes as Rams fans complained about the offense's approach. Ross Tucker: "It's so easy in hindsight to blame a play-caller for a certain play because it didn't work. That's always in hindsight. There are a lot of good plays where it was a horrible play call but the defense just screwed up. And vice-versa. There's some great play calls but an offensive lineman misses a block or does this . . . and it doesn't work either. I've never been a big guy second-guessing play-callers or offensive coordinators. There's really only about three, maybe four fan bases in the NFL that really like their offensive coordinator. Think about this, Sean Payton, of the Saints. People like Sean Payton. Then he has that handoff to Julius Jones on fourth and one and now people are criticizing him."
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis offers names of potential candidates to replace Shurmur. John Ramsdell, Bill Musgrave, Jim Zorn and Chris Palmer are on his list. Stull: "Ramsdell helped in the development of Kurt Warner and also helped Marc Bulger to one of his career best years in 2004. Since leaving the Rams, he has been the quarterbacks coach in San Diego, where he has developed Philip Rivers. Ramsdell could be in demand elsewhere, as his name has come up as a possibility to join Ron Rivera in Carolina. One other note, Ramsdell graduated from Springfield College -- same as Steve Spagnuolo."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says during a chat that he doesn't see Donovan McNabb as a good fit for the 49ers. Maiocco: "Mike Shanahan had him for less than a year and decided he wanted no part of him. And he runs the West Coast system. Is McNabb going to work with a young QB? If the 49ers get a guy in the draft they think is their future, that’ll influence which vet they pursue — a short-term fix (Matt Hasselbeck?) or long-term solution (Kevin Kolb?)."
Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are closer to putting together a staff now that Stanford has named a head coach.
More from Maiocco: Nate Clements will not be back under terms of his current contract. Clements' salary moves past $7 million in 2011. Maiocco: "The 49ers are expected to approach Clements in the next six weeks to negotiate a new deal. If the sides are unable to reach an agreement, the 49ers would release Clements -- either before the collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3 or after the new CBA is agreed upon."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provides updates on the 49ers' coaching staff. Barrows: "Tight ends coach Pete Hoener, a favorite of tight end Vernon Davis, interviewed with the Redskins this week, according to a team source."
Also from Maiocco: highlights from Jed York's news conference. York: "I've spoken to a lot of people that have been in and around the game this season to get their feedback on how to build a team. I think when you look at teams that have been successful out there, it's not about hiring the flashiest name as your head coach or GM or both. It's about making sure the GM and head coach are really working together. you need your general manager, and your general manager is a person who is going to live and die with the coach."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a Mike Singletary timeline.
Also from Barrows: The 49ers are in a situation similar to the one they encountered in 2005.
More from Barrows: Unlike in 2005, the 49ers plan to hire a general manager before they hire a head coach.
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat wonders whether York has what it takes to hire the right general manager. Cohn: "Jed cannot allow himself to be alone in the interview room with general-manager candidates. He doesn’t know what questions to ask. So much depends on knowing the questions and evaluating the answers. Jed needs wise old heads in the room with him, men who have done it before. How about Carmen Policy and/or John McVay? How about people from the league office? I know for a fact the league wants to help the Yorks because it wants a stronger team in San Francisco."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Singletary's firing was more emotional for linebacker Patrick Willis.
Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says hiring Singletary was a mistake, with the team rushing into the decision as if eager to appease a fan base.
Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says hiring a GM before hiring a coach is a wise move.
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are in their current mess because York brought them there. Ostler: "Twice in a row, York -- with assists from his mom and dad -- hired spectacularly wrong coaches. York, 29, has to get it right this time, because you know what the rule is in hiring people to lead your team: Three strikes and you're out ... unless you own the team, in which case you can take all the mulligans you want."
