NFC West: Scott Shanle
The pregame show is already under way.
Saints linebacker Scott Shanle blasted 49ers safety Donte Whitner after Whitner suggested his team's character would prevent San Francisco from engaging in the bounty tactics that landed New Orleans in trouble this offseason.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has the play-by-play. Shanle via Twitter: "Guy needs to shut his mouth and mind his own business. Don't remember them winning the superbowl. U still ringless. We got one and working on two now. Try to keep up." Noted: Now, now. Both guys are out of line here. Whitner suggested over-the-line comments from former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams reflected the character of Saints players. That wasn't fair. But the fact that Shanle, not Whitner, has a Super Bowl ring has more to do with Drew Brees and the Saints' team than it has to do with a linebacker such as Shanle. The fact that Whitner does not have a Super Bowl ring has more to do with the quarterbacks and teams Whitner has played with throughout his career, not anything Whitner has done wrong.
Also from Barrows: a chat transcript in which he says Colin Kaepernick appears in good position to win the No. 2 job behind Alex Smith. Barrows: "I think it's Kaepernick's job to lose. He's looked a lot more accurate in [training camp] than he did in the spring. It may have been that that he was working on weaknesses in the spring -- hey, that's what spring ball is for -- which skewed the perception of him. Johnson has by far the sweetest delivery and mechanics. But despite that, the ball doesn't always end up where it should."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers tight end Delanie Walker deserves credit for returning so quickly from a broken jaw last season. Walker also comments on his future with the team and how he played last season. Walker: "I had a great year blocking. And that was a big concern people had about me. Can he block? And I showed it last year. So I think everyone knows that I can catch the ball and I can make things happen once I have it in my hands. I’m playing for the Niners. When that time (free agency) comes, we’ll see what happens."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says defense dominated the Seahawks' fourth day of training camp. O'Neil: "The defense had the upper hand in Tuesday's practice with three notable interceptions (two of them on passes thrown by rookie Russell Wilson). Rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner picked off a pass thrown by Wilson. So did rookie safety Winston Guy. The play of the day in the eyes of Pete Carroll, however, was when rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin chased down a reverse from behind, knocking the ball out."
Brian McIntyre of NFL.com breaks down the Seahawks' new contract with defensive end Chris Clemons. McIntyre: "Clemons received a $6.5 million signing bonus and his $2 million base salary in 2012 is fully guaranteed. The $8.5 million more than doubles the $3.85 million in base salary and incentives Clemons could have made this season. ... Clemons is slated to earn $6 million in base salary in 2013, but just $1.5 million of that is fully guaranteed, bringing the official guarantee in the new contract to $10 million." Noted: Clemons was not in optimum position to maximize this deal because of his age (30) and the fact that a season remained on his previous deal.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals expect Kevin Kolb to start the team's exhibition opener Sunday if the quarterback resumes practicing Wednesday, as expected.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com analyzes the numbers at cornerback, where five players on the roster have started more than one regular-season game. Mike Adams is working in the nickel role at present. William Gay: "Everyone wants to compete and start, but that’s not the main focus. You want a good group, so if a team comes at us with more than two or three receivers, we have quality corners that can match that. Out of a whole game, say there are 70 defensive plays, your third corner is going to play 30 to 45 plays. Everybody’s goal in the league is to be a starter as soon as you get to the league, but the way the game has evolved, there are a lot of ways to be involved."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees good things from Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Burwell: "He's relatively healthy again, and with an additional 10 pounds of muscle added during the offseason, he intends to stay healthy. And if he does, we should see more than flashes of his potential. We should see the full realization of every prediction that he can be as good and dangerous as a young Troy Aikman. That's the sort of ability he displays as he strong-arms balls into ridiculously tight windows in heavy coverage. That's the sort of ability he flashes when he lofts splendid spirals on 50-yard bombs down the sidelines."
