NFC West: Terrell Owens

Joe MontanaAP Photo
Score: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27
Date: Jan. 10, 1982
Site: Candlestick Park

The fans got it right picking The Catch.

Was this really a choice?

That is no disrespect to Joe Montana hitting John Taylor to win the Super Bowl in 1989 or to Steve Young and Terrell Owens hooking up with The Catch II to win a 1998 playoff game. Those were the two other finalists in our 49ers most memorable plays feature this week.

Fine, stunning, unforgettable plays. Both of them.

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However, in reality, The Catch is the only choice for the top play in 49ers history. It might be the most memorable play in NFL history.

Whether you were alive or not in 1982, you know this play. You can see Dwight Clark jumping into the sky over Everson Walls to snag Montana’s desperate heave right now, can’t you?

It is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. This play represents so much more than what it simply was at the moment. It didn’t just surge the San Francisco 49ers into their first Super Bowl -- it changed the course of NFL history.

It was the beginning of a dynasty. It was the arrival of Bill Walsh and Montana as NFL legends.

It knocked the Dallas Cowboys off their perch for a bit. It ignited one of sports' greatest rivalries.

Like all things great, The Catch’s impact was great and long lasting. There is no other play like it in 49ers history. It began the history of the 49ers in a lot of ways, and it certainly defined it.

There was no other choice.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Leave it to Candlestick Park to reunite the San Francisco 49ers and Terrell Owens.

Owens
The team announced Friday that the enigmatic, controversial retired receiver will be an honorary captain for the 49ers’ game against Carolina on Sunday. Owens will be part of the the top 10 moments in Candlestick Park history. It’s been a season-long celebration during the team’s final season at the stadium. The 49ers are moving 40 miles south to a new stadium in Santa Clara (adjacent to the team’s headquarters) next season.

The team will recognize Owens' last-minute 25-yard touchdown catch from Steve Young in a playoff victory against Green Bay in the 1998 playoffs. The play is remembered as “The Catch II” in 49ers' lore. "The Catch," of course, was a Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark connection to that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 1982. It kick-started a dynasty for the franchise.

Owens' catch didn’t quite have the lingering affect on the franchise, but it was the zenith of sometimes rocky stint in San Francisco for Owens. He was traded to the Eagles in 2004.

But Sunday, in Owens’ final curtain call at Candlestick, all will be well.

In other 49ers’ notes:

49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh and Carolina coach Ron Rivera were teammates in Chicago from 1987-92. They face each other as head coaches for the first time Sunday.

Three 49ers participated in this poll concerning the mess in Miami.

Here is a 49ers’ perspective on the NFL putting a franchise in London.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nearly two years have passed since Arizona Cardinals running back Ryan Williams suffered a torn patella tendon in his right knee.

Williams, now entering his third training camp, had an ice pack on that same knee while failing to finish practice Sunday. Williams was moving briskly with a slight limp when he headed to the locker room following practice. He did not oblige interview requests.

No big deal? Major story? It was impossible to tell, but any trouble with Williams' surgically repaired right knee is a concern for the Cardinals. Free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall is the presumed favorite to get most of the carries this season. His history with head coach Bruce Arians is one factor. Mendenhall averaged better than 1,100 yards per season with Pittsburgh from 2009 through 2011.

The shifty Williams, a second-round pick in 2011, remains a wild card until his health stabilizes. Knee and shoulder injuries ended his first two seasons.

Floyd's day

It was odd seeing Larry Fitzgerald drop a well-placed deep ball from Carson Palmer. Not long after, second-year wideout Michael Floyd impressed with a leaping grab on a deep pass to the other side of the field. Floyd looked good in this practice. Meanwhile, tight end Rob Housler impressed by catching a touchdown pass with his left arm while safety Jonathon Amaya hung onto him.

Up close and personal

The Cardinals wearing full pads for the first time in this camp, practiced running plays from the home sideline toward midfield. Fans were seated within maybe 15 yards of the action. Reporters were standing closer than that. Arians was standing within only a few feet of the offense. One highlight: right tackle Bobby Massie planting defensive end Darnell Dockett.

