NFC West: Ziggy Hood

Joey Porter played his final game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2006 season. Clark Haggans was gone from the team a year later.

The veteran outside linebackers, now 34 years old, are scheduled to start for Arizona against their former team Sunday, a reflection of how the teams have drafted for defense recently.

In 2007, the year coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm left Pittsburgh's staff for the Cardinals, the Steelers drafted mainstay linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. Much of the Steelers' defense is aging, but Timmons and Woodley are ascending young players approaching their primes. Woodley represents the type of outside linebacker the Cardinals have coveted, but have yet to land.

Arizona takes criticism for drafting tackle Levi Brown over running back Adrian Peterson in 2007, but decisions made in addressing the defense stand out with Timmons and Woodley coming to town. That was the year Arizona used a second-round choice for defensive lineman Alan Branch, now reborn in Seattle after falling short of expectations in Arizona. The Cardinals used their third-round pick in 2007 on linebacker Buster Davis, who was cut as a rookie.

The Cardinals bounced back in 2008 by drafting defensive end Calais Campbell in the second round. Two other early defensive choices that year -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Arizona and Bruce Davis for Pittsburgh -- have changed teams. Rodgers-Cromartie went to a Pro Bowl with the Cardinals before the team traded him to Philadelphia. Davis, a third-round choice, was released after one season.

In 2009, the Steelers landed defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, who has played more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps this season. Arizona drafted Cody Brown, a second-round choice who never contributed, before selecting defensive backs Rashad Johnson (starting for the injured Kerry Rhodes) and Greg Toler (incumbent starter now on injured reserve).

The Cardinals have initially fared better than the Steelers in drafting for defense in 2010. They got nose tackle Dan Williams, ascending inside linebacker Daryl Washington and pass-rushing project O'Brien Schofield. The Steelers drafted linebacker Jason Worilds, who has made a positive contribution on special teams without factoring into the defense yet.

The chart shows defensive players the teams drafted in the first three rounds from 2007-09.

.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says there's no reason for the 49ers to stand on the sideline while the Broncos try to trade Jay Cutler. Maiocco: "The 49ers failed in their bid to acquire free agent Kurt Warner during the opening week of free agency. The 49ers have plenty of cap room to acquire Cutler and sign him to a long-term extension. The big question is whether they can come up with the compensation to appease the Broncos."

Also from Maiocco: He'll be "mildly surprised" if the 49ers draft a quarterback with the 10th overall choice. General manager Scot McCloughan will watch Mark Sanchez at USC's pro day Wednesday.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle summarizes 49ers president Jed York's comments to the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. The subject: A new stadium. A stadium term sheet is in the works. York and the 49ers hope to get a stadium measure on a ballot in 2010. Santa Clara is the preferred site.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' contract talks with Karlos Dansby are proceeding at a slow pace. Also, nose tackle Gabe Watson and tight end Leonard Pope have signed their one-year offers as restricted free agents.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Watson might need follow-up surgery on his injured knee, but the procedure would set him back only three or four weeks. If Watson goes that route, he would stick around the facility with rookies to make up for lost time.

Also from Urban: He'll be attending USC's pro day after traveling to Los Angeles by air with Cardinals president and licensed pilot Michael Bidwell at the controls. That's apparently how they roll at azcardinals.com. Wait, Cardinals' scouts are coming along, too?

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 gives the Cardinals' secondary an A-plus grade. He hands out lower grades for the other NFC West teams' secondaries. I like the Cardinals' secondary, but Arizona's opponents did finish last season with 36 touchdown passes and a 97.0 passer rating. No defense in the division allowed more touchdown passes or a higher rating in 2008. The Cardinals' high-powered offense didn't even achieve those figures.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have already visited with free-agent cornerback Ken Lucas. This one slipped beneath the radar. League sources said they never saw Lucas' name on the internal NFL waiver wire, but Seattle obviously has interest.

John Morgan of Field Gulls puts together a Seahawks mock draft based on choices acquired through a mock trade. How about Knowshon Moreno at No. 21?

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom has written songs for country artist Dayna Lane. Rosenbloom: "I've been writing songs since I was a kid. And this girl in Nashville -- Dayna Lane -- recorded a bunch of my songs. Two of them I wrote with Lauren Christy, and eight other songs made the album, which is called Anything You Want. The single, I'll Keep Believing, is on over a hundred radio stations."

Also from Thomas: A chat in which he lists Larry English, Ziggy Hood, Tyson Jackson, Peria Jerry and Lawrence Sidbury as defensive linemen the Rams could pursue in the draft.

VanRam of Turf Show Times gives Aaron Curry to the Rams in a mock draft.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Sean from Fort Worth writes: Great job covering the NFC west, man! A lot of us Rams fans aren't very happy with the rumors about us talking with Gus Frerotte to come back as our backup QB. We're also very dissatisfied with Marc Bulger's performance lately. Is it possible that if Detroit passes on Matthew Stafford that the Rams might select him at #2 overall? And please man, tell me the Frerotte rumors aren't true. Thanks.