Also from Burwell: Rams players are eager to put on the pads. Defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 309 pounds, higher than his listed weight of 295: "Big, tough and physical? Yeah, I'm all of the above. I'm a big, tough guy. I'm a physical player. I'm ready to get this thing going. I can't emphasize enough how much I'm ready to get the pads on."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Chris Long's new deal with the Rams includes $50 million in new money, to be paid beginning in 2013. Long's salary for 2012 remains unchanged at $10.3 million. Thomas: "Because nothing was done to Long’s 2012 salary, he still counts $18.3 million against the salary cap this year -- the extension creates no cap relief in '12. But that is indicative of how the Rams have handled contracts under executive vice president Kevin Demoff. He doesn’t like back-loading contracts. As much as possible, it’s a pay-as-you-go approach."
Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the latest on overweight Rams rookie Rokevious Watkins.
It ended with the NFL summoning Williams to New York amid lingering questions.
What could happen to Williams as evidence against him accumulates? John Clayton and I discussed the possibilities Saturday.
Albert Breer of NFL.com says the league would like to hand down punishment before its league meetings in late March, allowing affected teams to adjust accordingly. Noted: The Rams appear to be in strong position to carry on without Williams, should that be necessary. Their head coach, Jeff Fisher, and assistant head coach, Dave McGinnis, have both worked as defensive coordinators.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers Rams fans temporary relief from all things relating to bounties, sizing up the team's prospects for trading the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. Noted: This is a good piece and a subject I'll analyze on the blog later Monday. One question would be whether the Redskins might be the only team drafting among the top six with serious interest in Robert Griffin III.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com revisits hits the Saints put on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner during a playoff game after the 2009 season. Urban: "There were other times in that game, though, when it did look like the Saints were going after Warner and specifically, his head (Warner had suffered through a concussion earlier that season.) Warner got hit a few times up high, but the Saints were only flagged for one personal foul, a roughing-the-passer by linebacker Scott Shanle. Warner at the time wasn’t thrilled about the hits, either. Warner said the (Bobby) McCray hit was clean, even if it didn’t feel that good."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the punishment New Orleans' defense unleashed on the 49ers' quarterbacks in the 2011 exhibition opener "makes a little more sense" in light of the bounty investigation. Maiocco: "The 49ers also faced the Saints twice in the regular season and one more time in the playoffs during the time frame in which the bounty system was in place. The 49ers sustained no known significant injuries due to any illegal hits. Coincidentally, 49ers safety Donte Whitner knocked running back Pierre Thomas from the game with a legal helmet-to-helmet hit that caused a fumble early in the 49ers' 36-32 victory in an NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts on the Saints' bounties in relation to the 49ers, including this one: "Did the Saints’ bounties come at any 49ers’ expense? Obviously the most concerning injury among the 49ers this past postseason was to Ted Ginn Jr., who left their divisional playoff game with a knee injury, an injury that kept him out of the NFC final that saw the New York Giants capitalize on mistakes by Ginn’s replacement as the punt returner, Kyle Williams. Ginn, after aggravating an ankle injury, appeared to hurt his knee on a collision with a Saints player on a play in which Ginn drew a pass-interference penalty. Ginn tried lining up for the next play but went down and was done for the season. I have no reason to think his injury was a result of any Saints misconduct."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times does not expect the Seahawks to use the franchise tag for defensive end Red Bryant because the cost would be more than $10 million for one season. Noted: Bryant has played a big part in the Seahawks' run defense over the past couple seasons. He also showed an ability to block field goal attempts last season. Seattle values his presence in the locker room as well. Those things make Bryant valuable to Seattle. The role Seahawks coaches have created for Bryant makes him a better fit in Seattle than he would be elsewhere. Re-signing gives Bryant his best chance at sustained success. Seems like the sides should be able to work out something. Both sides should value one another more than they value the alternatives.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits comments fullback Michael Robinson made regarding the newly re-signed Marshawn Lynch last season. Farnsworth: "During the season, and on several occasions, Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson marveled at what Lynch was able to accomplish – especially the way he accomplished it. At one point, Robinson said he never had seen a back generate as much power on one leg as Lynch – which explains his ability to emerge from piles of would-be tacklers and gain yards that just don’t seem to be there."
