The four rookie first-round draft choices in the NFC West will have varying roles in regular-season openers Sunday.
Receiver Michael Floyd, chosen 13th, projects as a backup and rotational player. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers, chosen by St. Louis one pick later, would be starting if a high-ankle sprain hadn't sidelined him. Defensive end Bruce Irvin, the 15th overall pick to Seattle, will play as a situational pass-rusher.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com isn't sure whether A.J. Jenkins, chosen 30th overall by San Francisco, will be active for the 49ers' game at Green Bay. The same goes for second-rounder LaMichael James. Maiocco: "The chances of Jenkins and James suiting up ... appear better with the doubtful conditions of Brandon Jacobs and Ted Ginn Jr."
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News tempers expectations for the 49ers. Kawakami: "Alex Smith and the 49ers offense could rise up and play perfectly at Lambeau Field on Sunday, the 49ers defense could dominate Aaron Rodgers and Co., and all the good vibrations could go on and on. But there is a quiet understanding among some in the 49ers headquarters that everything that went right in 2011 may not quite all go so smoothly in 2012. Possibly starting Sunday. And that’s OK, that’s part of accepting NFL reality and bracing for the moment when many others could have it better than them."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Lambeau Field appears unlikely to faze the 49ers.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle previews Justin Smith's matchup against Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Says Tim Ryan, the Fox analyst and 49ers preseason TV commentator: "He'll destroy him. He’ll destroy him. And the Packers with (running back Cedric) Benson and all that, we'll see how it works. That's a matchup that 100 percent favors Justin. He'll play him right down the middle in terms of head up ... and he’ll kill him in the run game."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com uses the word "explosive" to describe Marshawn Lynch's running in practice Thursday. Farnsworth: " There was nothing limited about his efforts on the few touches he got before giving way to rookie Robert Turbin. Lynch displayed the explosive one-step-and-go style in getting through the line that is required to run in line coach Tom Cable's system. There also were the multiple changes of direction, with accompanying dips and ducks, that were such a part of Lynch putting up career-high totals in rushing yards (1,204) and touchdowns (14) last season."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times profiles Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. O'Neil: "Wilson's grandfather was the president of Norfolk State. His father attended Dartmouth and was so driven he went on to attend law school and so athletic that after earning his law degree, he went through a training camp with the San Diego Chargers. Russell's older brother played two sports at University of Richmond, and their younger sister is entering high school, where she's a heck of a basketball prospect. A point guard, she's considered one of the best players in the country in her grade." Says Wilson: "Thing I'm worried about, she may be taller than me." Noted: I'll have a height-related note in the "Final Word" piece set to run Friday afternoon.
Brian McIntyre of NFL.com says the Seahawks' Josh Portis is among practice-squad players earning more than the $5,700 weekly minimum.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic thinks Larry Fitzgerald will grow weary of life as a Cardinal if the team doesn't field a contender within the next couple years. Bickley: "if there were a device to measure heart in the NFL, I'd bet no player yearns more for a Super Bowl ring and all it brings. He will demand and require another shot before his career ends. Whether that happens in Arizona or not will be up to the Cardinals." Noted: Fitzgerald's contract is set to run through the 2018 season.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com points to LaRod Stephens-Howling as a logical candidate for a new contract after the Cardinals re-signed linebacker Daryl Washington. Urban: "There are younger guys like linebacker Reggie Walker and defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Michael Adams. I don’t see any of them getting new deals in season."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders what the Rams have planned for rookie receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens. Thomas: "During preseason games, neither rookie got a single football thrown his way by quarterback Sam Bradford. And except for a play or two, neither player was even on the field with the starters during exhibition play."
Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a closer look at undrafted rookie Austin Davis, the Rams' only backup quarterback. Nelson: "Davis not only beat out incumbent Tom Brandstater as the third QB, he unseated backup Kellen Clemens, who has yet to sign with another team. Davis admitted to being surprised, especially because he was undrafted, but he said the learning curve was less steep with the regular season starting Sunday in Detroit."