NFC West: Will Herring

Bonus if Seahawks get pick for Ruud

August, 20, 2012
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The New Orleans Saints keep welcoming NFC West linebackers.

After adding Will Herring and David Hawthorne from Seattle, and Chris Chamberlain from St. Louis, the Saints acquired Barrett Ruud from the Seahawks for an undisclosed draft choice, presumably conditional on Ruud earning a spot on the 53-man roster.

The Seahawks had signed Ruud as insurance at middle linebacker, but with rookie Bobby Wagner emerging as the likely starter, they no longer felt the need to keep him. Injuries have slowed Ruud, 29, over the past year.

Seattle's average age has crept up over the offseason with players such as Ruud, Deuce Lutui, Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens joining the roster. Some of those older players weren't assured roster spots. Ruud fell into that category. It's a bonus if Seattle gets a draft choice for him.

The Saints wanted Ruud after Hawthorne suffered a knee injury.
Seattle Seahawks fans might recall linebacker David Hawthorne, then an emerging player, firing his agent and waiting til the last minute before signing a new contract in 2010.

Hawthorne was an exclusive-rights free agent at the time, meaning he had one choice: take a minimal one-year offer or hold out.

Exclusive-rights free agents usually re-sign as a matter of course, but not Hawthorne.

That series of events came to mind Tuesday when the New Orleans Saints announced they had reached agreement with Hawthorne as an unrestricted free agent.

A humbling market for inside linebackers suggested the Seahawks might be able to re-sign Hawthorne at a bargain rate, but pride sometimes intervenes. Players forced to take less money than anticipated sometimes feel more comfortable doing so elsewhere.

It's too early to say whether that was the case with Hawthorne. Initial news reports said contract terms were not available.

While Hawthorne led the Seahawks in tackles over the past three seasons, the Seahawks made other players higher priorities this offseason. They re-signed Red Bryant to a $35 million deal. They signed Matt Flynn for three years and $19 million.

Hawthorne visited Detroit and New Orleans. With the Saints, he joins former Seahawks teammate Will Herring. Hawthorne also gets a chance to start at middle linebacker if and when incumbent Jonathan Vilma serves a bounty-related suspension, as yet unannounced. Update: The Saints also signed Atlanta Falcons free-agent middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, so I'm not sure where Hawthorne will project in New Orleans. He played the weak side in Seattle previously.

The Seahawks are hurting for experienced depth at linebacker, but their leadership has welcomed the opportunity to address needs in the draft. K.J. Wright, a fourth-round choice in 2011, played well enough right away for the team to feel good about dumping Aaron Curry. Malcolm Smith, a seventh-rounder in 2011, is another young prospect.

Seattle appeared likely to address linebacker in the 2012 draft with or without Hawthorne in the picture. Boston College's Luke Kuechly is one option in the first round. The Seahawks have also fared well finding defensive starters in the middle rounds, from Wright to starting cornerback Richard Sherman, to Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor.

Re-signing veteran linebacker Leroy Hill is another option for Seattle.
Tim Keown's Insider profile on St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford spans about 1,700 words and covers quite a bit of ground.

One passage stood out more than the others:
"By the time the season was done, Bradford had set rookie records for completions (354) and consecutive passes without a pick (169). Not that there isn't room for improvement. In the fourth quarter of the Rams' final regular-season game, a do-or-die loss to the Seahawks, Bradford forced a pass into the middle of the Seattle zone that was picked off by linebacker Will Herring. It was the kind of mistake a rookie QB makes simply because he is a rookie, which means it was the kind of mistake Bradford can't forgive himself for making.

"On a warm spring afternoon on the OU campus, Bradford's mind drifts back to that pass. 'I can't get that play out of my head,' he says. He loses eye contact and stares into the distance. 'I knew -- knew -- that we had a matchup on the outside that I liked. But for some reason I tried to force it inside. If I go with my first instinct, we're first and 10 from about the 20. That one stays with me.' "

The piece makes it clear to what degree Bradford is his own harshest critic. I've seen this firsthand a few times, including when the Rams' offense didn't fare well against Tennessee in the second exhibition game this season. It was only preseason, right? Not to Bradford. He took it more seriously and wasn't pleased after the game.

2011 UFA market: NFC West scorecard

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
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With training camps winding down, I've found time to update rosters and put together team-by-team reference material for unrestricted free agency.

The names below match official NFL counts.

These are for players with at least four accrued NFL seasons whose contracts expired following the 2010 season. I've added comments for each team.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed (8): Ben Graham, Matt Ware, Hamza Abdullah, Ben Claxton, Lyle Sendlein, D'Anthony Batiste, Deuce Lutui, Stephen Spach.

New to team (7): Chansi Stuckey, Richard Marshall, Daryn Colledge, Nick Eason, Stewart Bradley, Floyd Womack, Jeff King.

Still unsigned (3): Alan Faneca, Jason Wright, Bryan Robinson.

Signed elsewhere (5): Steve Breaston (Kansas City), Gabe Watson (New York Giants), Ben Patrick (Giants), Trumaine McBride (New Orleans), Alan Branch (Seattle).

Comment: Sendlein, Colledge and Bradley were the big signings. Marshall provides needed depth at cornerback. Faneca and Wright announced their retirements. The Cardinals weren't aggressive in trying to re-sign the players they lost to other teams. The biggest move Arizona made, acquiring Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia, did not involve a UFA.


San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed (4): Ray McDonald, Tony Wragge, Dashon Goldson, Alex Smith.

New to team (5): Braylon Edwards, Jonathan Goodwin, Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers, David Akers.

Still unsigned (5): Brian Westbrook, Troy Smith, Demetric Evans, William James, Barry Sims.

Signed elsewhere (6): David Baas (Giants), Travis LaBoy (San Diego), Jeff Reed (Seattle), Aubrayo Franklin (New Orleans), Takeo Spikes (San Diego), Manny Lawson (Cincinnati).

Comment: Re-signing McDonald signaled Franklin's departure. Getting Goldson back on the relative cheap was a victory. The 49ers wanted to keep Baas, but not at the price he commanded. The team thinks NaVorro Bowman has a bright future in Spikes' old spot at inside linebacker. Lawson wasn't strong enough as a pass-rusher to stick around. Safety depth is improved.


Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed (7): Raheem Brock, Junior Siavii, Brandon Mebane, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy, Michael Robinson, Kelly Jennings.

New to team (8): Branch, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, Jimmy Wilkerson, Atari Bigby, Sidney Rice, Tarvaris Jackson, Reed.

Still unsigned (7): Jay Richardson, Craig Terrill, Chester Pitts, Brandon Stokley, Ruvell Martin, J.P. Losman, Lawyer Milloy.

Signed elsewhere (8): Will Herring (New Orleans), Olindo Mare (Carolina), Matt Hasselbeck (Tennessee), Chris Spencer (Chicago), Jordan Babineaux (Tennessee), Sean Locklear (Washington), Amon Gordon (Kansas City), Ray Willis (Washington).