Also from Farnsworth: The Seahawks have a new FieldTurf Revolution Fiber playing surface. They're also replacing scoreboards.
- Steven Jackson sets the tone. Jackson didn't wait, either. He caught a pass nine seconds into the game and barreled up the left sideline as if looking for someone to punish. Jackson caught the ball at the St. Louis 20-yard line, made a defender miss at the 29, lowered his shoulder into another defender at the 32 and fell forward to about the 40. One of his feet stepped out of bounds accidentally, but Jackson never sought the sideline even when it was clear he wasn't going to gain much more yardage. This type of play will shorten Jackson's career, but it's the only way he knows. Jackson arguably saved the game with a fumble recovery at the New Orleans 3-yard line late in the first half. Rookie receiver Greg Salas lost the ball as the Saints tackled him. Jackson beat two Saints players to the ball for the recovery. A turnover in that situation would have been crushing. Jackson scored on the next play.
- Steve Spagnuolo was aggressive, too. The Rams went for it on fourth-and-2 from the New Orleans 40 with 9:29 left in the second quarter of a scoreless game. Improved depth at wide receiver made this a more feasible decision. With Brandon Lloyd commanding attention, the Rams ran a pick play for the improving Salas. Feeley set up in the shotgun. Salas was past the first-down marker and wide open on the left. This wound up being a high-percentage play, but one the Rams would have had a hard time executing a few weeks ago. About that improved receiver depth. Lloyd made one of the better catches I've seen this season when the Rams were running their four-minute offense with a 24-14 lead. Lloyd was on the ground along the sideline when he caught the ball less than a foot off the ground to convert a third-and-5. Feeley delivered the ball from inside the right hash at the 21-yard line. Lloyd caught it at the St. Louis 46. Those plays win games.
- Chris Long affected the game beyond sacks. Saints right tackle Charles Brown struggled against the Rams' defensive end. Long collected three sacks overall, a career high, but those weren't his only impressive plays. Long beat Brown to the inside with a strong move late in the first quarter, forcing a dump pass to the fullback, which Chris Chamberlain smothered. Late in the first half, Long used a spin move to get pressure on a pass teammate Craig Dahl nearly intercepted. Long beat Brown to the outside for a sack on the next play. Long used a power move to beat Brown and deflect Brees' third-down pass on the next play. Rookie defensive end Robert Quinn blocked the ensuing punt. The Rams' defensive linemen were relentless.
- The Saints' longest play covered 25 yards. They rank sixth in the league with 30 pass plays of at least 20 yards, but had only two such plays Sunday, one of them in garbage time. The combination of a strong Rams pass rush and better-than-expected coverage was in play. Drew Brees had to be surprised by what he saw. These weren't the same Rams.
- The Rams mixed up the ground game. The Rams' two longest plays were runs. Jackson had a 32-yarder behind fullback Brit Miller. Later, Jackson gained 20 yards after the Rams motioned him into a previously empty backfield from the left side of the formation, then ran him to the right behind two tight ends. Billy Bajema locked up linebacker Scott Shanle, turning him to the inside on the 20-yarder. The Rams' tight ends were better in this game.
I made it through the game without too many notes on Adam Goldberg, who was filling in for Jason Smith at right tackle. That's good for the Rams. Goldberg seemed to fare pretty well in pass protection.
Mikell has started all but one game over the last three seasons. The Rams, strong in rushing the passer last season, could stand to upgrade their run defense this offseason. Mikell is strong against the run and an aggressive tackler, according to an Insider report from Scouts Inc.
The Rams got strong play from Fred Robbins and James Laurinaitis up the middle last season, but their run defense was not particularly strong overall. Darren McFadden (145), Michael Turner (131) and Jamaal Charles (126) topped 100 yards rushing against them. The Rams allowed 113 yards rushing per game, which ranked 17th, and 4.48 yards per carry (22nd).
