NFC West: Ryan Plackemeier

Fullback Michael Robinson's recent declaration regarding Seattle Seahawks teammate Bobby Wagner made waves around here last week.

"I call him a baby Patrick Willis because I hadn't seen a linebacker move like that since Pat," said Robinson, who played with Willis, a perennial Pro Bowl selection, on the San Francisco 49ers.

Wagner, a rookie second-round draft choice, did not stand out to me during the Seahawks' exhibition opener Saturday night, but perhaps a certain fullback inflated my expectations beyond reason.

Dave Wyman of 710ESPN Seattle gave high marks for Wagner's performance. Wyman played the position in the NFL for nine seasons. He certainly knows what to look for in one. Wyman: "I'm always impressed when I see a rookie have poise and look like he's in control. It's almost like he's back in college. I don't know what's going through his mind, so maybe there were some things out there that kind of threw him off, but it certainly didn't look like it. Bobby Wagner looked like he fit right in with that defense. Really fast, he had a really nice tackle, took on some blocks really well, made some little mistakes that you see rookies do, but other than that, I thought he showed really well." Noted: This assessment should be very encouraging for Seahawks fans.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune runs through the Seahawks' roster by position. He has a hard time envisioning Tarvaris Jackson figuring into the team's plans.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com recaps the exhibition opener, raising a question: Why not start Russell Wilson against Denver in Seattle's next game?

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' approach to late-round draft choices -- going after players making position changes, in some cases -- has paid off under the team's current leadership, as the selection of J.R. Sweezy this year indicates. Noted: Former Seahawks president Tim Ruskell fared pretty well in seventh rounds especially. Doug Nienhuis, Ben Obomanu, Ryan Plackemeier, Steve Vallos, Justin Forsett, Courtney Greene and Cameron Morrah were among Seattle's seventh-rounders from 2005 through 2009. All played in the NFL. Obomanu, Vallos, Forsett, Greene and Morrah remain active.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals tight end Jeff King never missed a practice -- not even in junior high -- until sitting out with a quadriceps injury this offseason.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com saw a more spirited practice Monday as coach Ken Whisenhunt ramped up the intensity following two disappointing exhibition games. Also, the team is giving D'Anthony Batiste a shot at right tackle.

Also from Urban: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton thinks his players might be suffering from overconfidence.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Jeff Fisher found some positives in the team's 35-3 defeat to open the exhibition season. Also: "On the 63-yard screen pass for a touchdown to Donald Brown, television replays showed a Colts blocker clearly grabbing the jersey of Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis to keep him from tackling Brown near the line of scrimmage. It also showed Michael Brockers being held by another blocker a few yards down the line of scrimmage. After the game Sunday, Fisher pointed out the missed calls but didn't dwell on them. On Monday, he made it clear he wasn't piling on the replacement officials."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com lists Fisher's disappointments from the first game, and also this: "Fisher said his team was extremely vanilla while the Colts did quite a bit of scheming. That doesn’t mean there’s a right or wrong way to do but just different philosophies. Fisher said the Rams will steadily add more and more to the pregame schemes in each game though the final preseason contest will likely be fairly plain as well."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com saw good things from Mario Manningham in the 49ers' practice Monday.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee quotes 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the team's defensive effort against Minnesota in the exhibition opener. Fangio: "I just think we got a little full of ourselves."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com saw good things from quarterback Alex Smith in practice. Price: "Smith displayed excellent downfield accuracy while completing three deep sideline throws in the same midfield team period. First, Smith found a familiar target, locating tight end Vernon Davis 30 yards down the field on a deep wheel route against the coverage of linebacker Michael Wilhoite. On the very next play, Smith attacked the left sideline again, this time on a 30-yard deep throw to veteran wideout Randy Moss. Smith completed his third deep sideline pass of the period to running back Kendall Hunter."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks, under general manager Tim Ruskell, have done pretty well drafting in the seventh round. It's looking like they've hit on another one.