Former San Francisco 49er Chilo Rachal was working at left guard while the team awaited first-round pick Jonathan Cooper's arrival after Cooper reached agreement on a contract earlier in the day.

No break-in period for Cooper

Arians said Cooper would be allowed to practice in pads right away instead of waiting til his fourth day in camp. That marks a departure from 2012, when the Seattle Seahawks violated rules by allowing Terrell Owens to wear pads during his first practice.

As a league spokesman said last summer, "Day 1 is for the physical and meetings. Day 2 and 3 the player may participate, but only in helmet and shells or a padded shirt. Day 4 and for the rest of camp is in full pads."

So, what has changed? Not the CBA, but rather the interpretation of the CBA, according to the Cardinals. The language refers to the team's first day of camp, not to the player's first day of camp.

Strange sight

That was the not-so-mobile Palmer running what appeared to be a read-option play in practice before several thousand fans at University of Phoenix Stadium. Of course, it's not really an option if everyone knows the quarterback is going to pitch the ball. That is what Palmer did. The Cardinals also had cornerback Patrick Peterson playing receiver.

Pat Summerall never developed a signature call during four decades broadcasting NFL games for CBS and Fox. "Unbelievable" might have been as close as he came.

That probably wasn't by accident.

For Summerall, who died Tuesday at age 82, the broadcasts always seemed to be more about the games than what he had to say about them. That could also explain why I couldn't immediately think of a memorable call Summerall made during the 25 or so years I watched him on TV.

The San Francisco 49ers were the dominant NFL team through the 1980s, when Summerall began his memorable run with John Madden in the booth. The 49ers remained one of the best through most of the 1990s as well. But as things turned out, Summerall wasn't on the call for some of the 49ers most memorable moments.

Vin Scully and Hank Stram had the call for CBS on "The Catch" back in early 1982.

Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen were behind the microphones for NBC when Joe Montana drove the 49ers downfield to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

Summerall and Madden did have the call for Steve Young's winning touchdown pass to Terrell Owens against the Green Bay Packers following the 1998 season.

"Three-man rush and Young stumbles on the way back and fires up the middle," Summerall said as the play unfolded. "Pass is caught by Owens. Owens made the catch."

Eleven seconds passed before Summerall or Madden said anything.

"This is amazing," Madden said.

Another 15 seconds passed while 49ers players celebrated and the Candlestick Park crowd roared.

"Three seconds left," Summerall finally said.

A few more seconds went by.

"Terrell Owens was having a rotten day," Madden said, "but on one play here, does he make up for it."

Madden then described the coverage on the play before Summerall spoke up.

"Perfect pass," Summerall said, his first words in 18 seconds.

"Holy moley!" Madden said.

"Three seconds left as they line up for the extra point," Summerall said just as the kick sailed through, "and it's 30-27, San Francisco."

"And the 49ers are getting the monkey off their back today," Madden said.

"Unbelievable," Summerall said.
Every NFC West team but the Arizona Cardinals could reasonably rank a wide receiver upgrade high on its list of priorities.

The Cardinals should be set at the position with Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd.

One Seattle fan I heard from through the NFC West mailbag thinks the Seahawks are better than advertised at the position. I'll use the opportunity to take a big-picture look at NFC West teams' production when targeting wide receivers last season.

"I think many fans are misled into believing that we have a weak corps by the fact that the Seahawks are more of a run-dominant team," Brandon from Bremerton, Wash., writes via the mailbag. "Showing the number of targets and the efficiency of catching those targets would be a great measure of how receiving corps are ranked."

We can do that, Brandon. First, though, a few words of warning. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson held the ball an NFL-high 3.64 seconds before passing when targeting wide receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That bought time for his receivers to get open, often farther downfield. That helps explain why Wilson's passes to wideouts traveled 13.2 yards past the line of scrimmage on average, fifth-longest in the NFL.

Getting open is easier when the defense must worry about a dominant running back such as Marshawn Lynch and a dynamic scrambler such as Wilson. The way Seattle incorporated read-option wrinkles into the offense stressed defenses further.

Seattle ranked 31st in pass targets to wide receivers. That confirms what Brandon said about Seattle being a run-dominant team. But the Seahawks' wide receivers ranked eighth in percentage of targets resulting in completed passes. Seattle's wideouts ranked third in lowest percentage of dropped passes, according to the standard ESPN Stats & Information employs in-game charting. They were also sixth in yards per reception.

The first chart shows where NFC West teams' wide receivers ranked in various categories. Factors beyond the wide receivers come into play. The Cardinals ranked 32nd in expected points added on pass plays targeting wide receivers. I would blame the overall state of their offense, starting at quarterback, more than I would blame the receivers even if the wideouts didn't play as well as anticipated in some cases.

Seattle's efficiency when targeting wide receivers was good, but would it drop appreciably if the Seahawks became more of a throwing team? Or would Wilson continue to maximize the position, getting even more from his receivers as the group worked together more over time? Seattle ranked 19th through Week 7 and fifth thereafter in EPA when targeting wide receivers.

That's a run through some of the statistics. I'd say the Seahawks were better than anticipated at wide receiver. They went from hoping Terrell Owens would catch on to watching Sidney Rice and Golden Tate flourish. Each finished with seven receiving touchdowns. Again, Wilson had a great deal to do with that.

Adding another receiver through the draft would make sense, in my view.

Doug Baldwin has had some injury troubles. Rice had injury problems before last season. Ben Obomanu has been a valuable role player with special-teams ability as well, but he's scheduled to earn $2.3 million in salary for the 2013 season. It's probably time for a younger player to fill that role at lower cost. And if that younger player pushes Tate, Rice or Baldwin for playing time right away, all the better for Seattle.

49ers stat sheet: Crabtree up, Davis down

December, 31, 2012
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Michael Crabtree has given the San Francisco 49ers their first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003.

Owens reached the milestone five times as a 49er. Jerry Rice did it 12 times for the team. John Taylor was the only other 49ers player with more than one such season. He had two.

Crabtree, drafted 10th overall in 2009, enjoyed a career-best season. With 85 receptions for 1,105 yards, Crabtree joined Rice, Owens, Dwight Clark, Dave Parks and Gene Washington as the only 49ers player with at least 1,100 yards in a season.

Thanks to Adusoron the Brave for asking about Crabtree in the comments below this item.

The chart compares Crabtree's per-game stats this season to what they were for his previous three seasons. I added a column showing the change for teammate Vernon Davis over the same period.

Crabtree was up. Davis was down.
The Seattle Seahawks have upgraded much of their roster over the past three seasons.

Wide receiver is a position still needing some attention.

That was the takeaway Sunday when the Seahawks scratched veteran Braylon Edwards from the lineup and it mattered. Edwards, named inactive with a swollen knee, had been getting additional reps in recent weeks. He even caught a touchdown pass against New England two weeks ago. But durability has been an issue for him over the past two seasons.

Edwards, 29, was expected to continue getting additional reps while Doug Baldwin misses time with a high-ankle sprain.

With Edwards and Baldwin out, Charly Martin figures to get more extensive work against Detroit on Sunday.

Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Ben Obomanu and Martin are the four receivers active against the Lions. None has caught more than 37 passes in a season since 2010.

Rice leads the team with 22 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Tate, Obomanu and Martin have combined for 19 receptions.

Two of the veteran receivers Seattle released before the season, Terrell Owens and Mike Williams, have not signed elsewhere.
Steve Young's winning touchdown pass to Terrell Owens in the 1998 postseason stands above all San Francisco 49ers memories against the Green Bay Packers.

It can't fully overshadow the Packers' regular-season dominance in the series, however.

Any 49ers fan should find the chart appalling.

The Packers have won the last nine regular-season meetings between the teams, scoring at least 30 points in five of them.

Losing at Green Bay in Week 1 this season would saddle the 49ers with 10 consecutive defeats in a regular-season series for the third time in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The team lost 13 in a row to the Baltimore Colts from 1962-68. It lost 10 straight to the Los Angeles Rams from 1970-75.

The last time San Francisco claimed a regular-season victory over Green Bay was Nov. 4, 1990.

Joe Montana was the 49ers' quarterback, Brett Favre was in college, Aaron Rodgers was 6 years old and Bart Starr was the Packers' all-time passing yardage leader. Also that day, a 26-year-old Jim Harbaugh was completing 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and a 105.9 NFL passer rating for Chicago during a 26-6 victory at Tampa Bay.

Enough is enough.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' OLB options

September, 4, 2012
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The San Francisco 49ers made it through last season just fine with only three outside linebackers on their roster.

Whether they can do so as well this season probably won't be known right away.

Replacing the injured Parys Haralson with former Arizona Cardinals starter Clark Haggans was a move that will play out over the season, not over the next couple weeks. That is why the DUI-related suspension Haggans could be facing might not hurt the team all that much if it happens at all. That assumes Aldon Smith will be healthy enough to contribute fully.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee explains the situation in detail: "The 49ers also will be playing two pass-oriented offenses over the first two weeks: Green Bay and Detroit. That means they likely will be in their nickel formation for much of those games. In those instances, Demarcus Dobbs would be able to fill in as an extra pass rusher if there were more injuries at outside linebacker or if the 49ers wanted to give one of their linebackers a rest. The team released four outside linebackers last week, including their preseason sack leader, Eric Bakhtiari. The team also was impressed with Ikaika Alama-Francis, who joined the team late in the summer but who looked good in the finale Thursday." Noted: If Smith misses time and Haggans receives a suspension, the 49ers will find themselves in a tough spot. Smith, Haralson and Ahmad Brooks were the outside linebackers last season. Each played in all 16 games.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com looks at the team's captains for 2012.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News explains why he's picking someone other than the 49ers for the Super Bowl this year. Kawakami: "The 49ers are just barely out of my Super Bowl consideration because, in retrospect, maybe last year was when it all lined up for them… and they were a close miss. Can everything that went right for Jim Harbaugh’s crew in 2011 go so smoothly in 2012? The 49ers are immensely talented, but injuries and bad breaks have a way of evening out from year to year. So I’m going to skip ahead to the 2013 campaign for any 49ers Super Bowl prophesizing."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers a feel for what it's like when little-known players receive their release. Terrance Ganaway, one of the newest Rams, on his recent departure from the Jets: "I never go out, and I don't drink, but we went to the bar and we just watched the (Aug. 30) Philadelphia-Jets game, which was on replay. And the bartender asked us: Were we Jets fans?"

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams resemble an expansion team after gutting the roster under new coach Jeff Fisher and new general manager Les Snead. Miklasz: "That notion will anger and frustrate some, but that's how I see it. And it doesn't bug me, because I've avoided delusional behavior to take the long view since Fisher and Snead set up at Earth City. This disaster wasn't going to be cleaned up in a year, or after one offseason. I'd rather see the new bosses start fresh, start over, and cultivate a roster that can grow. That makes more sense than keeping older, marginal players employed."

Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times says the Seahawks will not owe a conditional draft choice to the Bucs for Kellen Winslow because the teams' trade was contingent on Winslow appearing on the 53-man roster. He says the Bucs would get a pick if Winslow re-signed with the Seahawks. Noted: The first part is consistent with what we knew at the time of the trade. I'd be surprised if re-signing Winslow would require Seattle to part with a pick, however. Winslow is a free agent. That would generally nullify any trade parameters.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahaws' offensive options appear more familiar without Winslow or Terrell Owens in the picture. O'Neil: "Two weeks ago, you looked on the field and wondered how they were going to shoehorn Winslow and Owens into an offense that already included starters like Miller and Sidney Rice. Things aren't so crowded now, and they're a lot more familiar. Of the six receivers and three tight ends currently on the roster, only three are new: Braylon Edwards, Charly Martin and Evan Moore. Edwards could end up starting as split end Golden Tate's status is uncertain. He did not practice Monday after suffering a knee injury in the exhibition game last Thursday. Friday, a source indicated the injury was likely to keep Tate out the next two weeks."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks offensive lineman James Carpenter "feels great" about returning to practice following an extensive knee rehab.

Also from Williams: a look at the Seahawks' secondary.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune explains how Charly Martin earned a roster spot at receiver for Seattle against what seemed like long odds. Boling: "Martin scored points with the staff with his special teams play, and with his consistency catching the ball and running routes. But he also earned the trust of a very important teammate: rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. When Wilson broke free for a 32-yard touchdown in the preseason opener against Tennessee, Martin blocked his man from about the 15-yard line into the end zone to clear the way. Thirteen days later, as Wilson was about to get nailed by Kansas City’s Tamba Hali, Martin broke free and pulled in a touchdown throw from Wilson. This builds an important rapport."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic checks in with backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb on why he didn't win the starting job: "I don't think there's one thing. My thinking of the deal is you just work as hard as you can possibly work and put in the time. I know there's still good things to come here. I keep telling y'all that every time something bad happens, and that's the perspective that I'll keep."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at how the Cardinals plan to piece together their offensive line. Somers: "Rich Ohrnberger will be the backup guard/center on Sunday, I assume. The backup tackle with be Pat McQuistan or Nate Potter, depending upon how quickly McQuistan can pick up the offense and game plan."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the Cardinals' offensive lineup. Larry Fitzgerald: "We’ll go out and play against Seattle, a really good defense last year, and we will know exactly where we are at that opening drive. We’ll try to move the football and get things done, and if we’re not (settled), it’ll show."

Winslow and T.O.: Fun while they lasted

September, 1, 2012
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The Seattle Seahawks generated headlines this offseason by signing Kellen Winslow and Terrell Owens.

It's looking like neither will factor for the team in 2012.

The team released Owens last week and Winslow on Saturday. The latter move was more surprising, in my view, given the clear vision Seattle seemed to have for Winslow as a receiving tight end.

There were no immediate indications Seattle planned to re-sign Winslow after Week 1. Doing so would spare the Seahawks from guaranteeing his 2012 salary and parting with a conditional draft choice promised to Tampa Bay as part of the deal to acquire Winslow.

The knee issues Winslow brought with him from the Bucs likely worked against him as Seattle determined whether to commit roughly $3 million in salary for a player unable to practice regularly during the season. The team is already paying $6 million in salary for tight end Zach Miller.

Without Winslow, however, the Seahawks were left with only Miller and Anthony McCoy at the position. I would expect them to sign another tight end.

While Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were debating Terrell Owens' alleged diva tendencies in the video above, I was revisiting notes from our 2008 package on all-time great NFL receivers.

Owens ranked ninth on the list even though our seven panelists -- Hall of Famer Raymond Berry, former Green Bay Packers receiver and longtime scout Boyd Dowler, longtime coach/executive Mike Holmgren, Hall of Fame defensive back Ken Houston, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, former receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Packers general manager Ted Thompson -- were not unanimous in their support.

Owens, released by the Seattle Seahawks this week, would be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2017 class unless he plays this season. He has Hall of Fame numbers across the board: sixth in receptions, second in receiving yards, second in receiving touchdowns.

A sampling of what our panelists said back in 2008:
  • Dowler: "Terrell Owens drops too many passes. He probably drops too many passes to be on this list, but he makes so many that are so good, it's incredible. The ones he drops, he comes right back. I can't eliminate him. He is so big and so strong. You talk about how the guy has to be tough. Well, he is the epitome is toughness. To play when you are hurt and don't miss games, it isn't good enough to just go out there. If you go out there and play, you have to play the same. Some guys are capable of doing that. Some guys are not. Coach Lombardi used to tell us some guys can't play with a hang-nail. Some can play with a broken leg."
  • Houston: "Paul Warfield was a tough guy. Lance Alworth was a tough guy. Quiet as he was, he took a lot of beatings for the balls he caught. And then you go with Charley Taylor, I thought was extremely tough. James Lofton was, I like to say, a mean receiver. He would fight you. He'd catch it and he took quite a few hits before he got the ball. Back then, you couldn't run across the middle and catch the ball without fighting your way across the middle first. And I guess the guy that I would put in that category from today's receivers is Terrell Owens. To me, if I had to pick a receiver out of today's guys, I'd pick him over Randy Moss because he's tough. Say what you want to about him, he will go across and catch the ball. It's probably going to end his career because of it, but I've seen Randy and he's great -- I love to watch Randy Moss -- but I've seen him kind of deny some passes across the middle where he just didn't want to go in there and catch those kinds of balls. And so to me, that guy is a throwback, Terrell Owens."
  • Moon: "Bigger defensive backs can't stay with him because of his quickness. Smaller defensive backs can't stay with him because of his strength. He can just bully them around. And once he catches the football, he is so dangerous afterwards because he is so big and he knows how to run with the football after the catch. And again, he's been in three different offenses with San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas and he still continues to put up numbers. Some guys, you can say they are system guys. Even though he has kind of been in the same system two of those places, still, when you change teams, it can be a little bit difficult if you are not a great player."

That was a sampling. I'm sure we'll be revisiting this one when Owens finally does become eligible for the Hall.
There are no guarantees competition will draw out the best from an athlete.

The situations at right tackle in St. Louis and quarterback in Arizona come to mind. The results tend to be more positive, in some cases, when a player's entire career, not just a starting job, is on the line.

Two notable cases in the NFC West come to mind.

Braylon Edwards stepped up his game when the Seattle Seahawks signed Terrell Owens a few weeks back. Edwards now appears likely to earn a roster spot in Seattle. Meanwhile, in Santa Clara, Calif., the San Francisco 49ers have watched running back Anthony Dixon rededicate himself following the arrival of Brandon Jacobs, Rock Cartwright and, to a lesser extent, rookie LaMichael James.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are talking as though Dixon, once considered a sure roster casualty, will stick around at the mandatory reduction to 53 players Friday. Barrows: "Dixon, who seemed hopelessly buried on the 49ers' depth chart at running back when training camp began, has taken advantage of recent injuries at the position and has strung together two solid games. On the radio Tuesday, both general manager Trent Baalke and offensive coordinator Greg Roman sounded optimistic about Dixon's chances of making the final roster." Noted: Might Dixon, who has gotten work at fullback, stick at the expense of Cartwright?

The 49ers' website has this to say about receiver Michael Crabtree: "Teammates and coaches have raved about Crabtree’s leaner build this offseason and how his improved health has enabled him to develop a greater rapport with starting quarterback Alex Smith. This time last year, Crabtree was battling a foot injury that remained with him through the start of the regular season. But now, Crabtree’s summer of work has translated into consistent preseason playing time. His role in the 49ers offense to date, five catches for 28 yards, is one of many reasons Harbaugh believes the team is much improved heading into the 2012 season."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien, who slept in the 49ers' player lounge during a two-week period.

Also from Inman: a look at the 49ers' player ratings on "Madden NFL 13."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Jacobs gave fans a window into the hatred directed at players anonymously.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Matt Flynn was back at practice in a reserve role.

Also from Farnsworth: Robert Turbin steps in for Marshawn Lynch.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says ESPN's Jon Gruden expected Russell Wilson to win the Seahawks' starting job if given a legitimate chance. Noted: That was the word from Wisconsin's coach and others who knew the quarterback well.

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Wilson runs the ball on instinct, not by design. Wilson: "I'm always wanting to throw the ball and if something closes, if I go through my progression and it closes, it's like, 'Bam.' It happens so fast and you're out. You're just trying to get something positive."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune updates Bruce Irvin's progress. Seattle's first-round draft choice has no sacks or tackles through three exhibition games. Line coach Todd Wash: "Out here (on the practice field), he plays very carefree. He just plays, (but) he gets into the game and he’s worrying about keeping contain and whatever else he might need to do. He knows how to play; we just need him to cut loose."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at how injuries are forcing the Cardinals to adjust their thinking on the offensive line. Somers: "The unit that opens Thursday night's game against the Broncos likely will feature three different starters from the one that opened the preseason. D'Anthony Batiste is scheduled to move from right tackle to left, with rookie Bobby Massie starting on the right side. The two played those positions beginning in the second quarter last week against the Titans, and the entire unit played better after the move. Rich Ohrnberger is expected to start at right guard in place of Adam Snyder, who missed Tuesday's practice in order to have an elbow examined."

Also from Somers: thoughts on John Skelton's struggles in practice.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's final exhibition game could determine whether the team pursues Alex Barron, Chad Clifton or another veteran tackle.

Also from Urban: William Powell's fight for a roster spot.

Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees the Rams' moves to trade Jason Smith and release Danario Alexander as part of the delineation between previous and current team leadership groups. O'Neill: "Fisher just got here. He can't account for Smith, be held accountable for where he was drafted or how he has performed. What he can do is turn the page, for the organization and for Smith."

Also from O'Neill: Janoris Jenkins hit a bump in the road against Dallas.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says trading Smith was easy for the team. Burwell: "This was not a colossal bruise to the football smarts of the existing Rams brain trust, merely a little necessary clean up on Aisle One from a big mess left behind by previous failed regimes. General manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher were able to ditch Smith with a clean conscience, mainly because this mistake doesn't count against their records. Trading him away was not only the smart thing to do, it was also the most compassionate thing to do, because after all those concussions, Smith was no longer the big, mean and bruising young prospect that was drafted three years ago, and because of that he may never live up to the high expectations of the organization and the fan base."

Age ranks: Seahawks get younger again

August, 28, 2012
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The Seattle Seahawks got younger this week after releasing veterans Terrell Owens, Deuce Lutui and Alex Barron.

Trading veterans Barrett Ruud and Tarvaris Jackson also made the roster younger on average.

Owens was 38. The others were 29.

All became expendable because younger players emerged at their positions.

Braylon Edwards, 29, beat out Owens.

Rookie J.R. Sweezy pushed out Lutui.

Bobby Wagner, another rookie, beat out Ruud.

Russell Wilson's emergence as a rookie quarterback made Jackson expendable.

I'm not certain which younger player pushed out Barron. Paul Fanaika, 26, survived the cut to 75 players.

Seattle's average age had crept up this offseason as the team sought insurance at various positions. It's a good sign for teams when young prevails over old on the merits. That has happened resoundingly for Seattle this summer.

The chart shows where NFL teams rank, oldest to youngest, in average age for offensive and defensive players. I've excluded specialists because players at those positions are more apt to excel at advanced ages.

Arizona ranks among the NFL's oldest teams in part because the Cardinals have quite a few older backups in Vonnie Holliday (36), Clark Haggans (35), Russ Hochstein (34), Jeremy Bridges (32) and Nick Eason (32). Paris Lenon (34) is the oldest starter.

Teams running 3-4 defensive schemes tend to run older on defense. Veteran depth is a good thing when it reflects continuity for established, winning teams. Being bad and old usually foreshadows massive roster overhauls.

Last offseason, the 49ers made a good defense better by going with NaVorro Bowman at inside linebacker even though Takeo Spikes was an established player.

Note: I updated this chart Thursday to reflect additional moves, including Chris Cooley's release from the Washington Redskins. I also corrected the Baltimore Ravens' information.
Four Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks have started 16 games in a season since the team moved from St. Louis for the 1988 season.

Jake Plummer did it three times. Kurt Warner (2008), Dave Krieg (1995) and Timm Rosenbach (1900) did it once apiece.

It's pretty clear the Cardinals will need their top two quarterbacks, John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, to start games in 2012. And while coach Ken Whisenhunt has said rookie Ryan Lindley doesn't factor as a potential starter for Week 1, I won't be surprised if Lindley finds his way into the lineup at some point this season. The Cardinals like him.

Lindley, scheduled to start the team's exhibition finale Thursday night, would be the second third-stringer to start for the Cardinals since 2010, when Max Hall made three starts for the team.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says that's not the plan, however. Somers: "The only thing that appears settled at the quarterback position is that Lindley has at least secured the No.3 job over Rich Bartel, who has not played in the past two preseason games. Bartel is likely to play Thursday. Lindley is not a threat to start any time soon. He's completed 51.5 percent of his passes this preseason with two interceptions and no touchdowns. He has looked good at times, however, and the Cardinals are optimistic about his future." Noted: Arizona had three starters in the 2010, 2004 and 2000 seasons, most recently. Only once since 2005 have the Cardinals had one quarterback start more than 11 games in a season. That was in 2008, when Warner led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com updates the team's situation at offensive tackle.

Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are searching for their identity. Coach Jeff Fisher: "What we want from this football team is tough and aggressive. To me, that's the only way you should be. You're tough, smart and aggressive. You play through the whistle, you play hard and you go out expecting to win every game, from the start of the season to the end of the season."

Will from RamsHerd.com takes a play-by-play look at Sam Bradford's performance against Dallas in the team's most recent preseason game. He sees negative tendencies born of pressure.

Rich Cimini and Chris Mortensen of ESPN break down the Rams' trade that sent Jason Smith to the Jets for Wayne Hunter: "The Jets had no intention of dealing Hunter, but they received a call from the Rams shortly after demoting him, a source said. Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who held the same position with the Jets from 2006 to 2011, always held Hunter in high regard. On Sunday night, Hunter struggled again in a backup role, surrendering a fourth-quarter sack at left tackle. Behind the Jets' bench, he was verbally abused by unruly fans. Hunter lost his temper and had to be restrained by teammate Vladimir Ducasse, according to a team source. In the previous game, Hunter allowed 2.5 sacks against the New York Giants."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Hunter could push Barry Richardson for the starting job at right tackle.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' Vic Fangio called the team's defensive effort against Denver a learning experience. Maiocco on Perrish Cox: "Cox has seemingly surpassed Tramaine Brock on the depth chart, and figures to find a role once the regular season begins. Cox is currently the No. 2 nickel back behind Carlos Rogers and a spare corner."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News offers 49ers notes, including this one: "There was no official update on receiver/returner Ted Ginn, who was sporting an orthopedic boot around his right ankle. Ginn sustained the injury while running a reverse against the Broncos. Coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game that X-rays were negative."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com focuses on opportunistic play from Earl Thomas and the Seahawks' secondary. Farnsworth: "Thomas intercepted a Josh Portis pass that went off wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, added a second pick on a Wilson pass and then made a leaping deflection of a Russell Wilson pass that was intended for wide receiver Ben Obomanu. Thomas’ lead-by-example efforts were infectious, as cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Phillip Adams also had interceptions; and safeties Jeron Johnson and Winston Guy, cornerback Byron Maxwell, linebacker Mike Morgan and Browner broke up passes."

Also from Farnsworth: Wilson's work ethic has deep roots. The quarterback's late father used to wake his son at 5:30 or 6 in the morning to throw pass routes.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says backup Matt Flynn tested a sore elbow during Seahawks practice. Also: "The highlight of the day was a catch by wide receiver Sidney Rice over the middle as he extended to grab a ball thrown by Russell Wilson. He caught the ball with his fingertips, extending so far it really did look like he only got the first two fingers of both hands and his thumbs on the ball, pulling it to his body and tucking into a roll as cornerback Byron Maxwell dove -- futilely -- to try and break up the pass. It was simply remarkable."

More from O'Neil: thoughts on why rookie quarterbacks are getting chances to play.

Bill Swartz of 710ESPN Seattle includes this Terrell Owens-related note from coach Pete Carroll: "Carroll was asked about the release of Owens and emphasized that it had nothing to do with attitude. Carroll said he was a terrific teammate and that he'd be surprised if Owens is not given a shot by another team.

Where Seahawks stand after cuts to 75

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
6:02
PM ET
Releasing Terrell Owens and trading Tarvaris Jackson helped the Seattle Seahawks reach the 75-man roster limit by the NFL's deadline Monday.

No other team in the NFC West made such big waves on the first league-mandated reduction.
Coach Pete Carroll has said the Seahawks would consider bringing back Owens if the need arose. He made those comments during an interview with Brock Huard and Mike Salk of 710ESPN Seattle. That audio is here .

The chart shows where Seattle stands at each position in relation to positional counts for Week 1 last season.

Jackson's departure leaves the Seahawks with the three quarterbacks they'll take into the regular season: starter Russell Wilson, backup Matt Flynn and third-stringer Josh Portis.

The team could be in the market for depth a few spots, including linebacker and possibly slot receiver, depending upon how well Doug Baldwin's hamstring injury responds.

At corner, Phillip Adams' emergence gave Seattle some protection for losing Roy Lewis to injury. The team waived Lewis with an injury designation, meaning Lewis would revert to injured reserve upon clearing waivers. Lewis played about 24 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

Earlier: thoughts on Seahawks' cuts.

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