The Rams still need help on defense at outside linebacker and defensive tackle. New Orleans Saints veteran linebacker Scott Shanle, 31, has indicated a visit to the Rams could be an option. Barry Cofield, who played for Spagnuolo when both were with the New York Giants, would make sense as an option on the defensive line.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's quest to find a quarterback will impact Larry Fitzgerald's decision on whether to remain with the team past 2011. Urban: "Money will not be an issue. The Cardinals are expected to meet Fitzgerald’s desires in that area. As last season progressed, however, Fitzgerald talked more and more about wanting to make sure he played for a winner. He was always careful not to talk about having a better quarterback -- Fitzgerald is too smart for that -- but it was not difficult to read between the lines."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams went without a compensatory draft choice for only the second time in 10 years. Thomas: "Over the years, the Rams have had good success with compensatory picks, including two members of the current roster -- linebacker Josh Hull from the 2010 draft and linebacker David Vobora from the '08 draft. Vobora was Mr. Irrelevant in '08 as the last player taken in the draft. Three other former Rams compensatory picks are still playing in the NFL: quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo) and fullback Madison Hedgecock (Giants) were Rams comp picks in 2005; and linebacker Scott Shanle (New Orleans) was a comp pick in 2003."
Also from Thomas: The Rams expected improvement from quarterback Sam Bradford to help raise the level of play at receiver as well. Better luck with injuries would certainly help. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "Donnie Avery looks great. You know, when Donnie and I talked a year ago at the end of the (2009) season I said, 'You've got to be a durable guy, and that takes the offseason.' Because he would catch a pass and it seemed like every time he got up -- I told him this -- something was sore. So he worked on it last year, and of course he had the (knee) injury, and with this time with rehab that still rings in his ear. He has really taken a step to get his body ready to play an NFL season."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team is still formulating its draft opinions. General manager Billy Devaney: "We are not close to being there. I have a general idea. Being realistic, there are certain guys you know are going to be gone from pick one to five, six, seven. Then after that there is a cluster of names and they are darn good names. It’s exciting. It’s really exciting the possibilities that will be there at 14. We have a vague idea but we haven’t narrowed it down yet."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains why the 49ers received a second compensatory draft choice. Maiocco: "There were 21 compensatory picks awarded Friday based on the compensatory pick formula. By rule, 11 additional choices were awarded at the end of the seventh round to bring the total number of compensatory selections to 32, equaling the number of NFL clubs. The 49ers were among the teams given an extra draft choice based on the 2011 draft selection order."
Also from Maiocco: He makes the case against San Francisco using an early draft choice for a wide receiver. Maiocco: "Teams with good passing attacks can plug in receiver after receiver, and there is rarely a statistical drop-off. The 49ers have 10 picks in the draft, and they will almost assuredly use one of those selections on a wideout. But the team should be just fine with Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan as the starters -- as long as Jim Harbaugh can come up with somebody to throw the ball to them. The 49ers will look to upgrade the production from their No. 3 wideout. Veteran Ted Ginn had only 10 catches for 122 yards, and his spot on the roster is certainly not guaranteed. Kyle Williams did not get on the field much as a rookie, but he's a Trent Baalke draft pick. Baalke raved about Williams' combination of quickness and speed, attributes that serve him well as a slot receiver and in the return game."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates pre-draft workouts and visits for the 49ers. Barrows on Andy Dalton: "Dalton said on NFL Network that he has private visits set up with the 49ers among other teams. Jim Harbaugh attended Dalton's pro day workout earlier this month, and he is among a group of second-round prospects the 49ers are sorting out. Dalton's best attribute may be his accuracy, although like many passers in this year's class, he operated out of a spread system in college."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers, who already hold a league-high 12 draft choices, should trade back to acquire more in the hopes that quantity gives them a better shot at quality. Lynch: "In the last decade, the 49ers proved adept at drafting a Pro Bowl punter, long-snapper, middle linebacker and running back. But now they have to take chances on pass rusher, cornerback and quarterback. It would be best to go after those spots with two or three possibilities instead one potentially expensive miss."
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have a shot at continuing their recent successes in the latter rounds of drafts. The team holds five choices in the final two rounds. Josh Morgan, Ricky Jean-Francois and Anthony Dixon were recent finds in those rounds.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare would take a "hometown discount" to remain with the team. Mare: "Oh, absolutely. For sure. I would be stupid not to. The Seahawks gave me an opportunity. I always take that into consideration also. But we'll see. I have to get a offer first. What would be great would be is if there was a bunch and it would show that people appreciate what you do, and that's always flattering. Just to get all your options available. If you signed (for) three, four, five years, that would be your last contract. You want to make sure that everything was done right. But yeah, Seattle will definitely get a home discount. Besides, I like to go to the Sounders games, and I've got a lot going on there." Looks like the Seahawks don't have to worry about losing Mare in free agency.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com continues his series on the 35th anniversary team with a look at retired safety Eugene Robinson. Farnsworth: "For a guy who showed up in 1985 as an undrafted rookie out of Colgate, as a cornerback no less, Robinson left an indelible mark on the franchise. He is the Seahawks’ all-time leading tackler (984) and ranks second in career interceptions (42) to Dave Brown (50) and fumble recoveries (14) to Jacob Green (17) -- one of the ends on the reader-selected 35th Anniversary team."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says a small group of Seahawks fans protested the NFL lockout at Qwest Field. Said one fan: "It frustrates me because we paid for our tickets. We spend a lot of money during the season to watch these guys, and our say doesn't even get taken into any consideration."
- There was nothing fancy about the personnel or formation.
- Seattle lined up in its base offense with two backs and one tight end, John Carlson. The strong side was to the left, and that is where Lynch ran initially.
- Seattle had been favoring zone runs all game, but this play -- "17 Power" -- featured man-on-man blocking. Players said Seattle had not run the play all game.
- With this run, the Seahawks averaged 10.5 yards per rush on 10 carries from base personnel against New Orleans, according to my charting.
- Lynch might never have escaped the backfield if fullback Michael Robinson, lined up in the offset-I formation, hadn't slammed into linebacker Jonathan Vilma, creating space.
- Even so, linebacker Scott Shanle should have made the tackle about two yards into the run. No one blocked him. Count this as missed/broken tackle No. 1.
- Receiver Ben Obomanu motioned right to left, sealing safety Roman Harper on the edge.
- Right tackle Sean Locklear had the easiest job. He stood up and danced with defensive end Alex Brown.
- Right guard Mike Gibson pulled across the formation, helped Carlson turn linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar outside and then rocked cornerback Tracy Porter five yards past the line of scrimmage.
- It got worse for Porter. Much worse.
- Center Chris Spencer and left guard Tyler Polumbus steered defensive tackle Remi Ayodele to the weak side.
- Left tackle Russell Okung blocked defensive end Will Smith, but Smith came off the block in time to trail Lynch and get both hands on the running back's hips at the Seattle 35-yard line. This would be missed/broken tackle No. 2.
- Spencer blocked Darren Sharper on the second level, but Sharper disengaged in time to make contact with Lynch eight yards downfield. Ayodele also made contact with Lynch at this point. These would be missed/broken tackles Nos. 3 and 4.
- Cornerback Jabari Greer caught Lynch at midfield along the right hash, but Lynch ran right out of his grasp. Missed/broken tackle No. 5.
- Porter caught up to Lynch at the New Orleans 36, but he made a bad mistake. Porter tried to tackle Lynch high. Lynch, cradling the ball in his right arm, discarded the 186-pound corner with a left hand straight out of a George Foreman fight. Porter tumbled nearly five yards downfield, landing on his right shoulder and rolling on the ground. This was missed/broken tackle No. 6.