Mike Sando: Hey, thanks. It's great hearing from Rams fans. Your frustration with the quarterback situation is understandable, but I think you're stuck in the short term.

Bulger's contract is a fat one. For that reason, and because the Rams have immediate needs, I'd be surprised if they went with a quarterback near the top of the draft. They appear better off upgrading other areas and hoping those upgrades help Bulger get back on track.

The money the Rams have committed to Bulger pretty much compels the team to take that route for the short term, in my view. I suppose they could go with Stafford if they truly thought he would become a superstar and they truly thought Bulger would flame out. But can they really know that about either player at this point? Can they really know it well enough to walk away from Bulger and bet big on Stafford? I don't think so.

Frerotte would serve only as a veteran backup, not part of a long-term solution. And I do think the Rams need a veteran backup. The list of available quarterbacks isn't a great one. Frerotte does have recent starting experience. You mostly have to hope Bulger gets back on track. There will certainly be growing pains with the new offense and reconfigured roster lacking in established receivers. A healthy Randy McMichael would certainly help.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers want Isaac Bruce to make a decision on his future by April 1. Also, Ray McDonald underwent knee surgery. Alex Smith has gained weight and weighs 221 pounds. Perhaps that will help him stay healthier. Finally, Patrick Willis might be the one to wear the raido headset now that Mark Roman isn't projected to start.

Niners general manager Scot McCloughan, writing for 49ers.com, says Reggie Smith will make the conversion from cornerback to safety. McCloughan: "Our plan right now is to move him to safety knowing that he has background from college playing both corner and safety. The best position for him on our roster, not just this year but in the future, is safety. Can he play free or strong safety? I think it can be either one. I think he'll line up at the position that gives us the best depth and competition. He will be at safety this year, but we still know that he has played corner and he can play corner so it's nice to have that versatility."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Manny Lawson is up to 250 pounds from 235. Other players also looked bigger at this camp.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat quotes Shaun Hill as saying he's more comfortable with Jimmy Raye's offense than Mike Martz's offense. That makes sense. The new approach should better suit most of the 49ers' offensive players.

Also from Maiocco: Smith has been cleared to practice with the 49ers after rehabbing a shoulder injury that sidelined him last season.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News quotes 49ers coach Mike Singletary as downplaying the reported rift between assistant coaches and the personnel department. Singletary: "At the end of the day, we'll make sure everybody is on the same page."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams like Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Ziggy Hood. Thomas: "If Hood is still available early in the second round, it looks like he will be one of the players in consideration for St. Louis at No. 35 overall. But the Rams had plenty of company at Mizzou's pro day. A majority of NFL teams sent representatives to Columbia for Thursday's proceedings, including Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, the New York Giants, New York Jets and Tennessee."

Also from Thomas and other Post-Dispatchers: a discussion on whether Marc Bulger can get his career back on track. Bill Coats: "Bulger had several things working against him last year: an injury-riddled offensive line, young receivers trying to adapt to the NFL, a disconnect with head coach Scott Linehan and offensive coordinator Al Saunders, and the cumulative effect of getting pounded over the last few seasons. Working behind a decent line in a system he believes in would do wonders for Bulger."

More from Thomas: The Rams weren't interested in meeting Leonard Weaver's demands.

Bryn Swartz of Bleacher Report ranks Kurt Warner's 1999 performance with the Rams among the 10 greatest seasons by an NFL quarterback. The analysis uses a formula comparing each quarterback's performance against the averages for all quarterbacks in a season.

Jim Corbett of USA Today calls the Seahawks' signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh one of the boldest in the NFL this offseason. Houshmandzadeh again singles out Matt Hasselbeck as a primary reason he signed with the Seahawks instead of the Vikings. Houshmandzadeh: "It was just the fact when you look at both teams, Minnesota and Seattle, Seattle had the more steady quarterback play. That's obvious. They just had the better situation at the quarterback spot. And Matt will affect the outcome of many, many games. I felt more comfortable playing with Matt. He's a real smart quarterback. He's one of the most intelligent quarterbacks in the game."

Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts thinks the Seahawks have a chance to pocket 2010 compensatory draft choices now that Weaver has become the league-leading seventh unrestricted free agent to leave Seattle for another team this offseason.

LantermanC of Field Gulls shows how many draft choices from each position and each draft round have reached various milestones. Right up my alley. Bravo. One thing I'd like to account for would be the number of Pro Bowl spots available at each position and the average career length for each position. If we could adjust for those things, I think we'd be even better off. Either way, this is good stuff.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the Cardinals' roster with an eye toward areas that still need to be addressed. Urban: "You would expect a pass rusher/outside linebacker, given the age of some of their current players. A center is needed, with no proven players behind starter Lyle Sendlein. Given the struggles of Alan Branch, the Cards may need to look at nose tackle. Obviously, this all can morph based on grades and how the draft plays out."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider