NFC West: Reagan Maui'a

Adam Snyder's release from the Arizona Cardinals made him the sixth player to leave the team's roster this offseason after starting at least 10 games for the team in 2012.

Paris Lenon, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Snyder and Adrian Wilson each started at least 14 games last season before departing the roster. D'Anthony Batiste, an unrestricted free agent, started 10 games.

Quentin Groves, Beanie Wells, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and LaRod Stephens-Howling were part of a group of former Cardinals to start between five and seven games for Arizona last season.

Rich Ohrnberger, Ryan Lindley, Pat McQuistan, Early Doucet, Greg Toler, Reagan Maui'a, Nick Eason, Vonnie Holliday and Todd Heap started between one and four games for the team before leaving the roster.

You get the point. The Cardinals have a new head coach and new general manager. They weren't very good on offense last season. Some of their players' contracts reflect what the team's previous leadership once thought of those players. They've become outdated. And so the Cardinals are turning over a pretty fair percentage of their roster by design.

Fantasy Watch: Running backs in Week 8

November, 4, 2012
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Our latest look at playing time in the NFC West, with an eye toward fantasy football and beginning with running backs:



Fullbacks generally don't factor for fantasy stats, but it's still interesting to see how many snaps they played.

Game situations tend to dictate whether they're on the field.

A team playing from behind generally wouldn't use a fullback as much, although Arizona, with its injury depleted backfield, did keep Anthony Sherman on the field quite a bit against the 49ers on Monday night.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

October, 17, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback Kevin Kolb (ribs) will miss the game at Minnesota, giving John Skelton his first start since the season opener. I've broken down their statistical similarities and differences since Week 12 last season in case you're interested in taking a look. Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) and safety Kerry Rhodes (back) were among those not practicing. Sherman's injury forced Reagan Maui'a into the game against Buffalo. A penalty Maui'a committed for spiking the ball following a reception came at a crucial time. Rhodes left the Buffalo game with back spasms. He has played very well at times and would be missed. Darnell Dockett continues to play through a hamstring injury. That could limit his endurance. Tight end Todd Heap (knee) hasn't played since the New England game. He was limited in practice.

St. Louis Rams: Receiver Danny Amendola remains out indefinitely, putting pressure on other receivers to make up the difference in the middle of the field and in the red zone. Those are areas where the team hasn't performed consistently enough of late. The Rams remain without left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee). Wayne Hunter has played better than anticipated in relief. Saffold was expected to miss at least a month when injured one month ago. He missed practice Wednesday. The team also practiced without Hunter (back), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (back) and linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh). Jenkins and Hunter are expected to start against Green Bay. Running back Steven Jackson is no longer on the injury report after working through a groin injury. Rookie Daryl Richardson will continue to get carries on merit, it appears.

San Francisco 49ers: The team listed receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) and left tackle Joe Staley (concussion) as limited in practice Wednesday. The short week complicates their situations. Staley can play Thursday night if a neurologist clears him. If Staley sits out, right guard Alex Boone will move to left tackle. Veteran Leonard Davis would presumably fill in at right guard. He did against Buffalo. Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) was also listed as limited, but health doesn't appear to be the primary reason for his continued inactivity on game days. The team has good depth at the position. The other backups behind Frank Gore contribute on special teams. Jacobs is looking like an insurance policy. Two years ago, the team lost Gore for the final five games. Quarterback Alex Smith's finger injury is not expected to limit him.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks appear healthier than they've generally been in recent seasons. They're the only team in the division yet to list a quarterback on the injury report. Strong safety Kam Chancellor has been cleared to play despite an ankle injury, coach Pete Carroll told reporters Wednesday. Clinton McDonald, a contributor in the nickel defensive line this season, is expected to return. Seattle will be without former starting guard John Moffitt.

NFC West Stock Watch

October, 16, 2012
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FALLING

1. Alex Smith, 49ers QB. Three interceptions and four sacks marked a rough day for the 49ers quarterback. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. followed up Smith's performance with an Insider piece Insider pointing out Smith's limitations relative to other quarterbacks. Williamson: "Smith isn't a bum. He is a solid NFL quarterback and can make plays with his arm and his legs. But when comparing the 49ers to the other top teams in the NFC like New York, Chicago, Green Bay and Atlanta, forcing Smith to win games is the recipe for victory against the 49ers."

2. Jim Harbaugh, 49ers coach. The 49ers' 26-3 defeat to the New York Giants was their most lopsided at home since 2009. An occasional defeat generally wouldn't knock down a coach's stock, but there were extenuating circumstances surrounding this one. The statement Harbaugh released Friday might have come off as bold and brash if the 49ers would have backed it up with a fundamentally sound performance against the Giants. They did not.

3. Greg Zuerlein, Rams kicker. Zuerlein had been a team MVP candidate before missing 52- and 37-yard field goal tries that were well within his range during a 17-14 defeat to the Miami Dolphins. Zuerlein also missed a 66-yarder for a shot at forcing overtime. All three missed wide to the left. Coach Jeff Fisher: "The wind really took the last one. He clearly had the distance. It's just too bad for him. The other two, the short one, I think he probably pulled it a little bit and the other one the wind took it -- the longer one, the 50-plus yarder." There was plenty of special-teams blame to go around for the Rams. Zuerlein had made 15 consecutive field goal tries to begin his career, so his misses stood out.

4. Misguided fullbacks. The Rams' Brit Miller tried to return a kickoff and fumbled, setting up a Dolphins field goal in a game St. Louis would lose by three points. Reagan Maui'a, the Arizona Cardinals' backup fullback, incurred a delay penalty for spiking the ball following a 7-yard reception to the Buffalo 36-yard line in the fourth quarter. The drive died a few plays later as the Cardinals, down 16-13 at the time, missed a scoring opportunity. Arizona lost valuable field position and wound up suffering a turnover on its next possession.

RISING

1. Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB. Wilson played a leading role in Seattle's 24-23 victory over New England. He showed outstanding deep accuracy and poise under pressure in winning for the fourth time in his last five starts. Wilson completed five passes for 200 yards on throws traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. That included the winning 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 remaining. Wilson threw the ball 55 yards with a smooth delivery requiring no extra effort. A 50-yard strike to Doug Baldwin showcased everything that makes Wilson dangerous. He rolled left to avoid pressure. He quickly set up to throw along the yard-line number at the Seattle 12. With a defender rushing toward his front side, Wilson threw the ball 50 yards in the air and back to the middle of the field. Baldwin caught it inside the left hash.

2. Wide receivers. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald passed 10,000 career receiving yards, joining Randy Moss as the only players to reach the milestone before age 30. The leaping one-handed grab Fitzgerald made along the sideline didn't count because he was out of bounds. Still, it was worth a mention. Moss had a 55-yard reception for the San Francisco 49ers. St. Louis' Brandon Gibson had a seven-catch, 91-yard game. Teammate Chris Givens had a 65-yard reception for his third consecutive game with a catch longer than 50 yards. Rice caught the 46-yard game-winner against New England in the final two minutes. Fellow Seahawks receivers Golden Tate (66-yarder) and Doug Baldwin (50-yarder) had even longer receptions for the team.

3. William Powell, Cardinals RB. An undrafted free agent in 2011, Powell carried 13 times for 70 yards as Arizona set a season high with 182 yards rushing. Powell also had one reception for 8 yards. He was easily the Cardinals' most effective running back.

4. Pete Carroll, Seahawks coach. The team's ability to post a 4-2 record while developing a rookie quarterback provides some short-term validation for Carroll's plan. Conventional wisdom said the team should have gone with Matt Flynn. Conventional wisdom said starting a rookie quarterback would undermine efforts to outscore teams led by Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tom Brady. Seattle is 4-0 against those quarterbacks. The formula has worked most of the time so far. As for in-game coaching, Carroll came out fine. The Patriots' failure to get even a field goal attempt from deep in Seattle territory right before halftime recalled the time in 2010 when Carroll lost a similar gamble. Bill Belichick was on the wrong side this time.
NFL teams have until 4 p.m. ET Monday to reach the 75-man roster limit from the current 90 allowable players.