Comment: Adding Jackson as the starting quarterback was the most significant move for the 2011 season. Mebane was the most important re-signing for the longer term. Hill was a bargain relative to how he's playing right now. Miller and Rice were the types of young, talented players who rarely change teams in free agency. The Seahawks were outbid for Herring and Mare. Can street free agent David Vobora fill some of the void Herring left?


St. Louis Rams

Re-signed (2): Adam Goldberg, Gary Gibson.

New to team (9): Daniel Muir, Quinn Ojinnaka, Harvey Dahl, Ben Leber, Zac Diles, Jerious Norwood, Cadillac Williams, Quintin Mikell, Mike Sims-Walker.

Still unsigned (5): Chris Hovan, Michael Lewis, Darcy Johnson, Clifton Ryan, Mark Clayton.

Signed elsewhere (4): Daniel Fells (Denver), Laurent Robinson (San Diego), Derek Schouman (Washington), Kevin Dockery (Pittsburgh).

Comment: Dahl and Mikell were the big additions. Clayton could return if and when his surgically repaired knee allows. Sims-Walker is a wild card. The team didn't flinch when any of its own UFAs signed elsewhere. Most of the moves made on defense were designed to improve St. Louis against the run. Remember that newcomer Justin Bannan was not a UFA. Denver released him.
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The Seattle Seahawks wanted to keep linebacker Will Herring, but they weren't willing to pay starter-caliber money for him.

As a result, Herring reached agreement with the New Orleans Saints.

With Herring gone and questions at linebacker lingering already, the Seahawks have been considering their options, from Minnesota's Ben Leber to other veterans on the market. One nearly forgotten name: Leroy Hill.

Hill, Seattle's sometimes-troubled former franchise player, is returning to the team. The Seahawks announced that move along with a few others Thursday. (First-round pick James Carpenter also signed.) Bringing back Hill under a modest deal qualifies as a low-risk bet on a talented player facing what could be one final chance to revive his career.

Hill, 28, doesn't replace Herring in every way, particularly on special teams, and he isn't nearly as reliable. But he can be a violent hitter and starter-caliber player when healthy.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to part with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round selection for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Somers: "The Cardinals and Eagles have negotiated for the better part of two days, so it's logical to think they have agreed on compensation and that the Cardinals are talking to Kolb's agent, Jeff Nalley, about a new contract. Kolb has a year left on his contract. Nalley did not return phone messages." The price will not matter if Kolb is the right quarterback for the Cardinals. Adding Patrick Peterson in the draft made Rodgers-Cromartie somewhat expendable, particularly with a new scheme emphasizing sound tackling from the position.

Also from Somers: Daryn Colledge is an option for the Cardinals in free agency.

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic sizes up quarterback options for the Cardinals. On Kolb: "Big arm, young and very mobile. Still unproven, and he lost his job to Michael Vick. Heck, Kolb might just be an A.J. Feeley redux. Plus, he's expensive. Reportedly, the Cardinals might have to part with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, which is pricey enough. Asking for a draft pick too, let alone a first-rounder, amounts to extortion. If you believe all the pundits, this deal has been done for weeks, but the Cardinals are wise to explore other options for leverage purposes if nothing else. Since Tavaris Jackson is headed to Seattle, according to reports on Tuesday, Philadelphia already has lost some leverage."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com will miss Steve Breaston, who has agreed to terms on a deal with Kansas City. Urban: "Personally, he’s a guy I would have liked to stick around (and until he signs another deal elsewhere, I guess the hope remains). But if this offseason hasn’t driven home the point enough, business is business, and that includes the NFL."

Also from Urban: a look at the Cardinals' schedule for training camp.

Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com passes along photos from Rod Mar showing the Seahawks returning to work.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says linebacker Matt McCoy will re-sign with the Seahawks after the team lost Will Herring to New Orleans.

Also from O'Neil: thoughts on Seattle's contract agreement with Sidney Rice. O'Neil: "It's a big-budget deal, but not all that much bigger than the $40 million deal Seattle gave T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2009. Of course, Houshmandzadeh was 31 then, Rice is 24. Houshmandzadeh's yards per reception declined in three successive seasons before coming to Seattle while Rice is just two years removed from a Pro Bowl season with more than 1,300 yards receiving."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Rice's addition is consistent with the Seahawks' plans under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. Brewer: "Their goal is to build a championship team with mostly young, athletic 20-something players who possess prototypical size. They want to be an attacking defense-centered team with a mobile quarterback guiding an offense that makes opponents choke on the running game. And they want to build from within, using the draft as their primary resource and filling out the roster with smart free-agency moves that help them acquire players who still have an upside. To be certain, it's not a revolutionary plan. But the entire front office's commitment to it, how it permeates every tactic, is special."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks center Max Unger, who is returning from a toe injury.

Jacob Thorpe of 710ESPN Seattle passes along Brad Childress' thoughts on Tarvaris Jackson. Childress: "He's got plenty of arm, I think he can command a football. I've always believed that an NFL quarterback, it ought to be like a yo-yo on a string. If they say put it on the front shoulder, put it on the front shoulder, if they say put it on the back shoulder, put it on the back shoulder. I wouldn't say anything about his accuracy; I think it's improved over the course of time."

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle provides thoughts on Matt Hasselbeck from the quarterback's former Seahawks teammates. John Carlson: "We knew that was a possibility all along. I wish him the best, I wish he was here, because he's a good friend of mine and he's a leader for this team and this organization. He's beloved in this city for what he does on the field but also what he does off the field, so he will be greatly missed. But this is football and there's a business side to football, as we all saw in this lockout, and he's going to be playing football somewhere else. I wish him luck. Wherever he ends up I wish him luck and wish him well except for when he's playing against us. Matt's a great guy and he's such a tremendous asset in the locker room, but there's been a lot of turnover over the last couple of years. I'm going into my fourth year here and I've had three head coaches and four offensive coordinators, and a lot of turnover in the locker room and the front office, so that's just kind of the way football is, at least in my experience. That's just how it works."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch lists rookie free-agent additions for the Rams.

Also from Thomas: Josh McDaniels has much work to do as the Rams' new offensive coordinator. McDaniels: "I'm trying to meet as many of the guys as I can, whether they be new to the building, or guys that were here last year. I haven't met every player yet."

More from Thomas: Jason Snelling and possibly Jerome Harrison are running backs the Rams will consider in free agency.

More yet from Thomas: a look at the Rams' camp schedule.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch polls colleagues for thoughts on how the lockout will affect the Rams. Jeff Gordon: "Installing a new offense will be a process. I’m sure quarterback Sam Bradford will adapt easily enough after getting a head start on the playbook, but the the team will add rookies and other newcomers to the personnel mix under a new coordinator. Many teams are in similar situations after missing all the work time, but this training camp will become a crash course in the Air McD scheme."

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis says Quintin Mikell will impress Rams fans. Farr: "Oshiomogho Atogwe was more than adequate in this role, but I believe Mikell will be an upgrade. His familiarity with the scheme should allow him to have more leeway to become a playmaker once the opposing offense calls an audible when they smell the blitz coming. Last season this was a major flaw in the Rams defense as teams routinely exposed the holes in the secondary when trying to pressure the quarterback. Seattle backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst had a career day hitting multiple open hot reads in the flats or over the middle once the Rams committed more than four rushers to get after the quarterback. The disguise often worked against the Rams and the Seahawks were able to pick up key first downs that extended drives and bleed valuable clock time."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams appear mostly healthy heading into camp.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers could levy $30,000 daily fines against Frank Gore if the running back does not report for training camp. Also: "The only veteran quarterback on the roster, David Carr, was informed Wednesday that he would be released. Teams are allowed to release players Thursday, beginning at 1:01 p.m. (PT)."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers have signed two draft choices and 18 undrafted free agents.

More from Maiocco: Ray McDonald is getting "starter money" from the 49ers as the team shuffles its line prior to the expected departure of nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks Eric Weddle's deal with San Diego will affect what Dashon Goldson gets in free agency. Barrows: "He is being pursued by multiple teams, including the 49ers. Earlier in the day, the Chargers re-signed one of their safeties, Eric Weddle, to a contract that will pay him $40 million over five years, including $19 million guaranteed. That's the highest contract ever for a safety and one that should serve as a basis for Goldson's deal."

Also from Barrows: Jim Harbaugh's affinity for the tight end position.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Jeremiah Masoli had a feeling the 49ers would sign him.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle rounds up 49ers-related news, with notes on Gore, Nnamdi Asomugha and more.
Drafting Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller fifth overall would help the Arizona Cardinals catch up with their division rivals in at least one category.

Since 2005, linebackers drafted by Arizona have combined to start only 16 games for the team, with 2010 second-round choice Daryl Washington starting 11 of them.

Cody Brown (2009), Buster Davis (2007) and Darryl Blackstock (2005) combined to start two games for the team, both by Blackstock, despite entering the NFL as second- or third-round selections. Only Brown remains in the NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks have gotten 145 starts from second- and third-round linebackers during the same span. Overall, linebackers drafted by NFC West teams since 2005 have combined to start 423 games for their original teams: 180 for Seattle, 173 for San Francisco, 54 for St. Louis and 16 for Arizona.

Washington showed last season he's likely to help Arizona close the gap. The 49ers could lose 57-game starter Manny Lawson in free agency. Seattle could move on without 61-game starter Leroy Hill while teammate Lofa Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl choice with 84 starts, is coming off surgeries on both knees.

With that in mind, I'll continue our position-by-position series on relatively recent NFC West draft choices with a look at linebackers.

Italics identify what teams might have been thinking as they entered various stages of the draft.

In the charts, I've used the term "not active" to describe, in most cases, players who weren't on regular-season rosters recently, including Jon Alston, recently cut by Tampa Bay.

Some players described as "starters" or "backups" could see their roles change pending free agency, roster changes and other dynamics.

We'd better find perennial Pro Bowlers in this range ...

Feeling safe drafting linebackers in this range ...

Not really sure what we're getting here ...

More questions than answers, but worth a shot ...

Not too late to find special-teams contributors, and possibly more ...

Of all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.US PresswireOf all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.
JaMarcus Russell's demise as an NFL player is back in the news, shining light upon the perils of investing millions in unproven prospects.

The 2007 NFL draft was about more than Russell, of course.

That draft also produced Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis and Lawrence Timmons among the top 15 choices.

For as much criticism as the Arizona Cardinals have taken for selecting tackle Levi Brown fifth overall, Brown has started 59 regular-season games, second only to Willis (63) among NFC West draft choices that year. He has also started six playoff games, including a Super Bowl, and coach Ken Whisenhunt expects good things from him.

I've put together a couple charts showing what NFC West teams have gotten from their draft choices that year. More on those in a bit.

First, I've taken a team-by-team look at the players selected, whether they remain with their original teams and how many games each has started for his drafted team.

The 49ers had the best draft among NFC West teams. They also had the most draft capital to work with, selecting twice in the first round. The Seattle Seahawks had no first-rounder that year thanks to the Deion Branch trade, so expectations were lower.

Arizona Cardinals

Total picks: five

Still with team (4): Brown (59), Steve Breaston (26), Ben Patrick (20), Alan Branch (3)

No longer with team (1): Buster Davis (0)

Comment: The Cardinals had fewer total selections than any team in the division. Hitting on Breaston in the fifth round was outstanding, but the Cardinals haven't gotten enough from their top three selections that year. Branch never panned out as a second-rounder. Davis, the third-rounder, didn't make it out of camp. Whisenhunt takes pride in making roster decisions with less regard for draft status. He wasn't going to give Davis or anyone a free pass. That's admirable, but in the bigger picture, Arizona still came up short in this draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Total picks: nine

Still with team (5): Willis (63), Joe Staley (50), Ray McDonald (9), Dashon Goldson (34), Tarell Brown (5)

No longer with team (4): Jason Hill (2), Jay Moore (0), Joe Cohen (0), Thomas Clayton (0)

Comment: Former general manager Scot McCloughan gets credit for selling former coach Mike Singletary on Willis as an elite prospect. That seems odd given Singletary's background as a Hall of Fame linebacker, but the 49ers got the right guy, so the "how" part matters less. That one selection makes this draft the best in the division for 2007. Staley is the starting left tackle. McDonald has been a solid rotation player. Goldson became a starter. All in all, this was a strong draft.

Seattle Seahawks

Total picks: eight

Still with team (2): Brandon Mebane (53), Will Herring (7)

No longer with team (6): Josh Wilson (24), Steve Vallos (8), Mansfield Wrotto (5), Courtney Taylor (4), Jordan Kent (1), Baraka Atkins (0)

Comment: Not having a first-round selection severely hurt this class' overall potential. Wilson seemed like a solid selection in the second round given the playmaking value he offered, but multiple changes in organizational leadership left him on the outside in terms of fit. Mebane was a solid choice in the third round. Vallos and Wrotto remain in the league elsewhere.

St. Louis Rams

Total picks: eight

Still with team (1): Clifton Ryan (27)

No longer with team (7): Adam Carriker (25), Brian Leonard (7), Jonathan Wade (6), Dustin Fry (0), Ken Shackleford (0), Keith Jackson (0), Derek Stanley (0)

Comment: This draft was a disaster for the Rams and made worse by massive organizational changes. On the bright side, the Rams might not have been in position to select Sam Bradford first overall in 2010 without selecting so many non-contributors in 2007.

Now, on to the charts. The first one takes a round-by-round look at the number of starts each team has gotten from its 2007 selections. I have used dashes instead of zeroes to show when teams did not have a selection in a specific round.

The second chart divides the number of starts by the values of the selections each team held, using the draft-value chart.

For example, the value chart said the Seahawks' picks that year were worth 669.2 points, far less than the picks for other NFC West teams were worth. Using this measure, Seattle got more bang for its buck if we valued all starts equally (and we should not value them all equally, but we can still use this as a general guide).

Some of the choices were compensatory and could not be traded, so the chart would not have valued them for trading purposes. I assigned values to them for this exercise, however, because we were not considering the picks for trading purposes.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune says 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky appears close to taking the same job with San Diego after interviewing with Arizona and Dallas. This news affects the Cardinals more than it affects the 49ers. We already knew Manusky was likely to leave the 49ers after Jim Harbaugh's hiring. We do not yet know how the Cardinals plan to fill their vacancy at defensive coordinator after firing Bill Davis. Reports have suggested Pittsburgh's Keith Butler, a person the Cardinals pursued for the job in 2009, might be off-limits. Do the Cardinals have a viable plan beyond Manusky and Butler? It's too early to answer that question, but not too early to ask it. The team hired from within when coach Ken Whisenhunt fired previous defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects no significant changes to the Cardinals' offensive staff this offseason. Somers: "Whisenhunt clearly doesn't think changing his offensive staff is warranted. I look for him to turn more of the play calling duties, perhaps all of it, to passing game coordinator Mike Miller next year. I think that will be the only significant change, unless one of his position coaches gets an offer he can't pass up."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team has re-signed fullback Charles Ali.

Also from Urban: a look at plays that defined the 2010 season for Arizona. Urban: "The quarterback shuffle clearly became a major storyline of the season. The first imprint came in San Diego. With the Cards struggling on both sides of the ball and trailing 21-7 (with a Kerry Rhodes fumble return the only Arizona score), Anderson threw an interception returned by linebacker Shaun Phillips 31 yards for a touchdown. When the Cards got the ball back moments later, it was rookie Max Hall – who had briefly played at the end of the Atlanta loss – getting his first significant playing time. It turned into his first start the following week, and from that point on, Hall, Anderson and rookie John Skelton all received their own chunk of time in the starting lineup."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with ESPN's Trent Dilfer for thoughts on Matt Hasselbeck's prospects at Chicago. Dilfer: "If you do what he thinks you’re going to do, and he has any time in the pocket whatsoever, he’s going to slice and dice you. That’s well known throughout the league. I was shocked that the Saints didn’t change things up on him more. They know that about him. And I’m just moving forward to this Bears’ game -- same thing. And I went back and watched the Week 6 matchup -- and I know very little carries over from earlier in the season, I get all of that -- but he was so comfortable with what he was looking at in that game, too. ... Rod Marinelli has to give him some change-ups, especially in the first quarter to occupy some space in his brain. If his brain isn’t cluttered, look for Matthew to deal in this game as well."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seattle linebacker Will Herring, who can't recall quite when he suffered a broken wrist in the wild-card game against New Orleans.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times puts Marshawn Lynch's run in perspective by ranking 10 moments in Seattle sports history. Condotta: "The most memorable moment of the first era of Seahawks football might have been an a unlikely play from a most likely source -- a hit by Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent on Denver DB Mike Harden on Dec. 11, 1988. Harden had earlier in the season delivered an illegal hit on Largent that drew a $5,000 fine in a Seahawks loss in Denver. A few months later, when Harden picked off a pass, Largent got his revenge, forcing a fumble with a hard shoulder-first hit that leveled Harden. Better yet, Largent got the recovery as Seattle earned a key victory on its way to its first division title."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a step-by-step look at Lynch's run.

Also from Condotta and O'Neil: Seahawks notes, including one on Raheem Brock's contributions to the Seattle pass rush.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says Russell Okung hasn't been healthy all season. Kelley: "Drafting Okung was the right call. But it seems he's lived a haunted life since draft day. Because he held out, he missed the early days of camp, the important tutoring and technique days before the games began. Then he injured his right ankle in August and missed the first three regular-season games. Then he injured the other ankle in his third NFL start. When he left the practice field Thursday, Okung still noticeably was favoring his left ankle."

Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com looks at ways the team will stay warm and hydrated in cold conditions at Soldier Field. Malcolmson: "More than 3,000 extra pounds of equipment is being transported to Chicago, raising the cargo load from 14,000 pounds to 17,000 pounds. Besides the suspected winter gear, the equipment department is also packing battery-heated jackets and gloves, cases of hand and foot warmers and enough thermal gear to suit up the traveling party of more than 130 players and staff."

Rod Mar of seahawks.com offers photos from practice Thursday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams general manager Billy Devaney gives outgoing offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur credit for helping to develop quarterback Sam Bradford. Devaney: "He played a huge part, on and off the field. He helped Sam through the trials and tribulations that a rookie quarterback goes through, dealing with a lot of issues. And then obviously, with the on-field stuff, Pat was a tremendous asset. I think Sam would be the first to tell you what a huge part Pat played in his development."

Also from Thomas: What happens next for the Rams? Thomas: "The two names most commonly mentioned as possible replacements are former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels and former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress. Both were fired in the 2010 regular season, and both have backgrounds in offense. McDaniels already has been interviewed by Minnesota for the offensive coordinator job there; Childress is headed to Miami to interview for the same position there, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Childress is one of Spagnuolo's best friends in the business; they worked together for several years on Reid's staff in Philadelphia. Childress would run a version of the West Coast scheme. McDaniels' background is different. The former Bill Belichick protégé in New England favors a more wide-open passing game with more downfield throws. Spagnuolo didn't talk specifics about candidates Thursday."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ranks Ndamukong Suh and Maurkice Pouncey as the top two rookies for 2010, ahead of Bradford. Bradford, through the nature of his position, had a greater impact on his team than Suh or Pouncey. Suh and Pouncey were better at their positions. It then comes down to criteria for the award. Miklasz: "Bradford is the most valuable rookie in the league, because he had more impact in transforming a franchise than any player that entered the NFL in 2010. There is absolutely no question about that. I don't know if any NFL player was more valuable -- when we consider off-field impact -- than Bradford this season. But again, if we're limiting the discussion to on-field performance, I have no problem with Suh getting the honor."

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Shurmur's hiring in Cleveland comes as Rams fans complained about the offense's approach. Ross Tucker: "It's so easy in hindsight to blame a play-caller for a certain play because it didn't work. That's always in hindsight. There are a lot of good plays where it was a horrible play call but the defense just screwed up. And vice-versa. There's some great play calls but an offensive lineman misses a block or does this . . . and it doesn't work either. I've never been a big guy second-guessing play-callers or offensive coordinators. There's really only about three, maybe four fan bases in the NFL that really like their offensive coordinator. Think about this, Sean Payton, of the Saints. People like Sean Payton. Then he has that handoff to Julius Jones on fourth and one and now people are criticizing him."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis offers names of potential candidates to replace Shurmur. John Ramsdell, Bill Musgrave, Jim Zorn and Chris Palmer are on his list. Stull: "Ramsdell helped in the development of Kurt Warner and also helped Marc Bulger to one of his career best years in 2004. Since leaving the Rams, he has been the quarterbacks coach in San Diego, where he has developed Philip Rivers. Ramsdell could be in demand elsewhere, as his name has come up as a possibility to join Ron Rivera in Carolina. One other note, Ramsdell graduated from Springfield College -- same as Steve Spagnuolo."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says during a chat that he doesn't see Donovan McNabb as a good fit for the 49ers. Maiocco: "Mike Shanahan had him for less than a year and decided he wanted no part of him. And he runs the West Coast system. Is McNabb going to work with a young QB? If the 49ers get a guy in the draft they think is their future, that’ll influence which vet they pursue — a short-term fix (Matt Hasselbeck?) or long-term solution (Kevin Kolb?)."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are closer to putting together a staff now that Stanford has named a head coach.

More from Maiocco: Nate Clements will not be back under terms of his current contract. Clements' salary moves past $7 million in 2011. Maiocco: "The 49ers are expected to approach Clements in the next six weeks to negotiate a new deal. If the sides are unable to reach an agreement, the 49ers would release Clements -- either before the collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3 or after the new CBA is agreed upon."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provides updates on the 49ers' coaching staff. Barrows: "Tight ends coach Pete Hoener, a favorite of tight end Vernon Davis, interviewed with the Redskins this week, according to a team source."

Final Word: Saints-Seahawks

January, 7, 2011
1/07/11
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» Wild-card Final Word: NY Jets-Indy | Baltimore-K.C. | N.O.-Seattle | G.B.-Philadelphia

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Saints-Seahawks wild-card game at Qwest Field:

Hasselbeck at home: Matt Hasselbeck's 4-5 record as a postseason starter includes a 4-1 mark in games played at Qwest Field. Although Seattle's 7-9 regular-season record differentiates this Seahawks playoff team from its predecessors, you might be interested in the raw numbers. Hasselbeck completed 61.1 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns, five interceptions and an 88.0 rating in home playoff games. He has completed 55 percent with three touchdowns, three interceptions and a 71.5 rating in postseason games away from Qwest Field. His home-and-away splits are nearly identical this season, however.

[+] EnlargeSaints quarterback Drew Brees
AP Photo/Bill HaberThe Seattle Seahawks need to force Saints QB Drew Brees into the kind of bad passes that led to 22 interceptions this season.
Hands in the air: Disrupting Saints quarterback Drew Brees ranks high on the list of priorities for any opposing defense. Brees' quick decision-making puts defenses in a bind, even when they get pressure. What to do? Seattle had success against St. Louis in Week 17 by anticipating throws and batting passes near the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks might need more of the same Saturday. Brees had 28 passes either picked off (eight) or defended (20) by defensive linemen and linebackers this season, tied for fourth-most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Seattle's front seven finished the 2010 season with the third-most passes defended. Side note: NFC South quarterbacks had 12 touchdowns and four interceptions against Seattle this season.

Wrap and roll: The Seahawks' tackling has improved over the past few games after coach Pete Carroll asked players to adopt a technique he taught at USC. The basic idea: aim low, grab onto the ball carrier somewhere from the hip down, then spin and roll while wrapping up the legs. The approach might help the Seahawks' defensive backs hold up better. Cornerback Marcus Trufant suffered a concussion against the Saints when trying to tackle Chris Ivory. Safety Earl Thomas was shaken up during a collision with Saints receiver Marques Colston, who scored on the play.

No joke: 7-9 Seahawks dare to dream

January, 3, 2011
1/03/11
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SeahawksJoe Nicholson/US PresswireThe Seahawks will have to win the Super Bowl in order to finish the season with a winning record.
SEATTLE -- The mind wandered as time passed and Pete Carroll did not immediately appear for his postgame news conference Sunday night.

I pictured a public-relations staffer running the Seattle Seahawks' first-year coach through a series of tests to see if Carroll could keep a straight face after claiming the NFC West title and a wild-card playoff berth with a 7-9 record.

Would Carroll transcend the national laugh track accompanying Seattle's snoozer of a 16-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams? Or would this two-time NCAA champion and outspoken proponent of "doing things better than they have ever been done before" publicly succumb to the sheer hilarity of it all?

Yes and no.

Carroll smiled upon arriving at the podium, mustering an opening line as improbable as Charlie Whitehurst to Ruvell Martin for 61 yards (that just happened).

"Was that fun or what?" Carroll said. "Geez."

Geez is right.

Now comes the hard part for Carroll and the Seahawks: convincing themselves of their playoff worthiness before the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints visit Qwest Field for a 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff Saturday.

It's a tough sell, but the Seahawks were in a buying mood.

"We're in the tournament," Whitehurst said. "Anything can happen."

The Seahawks are proof.

"I hear that this has never happened before and I think that is kind of cool," Carroll said. "Wasn't it TCU that won for all the little guys?"

[+] EnlargeMatt Hasselbeck
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonMatt Hasselbeck should be ready for Saturday's playoff game against New Orleans.
One slight difference: TCU went 13-0 this season. Seattle trailed 14-0 at home to Carolina. The Seahawks lost nine games by double digits this season. They lost by a combined 64 points during one two-week stretch.

"I would say this," Carroll continued, unsolicited. "If you have followed my track record about the systems you play in, whether college and the BCS or here and the NFL system, this is the system. I don't give a crap about that."

You tell 'em, Pete.

"We just played it out and this is what happened," Carroll said. "I'm sure some other teams are a little disappointed in that. But, there's some teams that are disappointed in the BCS system as well. But, you just play it out the best that you can. I don't have a suggestion on how to fix it. This may never happen again."

The folks at USC must be pleased to know Carroll and Reggie Bush are bowl-eligible.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants, not so much. Tampa Bay missed the playoffs despite going 4-0 against the NFC West and 10-6 overall. The New York Giants, 41-7 winners at Qwest Field in Week 9, also missed the playoffs at 10-6.

Seattle would have to win the Super Bowl to finish this season with a winning record.

"Getting to the playoffs, that's all you want -- just to have a shot," said Seattle linebacker Will Herring, whose fourth-quarter interception helped seal Seattle's fifth NFC West title in the past seven seasons. "We got a home game next week, we're going to have our fans behind us and there's no better place to play in the country."

The Saints are about to play the first trap game in playoff history.

"Seeing New Orleans lose to Tampa Bay today, we don't know how they feel coming in next week," said Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons, who finished the season with 11 sacks. "They're last year's champs, so there's always that championship hangover that a lot of guys have going into the first postseason game."

Carroll paid his respects to Saints coach Sean Payton and "their program" before joining Clemons in the land of make believe.

"Sean is an incredible coach and all that, but they're coming here," Carroll said. "It's a short week and they have to fly across the country and figure all that stuff out. They have a lot of stuff to get organized. We're going to have a really cool week of preparation."

The Seahawks also figure to have Matt Hasselbeck back in the lineup at quarterback. Hasselbeck could have played against the Rams, by all accounts, but Carroll said he didn't want to rush the 35-year-old back from a the hip/back/upper butt injury Hasselbeck suffered while running into the end zone against Tampa Bay last week.

Translation: The Seahawks figured they could win the NFC West title with their backup quarterback. Whitehurst's mobility did make a difference against the Rams, but this was a struggle. Seattle converted four times in 15 chances on third down. Whitehurst did avoid turnovers, something Hasselbeck hasn't done nearly well enough.

"I think the plan worked out perfectly," Hasselbeck said. "We got the win. Charlie did a real nice job and mission accomplished. I felt like all the work I did to try to get back this week was money in the bank. If we had to make a withdrawal, we could, but we didn't have to."

Hasselbeck said he has played with more serious injuries, but this one made life tough in the short term. He couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs when the week began. Doctors drained fluid from the injury Monday and again Sunday. Trainers began getting Hasselbeck ready for the game about five hours before kickoff.

Hasselbeck looked good during warm-ups, I thought.

"A lot of that is adrenaline," Hasselbeck said, appearing stiff after standing on the sideline in the Seattle cold. "It's not a serious injury. It is something that will heal. It's just hard to get it to heal in six days. But we took it pretty far."

Carroll had committed to Whitehurst early in the week, but suspicions mounted when Hasselbeck practiced Friday and warmed up Sunday. Carroll said he assured Whitehurst behind the scenes that there would be no last-minute change of heart.

Will Hasselbeck start against the Saints? Carroll wasn't saying. He was presumably too busy trying to keep a straight face.

Around the NFC West: Cards' QB options

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals had interest in signing Marc Bulger even after landing Derek Anderson and while Matt Leinart was still on the roster. Somers: "There was interest in Marc Bulger, but the Rams didn't release him until April, and the Cardinals couldn't afford to wait that long if they wanted to sign a veteran. Even then, the team had interest in Bulger, but ownership balked at paying for three veterans: Leinart, Anderson and Bulger. By demoting and then releasing Leinart, (coach Ken) Whisenhunt gambled that he could turn Anderson into something he had never been: an accurate passer. Whisenhunt lost that wager. Whisenhunt also knew he was taking a chance by having two rookies, Max Hall and John Skelton, as backups in the event Anderson was hurt or played poorly. Now the Cardinals are lost in dark waters with no competent quarterback to guide them to safety." Bulger signed a one-year, $4.3 million deal with Baltimore. Perhaps he winds up in Arizona next season.

Also from Somers: The Chicago Bears have signed offensive lineman Herman Johnson from the Cardinals' practice squad. Somers: "Johnson is the third of eight 2009 draft picks to leave the team. Outside linebacker Cody Brown, the second-round pick, was cut in training camp. Guard Trevor Canfield was gone last year. The production from most of the other members of the 2009 class has not been great. Running back Beanie Wells, the first-round pick, has not produced consistently. Rashad Johnson, the third round pick, plays in sub packages and on special teams. Cornerback Greg Toler, the fourth round pick, is the only player from the class starting. Outside linebacker Will Davis is on injured reserve with a broken leg."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Skelton might start Sunday even if doctors clear Anderson.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Kelly Jennings will remain the starting right cornerback for Seattle, but rookie Walter Thurmond will continue to get playing time. Also: "Leon Washington’s kickoff return average has dipped to 27.0, which ranks fifth in the league. But his punt return average has spiked to 20.9 after his 84-yarder against the Panthers. But he does not have enough attempts (10) to qualify as the league leader -- although he’s well ahead of the league-leading average (16.0) that belongs to the Titans’ Marc Mariani."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seattle players for a look at what happens during loose-ball pileups in the NFL. Linebacker Will Herring says someone tried to rip his lip and mouth by hooking it with a finger. Herring: "You ever been bass fishing? The bass will jump and just kind of shake their head? I just gave it the old shake-loose." Of course!

Also from O'Neil: a chat transcript noting that Seattle will start the same five offensive linemen for the third game in a row, something that hasn't happened previously this season.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune previews the Seahawks' game at San Francisco. Boling: "Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck used an interesting term when he noted that the Hawks now are, after several seasons as afterthoughts, once again 'relevant.' Perfect terminology. Relevant doesn’t necessarily mean good, and it certainly doesn’t say anything about consistency. But they truly are relevant to the discussion, and even that feels like an improvement. This time two years ago, the Seahawks had just two wins in Mike Holmgren’s final season as coach. His 10 seasons coaching the team to a Super Bowl and six playoff appearances soon would be celebrated by his getting pelted with snowballs during his final lap of Qwest Field."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald asks whether the Seahawks' victory over Carolina ends their midseason slump.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are looking to become the third team in franchise history to win road games in three consecutive weeks. All they'll have to do is knock off Drew Brees and friends in the Superdome. Thomas: "The Rams have had some successful road teams, most notably the 2001 NFC championship squad that went 8-0 on the road that season. But that team never played away games in three successive weeks. The best they did was back-to-back road victories twice. The current league policy, according to Rams executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, is to have teams play as many as three consecutive road games only about once every eight years."

Also from Thomas: The Rams signed linebacker David Nixon from their practice squad.

More from Thomas: a chat transcript with thoughts on what happened to rookie receiver Mardy Gilyard. Thomas: "Gilyard was doing a good job as a gunner, running down punts and kickoffs. But once he got passes by Danario Alexander as the No. 4 wide receiver, his role became extremely limited. Except for that one kickoff return attempt which he bungled against San Francisoo a few weeks ago, Gilyard hasn't returned kickoffs for weeks. So is this season a disappointment? Sure. But do you write him off? Certainly not. Unless he breaks into the top four WRs or regains his kickoff return job, he may not factor in over these final four games." That's a significant disappointment, I think, given that the Rams are not exactly loaded at wideout this season.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues for thoughts on how to beat the Saints. Jeff Gordon: "One, keep Brees off the field by actually running the football with some consistency and sustaining a ball-control offense. Two, take away the Saints running game – which won’t be easy with Na’il Diggs out for the year and the Rams lacking strong OLB play. Three, generate a consistent pass rush in the base defense to lessen the reliance on the blitz. Brees has seen it all, so the Rams will have to mix up their defenses. They won’t be able to blitz the Saints into submission liked they blitzed the Cardinals into submission."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says secondary coach Johnny Lynn no longer works for the 49ers. The team cited personal reasons. Mark this down as the latest in a long line of unusual events to define this 2010 season for the 49ers under Mike Singletary.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has this to say about the 49ers' decision to replace Troy Smith with Alex Smith at quarterback: "The 49ers' coaches feel that Alex Smith gives them more options. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson said last month that Troy Smith is a much better play-action quarterback than he is a shotgun quarterback. Well, the 49ers' best weapon as far as play-action passing – running back Frank Gore – has a broken hip and is done for the season. The two guys who replace him, Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon, hail from more wide-open offenses. Westbrook, of course, played in a West Coast offense in Philadelphia. Dixon was in a spread attack at Mississippi State last season. These are guys who are accustomed to taking handoffs out of the shotgun and who are used to playing a big part in the passing game. In other words, it's a calculated gamble on the part of Singletary (and Johnson, whom I have to believe heavily influenced this move). If the 49ers incorporate more spread ideas, Alex Smith certainly would be more comfortable than Troy Smith. I agree that Troy Smith's swagger and confidence were good for the 49ers offense. But on the other hand, this move may signal that the 49ers -- finally -- may be moving away from their cram-it-up-the-gut style of offense."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts on the switch back to Alex Smith. Kawakami: "I didn’t 100% disagree with Mike Singletary’s decision to go with ASmith as the starter this season. But I wholeheartedly objected to the team’s total commitment to him–and disregarding of other upgrade options -- to the point that they purposely brought in a bad back-up (David Carr) to make sure ASmith didn’t feel threatened. Backwards, defensive, scaredy-cat thinking. Which has reigned for more than 6 years in the 49ers HQ, of course."

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News says it's fitting for Alex Smith to start a do-or-die game for the 49ers.

Silver linings: Seahawks at Saints

November, 22, 2010
11/22/10
11:52
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The facts: The Seahawks fell to 5-5 with a 34-19 road defeat against the New Orleans Saints in Week 11.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Seattle remains alone atop the NFC West after every other team in the division also lost.
  • The Seahawks are heading home for their next two games.
  • Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck topped 300 yards passing without an interception for the second week in a row. He has posted passer ratings of at least 100 in back-to-back games for the first time since the Seahawks' Super Bowl season.
  • Receiver Mike Williams continued his recent dominant play, catching six passes for 109 yards, including a 68-yarder early in the game.
  • Ben Obomanu added a 42-yard reception and a short scoring grab to justify his newfound stats as the starter opposite Williams.
  • Seattle expected a calf injury to sideline receiver Brandon Stokley. Instead, Stokley caught six passes for 76 yards, making a positive impact on third down.
  • David Hawthorne and Earl Thomas picked off passes. Thomas now has five interceptions in 10 NFL games.
  • Rookie Russell Okung started at left tackle and played a full game for the second time.
  • Seattle allowed zero sacks despite attempting 44 passes in one of the NFL's loudest stadiums.
  • Marshawn Lynch averaged 5.1 yards per carry, an improvement from recent averages (these are silver linings, so no mentioning other aspects of Lynch's performance).
  • Seattle converted 58 percent of the time on third down, its second-highest percentage in a game this season.
  • The Seahawks have gained 490 and 424 yards in their past two games.
  • Linebacker Will Herring delivered a devastating hit during a Saints kickoff return.
Looking ahead: The Seahawks face the Kansas City Chiefs at Qwest Field in Week 12.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are looking for their first victory over Seattle since the 2004 season. Chris Massey and Steven Jackson are the only current St. Louis players to experience victory over the Seahawks as members of the Rams. Thomas on that 2004 victory: "The entire Rams rookie class was in high school. The Rams were the defending NFC West champions. And sellouts, the kind where every ticket actually gets sold, happened every Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome." Shaun Alexander rushed for 176 yards in that 2004 game, but Matt Hasselbeck completed only 15 of 36 attempts with one interception and a 45.1 rating. Marshall Faulk carried 18 times for 139 yards. Jackson, a rookie, had 10 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown. Chike Okeafor (Seattle) and Adam Archuleta (St. Louis) were the leading tacklers for each team.

Also from Thomas: thoughts on whether James Laurinaitis is approaching elite status.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with new Rams running back Chauncey Washington, who considers himself famous even without "Hard Knocks." Washington: "I think I was famous before that. Just maybe you guys didn't know about me. But on the West Coast, I'm famous."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat passes along this comment from Washington: "I got drafted by Jacksonville and I was there with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and then I got the opportunity to go to the Cowboys with Marion Barber and Julius Jones, and then I got the opportunity to go to the Jets and be with Thomas Jones and L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson). I think everywhere I have been I have been blessed to be able to learn from the great backs. I think here I am going to continue to learn from Steven Jackson." He was with Reggie Bush and LenDale White at USC.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says John Greco gave the Rams' running game a boost when he got reps at right guard against the Redskins.

Also from Wagoner: The Rams sought to move on from their 30-16 victory over Washington even though victories have been scarce.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team practiced in full pads for 100 minutes Wednesday. Also: "Rookie Walter Thurmond worked at left cornerback for (Marcus) Trufant, Will Herring was at strong-side linebacker for (Aaron) Curry and Junior Siavii and Kentwan Balmer got work at tackle for (Brandon) Mebane."

Also from Farnsworth: a look at changing dynamics on the Seahawks' offensive line.

John Morgan of Field Gulls offers thoughts on the Seahawks' blitzes against San Diego. Morgan: "Maybe not all of the blitzes worked, but quite a few did, and while San Diego was chewing yards, they were playing snap after snap on the verge of turnover."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers an interview transcript featuring comments from Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Bradley on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford: "Even if he does get sacked or throws a bad ball, he bounces back and will come back and throw a nice ball. One stat that impressed me, I think he's like third in the league with passes over 30 yards. So he has done a nice job for their team, and doesn't make many mistakes. He's real impressive."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks were happy to have Russell Okung and Chester Pitts practicing Wednesday. Ben Hamilton and Sean Locklear rested knee injuries.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Okung wore a brace on his heavily wrapped ankle.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says newly acquired Seahawks receiver Brandon Stokley could give the Seahawks what Bobby Engram once gave them. Stokley on what he can offer: "Veteran leadership … a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to help win football games. … I just love to compete. I’m a guy who’s not worried about stats or individual accolades, I just try to do whatever it takes to win games."

Todd Fredrickson of the Everett Herald says Seahawks safety Earl Thomas felt like he was back at Texas Tech when defending the Chargers' all-out passing attack.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the challenges Arizona faces at receiver with Steve Breaston and Early Doucet unavailable. Somers: "Playing with inexperienced receivers is not ideal, however, and the Cardinals could make adjustments in scheme and personnel to compensate. They could go to more to formations using two tight ends, or use a running back as a slot receiver."

Also from Somers: Philip Rivers once served as Adrian Wilson's chauffeur.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says LaRod Stephens-Howling met with the couple for whom his return touchdown secured a new home as part of a promotion. Said the husband: "He's got a place to stay forever."

Also from Urban: why it's tough to add a new quarterback during the season.

More from Urban: The Cardinals liked their young receivers better than any they might have signed off the street.

More still from Urban: Arizona could have an edge on special teams against the Chargers in Week 4.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along these thoughts from Mike Singletary regarding 49ers quarterback Alex Smith: "I don't think I've ever underestimated the quarterback situation. I think the quarterback is very important. Do I think he's the most important? No, I don't. A great example is the game we played on Sunday. I think (Chiefs quarterback) Matt Cassel is a good quarterback. Do I think he's a great quarterback? Do I think he's the most important part of that offense? No, I do not. But they won the game. If I'm a passing team, if I'm the Indianapolis Colts, yes, I think the quarterback is the most important part of the team. If I'm the New England Patriots, I think the quarterback is the most important part of that offense. The 49ers right now, I feel the quarterback is very important. But I don't think he's the most important part of our offense. I think there are 11 guys, and on this offense I want 11 guys to know that each and every one of them on every play is important." Quarterback is the most important position on any team, and if he is just one of 11 equals, the team will have a harder time beating the best teams.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary went with Mike Johnson at offensive coordinator after Johnson provided Singletary a list, upon request, of things he would do differently. Smith: "I do think there will be more variation. I think personnel and formations and things like that, there will be some different things. I think we'll find out how they're going to play certain personnel, find out how they're going to play certain formations and then go from there."

Also from Barrows: Singletary lost his cool and got into a shouting match with Falcons guard Harvey Dahl the last time the 49ers faced Atlanta. Almost forgot about that one.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' offense will strive to be more flexible. Barber: "Smith conceded the offense hasn't been 'real dynamic' this season and suggested that its inability to adjust to opposing defenses was part of the problem. Smith stressed the importance of being flexible and said Johnson shares his beliefs."

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says the 49ers' defense shouldn't get a free pass with all the focus on the team's new offensive coordinator.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are not considering a quarterback change. They don't appear to have a viable alternative.

Around the NFC West: Rams RB option?

September, 1, 2010
9/01/10
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks former Tampa Bay running back Derrick Ward could make sense as a backup with the Rams. Ward and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo were with the Giants years ago. Thomas: "To me, this one makes a lot of sense, particularly since Spags has a history with the guy. Keep in mind, during the free agency period following the '08 season -- Spags' first offseason with the team -- he called Ward during free agency to see if he'd be interested in coming here. Now maybe Ward still won't want to come here to back up Jackson, but it's better than not having a job."

Also from Thomas: Troy Aikman speaks from experience when he says the Rams need to upgrade Sam Bradford's supporting cast. Aikman: "You know, Sam, he's going to get hit. That's a (Rams) team that hasn't been very good. They've got to get better players around him. You want to protect him. You don't want to see him get banged up. But yet if he goes through this experience with a team that isn't very good, then he can take at least some consolation in knowing that, 'OK, I'm learning. I'm figuring this thing out. And I'm not holding back a team that has high expectations.' I think that's a positive. But I think you've got to kind of monitor that thing as a coach and make sure that you're not losing this kid because it can happen if he's not having some successes along the way."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com expects Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree to be ready for the regular-season opener after both participated in practice at full speed Tuesday following injury rehabs.

Also from Maiocco: 49ers quarterback Alex Smith feels empowered by the fact that he has earned his place in the starting lineup. Maiocco: "His body language has been different this offseason. He is much more assertive."

More from Maiocco: He would be surprised if the 49ers released Nate Davis. I would put Davis on the bubble given how strongly coach Mike Singletary criticized Davis' work ethic, particularly if the 49ers can find another player more likely to contribute in 2010.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Singletary is more comfortable with Smith than with his backups. Singletary: "I feel good about Alex Smith. I feel very good about where he's at. I think we have to do a great job of protecting our starting quarterback. When it comes to David Carr, I think David Carr is a guy that I could grow to feel comfortable with. I think he's a guy that has a good command of the offense. I think he understands, I just think that he's still thinking a lot and he's still having to get the rhythm and all the other things, but I think David Carr, I could grow to feel comfortable with him."

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Smith showed anger during a recent practice, another indication the quarterback is more comfortable. Smith: "When I was young and kind of thrown out there, I felt like I still had to earn it," Smith said. "Even though I was the starting quarterback, I still felt like I had to earn my place. There's no hesitation for me now. I've gone through a lot. This is the opportunity I've been waiting for and I'm going to take advantage of it."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers' coaches have high praise for rookie linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Lynch: "Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the Penn State grad can correct a mistake almost instantly, and Bowman, with his resonate voice and strong demeanor, seems to possess a wisdom well beyond his years."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says former Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson is happy to be heading home to Maryland as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Wilson: "I was shocked. It’s a business decision. But for me, it’s the best business decision I could have gotten."

Also from Farnsworth: notes from Seahawks practice, including one about veteran safety Lawyer Milloy singing "Kumbaya" on the sideline after an on-field fight.

Rod Mar of seahawks.com offers photos from the team's recent trip to Minnesota, including one of Matt Hasselbeck and Brett Favre catching up before the game.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Leroy Hill's paycut with Seattle represented a best-case scenario for the linebacker because the team would have released him pending additional league sanction for off-field troubles.

Also from O'Neil: Roy Lewis could be the big winner for Seattle after the team traded Wilson.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times passes along comments from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider regarding the team's recent moves. They said the Wilson trade came down to the Ravens' need for a cornerback and the Seahawks' belief in some of their young corners, notably Walter Thurmond. Schneider also pointed to the fact that Wilson has the potential to leave as a free agent after the 2010 season. Left unsaid: why the Seahawks weren't interested in paying Wilson beyond 2010, and why they were willing to part with a starter for nothing in return this season. Looks like Leon Washington could be returning kicks.

John Morgan of Field Gulls sees no upside to the Wilson trade. Morgan: "Seattle just turned what every team hopes a second-round pick can become into a fifth-round pick. The Seahawks secondary is young and deep. The recovery of Walter Thurmond and emergence of Roy Lewis means Seattle is dealing from a position of strength. That, Wilson's looming contract, and a narrow commitment to 'building through the draft' is the justification for this move. A realistic evaluation of Wilson's talent and the true value of a fifth-round pick is the damning reality. Seattle is worse today than it was yesterday. Much worse. And for what? Another Owen Schmitt, Will Herring, David Kirtman or Jeb Huckeba?" I also have trouble seeing how the Seahawks improved by subtracting one of their better corners.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says 2009 second-round draft choice Cody Brown has much to prove heading into the Cardinals' final exhibition game of 2010. Somers: "One high draft pick who need to show something is outside linebacker Cody Brown, a second-round pick in 2009. Brown missed his rookie year with a dislocated wrist and hasn't made an impact this preseason."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says undrafted free agent Stephen Williams is looking like a potential steal for the Cardinals. McManaman: "The Cardinals had him rated as a potential third-round pick, but they didn't draft him, either. Instead, they were the one team that reached out and offered him a free-agent contract with a chance to make the team. And it appears he has done that."

Also from McManaman: Derek Anderson will start at quarterback for the Cardinals on Thursday night, leaving Matt Leinart as the backup again. Also: "Tight end Ben Patrick practiced for a second consecutive day and did well in his return from a dislocated kneecap suffered early in training camp. (Coach Ken) Whisenhunt said Patrick will get limited playing time Thursday but he's encouraged by what he's seen from Patrick."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals are making Greg Toler work for the starting job at right cornerback. Toler: "They just don’t want you to be complacent. They don’t want you just thinking you’re going to come in and slide into the position because then you might just slide back on what you do."

Also from Urban: Whisenhunt has long wanted an indoor practice facility, but for now he'll have to settle for holding occasional practices at Arizona State University.

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