- Perhaps sensing Lynch could go all the way, multiple teammates rallied to the cause. Polumbus and receiver Mike Williams were first on the scene. Locklear and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck were gaining as Lynch crossed the 30.
- Hasselbeck did not really block Brown, but he slightly impeded the big defensive end. Asked later if he were "looking" to block someone, Hasselbeck deadpanned that he was looking, but just looking.
- Brown dove at Lynch's feet and just missed along the right sideline at the 16. This was missed/broken tackle No. 7.
- Polumbus was at the 12 by now and in perfect position to shield Harper as Lynch cut back toward the middle.
- Greer had hustled back into the play by now, but Hasselbeck seemed to know Lynch would score. The quarterback raised his right arm as Lynch crossed the 4-yard line, with Greer a step or so behind.
- Harper had ducked under Polumbus at this point, but he dived and missed at the 2. This was missed/broken tackle No. 8. Lynch sidestepped just enough to make sure Harper would not get him.
- Carlson, Spencer and Obomanu were also inside the 5 at this point.
- Lynch dove onto his back in the end zone and popped to his feet as Carlson, Hasselbeck, Polumbus, Spencer, Williams and Obomanu swarmed him.
- This was the longest run of Lynch's career by 11 yards and it gave Seattle its first 100-yard rusher of the season.
Not a bad way to punctuate one of the bigger playoff upsets in NFL history.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' pass protection is probably the hottest issue facing the team through four games. The role of tight end Vernon Davis also ranks high on the list. These issues are related.
I just re-watched the 49ers' first 58 offensive plays against New Orleans to chart Davis' role in the offense.
Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan completed 6 of 8 passes for 91 yards with two sacks on 10 plays with Davis helping in pass protection. O'Sullivan's passer rating was 112.0 on those eight passes. Davis blocked Saints defensive end Will Smith effectively enough on one of those sacks, but O'Sullivan held the ball too long and Smith chased him down across the field.
[Note: Thanks to contributor Mr. Zero for pointing out that Davis stayed in for protection on the first O'Sullivan interception. This was the pass I thougth was tipped. If you add the intercepion, that lofty 112.0 rating gets chopped down to 60.2.]
When Davis was not helping in pass protection, O'Sullivan completed 11 of 26 passes for 159 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and four sacks. His rating on these plays was 43.6. [Note: Those stats do not count the final desperation drive, which was excluded from the 58-play sample.]
Watching this game made me think Davis was one of the best pass protectors on the team. He regularly blocked Smith and fellow defensive end Charles Grant, tough duty for any tight end. Davis was effective as a run blocker. During the third quarter, he blocked Smith twice and Grant twice on runs that gained 9, 9, 6 and 7 yards.
The broadcast video doesn't allow for analysis of route running, but Davis hasn't been known for polished routes or the surest hands. I think it's also fair to point out that offensive coordinator Mike Martz traditionally hasn't featured tight ends as receivers. And so Davis finished the game with one catch for 19 yards, on a screen, no less.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- While a steady rain falls at the Meadowlands in advance of the Cardinals-Jets game, I put together a roided-out Saints roster for those of you monitoring the 49ers' game at New Orleans today.
The Saints are the third-oldest team in the league behind St. Louis and Washington, but their starters rank in the middle of the pack on both sides of the ball (18th-oldest on offense, 17th-oldest on defense).
New Orleans has only 21 of its own draft choices by my count, tied with the Rams and Browns for sixth-fewest in the league. The league average is 26.
Seven Saints draft choices still with the team played college ball in the SEC, tied for second-most in the league. No Saints draft choices from the ACC remain on the 53-man roster. Every other team has at least one (Seattle leads the league with 11).
Despite having only 37 drafted players (selected by any team), the Saints have more players drafted in the fifth and seventh rounds -- 14 combined -- than any team in the league. The Saints have four starters drafted in the fifth, most in the league and well above average (1.4).Based on my most recent starting lineups, New Orleans is the only team in the league without one of its own draft choices starting at linebacker. They have patched the position with free-agent veterans such as Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle and Scott Fujita.