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says York is conceding he needs help to field a winner.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are 2-1 with John Skelton as their starting quarterback even though Skelton has not completed even 50 percent of his passes in a game. Multiple return touchdowns put Skelton in position to win against Dallas. There was little sustainable about the performance on offense. Somers: "It's doubtful that Skelton will have shown the Cardinals enough to keep them from pursuing a veteran quarterback this off-season. Skelton has completed just 46 percent of his passes, and he has just one touchdown pass in 101 throws. But he does not have an interception, and he made two important throws during the game-winning drive against the Cowboys. The first was a 26-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald on fourth-and-15, and the second was a 19-yard pass to Max Komar, a play Skelton made after escaping pressure."
Also from Somers: Skelton does appear to do a good job keeping his composure.
More from Somers: Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson has rejoined the team after a scare Saturday. Somers: "Secondary coach Donnie Henderson is back at work after missing last Saturday's game. Henderson apparently blacked out while driving down a ramp at the stadium and spent the night at a local hospital. Doctors are still evaluating tests, but it appears Henderson might have been dehyrdrated. He watched the game from the hospital. Given that two of Henderson's DBs returned interceptions for touchdowns, Henderson might have to beg to be in attendance for the finale against the 49ers."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks the Cardinals' defensive linemen are better suited for the 3-4 than for a 4-3 defense.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals are taking a wait-and-see approach at quarterback. Urban: "There was much praise coming from Whisenhunt Monday toward his young QB, but also much caution. Whisenhunt has repeatedly raved about Skelton’s accountability and temperament for the position. He noted the improvisation skills Skelton showed on the crucial pass to Max Komar -- on the move under pressure -- that set up the game-winning field goal, and the coolness in which Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald on fourth down. He likes the idea Skelton can scramble for a few yards when necessary. Yet there are still issues like calling plays, communicating the offense, even fumbling the snap that teammate Steve Breaston was forced to fall upon to save a turnover."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows what critics might be thinking. Spagnuolo: "Here's what I know about this league: if you have one more point than they do at the end of the game, it all counts the same. The goal is to win the football game. Now again, I would say this. There may be another game going forward where you do it differently. We chose to do it this way, it happened to work out, so this time we were right. Could it have bitten us in the butt? Maybe, yeah. But just all things considered and the way it was going and what we were doing on both sides of the ball, I thought it was the right thing. ... And that's all on me. I'll take the full blame if there is blame, you put it that way."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Danario Alexander is getting more playing time for the Rams.
Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says moving the Rams' Week 17 game to prime time hurts the local affiliate that had been carrying Rams games this season.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks ahead to the Rams' game at Seattle and wonders whether the team, and specifically Spagnuolo, will be uptight.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams seem fine with the idea of playing in prime time. James Laurinaitis: "I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited to play in this game. It's exciting. It's exciting for the fans, and it's exciting for us to be in a situation where all America is watching."
Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues why the Rams were conservative with a lead against the 49ers. Thomas: "The Rams have a defensive-oriented head coach in Steve Spagnuolo, and that usually means a conservative approach offensively. Spagnuolo has enough confidence in his defense that he’s more than willing to put the game on their shoulders at various times. The tactic has worked most of the time against lesser teams and mediocre teams, but will it be the right thing to do when the Rams are matched up with elite teams in the future? Maybe we’ll find out in the playoffs."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team hopes to get tight end Mike Hoomanawanui back from injury this week. Also: "The Rams will not be adjusting their travel schedule at all. They will travel on Saturday afternoon to Seattle and get in around the same time they normally would. The only change is a little different game day because of the wait for the game. But other than that, it will be business as usual."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers notes as the team prepares to face the Rams in Week 17. Coach Pete Carroll on left tackle Russell Okung: "Russell did reinjure his ankle some. He’s still hobbling a little bit. If you watch him closely, he’s not 100 percent. But he was determined to get back. The docs were trying to sit him down for a bit and let it rest. He said, 'I can go. I can go.' So we shoved him back out there and he did. He did a nice job of finishing the game. It’s a factor in his play. It is what it is. We’ve just got to keep trying to help him get through it."
Also from Farnsworth: Matt Hasselbeck is determined to play against the Rams, but the Seahawks are preparing as though Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says, among other things, that the Seahawks cannot run against anyone. O'Neil: "Not even the Bucs, who were allowing a league-high 4.9 yards per carry entering the game with a defense missing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Marshawn Lynch's 29-yarder in the first quarter was promising. Trouble was that one run accounted for nearly one-third of Seattle's rushing yardage in the game. Seattle still hasn't had a back rush for more than 100 yards this season."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers highlights from Carroll's news conference Monday. Boling: "He acknowledged the oddity of a six-win team still contending for a playoff berth, calling it an 'interesting finish to the season.' "
Also from Boling: thoughts on this strange Seahawks season. Boling: "I saw this as a rebuilding season, with it taking time to assimilate and improve. Not one in which they would peak in October."
More from Boling: Whitehurst is the quarterback for now.
Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Carroll was in a similar situation when he coached the Patriots.
When Davis was frustrated by his limited role in the offense run by former coordinator Mike Martz in 2008 -- a system that too often required him to help with pass protection -- Davis asked tight ends coach Pete Hoener how he could get recognition with so few opportunities to catch the ball. Once Hoener suggested that Davis block his way into people's minds, Davis earned Pro Bowl alternate status despite catching just 31 passes. When Hoener informed him of the honor, Davis cried in his car on the way home from practice.
Davis' finest blocking performance during that 2008 season might have come against 2010 Week 2 opponent New Orleans. Davis did not make big plays during the regular-season opener, but he did catch eight passes for 73 yards. That would project to 128 receptions for 1,168 yards over a full season, although the 49ers will probably distribute the ball more evenly in the future.
It's pretty clear the Cardinals do more with less than the other teams in the division. They have fewer assistants than the other teams in the NFC West.
In most cases, I have recreated official titles for each assistant coach. That explains why the Cardinals have no offensive coordinator listed (Russ Grimm coordinates the running game, Mike Miller coordinates the passing game and Ken Whisenhunt calls the plays). I did not create a special category for 49ers receivers coach Jerry Sullivan (he also carries the title senior assistant). Seattle's Carroll is also executive vice president. I did not create an extra category to reflect that title.
I have listed no offensive line coach for the Cardinals. Grimm handles those duties. The 49ers do not list a defensive quality control coach, but clearly someone must break down the upcoming opponents' offensive video (I am checking to see which assistant handles those duties). Update: Outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver handles those duties. Also, I updated the chart to reflect Curtis Modkins' departure from the Cardinals to become Buffalo's offensive coordinator. Ray Brown is the new assistant offensive line coach in San Francisco.
The Rams are expected to hire a receivers coach after Charlie Baggett left. They could hire an assistant offensive line coach to replace Art Valero, who took the same job with Seattle. The 49ers might need to find a new offensive quality-control coach (Shane Day is interviewing with the Bears to coach quarterbacks for Mike Martz).
The Rams and Seahawks list special assistants to the head coach. These are largely administrative positions.
Solari passed, instead joining the 49ers in the same job he held with Seattle.
The Rams offered assistant offensive line coach Art Valero a contract extension, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Valero declined, instead joining the Seahawks -- presumably in the same job he held with St. Louis.
Other NFC West coaches with experience on more than one staff within the division: Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole (Seahawks); Cardinals secondary coach Teryl Austin (Seahawks); 49ers tight ends coach Pete Hoener (Cardinals); 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye (Rams); 49ers receivers coach Jerry Sullivan (Cardinals); Cardinals defensive coordinator Billy Davis (49ers); Rams offensive line coach Steve Loney (Cardinals); Rams secondary coach Clayton Lopez (Seahawks); Seahawks tight ends coach Pat McPherson (49ers); Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn (49ers); and Rams offensive quality control coach Andy Sugarman (49ers).
Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. played for the 49ers. Seahawks secondary coach Jerry Gray played for the Rams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams players aren't complaining about physical morning practices in pads. Also, rookie first-round choice Jason Smith worked at left tackle for the first time since camp opened, albeit with the second and third teams.
Also from Thomas: a chat transcript in which he defends Chris Draft as a "good, solid performer" among Rams linebackers. Also, former 49ers linebacker Larry Grant is enjoying a strong camp in St. Louis. If rookie James Laurinaitis supplants Draft at middle linebacker, Grant could challenge Draft for the starting job on the strong side, Thomas suggests.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams 2006 first-round choice Tye Hill is healthy and making a run at realizing his potential as a cornerback. Hill was the first of four cornerbacks drafted in 2006. Seattle's Kelly Jennings was fourth.
Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald says former Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is learning the Bears' defense. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich: "He's a playmaker. He's just a playmaker. It's great to have him around. He has a great personality and he's brought a lot to the [linebackers] room."
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers cornerback Dre Bly hardly enjoyed his final season with the Broncos. Bly: "It was miserable. It wasn't good at all. Defensively, we were awful. The d-coordinator [Bob Slowik], not to blame anything on him, but we didn't really have the personnel for what he was trying to run. We were too soft in coverage. And when you have two corners like me and Champ [Bailey], you can't be soft in coverage."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers tight end Bear Pascoe welcomes feedback, even the harsh variety, from tight ends coach Pete Hoener. Unfortunately, Hoener was not allowed to provide feedback about Pascoe for this story, per club policy.
Also from Maiocco: Linebacker Ahmad Brooks is getting a chance to make an impact. Coach Mike Singletary: "We feel he is a guy who is going to continue to grow and make plays. He is out there all over the place making plays. So it is very exciting."
More from Maiocco: Veteran receiver Isaac Bruce pays close attention to position coach Jerry Sullivan.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com says 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky isn't worried about the offense's ability to complete passes in practice.
Also from Price: checking in with 49ers cornerback Terrail Lambert.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle sizes up the 49ers' receivers minus Michael Crabtree. Crumpacker: "Unrestricted free agent Brandon Jones has excelled in the early days of camp, Josh Morgan is looking more and more like a No. 1 receiver, old man Isaac Bruce still has gas left in the tank, Dominique Zeigler and Jason Hill have both had their moments and Arnaz Battle has a talent for sticking around. That's six capable receivers right there. Crabtree makes seven. When the roster of 53 is set Sept. 5, one or two good receivers will be out of work." The most likely scenario, in my view: Keep six receivers, with Zeigler as the odd man out.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks the 49ers should pay Crabtree the same money seventh overall choice Darrius Heyward-Bey received, just to get Crabtree into camp. Would that work within the rookie pool? I haven't seen the contract to know.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks backup safety C.J. Wallace keeps popping people in practice. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Craig Terrill confirms that he wasn't stuck in a block of ice.
Also from O'Neil: Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is happy to have slimmed down, though he misses the Triple Stack burger from Wendy's. I once ate three Big Macs in about five minutes. Would not recommend it.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' defense appears to be grasping coordinator Gus Bradley's scheme against the run. Also, left guard Rob Sims continued his strong play, while defensive lineman Cory Redding stepped up.
John Boyle of the Everett Herald praises Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu for holding an extended autograph session after practice.
Doug Farrar of Scout.com checks in with Tom Marino for a scouting report on new Seahawks cornerback Travis Fisher. The review is generally favorable.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals tight end Ben Patrick appreciates his teammates' support after incurring a four-game NFL suspension. Patrick: "It was huge, because that was one of my main concerns, that my teammates would look at me differently. It took a long time for me to even come back around the guys. During a team meeting I had a talk with all the guys, and they told me they had my back."
Also from Somers: Calais Campbell's development is critical as the Cardinals replace former defensive end Antonio Smith. Somers:
"Successful NFL franchises, such as the Steelers, have allowed good players to leave via free agency, counting upon younger, cheaper players to replace them. Campbell's performance this year is a small test of the Cardinals' acumen in personnel decisions."
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up the Cardinals' candidates in the return game. Becoming more prominent as a receiver seemed to negatively affect Steve Breaston in the return game last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- NFL careers generally do not turn on a single training camp practice. With that dose of perspective in mind, here's a look inside my notebook from the 49ers' practice Monday afternoon:
- Rookie tight end Bear Pascoe had a rough day. He struggled in pass-protection drills and with his route running. Tight ends coach Pete Hoener was hard on Pascoe during the pass-protection drills. Hoener took a lower-keyed approach to helping with the route running. Good coaches know when to ride a player and when to back off. Hoener seemed conscious of the balance.
- Manny Lawson again beat left tackle Joe Staley to the outside on a speed rush, something to file away as we monitor Lawson's progress. The 49ers need him to have an impact as a pass rusher. Beating Staley twice in the same day counts as a positive given that Staley is an established player.
- Linebacker Jay Moore made the most of his afternoon. He contributed to Pascoe's problems in pass-rush drills (Barry Sims and Alex Boone were also Moore's victims, while Boone also lost a matchup against Pannel Egboh). Moore picked off a tipped pass. He later cut a finger batting down a pass near the line of scrimmage.
- Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin almost avoided contact in beating center Eric Heitmann with a quick move off the ball in pass-rush drills. That's the nature of pass-rush drills. You win some and lose some, and sometimes you look silly.
- Coaches wanted converted linebacker Brit Miller, now a fullback, to watch how veteran Michael Robinson ran pass routes.
- Tight end Delanie Walker made a stunning left-handed catch on a crisply delivered short pass from Shaun Hill. The ball hit Walker's left wrist area and seemed to stick. Walker tucked away the ball in one swift motion without help from his other hand.
- Receiver Dominique Zeigler muffed a punt.
- Free safety Dashon Goldson knifed through to break up an underneath pass. Goldson's speed must be a welcome sight for the 49ers in the secondary. Playing safety requires more than speed, of course, but the 49ers want to become more athletic at the position. Goldson is more athletic.
- While coach Mike Singletary wants a physical camp, he called for caution after cornerback Marcus Hudson collided violently with receiver Brandon Jones. Both players went down hard and bounced up quickly, with Jones holding onto the ball.
- Tight end Vernon Davis continues to catch everything thrown to him. I don't want to inflate expectations here. Davis has to show consistency over time. That said, he has certainly caught the ball well this offseason. I noticed it right away during a visit to 49ers practices a couple months ago.
- Linebackers Parys Haralson, Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes did not practice in the afternoon. Ahmad Brooks filled in for Haralson and caused problems in the backfield. Singletary singled out Brooks for praise following the morning practice. Brooks seemed to provide a few more contributions in the afternoon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cardinals had already hired Curtis Modkins to coach their running backs. They didn't say anything publicly until the Chiefs announced Maurice Carthon's hiring as assistant head coach.
Carthon coached running backs for the Cardinals in 2007 and 2008. Modkins coached running backs for the Chiefs in 2008.
When Todd Haley left his job as Cardinals offensive coordinator to become the Chiefs' head coach, he wanted to bring along Carthon from Arizona.
The Cardinals allowed Carthon to pursue the promotion. They quickly lined up Modkins, who broke into the NFL with Kansas City in 2008 after six seasons coaching running backs defensive backs at Georgia Tech.
The chart provides a general overview of NFC West coaching staffs. Yellow shading highlights changes from last season. Titles are imprecise in some cases.
For example, the Cardinals do not have an offensive coordinator. They have a running game coordinator in assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm and they have a passing game coordinator in Mike Miller.
NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete after the Rams assigned titles to Frank Leonard, Paul Ferraro, Andre Curtis and Clayton Lopez.
The chart shows which coaches retained their titles from the end of last season (gray shading) and which coaches are new to their current roles (yellow shading). The Cardinals could face additional changes if they fill vacancies from within.
All four offensive line coaches remain in their roles from last season (subject to change if Russ Grimm becomes the Cardinals' offensive coordinator). Every other core staff position features at least one change in the division.
The 49ers and Rams have the largest staffs with 20 members apiece, counting head coaches. The Seahawks reduced to 18 after moving assistant offensive line coach Mike DeBord to tight ends and eliminating the job of assistant special teams coach John Jamison. The Cardinals have 13 coaches, a number that figures to rise by at least three.
The 49ers and Rams have full-time administrative assistants assigned to their head coaches. The Cardinals do not formally list an assistant strength and conditioning coach, although Pete Alosi does help John Lott in that area.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete. The chart provides a general overview showing which coaches are primarily overseeing key areas.
Some coaches have fancy titles. I'll list those below. Including those titles in the chart would have served them but not us.
The 49ers have two coaches assigned to linebackers and two assigned to the secondary:
- Jason Tarver is a defensive assistant/outside linebackers. Vantz Singletary is coaching inside linebackers. Coach Mike Singletary and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky are former NFL linebackers, so the 49ers have that position covered.
- Vance Joseph and Johnnie Lynn are both listed as secondary coaches.
The Rams have not named coaches at tight
end, linebacker or secondary. However, they have hired Andre Curtis and Paul Ferraro as unspecified defensive assistants. They have also hired Frank Leonard as an unspecified offensive assistant.
The Seahawks and Cardinals do not list administrative assistants as part of their staffs. Bill Nayes and Bruce Warwick fill those spots for the 49ers and Rams, respectively.
The following team-by-team list includes all the fancy titles, plus some coaches who did not appear on the chart:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Gary Plummer of the 49ers' radio team says the team needs to change its sight-adjust routes to prevent the Patriots from taking away J.T. O'Sullivan's hot reads. Plummer, a former linebacker, says failing to adjust proved costly against the Saints. Plummer also thinks the 49ers are making a mistake sticking with the same personnel on defense. He thinks that's what teams do in preseason.
Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read revisits the Patriots' success against Mike Martz in the Super Bowl, suggesting Martz's refusal to run the ball played into New England's hands.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says a bad offense can set up a punter for inflated averages. The reverse has possibly been true for 49ers punter Andy Lee.
Also from Barrows: a conversation with tight ends coach Pete Hoener. Vernon Davis was the subject.
Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers checks in with running back Frank Gore, who figures to be a focal point of both team's game plans when the Patriots visit San Francisco. Gore says two linebackers shadowed him at all times during the Saints game.
Also from Maiocco: Tully Banta-Cain has a better chance of playing this week. Holding him out against his former team would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment, particularly with Manny Lawson out this week.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle weighs the high-risk, high-reward nature of the 49ers' offense. O'Sullivan is completing a high percentage of longer passes, but he's taking sacks and coming off a rough game.
Also from Crumpacker: Gore's in a happy place now that he's leading the league in yards from scrimmage.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sizes up Rick Venturi, the Rams' new defensive coordinator. This is a fun read. Venturi still has the note he left for his wife after the Browns fired him and the Saints called to set up an interview: "Honey, I've just been fired. I'm on my way to New Orleans for an interview. Call you from there."
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Adrian Wilson's injury status is a big concern for the Cardinals heading into their game against the Bills. Also, nose tackle Gabe Watson is working with the starters following an extended absence.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com revisits the biggest hit Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald has taken. This one came during the final 2 minutes of a blowout defeat in 2005. Fitzgerald's helmet flew off, but he popped up and handed the ball to the official.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals' secondary needs to do a better job reading its keys. Improved preparation is also important.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are tempering their evaluation of pass-protection issues against the Jets because the lopsided score allowed New York to rush the passer without accounting for the run.
Also from Somers: If the Cardinals and Anquan Boldin ever want to talk about an extension, Lee Evans' deal with Buffalo could help set parameters. Boldin's agent has dismissed that type of talk in the past, reiterating Boldin's desire to leave Arizona when his contract expires in three seasons.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Koren Robinson wasn't able to practice Thursday. A sore knee continues to bother the recently re-signed receiver.
Also from O'Neil: Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane can do the splits. Really.
Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider caught up with Seahawks president Tim Ruskell, who said the team will not make dramatic changes to its offensive system when Jim Mora becomes head coach next season. The Seahawks think a carryover will help Matt Hasselbeck.
Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with Seahawks receiver Billy McMullen, who went from stopgap player to legitimate member of the receiving corps.
Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer revisits the recruiting tactics that helped Tom Coughlin lure Hasselbeck to Boston College. Hasselbeck was headed for UCLA until Coughlin made an effective last-minute appeal.