NFC West: Vontae Davis
If just one NFL team agrees with Polian, the 49ers may be hard pressed to keep Brown. Cornerbacks are often paid at a premium price, so if Brown is coveted, he may be looking at a big contract.
Brown is one of the 49ers' free-agency priorities. CBS Sports reported the team is pushing to get a deal done before free agency starts next Tuesday.
Brown was a starter last year, but lost his job late in the season when he was hurt. However, he did regain it in the playoffs.
Brown would likely be a starter again if he re-signs. If not, the 49ers will get Chris Culliver back from a torn ACL. At the very least, he will be the nickel cornerback. They could also try to replace Brown in free agency with someone like Seattle's Walter Thurmond. In either scenario, the team will likely use an early draft pick at the position.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 40-11 loss to the Arizona Cardinals:
What it means: The Colts were never in it. They were embarrassed for the second time in three games. They entered the game knowing they had to put pressure on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. That didn’t happen until the game was already determined. Palmer picked apart the Colts defense by going 26-of-37 for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts sacked Palmer three times. Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall bounced around for 54 yards on 13 carries. The Colts didn’t get their lone touchdown until the fourth quarter, when they were already down by 23 points.
No rushing attack: The 137 yards rushing against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 14 turned out to be just a one-game thing for the Colts. They ran the ball only 15 times for 80 yards. Don’t get excited by the 5.3 average. It’s rarely a good thing when your quarterback is one of the leading rushers. Andrew Luck ran for 31 yards, while Trent Richardson and Donald Brown combined for 16 yards on nine carries. Daniel Herron led the Colts with 33 yards.
Another slow start, shocking: The Colts went into the half trailing 27-3 to bring their halftime deficit to 93-12 in the past four games. The Cardinals reached Indianapolis territory on all five of their drives in the first half. They scored on four of them. The only time they failed was when Sergio Brown blocked Jay Feely's 28-yard field goal attempt on Arizona’s second offensive series of the game. The Cardinals got some help in the scoring department from their defense. Linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepted Luck’s pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Injury loss: The Colts were already without starting cornerback Greg Toler (groin), and then they lost their other starting cornerback, Vontae Davis, with a groin injury in the fourth quarter. The defense hasn’t been the same -- giving up big plays against Houston, St. Louis and Arizona -- since Toler went out of the lineup prior to the Titans game on Nov. 3.
What’s next: The Colts return to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Titans on Dec. 1. The Colts beat the Titans 30-27 on Nov. 14.
The Tree Bowl is upon us.
In one of the more intriguing matchups of Week 3, coach Jim Harbaugh and his San Francisco 49ers will host quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts -- and their new running back Trent Richardson.
This is a homecoming for Luck and a reunion for both men. Luck played for Harbaugh at nearby Stanford. They were the toast of college football, and Harbaugh played it into a job with the 49ers after the 2010 season. Luck stayed on The Farm another year and had a brilliant rookie season last year.
However, there is much more than the Harbaugh-Luck angle in this game, as both 2012 playoff teams are coming off a loss in Week 2. Colts' reporter Mike Wells and I discuss the matchup in Double Coverage:
Wells: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked like he was more than a read-option quarterback when he threw for 412 yards in Week 1, but he was back to normal against Seattle, only throwing for 127 yards. Which game is the real Kaepernick -- the Week 1 performance or Week 2 at Seattle?
Williamson: I think he has shown the real Kaepernick is much closer to the one we saw against the Packers. The Seattle game was Kaepernick's worst in his 12 NFL starts. Kaepernick is still inexperienced and still growing. I think he will learn from the Seattle game. Plus, the Colts' defense is beatable in the air and on the ground. Kaepernick will likely bounce back. I expect to see Kaepernick have some success on the ground, similar to the success Oakland's Terrelle Pryor had against the Colts in Week 1.
Wells: Kaepernick will be a problem for the Colts. The only time the Colts had the answer for Pryor was when he decided to try to beat them with his arm instead of his feet. The Colts intercepted him twice, but I don't see them having that same kind of success against Kaepernick. He's a better runner and definitely a better passer than Pryor. You obviously cover Kaepernick on a daily basis, you know about Luck and you were in Seattle this week. Do you think the 49ers' quarterback deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Luck, Russell Wilson and RG III?
Williamson: Oh, I'm a big Luck fan. As far as I'm concerned, the question should be whether the other young quarterbacks deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Luck. Yes, he is a different quarterback than the other young stars. But this is what Luck has that will never go out of style -- he is a great pocket passer. He is a traditional star who would have been dominant in any era he played. I fancy myself as someone who stays grounded and doesn't speak bombastically about analysis. With that said, on the night Luck was drafted, I predicted his career will end with a ceremony in Canton, Ohio. I truly believe that and look forward to seeing him play in person for the first time Sunday.
Wells: Of course, this game became much more than Harbaugh and Luck when the Colts made the blockbuster deal for Richardson with Cleveland on Wednesday. Will the 49ers prepare as if they'll be facing Richardson on Sunday, or will they go in with the mindset that it'll be Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown, since Richardson will only have two practices and a walk-through to learn Indianapolis' system?
Williamson: It definitely changed the 49ers' week. They are in a tough spot. They made their plan for the Colts and were actually executing it on the practice field for the first time when the trade went down. I don't think the 49ers totally changed their game plan because of the trade. But it altered it. Coaches suddenly had to watch film of Richardson and make adjustments. Because Richardson is a running back, I expect to see him a lot Sunday. He doesn't need a lot of time in the playbook. The Colts gave up a first-round pick for Richardson so they can win now. They will start using him when they can, and I'd think that will start Sunday. But the 49ers are good against the run. They were fourth in the NFL last season. They will attack this curveball with confidence.
Wells: Anything Richardson can give the Colts will be an upgrade over Brown, a former first-round pick who hasn't lived up to expectations. Bradshaw is still rounding into shape after not playing in the preseason, so having Richardson share some of the snaps with him will help the Colts' running game and hopefully open the passing game for Luck. The Colts are dealing with their fair share of injuries, losing starting tight end Dwayne Allen for the season. How big of a loss is nose tackle Ian Williams on defense for the 49ers?
Williamson: It hurts, but it's not devastating. Injuries happen to every team. Williams is a nice player and he was coming into his own. Free-agent pickup Glenn Dorsey was rotating with Williams. Now Dorsey is the starter. I think the 49ers will survive this injury as long as Dorsey stays healthy. There is not much depth behind him.
Wells: The Colts will test Dorsey, because Bradshaw and Richardson are both straight-ahead backs who run like they're angry at somebody. So much is being made about the Luck-Harbaugh reunion, but the real reunion is between brothers Vontae and Vernon Davis. Do you think Vernon will play with a purpose because his kid brother is on the field?
Williamson: It's really interesting, Mike. Vontae has been in the league since 2009, but this will be the brothers' first meeting. The Dolphins played the 49ers the year before they drafted Vontae, and they played the 49ers last season, shortly after dealing Vontae to the Colts. Vernon has been out of practice with a hamstring tweak. However, he has indicated he will play. I fully expect him out there. Vernon is a prime-time guy, and playing against his little brother will get his juices flowing. And of course, Harbaugh can tell Vernon all about the intensity of going against a sibling.
Harbaugh, the 49ers’ coach, coached Luck, one of the brightest young quarterbacks in the league, at Stanford. However, it isn’t the only reunion during the game.
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis will face his younger brother Vontae Davis, who is a Colts’ cornerback. It will be the first time the two brothers will meet. Davis was drafted by Miami in 2009 and traded to the Colts last year.
The Colts also have Cam Johnson. The 49ers traded him to the Colts earlier this month for a seventh-round pick in 2015. He was a stout in the preseason but fell victim to a numbers’ game. He does not have a tackle in two games with the Colts.
Dana Jacobson was interviewing the Pro Bowl tight end's younger brother, Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis, when she brought Vernon into the conversation over the phone. Near the end of the video, Jacobson asked each brother which NFL player he'd like to face in a steel-cage match.
"A steel cage match? That is tough," Vernon Davis said. "I would probably like to go against Darnell Dockett of the Cardinals."
There wasn't time for Jacobson to follow up, but NFC West fans didn't need much elaboration. Last year at this time, Davis was calling out Dockett over the success 49ers running back Frank Gore enjoyed against Arizona. Dockett then warned Davis about punishment forthcoming from teammate Adrian Wilson.
As much as NFC West fans wouldn't mind seeing Dockett and Davis square off in a steel cage, most of us would settle for getting them on a football field. Separate football fields would suffice at this point of the lockout.
My money would be on Dockett in a steel-cage match, though. He's about 40 pounds heavier than Davis and his experience battling offensive linemen in close quarters would surely help.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The chart compares mock drafts from four veteran NFC West beat reporters. The four -- Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic and Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times -- combined to project 39 players for first-round status.
Unanimous first-round choices (24): Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry, B.J. Raji, Brian Orakpo, Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree, Andre Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Oher, Chris Wells, Robert Ayers, Knowshon Moreno, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Brandon Pettigrew, Rey Maualuga, Josh Freeman, Peria Jerry, Ziggy Hood, Eben Britton.
Three first-round selections (8): Larry English, Aaron Maybin, Darius Butler, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt, Vontae Davis, Hakeem Nicks, Donald Brown.