The Arizona Cardinals got a jump on their moves upon returning from their exhibition game at Tennessee.

Placing left tackle Levi Brown on injured reserve stands as the most significant move by far. The move comes as no surprise after Brown suffered a torn triceps tendon, but there's a sense of finality in the transaction. It means Brown cannot return until the 2013 season. There had been some hope he might return late in the season.

The chart shows rosters counts at each position, plus positional counts from Week 1 last season.

Among the players released: defensive tackle Landon Cohen, receiver Gino Crump, safety Eddie Elder, receiver Tre Gray, cornerback Marshay Green, receiver Jaymar Johnson, fullback Reagan Maui'a, linebacker Marcus McGraw, linebacker Zack Nash, cornerback James Nixon, kicker/punter Ricky Schmitt and linebacker Paul Vassallo.

Running back Thomas Clayton and fullback Jared Crank were waived/injured. They'll revert to injured reserve upon clearing waivers.

The team announced these transactions.
SEATTLE -- A few NFC West thoughts from CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Seahawks prepare to open their 2012 exhibition season against the Tennessee Titans:
  • Skies are clear and the temperature is about 80 degrees. It's a perfect night for summer football.
  • The Seahawks are wearing their new uniforms: dark blue pants with bright green piping, dark blue tops with bright green numbers and bright green markings, dark blue helmets. It's a lot of blue. Does the green glow in the dark? I know the big guys prefer the dark pants to the light gray ones. They're ... slimming.
  • Both teams have a No. 8 in uniform: Matt Hasselbeck for the Titans, Jermaine Kearse for the Seahawks. Strange.
  • Teams generally don't like to travel great distances for preseason games, but this trip is a homecoming for so many Titans, especially in the front office.
  • The Seahawks distributed a list showing the following players not expected to play in this game: Terrell Owens, Sidney Rice, Walter Thurmond, Allen Bradford, Jameson Konz, Matt McCoy, Barrett Ruud, John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Kellen Winslow, Ricardo Lockette, Doug Baldwin and Alan Branch. Some of those players are in uniform and warming up on the field, notably Rice and Winslow. Not listed: Marshawn Lynch. Not expecting to see much of him, but we'll see.
  • The Titans listed three players as unlikely to play: Terrence Wheatley, Brandon Barden and Dave Ball.
  • I'll be heading to San Francisco for a few days with the 49ers beginning Sunday. Looks like they won't have leading sacker Aldon Smith for the short term. The team re-signed outside linebacker Kenny Rowe, who went to camp with the 49ers a year ago. Safety Mark LeGree, a Seahawks draft choice who also spent time with Arizona, was released to make room on the roster. Smith has a bruised hip.
  • The Cardinals brought back veteran fullback Reagan Maui'a to help get them through camp. Jared Crank suffered a neck injury.
  • The St. Louis Rams kick off their preseason against Indianapolis at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday. It's an odd time, but it could give me a chance to watch the Rams before heading to Candlestick Park for the 49ers' fan-oriented session later in the day.

Enjoy your Saturday night. I'll be back with notes after the game, and probably sooner as well.
Injuries, opposing defenses and game situations influence receiving totals from week to week.

So do quarterback changes.

The chart shows reception and yardage totals for Arizona Cardinals players in each of their quarterback's past two games. John Skelton is coming off games against St. Louis and Philadelphia. Kevin Kolb played most recently against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Skelton faced easier competition and won both games, making clutch plays in fourth quarters. Toe and foot injuries continue to sideline Kolb. I would expect him to resume as the starter when healthy -- unless Skelton leads Arizona past 8-1 San Francisco in Week 11.

The numbers seem to confirm perceptions that Skelton appears more comfortable than Kolb to this point. He's been more proficient at getting the ball to Arizona's secondary wide receivers, especially Andre Roberts. My thought was that a quarterback more comfortable in the offense might stick with plays longer, allowing him to find secondary receivers. Kolb has bailed on some plays too early.

Facing lesser defenses also can make a quarterback more comfortable. Skelton hasn't had to worry about Terrell Suggs or Troy Polamalu coming after him.

I'm heading to San Francisco for the Cardinals' game against the 49ers. Skelton's performance in that game should answer questions about the position in Arizona. This will be Skelton's first start of the season against one of the better defenses in the league.

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Around the NFC West: 49ers threaten West

November, 3, 2011
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Brock Huard of 710ESNP Seattle says the San Francisco 49ers' success is legitimate and stands as a long-term threat for coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and the Seattle Seahawks. Huard: "Jim Harbaugh has had success at every turn. He is building something very special in San Francisco. For Pete Carroll and John Schneider, this is not going to be the woeful NFC West that Mike Holmgren had for a decade. This is going to be a brutal, black-and-blue division for a long time." Noted: The Seahawks have won four division titles since 1999 without exceeding nine victories. The have won two additional division titles during that time without exceeding 10 victories. Only once since 1985 have the Seahawks exceeded 10 victories in a season. That was in 2005, when the team went 13-3 on its way to the Super Bowl.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com compares the Seahawks' current struggles and those experienced during Holmgren's early years with the team. Farnsworth: "After Holmgren was hired in 1999, the Seahawks backed into the playoffs and an AFC West title in his first season. Then, Holmgren decided to remake the roster. Twenty-five games into his tenure (including playoffs), Holmgren had an 11-14 record and was struggling to find a quarterback from a group that included Jon Kitna, Brock Huard and Glenn Foley. Holmgren’s QB quandary remained unsettled even after he made a trade with the Green Bay Packers to acquire Matt Hasselbeck and signed Trent Dilfer as a free agent in 2001. An injured and ineffective Hasselbeck struggled through the 2001 season. Dilfer was named the starter in 2002, only to be injured twice." Noted: There's a tendency to recast unplanned events as planned ones when things work out. The fact that Seattle eventually succeeded under Holmgren doesn't mean all the early failures were necessary ones. Holmgren seemed to have turned the page on Hasselbeck, who might not have gotten another chance with the team had Dilfer avoided injuries. But because Hasselbeck succeeded ultimately, it's as though Holmgren and the rest of us knew it would happen all along. We did not know that.

Also from Farnsworth: The team has allowed only two second-half touchdowns all season, the lowest figure in the league through Week 8. The Ravens (three), Browns (four) and Lions (four) are next.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says quarterback Kevin Kolb feels like a "weenie" for being sidelined by a turf-toe injury. Kolb: "I remember Deion Sanders was the first one I have ever saw that had 'turf toe,' and I was thinking the same thing as a fan: 'What? Why is (he) out for two weeks with a turf toe?' Then you get one and realize it's a little more painful than it comes across as." Somers: "Turf toe involves sprained or torn ligaments in the metatarsophalangeal joint, which indicates why the injury goes by a much shorter name. Kolb also has a mid-foot sprain in other ligaments and a bone bruise. It is not a lisfranc injury, which is more serious. Kolb has to be able to plant and drive off the foot to get full power on his throws."

Also from Somers: Fullback Reagan Maui'a says an alcohol problem led to his suspension earlier in the season.

More from Somers: Beanie Wells is not yet practicing, but he's expected to play Sunday.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com profiles the team's young outside linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. The two have divergent personalities, something Schofield has fun with. Schofield: "Everybody says Sam is the brain guy, so I’m like, 'Damn, so then I’m stupid?' "

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is inching closer to returning from a high-ankle sprain. Sounds like Bradford will not be ready this week, however. Thomas: "The silver lining to the injury is that Bradford has been able to talk with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on game day, not just when the Rams' defense is on the field but also when the Rams' offense is out there. It has allowed Bradford to get a better feel for McDaniels -- why he calls certain things at certain times, and what he's seeing during the ebb and flow of a game."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team has until early next week to activate receiver Mark Clayton from the physically unable to perform list or lose him for the season. An Achilles problem has stunted Clayton's return from a knee injury.

Also from Wagoner: the latest on Bradford, and a note about how cornerback Marquis Johnson played well in his return from injury.

More from Wagoner: an update on Robert Quinn's development.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' Dashon Goldson isn't happy about being wrongly penalized for what officials called an illegal blow to the head against Cleveland. Goldson: "I'm good. I knew it was clean . . . If it was a blow to the head, I would've had a $15,000 or $20,000 fine in my locker right now. But I got penalized. That could've cost us the game."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers defensive end Justin Smith missed practice on a veteran's courtesy, not because of an injury. Smith has started 162 games in a row.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sees 49ers quarterback Alex Smith pick up traits from coach Jim Harbaugh. How thick is the 49ers' playbook each week? State secrets.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers should be able to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Kawakami: "Because of their walloping defense, the 49ers should realistically aim for the No. 2 seed, and a first-round bye. And because the 49ers offense remains less than dynamic (though effective), they should really want that No. 2 seed, so they can avoid the prospect of having to play a first-round shootout against a team such as Philadelphia or Atlanta. But to do that, the 49ers have to beat out the winners of the NFC East and South divisions -- it looks like a 12-4 record is the most realistic way for the 49ers to do that." Noted: The 49ers' offense has outscored the Falcons' offense 167-116 this season. The Eagles' offense has 173 points. More on this in a bit.

Week 5 rematches: NFC West vengeance?

October, 5, 2011
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NFC West teams went 0-3 last season against the teams they face in Week 5.

They lost those games by a combined 99-31 score.

Much has changed since then. Let's take a look:

Cardinals at Vikings

Score last season: Vikings 27, Cardinals 24 (OT)

Key play: Brett Favre's 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the final minute of regulation tied the game, forcing overtime after the Cardinals had built a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead. Favre threw for a career-high 446 yards in the game.

Biggest change: Both teams have new quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb for Derek Anderson in Arizona, and Donovan McNabb for Favre in Minnesota. Also, the Vikings have a new head coach (Leslie Frazier) while the Cardinals have a new defensive coordinator (Ray Horton).

Storyline: McNabb keeps a home in Arizona and was available to the Cardinals when their quarterback situation was in flux, but the team showed no interest in him. He is now trying to hold off a change to rookie Christian Ponder.

Lineup changes for Arizona (12): Beanie Wells for Tim Hightower at running back, Kolb for Anderson at quarterback, Daryn Colledge for Alan Faneca at left guard, Rex Hadnot for Deuce Lutui at right guard, Todd Heap for Ben Patrick at tight end, Andre Roberts for Steve Breaston at receiver, Anthony Sherman for Reagan Maui'a at fullback (although the team opened its 2010 game at Minnesota without a fullback), Dan Williams for Bryan Robinson at nose tackle, Daryl Washington for Gerald Hayes at linebacker, Clark Haggans for Will Davis at linebacker, A.J. Jefferson for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback, Patrick Peterson for Greg Toler at cornerback.

49ers vs. Buccaneers

Score last season: Buccaneers 21, 49ers 0

Key play: Josh Freeman's 1-yard scoring pass to tackle Donald Penn midway through the fourth quarter put an exclamation point on the 49ers' first home shutout since 1977.

Biggest change: Jim Harbaugh has replaced Mike Singletary as the 49ers' head coach.

Storyline: Alex Smith gets a shot at Tampa Bay after watching Troy Smith struggle against the Bucs as the 49ers' starting quarterback last season. Troy Smith's approach centered around striking for big plays. The Bucs took away the big plays. Alex Smith gives the 49ers a chance to be more efficient.

Lineup changes for San Francisco (12): Alex Smith for Troy Smith at quarterback, Joe Staley for Barry Sims at left tackle, Adam Snyder for Chilo Rachal at right guard, Bruce Miller for Moran Norris at fullback, Isaac Sopoaga for Aubrayo Franklin at nose tackle, Ray McDonald for Sopoaga at defensive end, Ahmad Brooks for Manny Lawson at outside linebacker, NaVorro Bowman for Takeo Spikes at inside linebacker, Carlos Rogers for Nate Clements at cornerback, Tarell Brown for Shawntae Spencer at cornerback, Donte Whitner for Reggie Smith at strong safety.

Seahawks at Giants

Score last season: Giants 41, Seahawks 7

Key play: With Seattle already down 14-0 in the first quarter, the Giants returned Leon Washington's fumbled kickoff return to the Seattle 4, setting up Ahmad Bradshaw's touchdown run on the next play.

Biggest change: Tarvaris Jackson is the starting quarterback for Seattle. Charlie Whitehurst was a fill-in starter for Matt Hasselbeck when the teams played last season.

Storyline: The Seahawks' so-far-unproductive ground game faces a Giants run defense that has struggled. Seattle's young line improved in pass protection last week. Can it take a step forward in run blocking this week?

Lineup changes for Seattle (16): Sidney Rice for Deon Butler at receiver, Jackson for Whitehurst at quarterback, Russell Okung for Chester Pitts at left tackle, Paul McQuistan for Mike Gibson at left guard, Max Unger for Chris Spencer at center, John Moffitt for Stacy Andrews at right guard, James Carpenter for Sean Locklear at right tackle, Zach Miller for John Carlson at tight end, Brandon Mebane for Junior Siavii at defensive tackle, Alan Branch for Craig Terrill at defensive tackle, Red Bryant for Kentwan Balmer at defensive end, K.J. Wright for Aaron Curry at linebacker, David Hawthorne for Lofa Tatupu at linebacker, Leroy Hill for Hawthorne at linebacker, Brandon Browner for Kelly Jennings at right cornerback, Kam Chancellor or Atari Bigby for Lawyer Milloy, depending on Chancellor's availability.

Arizona Cardinals cutdown analysis

September, 2, 2011
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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.

Around the NFC West: 'A brothers' tale'

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
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Good morning.

Let's get started with Liz Merrill's piece exploring one NFL player's search for his brother, and a most improbable discovery. Xavier Omon of the San Francisco 49ers plans to meet his half-brother, Ogemdi Nwagbuo of the San Diego Chargers, for the first time when their teams play Thursday night.

"It started, of all places, on Facebook," Merrill writes. "Delorise Omon, Xavier's mom, was catching up with an old acquaintance on the computer last winter. The man informed her that Chris Nwagbuo, Xavier's biological father, had died in 2004, and that one of his sons -- a half-brother of Xavier's that he'd never met -- just happened to play football, too. For the San Diego Chargers."

Omon's father abandoned him, one brother died in a car accident and another committed suicide. It's tough not to root for Omon as he fights for a roster spot with the 49ers. He's been in camp with the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks previously after not getting a single Division I scholarship offer at the college level.

Moving along ...

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com ranks Frank Gore as the top running back from the NFL's 2005 draft class. Noted: That was also the year Arizona used a second-round choice for J.J. Arrington.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee runs through 49ers position battles.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News does not find room for 49ers safety Colin Jones on his projected 53-man roster. Jones has played extensively on special teams this summer.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com explains why tight end John Carlson required season-ending surgery. Carlson tried to rehab his shoulder after suffering a torn labrum, but the shoulder did not respond well enough to continue without surgery. Carlson: "I felt like I had a great offseason of training. Our offseasons are normally devoted to OTAs and minicamps, and those things are great for developing offenses. But the individual training sometimes is lacking and I felt like I had a great offseason in that respect. So it’s really disappointing to have to miss this year." Noted: Carlson's contract with the Seahawks expires following the 2011 season, at which point he'll be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks plan to play their starters, perhaps more than usual, in the fourth and final exhibition game Friday night. The team rested seven starters in its final exhibition game last season. Coach Pete Carroll: "I don't care about tradition in the fourth preseason games. That matters nothing to me. We'll do what we've got to do."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic runs through the Cardinals' roster with an eye toward which players are likely to earn spots on the initial 53-man roster. Somers: "A month ago, it was questionable whether outside linebacker Joey Porter was going to make the club. But he took a pay cut, played well in the preseason, and no one behind him has stepped up. Clark Haggans starts on the other side, and Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington are on the inside. Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield give the club two young players to develop. Stewart Bradley could start at any of the four spots and likely will be used in sub packages. He easily could end up starting." Noted: Porter has played at least 14 games in 12 consecutive seasons, collecting at least five sacks in each of the past 11. The Cardinals thought he played too many snaps last season, a fair assessment given Porter's age (34 this season). Arizona's defense was on the field an average of 33:46 last season, its highest average since at least 1991. Think about that. The Cardinals have had some horrible offenses over the past couple decades, but none possessed the ball fewer minutes per game than the 2010 version. That will change with improved quarterback play.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers up his 53-man projection for Arizona. He's keeping Anthony Sherman over Reagan Maui'a at fullback, Reggie Walker over Quan Sturdivant at linebacker, DeMarco Sampson over Isaiah Williams at receiver and Marshay Green over Fred Bennett at cornerback.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com checks in with newly re-signed Rams receiver Mark Clayton, who is happy to be back with the team. Clayton underwent season-ending knee surgery in 2010. Clayton: "I am stronger than I have been. My speed is great. I think I’ll be faster than I was before. But now it’s working the little muscles in the background to get those right. That’s the big thing. That’s kind of what I have been focusing on."

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis takes a look at the Rams' salary-cap situation. Balzer: "Of the current top 51 Rams players, only 28 have cap charges of $1 million or more. Having said that, selecting in the top two picks of three straight drafts has resulted in those players -- quarterback Sam Bradford, tackle Jason Smith and defensive end Chris Long -- counting a combined $37.765 million (31.5 percent) against this year's cap. That total jumps to $43.128 million in 2012, the final year of Long's contract, and when the cap isn't expected to increase significantly." Noted: Extending contracts can lower cap numbers in the short term. Without examining all the cap implications, getting something done with Long heading into the final year of his deal would seem to make sense. He's a core player, an ascending player and a low-risk investment.

Awaiting word on Cards' Ryan Williams

August, 19, 2011
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The Arizona Cardinals' offense took a hit Friday night when rookie running back Ryan Williams left the team's preseason game against Green Bay on a motorized cart.

Replays showed a Packers player landing on the back of Williams' lower right leg.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury, but replays left the impression the injury could be serious. Williams had dazzled during training camp and was expected to push Beanie Wells for the starting job eventually.

Arizona traded running back Tim Hightower to the Washington Redskins after the Cardinals used a second-round choice for Williams. Wells ran aggressively and effectively against the Packers. Injury problems have slowed him previously.

LaRod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith are the only other halfbacks on the roster. Reagan Maui'a and Anthony Sherman are fullbacks.

UPDATE: The Cardinals said Williams injured his knee and would not return to the game.
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.

Confirmed roster moves in NFC West

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
7:40
PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers appeared mostly quiet Sunday, signing players to their practice squad while the rest of the division scrambled to rearrange 53-man rosters.

Among the confirmed moves in the NFC West to this point Sunday:
By "confirmed" moves, I'm talking about ones either announced by the teams, confirmed by the teams, processed by the NFL office, or all of the above. As noted before lawn-maintenance obligations intervened, rosters remain quite fluid.

Post-camp roster analysis: Cardinals

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
5:50
PM ET


Matt Leinart apparently has no idea where he stands with the Arizona Cardinals. That makes it tough for the rest of us to predict exactly what might happen.

Will Leinart start at quarterback for the Cardinals in Week 1? Will he serve as the backup? Will the Cardinals release him? Might they trade him?

The next week to 10 days should provide answers. NFL teams have until Saturday to reduce their rosters to 53-man limits, with the 75-man deadline passing Tuesday.

After looking at the Seahawks' roster earlier Monday, here's a quick run through the Cardinals:

Quarterbacks (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.0

Keepers: Derek Anderson

Looking safe: Max Hall

On the bubble: Leinart, John Skelton

Comment: Coach Ken Whisenhunt's handling of Leinart suggests there's more than tough love at work here. It's fair to question whether Leinart fits into the team's plans at all this season. The smart move, it seems, would be to keep Anderson, Leinart and the winner of the Hall-Skelton competition. But it's clear Whisenhunt isn't convinced Leinart has what it takes to be a starting quarterback.

Running backs (8)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Jason Wright

On the bubble: Reagan Maui'a, Charles Scott

Also: Alfonso Smith, Nehemiah Broughton

Comment: Scott arrived via trade this week after Broughton suffered a season-ending knee injury. Maui'a could be the choice heading into the regular season. Scott provides depth for the final exhibition game, but it's unlikely he would be refined enough as a blocker to factor into the offense in a meaningful way. Smith's speed caught my attention early in camp.

Wide receivers (11)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.1

Keepers: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet

Looking safe: Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams

On the bubble: Onrea Jones, Max Komar

Also: Isaiah Williams, Darren Mougey, Mike Jones, Ed Gant

Comment: Gant serves a suspension to open the season. Roberts will make the team as a third-round pick. Williams pretty much wrapped up a spot with his latest strong performance (at Chicago). Jones and Komar could be competing for a sixth and final spot at the position.

Tight ends (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Keepers: Ben Patrick, Anthony Becht, Stephen Spach

Also: Jim Dray

Comment: The team released Dominique Byrd on Monday. The top three appear set. Not much drama here. Dray looks like practice-squad material.

Offensive linemen (12)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.9

Keepers: Lyle Sendlein, Alan Faneca, Brandon Keith, Reggie Wells, Levi Brown, Deuce Lutui, Rex Hadnot, Jeremy Bridges

Looking safe: Herman Johnson

Also: Ben Claxton, Tom Pestock, Jonathan Palmer

Comment: Lutui could be trending toward a spot back in the starting lineup despite reporting to camp overweight. Johnson also reported overweight. He isn't a starter, and that's why I listed him separately from the keepers (even though it's an upset, most likely, if Johnson does not stick).

Defensive line (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 7.4

Keepers: Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Bryan Robinson

Looking safe: Alan Branch, Gabe Watson, Kenny Iwebema

Also: John Fletcher, Jeremy Clark

Comment: This position appears pretty much set. I would expect seven to earn roster spots.

Linebackers (14)

Average number kept since 2003: 7.1

Keepers: Gerald Hayes, Paris Lenon, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington

Looking safe: Will Davis, Cody Brown

Bubble: Monty Beisel, Reggie Walker

Also: O'Brien Schofield, Steve Baggs, Mark Washington, Chris Johnson, Pago Togafau

Comment: Hayes and Schofield could open the season on reserve/physically unable to perform, opening two roster spots. Beisel and Walker could be competing for the final spot at this position.

Defensive backs (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.9

Keepers: Adrian Wilson, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Kerry Rhodes, Greg Toler, Trumaine McBride, Matt Ware

Looking safe: Michael Adams, Hamza Abdullah, Rashad Johnson

On the bubble: Marshay Green

Also: A.J. Jefferson, Trevor Ford, Justin Miller

Comment: Toler could be passing McBride on the depth chart as the starting right cornerback, fulfilling expectations. Johnson appeared more physical early in camp. Haven't heard much about him lately, though.

Specialists (3)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Keepers: Jay Feely, Ben Graham, Mike Leach

Comment: Arizona has three on the roster and that's how many the team will keep. Simple enough.

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