Nick Reed, defensive end from Oregon, caught my attention very quickly during my visit to Seahawks camp one week ago. He is making a statement in the exhibition opener against the Chargers, collecting two sacks with most of the second half yet to play.

Reed, Justin Forsett, Brandon Coutu, Steve Vallos, Ryan Plackemeier and Ben Obomanu have hung around as Seahawks seventh-round choices in recent years. Reed is making an impact as a pass rusher, which is unusual.

How many defensive linemen might the Seahawks keep this season? They kept nine on the opening-day roster last season and 10 on the previous two opening-day rosters.

If they kept 10 this season, they could go with Patrick Kerney, Lawrence Jackson, Cory Redding, Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole, Red Bryant, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill, Baraka Atkins and Reed. If they kept nine, the decision could come down to Atkins or Reed. Atkins looks the part, but the undersized Reed is playing it very well right now.

Update: Reed just dropped into coverage and picked off a pass. Impressive.

Punting adventures test nerves

December, 1, 2008
12/01/08
4:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Instability at punter can be an adventure. The Seahawks learned that lesson the hard way in 2004 and 2005 -- see: Araguz, Leo -- but the team's switch from Ryan Plackemeier to Jon Ryan this season has worked out favorably. In fact, the Packers are surely regretting their decision to cut Ryan in favor of Derrick Frost.

The Cardinals might be looking for a boost at the position, with Dirk Johnson possibly on his way out, according to Kent Somers. Update: This move is done. The team just announced it.

Former Jets and Saints punter Ben Graham could be a candidate to replace Johnson. Graham had a tryout with Tampa Bay over the weekend. He previously had tryouts with the Jaguars, Patriots, Bengals and Cowboys.

As Somers notes, the Cardinals have stuck with Johnson this long in part because Johnson holds for field goals and extra points. Kickers can be particular about their holders. Neil Rackers has kicked with great accuracy this season. Breaking in a new holder carries risks.

But with Johnson muffing a hold against the Giants in Week 12, it's tougher to defend his value in that area. Johnson's suffered a similar mishap against the Panthers in Week 8. His poor throw on a fake field goal against Carolina also proved costly for the Cardinals.

Johnson's 35.2-yard net average ranks 26th in the NFL this season among players with at least 25 punts.

Mailbag: Waivers and late-round picks

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
10:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Richard from New York writes: Mike, apologies if you've covered this during the preseason, but could you explain again how waivers work? Doesn't this mean that another team could sign the player? Why would a team "waive" one of its draft picks so early on (e.g., Seahawks/Forsett)? I thought Forsett was signed to a multiyear deal?

Mike Sando: Not a problem, Richard. It's a good question and something we should brush up on every so often.

Late-round draft choices fail to earn roster spots somewhat routinely. Justin Forsett was a seventh-round choice. NFL teams drafted 80 players in the sixth and seventh rounds this season. Half those players were not on 53-man rosters as of midweek.

Contracts can include guaranteed money, but the contracts themselves are not guaranteed. An NFL team can terminate a veteran's contract, making the player eligible to sign a new contract with another team.

Nonveterans can be waived. Another team can file a waiver claim. If more than one team claims a player, the team with the worst record in the previous season prevails. The league then awards the waived player to the claiming team. The claiming team inherits the waived player's contract.

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Punting move a start for Seattle

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
4:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks' decision to change punters comes as no surprise, and not just because Rod Pedersen alluded to it Monday. Incumbent punter Ryan Plackemeier struggled with consistency after returning from pectoral surgery in August. He still might hit his stride at some point, but the Seahawks decided they couldn't afford to wait. Jon Ryan, formerly of the Packers, gets the call.

Seattle has not yet announced its roster moves today, but Ryan's addition will not be the only one. Jordan Babineaux and Rocky Bernard will again count against the 53-man limit as they come off suspensions. The league granted Seattle one-day roster exemptions Monday, standard procedure when suspensions end.

The Seahawks are also in the market for help at receiver. Logan Payne, Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent are their only healthy ones. I've heard nothing connecting veterans Joe Horn, Keenan McCardell or Koren Robinson to Seattle. Samie Parker is another veteran on the market. He caught 110 passes for Kansas City over the last three seasons.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Moore of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson, who expects to play in Week 2 despite a knee injury.

Bill Hoppe, writing for the Post-Intelligencer, examines the Bills' dominance on special teams against the Seahawks. The fake field goal embarrassed Seattle.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asks Matt Hasselbeck about the bulging disc in his back. Hasselbeck says that's not why his back was hurting.

Also from Farnsworth: An overview of the Seahawks' performance, with references to "un-special" teams. Special-teams co-captain D.D. Lewis lamented poor attention to detail.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune explores the Seahawks' depth problems at receiver. Courtney Taylor expresses confidence in his abilities despite a poor showing.

Also from Williams: A closer look at the Seattle special teams, with comments from punter Ryan Plackemeier and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven.

More from Williams and Frank Hughes: Nate Burleson and Seneca Wallace wound up being the top two choices as punt returners. That could change with Burleson hurting.

Also from Hughes: Mike Holmgren says the Seahawks might need some time to get up to speed offensively. The Bills were good enough to make that obvious.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune keeps the faith for the Seahawks, noting that they looked similarly horrible during the 2005 season opener, only to reach the Super Bowl.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Hasselbeck's back, confirming reports of a bulging disc and noting how much is riding on the quarterback this season.

Also from O'Neil: Seattle finished with more punts (11) than points (10). Ouch.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times assesses the damage following Seattle's first-game meltdown. Holmgren hopes it was a wake-up call.

Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says Burleson has suffered knee issues before, including the last time a team needed him as its No. 1 receiver.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

With 38-year-old Jeff Robinson on the field at Seahawks practice today, the team's special-teams situation is back to snap one. Robinson filled in at snapper for the Seahawks last season. The team needs him again now that rookie draft choice Tyler Schmitt is out for the season.

The Seahawks took great efforts to upgrade their running game this offseason. They have built depth on defense.

But with 11 days until the season opener, the special teams remain unsettled. Robinson is apparently the snapper (Tim Lindsey has handled snapping duties with Schmitt sidelined). Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu are battling for the kicking job. Ryan Plackemeier and Reggie Hodges are battling for the punting job.

Meanwhile, former snapper J.P. Darche, former punter Jeff Feagles and former kicker Josh Brown carry on elsewhere. Special-teams issues can cost teams victories. We saw it happen famously in Seattle before Mike Holmgren arrived and we saw it happen to Seattle last season.

The Seahawks have gotten a lot of things right in the last few seasons, but some of their special-teams decisions haven't worked out as planned.

Mailbag: Pizza and roster projections

August, 27, 2008
8/27/08
1:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

This is a Seahawks-centric mailbag, reflecting the content of almost all questions and comments submitted in the last 24 hours. It's probably fitting given injury concerns involving Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu and others.

I spent a few hours Tuesday night interacting with a Seahawks booster club that has been nice enough to invite me to its meetings about once per year in recent seasons. The first mailbag offering comes from one of the Seattle fans unlucky enough to witness what happens when someone sets down my favorite pizza within sniffing distance. More on that later.

Corey from Des Moines, Wash., writes: Hey Mike, just wanted to thank you and your family for taking the time to meet with our booster club last night.

Thanks for answering my questions about the Rams. It was really nice to have you there as you are "all-knowing" about topics in our division. I had a couple more questions for you. What are your thoughts on the new Seahawks training facility in Renton? Do you think they lose anything from not having players living together for training camp? Do teams like the Rams, who went to Wisconsin (where the hell IS Mequon?), have an advantage because their players get a chance to bond more than the Seahawks?

I heard you are a big fan of Round Table pizza. In your travels covering the Rams, have you ever been to Imo's Pizza in the St.Louis area? That's all I've got right now. Thanks again for last night and I look forward to chatting with you soon.....GO HAWKS!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Corey. "All-knowing" is being a lot generous. I feel like I'm "all-learning" as I work toward a fuller understanding of the teams in this division.

Your club president, Bruce Bright, put me on the spot last night and forced me to project a 53-man roster for the Seahawks. I had a harder time with it this season. The receiver-running back breakdown is still in flux. I wound up cutting Ben Obomanu and Justin Forsett on my projection (sorry, guys, nothing personal, and I have a feeling Obomanu might stick around anyway).

I kept 10 defensive linemen, allowing Jason Babin and Baraka Atkins to stick around. I went with eight defensive backs (sorry, Jamar Adams). And I went with Olindo Mare at kicker, and Ryan Plackemeier at punter. I saved a spot for Floyd Womack on the offensive line, relegating Kyle Williams to the practice squad, but I don't feel strongly about the position.

A good beat reporter should be able to nail all 53 or miss no more than one or two most seasons, but I'd be happy with two misses on this projection.

As for your questions, I do think the bonding aspect is enhanced when teams stay home for training camp, but I have no evidence suggesting it makes a difference during the season.

As for pizza, I can confirm that Round Table's King Arthur Supreme is my first choice under any circumstances. I have had Imo's in St. Louis, but I'm partial to King Arthur. I've cut back on the instances of outright gluttony over the last 10 years, but -- sad to say -- I can still make a medium disappear in 15 minutes. It just happens.


Ryan from Springfield, Mo., writes: Mr. Sando, we heart your blog over at TurfShowTimes.com! Anyway, question for you. How much weight do you attach to the preseason stats asterisk next to the performance of Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton? It seems both have a decent grasp of the notoriously difficult Al Saunders playbook, much better than the veteran Drew Bennett, but may lose a step amidst the much tougher grind of the NFL's regular season. Thoughts? Could Burton's style and ability replace Bennett? Cheers, Ryan

Mike Sando: Thanks, Ryan. Much appreciated. I trust what Al Saunders told me early in the offseason. He thought the rookies would need time to become consistently productive members of the offense. My feeling is that those guys will show flashes, good and bad, and that Avery will hit a couple home runs this season as a receiver and/or returner. The learning curve accelerates if one or both winds up starting (that could happen on a team with Drew Bennett and Dante Hall as the second and third receivers).

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer breaks down the Seahawks' situation at running back. Rookie Justin Forsett struggled in the most recent exhibition game, while veteran T.J. Duckett suddenly became productive. Seattle has very good versatility in its backfield, a change from the Shaun Alexander years. 

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times has a note about Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier feeling good following his first exhibition game of the summer. Plackemeier is recovering from pectoral surgery.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune breaks down the Seahawks' roster following the cut-down to 75 players.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals left tackle Mike Gandy keeps a low profile, a good sign for players at the position. Line coach Russ Grimm: "I think he has a lot of pride in what he does. He's not the biggest tackle. He's not the fastest tackle, but he's a good, solid tackle. He's a low-key guy, and he's all business. He knows what he can handle, and he sets his priorities."

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals are relatively healthy heading into the final exhibition game. These types of stories carry high cringe value for those who believe in jinxes (not that football people ever fall into that category).

Also from Tulumello: The Cardinals want improved play on special teams, including kicker Neil Rackers.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are optimistic about their offense under first-year coordinator Mike Martz. Receiver Arnaz Battle: "Even the defensive guys are excited about what we're doing on the offensive side of the ball."

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers held a question-and-answer session. On Manny Lawson: "I think Lawson will be a solid player. I think he'll be very strong in coverage against tight ends, but I'm not sure he'll supply much pass rush."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Frank Gore is fired up about Martz's offense in San Francisco. Gore: "We have a new leader, man, a new leader on the ship. When he stands up in the room, and you hear him talk, you know that he knows what he's talking about. Everything is going to change this year." 

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says Takeo Spikes had the Super Bowl in mind when he signed with the 49ers earlier this month. Every team like its chances this time of year.

Also from FitzGerald: Bryant Johnson and David Baas are trying to win starting jobs after returning from injuries. Meanwhile, right tackle Jonas Jennings ditched a hard cast for a soft one. He has a broken knuckle.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams quarterback Trent Green. The team isn't worried about Green's history of concussions. Green will start the team's final exhibition game.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes Rams receiver Drew Bennett as critical of his own play recently. Bennett: "I have some things to work on. I've had a few drops that I don't want to carry into the season." Bennett's reception totals over the last four seasons have fallen from 80 to 58 to 46 to 33.

Around the NFC West: Linehan must win

August, 24, 2008
8/24/08
8:52
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Scott Linehan knows he has to win this season. Linehan must do a better job handling defeat, the coach acknowledged. He also must not focus on the offense at the expense of the rest of the team.

Also from Thomas: Linehan is doing whatever he can to avoid a repeat of 2007, even changing up things in his personal life. Will it carry over onto the field?

Still more from Thomas: Where were you when the Rams' first-team offense finally scored a preseason touchdown? Thanks for asking, Jim. I was at the Cardinals-Raiders game.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers summaries on the Rams' key new players: Chris Long, Jacob Bell, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Josh Brown, Trent Green and Anthony Becht.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers late-night thoughts following the Cardinals' 24-0 victory over the Raiders in the third exhibition game. Somers after coach Ken Whisenhunt defended a struggling Matt Leinart: "Jeff Fisher has done the same for Vince Young in Tennessee. I'll take the coach at his word, but you don't expect a first-round pick in his third year to look as bad as Leinart did."

Also from Somers: an overview of the game, including this observation Leinart: "Only one of his passes, a 14-yarder to receiver Anquan Boldin, seemed to be thrown with much conviction or accuracy. It's hard to see Saturday's video helping Leinart keep the job."

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune assesses Matt Leinart's poor performance against the Raiders before getting into how well the Cardinals' defense played.

Also from Tulumello: a look at the Cardinals' continuing penalty problems.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com balances good with bad following the Cardinals' performance. Speaking of the good, how about that Cardinals defense?

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says there's no way the Cardinals can open the regular season with Leinart at quarterback.

Jim Cawley of Florida Today checks in with Joe Cohen as the recently released 49ers defensive lineman helps family recover from Tropical Storm Fay in Florida. Being released was tough, but as Cohen put it: "I can't let this incident halt my life. There are other people in worse situations than me."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times breaks down the Seahawks' roster heading into the next exhibition game. He places Deion Branch on the bubble, only because the receiver could open the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. He lists Will Herring among the longshots at linebacker.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers ideas for improving the exhibition season: "Memo to the league: Monday night football and overtimes have no place in the preseason."

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier, who is competing with Reggie Hodges for a roster spot. The two have become friends.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Scott Linehan is feeling good upon hearing news of Steven Jackson's return from a holdout. Also: The Rams say 93 percent of season-ticket holders renewed despite a 3-13 record last season.

Jeff Gordon of STLtoday.com says Jackson was in a lose-lose situation before "coming to his senses" and reporting to "honor his old contract" while the team works toward a new one. I don't think Jackson would be reporting without a new deal being imminent. The Rams' offense was not going to scare anyone without Jackson.

Matt Maiocco of the Instant 49ers says the team will start undrafted rookie free agent Brian de la Puente at left guard against the Bears on Thursday. Maiocco also has a story on veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes. Spikes was interested in learning about the 49ers' offense -- not just its defense -- before signing with the team.

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic calls out Anquan Boldin over the receiver's stance in contract negotiations. Young notes, interestingly, that Larry Fitzgerald went out of his way to praise coach Ken Whisenhunt for helping him get a new contract. Fitzgerald and Whisenhunt even went to an NBA game together. Might Boldin feel as though Whisenhunt hasn't done as much to help him get a new deal?

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are looking to draw better. Let me rephrase that. The Cardinals have actually drawn well at their new stadium. It's the draw play they're looking to improve heading into the season. Also, former Seahawks receiver Jerheme Urban seems to have solidified his hold on a roster spot, perhaps as the third or fourth receiver. Rookie Early Doucet makes his exhibition-season debut this week, but he has much ground to make up. The Cardinals drafted Doucet to replace Bryant Johnson, who signed with the 49ers and, like Doucet, also missed much of camp with a hamstring injury.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer answers readers' questions, including one about the situation at receiver. He likes Logan Payne's chances, adding: "There's starting split end Nate Burleson and Courtney Taylor, the starting flanker until either Branch or Engram can return. There's also Ben Obomanu, who isn't taking advantage of the extra chances he's getting. There's Jordan Kent, an impressive athlete who has made some nice catches but still drops too many balls -- including one in an against-air drill Wednesday morning. Payne is a tough (he's practicing and playing with a crack rib), sure-handed, can contribute on special teams and also help fill the void in the slot until [Bobby] Engram comes back."

Michael Steffes of Seahawks Addicts lays out a plan for how the Seahawks can best maximize roster spots based on injuries to Deion Branch and Bobby Engram. He favors recommitting to the run early in the season, which would justify carrying an extra running back (Justin Forsett). This would also help Matt Hasselbeck stay healthy while making good use of the one area Seattle spent the most resources upgrading this offseason: the rushing attack.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune was there when Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier blasted three consecutive punts off the same beam suspended 110 feet from the floor of Seattle's new indoor facility.

Setting the scene at Qwest Field

August, 16, 2008
8/16/08
8:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- The Seahawks and Bears have left the field for the locker rooms one last time before their exhibition game tonight at Qwest Field. The temperature in Seattle is 86 degrees with 34 percent humidity, warm for these parts. Winds are from the northwest at 10 miles per hour. Skies are clear but a little hazier than usual. Sideline mist machines are blowing moisture onto the bench areas, but both sidelines are in the shade.

Scouts representing the 49ers, Chargers, Steelers, Raiders, Saints, Jets, Eagles, Jaguars, Cowboys, Browns and Bills have secured credentials to watch this game from the pressbox. They'll be watching for bubble players who might become available when teams reduce roster sizes.

Seattle has some difficult decisions to make because the Seahawks are deep at a few positions. A dozen members of Seattle's 80-man roster will not play tonight. They are: punter Ryan Plackemeier, receiver Joel Filani, defensive back Jordan Babineaux, snapper Tyler Schmitt, linebacker Will Herring, center Chris Spencer, defensive tackle Red Bryant, receiver Deion Branch, receiver Bobby Engram, defensive lineman Chris Cooper, defensive tackle Larry Tripplett and defensive end Patrick Kerney.

Charlie Frye will start at quarterback for the Seahawks. The team wants to get a long look at him tonight, the hope being that Frye will play well enough for coach Mike Holmgren to feel better about using No. 2 quarterback Seneca Wallace as a receiver and/or punt returner.

Nate Burleson and Courtney Taylor are starting at receiver for Seattle. Julius Jones starts at running back. He'll be looking to answer Maurice Morris' strong showing in the first exhibition game. Morris and Jones are fighting for a starting spot. Both are expeted to play extensively this season. Rookie first-round choice Lawrence Jackson is starting at right defensive end, with Darryl Tapp starting in Kerney's usual spot on the left side. Jackson has a shot at beating out Tapp for the starting job on the right side.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers quarterback Alex Smith during a tough week. Smith's best friend committed suicide over the weekend. Smith: "I talked to him on Saturday, our day off. I asked him if he wanted to come up for Saturday's game. He was going to come up." Smith will attend his friend's funeral Friday, to be held in Smith's back yard at the family's request.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune confirms news that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie does not have a serious ankle injury. The rookie first-round draft choice could practice tonight.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Rams rookie Donnie Avery is finally back on the field after suffering a hip injury. Avery, a second-round choice, missed the exhibition opener. The Rams drafted him as a speed receiver.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Seahawks special-teams coach Bruce DeHaven on the punting race. Reggie Hodges has made it a competition. Incumbent Ryan Plackemeier is recovering from surgery.

Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider says the offense finally showed some spark in practice today. Maurice Morris' big run up the middle gave the offense something to talk about.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer singles out Brandon Mebane as the Seahawks' player of the day. Mebane is one player the Seahawks cannot afford to lose. He is exceptionally strong against the run and increasingly difficult to handle in pass-rush drills.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks re-signed long snapper Tim Lindsey at the expense of defensive back Eric Wicks, a seemingly minor move with significantly broader implications.

Every team faces injury problems during camp, but the Seahawks are worse off than any team in the division. Punter Ryan Plackemeier is practicing on a limited basis, but his surgically repaired pectoral has not yet been ready for games.

The team still hasn't declared a winner between kickers Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu, so both remain on the roster. Lindsey was re-signed because the team's only other snapper, Tyler Schmitt, is out with back trouble. A back injury already forced the team's reserve short snapper, guard Chris Gray, into retirement.

What it means: Seattle is carrying six specialists, tied with New Orleans and Tennessee for the league high. The Seahawks are carrying only eight linebackers, 12 defensive backs and four tight ends. Each of those figures is tied for the league low. Only six teams are carrying fewer running backs than Seattle (the Seahawks have six, and one of them, starting fullback Leonard Weaver, is resting a strained hamstring).

How has this happened? Bad luck with injuries, for starters. The Seahawks also bear some of the responsibility. They weren't able to re-sign kicker Josh Brown, leading to the Coutu-Mare race.

They had a perfectly good snapper in J.P. Darche, but they didn't want him back in free agency. Years ago, they let durable punter Jeff Feagles leave in free agency to save a few hundred thousand dollars. Feagles has subsequently set the NFL record for consecutive games played, collecting a Super Bowl ring along the way.

Around the NFC West: Cards No. 2 here

August, 10, 2008
8/10/08
11:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are -- shhhhh! -- quietly optimistic. We know, we know ... you've heard it all before. But after visiting camps, I would rank Arizona behind only Seattle in the NFC West. I just wonder if the Cardinals can hold up over their final seven games. Check 'em out here and tell me how many wins you see there.

Also from Somers: Anquan Boldin was back at practice after resting a hamstring injury, while safety Aaron Francisco tried to shake off a poor effort in the exhibition opener against the Saints.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee was there when J.T. O'Sullivan took the first-team reps at quarterback in practice Sunday. Not that the 49ers are favoring him. Just all part of the process, folks. I fully expect the 49ers to name a starter by midseason.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers said O'Sullivan looked good in practice, particularly during two-minute drills. Not that this is anything but a three-quarterback race (sorry, but this quarterback "race" needs a finish line). 

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals think they've found a keeper in seventh-round offensive lineman Brandon Keith, who played well in the exhibition opener. This would be terrific news for Arizona. The team needs all the line depth it can muster.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer hands out player-of-the-day hardware to Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier, who returned from pectoral surgery. Fullback Leonard Weaver missed the special-teams practice after straining a hamstring in the morning. Fellow fullback Owen Schmitt sounds ready to take any leftover reps when Seattle opens its home exhibition schedule against Chicago in less than a week.

Eric Williams of Seahawks Insider says Matt Hasselbeck missed practice with a sore back. Hasselbeck came out for warmups, then left the field. The back was bothering Hasselbeck during the Seahawks' exhibition opener Friday night. 

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times broke out an item on Julius Jones' scheduled start against the Bears. Fellow Seahawks running back Maurice Morris started -- and flourished -- against the Vikings. Jones did impress me with his blitz pickup on one of Seneca Wallace's touchdown passes.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was there when former Rams coach Dick Vermeil made an appearance at training camp Sunday. Unfortunately for the Rams, the 71-year-old Vermeil appears healthier than fourth-round rookie cornerback Justin King, who is headed for injured reserve with a toe injury. 

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