Two first-round selections: (1): Phil Loadholt.
One first-round selection (6): LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Alphonso Smith, Everette Brown, Eric Wood, Fili Moala.
Unanimous top-five picks (3): Stafford, Smith and Curry.
Unanimous top-10 picks (6): Stafford, Smtih, Curry, Monroe, Raji and Crabtree.
Unanimous top-15 picks (12): Stafford, Smith, Curry, Monroe, Raji, Crabtree, Jackson, Sanchez, Smith, Maclin, Oher, Orakpo.
Largest disparity, earliest vote to lowest vote: Ayers, 18 spots; Jenkins and Matthews, 16 spots, Butler (14), English (10), Pettigrew (10), Hood (10) and Britton (10).
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Powering my way through the mailbag. Some of these were submitted prior to the start of free agency. I've singled out the ones that held up over time.
Thomas from Antigonish writes: Hi Mike. The Rams are well documented in not drafting pretty much any good players, and so one draft pick of the old regime -- Ron Bartell -- has finally developed, and the team will probably lose him to FA ... this just seems so disappointing.
Mike Sando: The Rams might come out OK on this one, after all. Bartell left the Saints without a contract. The Rams would appear to be in better position to re-sign him as a result. They wanted him. They just couldn't justify paying established corner money to an emerging corner their coaches didn't know very well.
I understand both sides on this one. The corner market was hot enough for Bartell to take a look, but if he didn't find what he wanted, perhaps the Rams will find him more affordable.
Jason from Greeley, Colo., writes: Hey, Mike. With free agency upon us, can you give us some insight into its importance. Who would say have been the biggest free-agent pick ups in the NFC West in the past 3-4 seasons?
Kurt Warner comes immediately to mind, but who else do you feel has made a big impact in the division as a free agent? I am going to assume that there wouldn't be that many names as most of the time impact players are built through the draft and not found in free agency.
Would you agree that more often than not free agents do not meet expectations, i.e Edgerrin James in Arizona?
Mike Sando: Yes, I would agree that most free agents do not meet expectations. Teams pay so much more money for free agents than they do for draft choices.
Nate Clements is a good cornerback for the 49ers. Has he met expectations? No. Edgerrin James pretty much met expectations. Kurt Warner exceeded them. Patrick Kerney met them until injuries intervened. Julian Peterson has generally met expectations. Justin Smith played well for the 49ers last season, albeit at a high price.
The Steelers generally are not big players in free agency. They're confident enough in their drafting ability to let players leave instead of overpaying. The Steelers have also won two of the last four Super Bowls. Meanwhile, the Cowboys collect Pro Bowl players at great expense. They haven't won a playoff game since the 1990s.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike SandoJohn Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers center Eric Heitmann faces a king-sized challenge in Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat quotes 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz as saying Heitmann is the best center he's ever coached.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Barry Sims could get some work at right tackle even though Adam Snyder will continue to start.
Also from Barrows: Heitmann explains why he didn't wait until free agency before signing a new contract.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals are viewing their defensive meltdown in Philadelphia as an aberration.
Also from Urban: a look at Kurt Warner's performance in games against the Rams.
More from Urban: Matt Leinart is taking mental reps during games to supplement the limited work he gets in practice.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic goes in search of the Cardinals' pass rush. Travis LaBoy's injury situation could be a factor.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Marcus Trufant broke up multiple passes during Seahawks practice Thursday as he prepared to face Randy Moss.
Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider takes a look at the Seahawks' blitzing tendencies against the Cowboys.
Also from Hughes: Mike Holmgren says the Seahawks weren't expecting huge numbers from receiver Deion Branch. They did expect Branch to become their top receiver, however.
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts provides answers to our question about which NFC West players would start for the Seahawks. Extra credit for using Excel shading in a chart.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks wanted Branch to become a leader after watching Darrell Jackson miss practices and skip offseason workouts.
John Morgan of Field Gulls thought Matt Hasselbeck made some impressive throws in the second half of the Dallas game.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in breaking down Warner's MVP chances, says the Cardinals are 12-11 since Warner took over as starter last season, up from 25-55 in their previous five seasons.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down MVP candidates and says the award might be Warner's to lose.
3k of Turf Show Times offers a nine-pick mock draft covering the Seahawks, Rams and 49ers. Michael Crabtree, Vontae Davis and Michael Oher become NFC West-bound.
Steve Korte of Ramblings quotes the Rams' Jim Haslett and Steven Jackson as saying their relationship is a good one.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also assesses the Haslett-Jackson dynamic, while noting that Jackson was on the field for 41 snaps against the Dolphins, including four in the fourth quarter.