NFC West: Clark Haggans


Major overhauls at quarterback, running back and in the defensive secondary jump out when analyzing the Arizona Cardinals' roster heading toward the 2013 season.

The chart at right shows which players have left the roster this offseason after playing offensive or defensive snaps for the team in 2012.

Most striking: The Cardinals didn't really "lose" any of the players listed. They decided to move on from most of them for reasons relating to performance, health, salary, age, scheme fit or some combination of those factors.

Teams usually keep the players they really want to keep. That was the case with Arizona this offseason.

So, while the Cardinals' current players account for a division-low 60.9 percent of offensive and defensive snaps played last season, Arizona isn't complaining. The team lost 11 of its 12 final games and the roster had crept up in age. A few of the players logging considerable snaps in 2012 did so only through injuries to others.

The Cardinals have 10 players age 30 or older, down from 14 at this point last year. That includes specialists Jay Feely, Mike Leach and Dave Zastudil. Arizona has seven offensive or defensive players age 30 or older, matching the NFL average, according to my records.

Paris Lenon, Todd Heap, Adrian Wilson, Adam Snyder, Clark Haggans, Jeremy Bridges, D'Anthony Batiste and Vonnie Holliday no longer remain from the 30-plus group on the roster in June 2012. That group averaged about 33 years old at this time last year.

Quarterback Carson Palmer, safety Yeremiah Bell, linebacker Karlos Dansby and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander are 2013 newcomers in their 30s. They average 32.6 years old and there are only four of them. Palmer in particular represents a clear upgrade at his position. That could also be the case for Dansby, although Lenon annually outperformed expectations at inside linebacker.

2013 UFA counts for NFC West teams

March, 12, 2013
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The NFL has released its official list of restricted and unrestricted free agents.

The chart breaks down the UFA counts by team in the NFC West.

A quick look at the lists, which include a couple players who have already reached agreement on new contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

UFA offense (4): D'Anthony Batiste, Pat McQuistan, Rich Ohrnberger, LaRod Stephens-Howling

UFA defense (8): Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Quentin Groves, Vonnie Holliday, Rashad Johnson, Paris Lenon, James Sanders, Greg Toler

RFA: Brian Hoyer, tendered to second-round pick.

Note: The Cardinals announced Johnson's agreement to a three-year contract.

St. Louis Rams

UFA offense (8): Danny Amendola, Kellen Clemens, Brandon Gibson, Steven Jackson, Barry Richardson, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Chris Williams

UFA defense (6): Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Mario Haggan, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Rocky McIntosh

RFA: Darian Stewart, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: The Rams announced Hayes' agreement to a three-year contract.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA offense (4): Leonard Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Randy Moss, Delanie Walker

UFA defense (6): Dashon Goldson, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Clark Haggans, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga

RFA: Tramaine Brock, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: Walker has reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Seattle Seahawks

UFA offense (2): Cameron Morrah, Frank Omiyale

UFA defense (5): Alan Branch, Patrick Chukwurah, Leroy Hill, Jason Jones, Marcus Trufant

UFA special teams (2): Steve Hauschka, Ryan Longwell

RFA: Clint Gresham and Chris Maragos, tendered to right of first refusal; and Clinton McDonald, tendered to seventh-round choice.

Quick age snapshot for Moss and 49ers

February, 4, 2013
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Randy Moss indicated during Super Bowl week that he would like to continue playing in 2013.

The San Francisco 49ers will have to decide whether they want Moss and several other older players to play for them in the future.

The 49ers have 10 players age 30 and older. The chart lists them by when their contracts expire. San Diego has a league-high 20 players age 30 and older. Miami has a league-low five. Arizona has 12, Seattle has nine and St. Louis has six. Those figures count players finishing the season on injured reserve.

Three of the 49ers' 10 oldest players are specialists. Three others -- Carlos Rogers, Jonathan Goodwin and Justin Smith -- played at least 75 percent of the offensive or defensive snaps. Moss and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga were key contributors while playing less than half the snaps. Clark Haggans and Leonard Davis were veteran backups.

The 49ers have a strong core of young players on offense in particular, including four of their offensive linemen, their quarterback and two running backs.

Note: This is probably going to wrap up the day from my end. I'm well into the second and final leg of a flight from Denver to Seattle on the way back from New Orleans. See you Tuesday unless something major happens before then.

Justin Smith's ironman streak ends at 185

December, 23, 2012
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SEATTLE -- The San Francisco 49ers will be without defensive lineman Justin Smith for the first time since Smith signed with the team in free agency in 2008.

Smith, named inactive for the 49ers' game at Seattle on Sunday night, has started 185 consecutive regular-season games dating to his 2001 rookie season with Cincinnati.

Smith
The news comes as little surprise even though the 49ers listed Smith as questionable for the game, an indication he had a 50 percent chance of playing. Smith did not practice all week. He was not seen warming up Sunday.

There is no precedent for Smith's absence, so it's tough to say how much this hurts the 49ers' chances. I will be watching to see how well the Seahawks run the ball to the right side of the 49ers' defensive line; whether the 49ers' rotation on the line wears down as the game progresses; whether Aldon Smith has a tougher time pressuring the quarterback without Justin Smith occupying blockers to facilitate twists; and whether Aldon Smith spends more time lining up opposite Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini.

Also inactive for the 49ers: quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver A.J. Jenkins, safety Trenton Robinson, running back Jewel Hampton, linebacker Clark Haggans and guard Joe Looney.

Receiver Mario Manningham is active, bolstering the position. That could be good for the 49ers as they face a Seahawks secondary without cornerbacks Brandon Browner, Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 19, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals did not list running back Beanie Wells on their participation report after he played 46 percent of the snaps Sunday. Wells scored three touchdowns against Detroit and appeared to be moving well. The team had listed him on its injury report in each of the past four weeks, first with a toe injury and later for knee trouble.

Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), tackle Nate Potter (knee), defensive lineman Ronald Talley (ankle), nose tackle Dan Williams (hamstring), cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring), defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), guard Mike Gibson (calf), linebacker Quentin Groves (foot) and tight end Rob Housler (knee) were limited. Receiver Early Doucet (concussion), safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and safety James Sanders (calf) did not practice.

St. Louis Rams: Cornerback Cortland Finnegan (thigh), cornerback Bradley Fletcher (illness), center Scott Wells (knee), running back Steven Jackson (illness), linebacker James Laurinaitis (back) and defensive end Robert Quinn (illness) did not practice Wednesday.

The Rams did not list receiver Danny Amendola on their injury report, a change from recent weeks. He played 75 percent of the offensive snaps against Minnesota despite the foot injury that had sidelined him previously. Amendola caught six passes for 58 yards. He averaged 1.3 yards after the catch, a season low, but he made five first downs on those six catches.

San Francisco 49ers: Defensive end Justin Smith (elbow) and outside linebacker Clark Haggans (shoulder) did not practice. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), cornerback Tarell Brown (shoulder), linebacker Tavares Gooden (ribs), receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder), running back Bruce Miller (shoulder), linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder) and defensive lineman Will Tukuafu (concussion) did not practice Wednesday.

Smith's status is a key variable given his 185-game starting streak and the 49ers' injury situation at the position. Other teams running 3-4 defenses tend to carry six or seven linemen on their 53-man rosters. The 49ers had greater flexibility when Tukuafu was healthy and before tight end Demarcus Dobbs, a former defensive lineman, landed on injured reserve. I found it telling -- concerning might be a better word -- that Smith returned to the game against New England for just one play before departing. He's as tough and durable as they come.

Kicker David Akers (pelvis), guard Alex Boone (knee), linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder), running back Frank Gore (wrist), guard Mike Iupati (shoulder), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder) were full participants.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle), defensive end Jason Jones (knee), running back Leon Washington (illness), receiver Sidney Rice (knee), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring) did not practice. Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) was limited.

The already diminished depth at cornerback would become a bigger issue if the NFL were to suspend starter Richard Sherman following his hearing Friday regarding a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. The league generally announces suspensions early enough in the week for teams to adjust their rosters in time for practices, however.

Cards, 49ers and OLB scene minus Haggans

September, 18, 2012
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Outside linebacker Clark Haggans' recently levied three-game suspension affects ... nothing, provided the San Francisco 49ers incur no additional injuries at outside linebacker.

Haggans, 35, did not play in the 49ers' first two games.

Starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks are the only outside linebackers to play for the 49ers to this point in the season. The team has played mostly in hits sub packages while defending the pass-oriented personnel for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Among 49ers backups, Haggans has been the only true outside linebacker on the roster. He cannot play against the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets or Buffalo Bills. Haggans can return for a Week 6 game against the New York Giants. The 49ers open their division schedule against Seattle the following week.

The possibility of a suspension stemming from a DUI arrest likely influenced the Arizona Cardinals' decision to release Haggans following five seasons with the team. The Cardinals kept Quentin Groves instead. Groves collected a sack and set up a touchdown by blocking a punt during Arizona's 20-18 victory at New England.

The Cardinals needed reliable insurance at outside linebacker because their starters, Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield, were less established than the 49ers' Smith and Brooks. Schofield continues to battle knee issues. Acho played all the defensive snaps against the Patriots. Schofield played 80 percent. Groves played the remaining 20 percent.

101ESPN St. Louis audio: Miklasz Show

September, 5, 2012
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The NFC West is sending two seasoned teams (San Francisco, Arizona) and two very young ones (Seattle, St. Louis) into Week 1.

Bernie Miklasz and I discussed the implications during our conversation on 101ESPN St. Louis this week. Here's the audio for those interested.

The chart below breaks down projected 2012 starters by age range.

Arizona has the NFL's fewest in the 25-29 range. The Cardinals have promising young players such as Ryan Williams and Patrick Peterson, but some of their core players are getting older and will need to be replaced before much longer (as the case was already with O'Brien Schofield taking over for Clark Haggans).

Seattle has the NFL's fewest players 30 and older. Coach Pete Carroll pointed to age Wednesday when explaining Kellen Winslow's recent release. Winslow is 29 and has played in 92 games. His replacement, Evan Moore, is 27 and has played in 33 games.

"We're not just thinking about the immediate," Carroll said. "We’re one of the youngest teams in the NFL for a reason and that’s a big deal to us. We want to continue to build for the future and always have our eye on that. Going with a guy that’s in great shape and younger, we felt as if we could make a good exchange and get the production that we need."

St. Louis has the youngest roster in the NFL by average age. The Rams' totals below reflect rookie Rokevious Watkins as a potential starter at left guard.

NFC West teams have seven rookies as projected starters: Bobby Massie at right tackle for Arizona; quarterback Russell Wilson, guard J.R. Sweezy and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner for Seattle; and Watkins, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive tackle Michael Brockers for St. Louis.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 5, 2012
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Our midweek look at important injury situations in the division ...

Arizona Cardinals: Running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams remain on schedule to play extensively after rehabbing from offseason knee surgeries. Their continued health should be prominent on the Cardinals' minds. The team did not line up a veteran replacement. Wells has not played against Seattle since the 2010 season, when he carried 14 times for 54 yards and a touchdown during a 22-10 road defeat. He hasn't played at home against Seattle since 2009, his rookie season. Wells rushed for 85 yards and two scores in that game. Both teams have changed dramatically since then, of course. Injuries will affect Arizona most on the offensive line. With Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges on injured reserve, D'Anthony Batiste will start at left tackle. Batiste, 30, last started a game in 2007, at guard. Right tackle Bobby Massie is a rookie. A year ago, he opened the 2011 college season for Mississippi against Brigham Young, losing 14-13 at home. The Cardinals can feel much better about their season if Batiste and Massie exceed expectations.

St. Louis Rams: Defensive tackle is the position of greatest concern for the Rams. A high-ankle sprain will prevent rookie first-round draft choice Michael Brockers from playing. Another defensive tackle, Trevor Laws, is on injured reserve. Two more, Darell Scott and rookie Matt Conrath, missed practice Wednesday with knee injuries. The Rams still have starter Kendall Langford, a free-agent addition from Miami. Jermelle Cudjo, undrafted in 2010, and Kellen Heard, claimed off waivers from Buffalo, are the other defensive tackles on the roster. St. Louis figures to spend significant time in its sub packages against Detroit in Week 1, perhaps taking pressure off its interior run-stuffers. The Lions ran 653 plays with three or more wide receivers last season, second only to Buffalo, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

San Francisco 49ers: Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Neither has played recently. The 49ers' have ample depth at running back whether or not Jacobs plays. Kyle Williams would replace Ginn as the 49ers' punt returner. The punts Williams muffed in the NFC Championship Game raise obvious concerns about his readiness to handle the duties at Green Bay in another game featuring conference powers. Williams has bounced back strongly enough, however, to make this game more opportunity than something for him to dread. I'd be surprised if Williams suffered similar gaffes when given another chance, particularly in the absence of challenging weather conditions. Depth at outside linebacker is the other top concern for the 49ers after Parys Haralson landed on injured reserve. Haralson started every game last season. He was supposed to provide insurance while sack leader Aldon Smith transitioned to a full-time role. Newly signed veteran Clark Haggans, 35, is the insurance policy now. He started 16 games for the Cardinals last season, but it's a little concerning that Arizona kept Quentin Groves instead.

Seattle: Having a healthy Sidney Rice at wide receiver is crucial for Seattle given injuries to other players at the position. Golden Tate suffered a knee injury in the final exhibition game and probably will not play. A hamstring injury has limited Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks' leading receiver as a rookie last season. Rice and Braylon Edwards appear most likely to start. Both are healthy. Edwards has outperformed expectations. But if Baldwin and Ben Obomanu are the primary backups, depth isn't ideal. Seattle will want to emphasize the ground game anyway. That will be easier to accomplish if 1,200-yard rusher Marshawn Lynch can overcome back spasms. Lynch participated in the Seahawks' walk-through practice Wednesday. He'll be limited in the regular practices. His situation isn't necessarily dire at this point. Lynch has managed and overcome back issues previously. Still, there's a heightened chance rookie Robert Turbin could get additional carries. Turbin has proven to be a powerful runner with surprising ability to pull away from linebackers through the line of scrimmage. The offense would not be the same without Lynch, however.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' OLB options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the 49ers' injury feel minus Haralson

September, 3, 2012
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Injuries have cost NFC West teams two veteran backups with starting experience.

San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Parys Haralson, projected to back up Aldon Smith after starting every game last season, went on injured reserve Monday, the team announced. Haralson joined Arizona Cardinals guard Jeremy Bridges among key NFC West backups ruled out for the full 2012 NFL season.

Haralson, 28, played 49.8 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps last season.

Smith collected a 49ers rookie record 14 sacks while replacing Haralson on passing downs. Smith, who has not played since suffering a bruised hip Aug. 10, replaced Haralson in the lineup this offseason. The 49ers expect to have Smith in the lineup against Green Bay in the season opener Sunday.

Depth at outside linebacker is a potential concern, however.

Seeking reinforcements

The 49ers addressed the issue by reaching a one-year deal with former Cardinals outside linebacker Clark Haggans.

Haggans, 35, had three sacks while playing 75 percent of the Cardinals' defensive snaps last season. He also played nearly 20 percent of the snaps on special teams, slightly more than Haralson played for the 49ers. The Cardinals released Haggans in favor of free-agent addition Quentin Groves.

Trend in the works?

The 49ers were unusually healthy on defense last season. Arizona was unusually healthy several years ago when winning the NFC West in consecutive seasons. This season has a different feel so far.

San Francisco has lost Smith and Brandon Jacobs for stretches. Now, Haralson is out for the season. Arizona has lost Bridges and fellow offensive tackle Levi Brown.

Veteran seasoning

Haggans' addition gives the 49ers' 11 players in their 30s, tied for seventh-most in the NFL.

San Francisco's 53-man roster now ranks as the fifth-oldest on average. The team sought a younger replacement for Haralson when submitting a waiver claim for former Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jamaal Westeramn. Arizona also claimed Westerman, however, and the Cardinals had the higher waiver priority.

The chart lists the 49ers' 12 oldest players. Three are specialists. One, Justin Smith, is arguably the 49ers' best player. Haggans, Leonard Davis and Brandon Jacobs project as veteran backups. Davis, Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga have birthdays this month.

Suspension looming?

Haggans, meanwhile, could face an NFL suspension stemming from a 2011 DUI conviction.

Matt Barrows has the details.

Around the NFC West: Jackson's legacy

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
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The St. Louis Rams trailed the San Francisco 49ers 28-0 when their fill-in quarterback, Kyle Boller, fumbled an attempted handoff to receiver Danny Amendola.

Ray McDonald, the 49ers' defensive end, returned the loose ball for a touchdown.

It was a humiliating moment during a humiliating 2009 season. Fourteen minutes remained in the game. I wondered whether the 49ers might win by 50.

What happened next cemented in my mind the greatness of the Rams' proudest player. Steven Jackson over the left side for seven yards. Jackson over the left said again, for 11. Jackson up the middle for six. Jackson to the left for gains of one and five yards.

Jackson ran defiantly and recklessly to prove a point. It was one of the more inspiring individual efforts few will remember.

"Not to say that I was holding anything back," Jackson said after that game, "but you got to understand that when you are down like we were, you don't give up."

Point taken. The Rams would finish 1-15 that season. Jackson would suffer a herniated disc in his back, but he would not relent. Jackson missed only one game that season before undergoing back surgery. He would carry 20 times for 63 excruciating yards during a Week 17 game in which the Rams, 1-14 and reeling, would manage only six first downs.

When Jackson's career is finished and it's time to discuss his Hall of Fame candidacy, that 2009 season should work in his favor, strange as it might seem on the surface.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks whether the Rams' futility will drag down Jackson's Hall candidacy. He makes a detailed case for Jackson, now the Rams' career leader in rushing yardage. Miklasz: "SJ has received little help from the team, but he's consistently put up good numbers over a long stretch of seasons. Jackson has managed to produce at a high level and accumulate the yards under terrible circumstances that put him at a disadvantage. And that makes his career even more impressive."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams continue to churn their roster, releasing tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and guard Quinn Ojinnaka.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com notes that Ojinnaka started all four exhibition games this summer.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have more continuity from last season to this one, a change from the early days under coach Pete Carroll. O'Neil: "Of the 53 players currently on Seattle's roster, 15 were acquired over the offseason. Compare that to last season, when 24 of Seattle's 53 players were in their first year with the team. The year before that, the number was 27, more than half the team."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the running game will be increasingly important for the Cardinals. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: ""We'd like to be a team that can do a little bit of everything, whether it's four wide receivers, two tight ends, whatever it takes. But the bottom line is you have to be able to run the football out of different running groups to give you opportunities in the pass game."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects newly added 49ers outside linebacker Clark Haggans to be available against Green Bay in Week 1 despite a scheduled disciplinary hearing with the NFL. Barrows: "Every outside linebacker on the roster missed at least one exhibition game this year, and starter Aldon Smith still is recovering from a hip pointer suffered in the preseason opener. Both he and fellow starter Ahmad Brooks were on the field for the start of practice Saturday." Parys Haralson's status for Week 1 is also in question.

Also from Barrows: a closer look at 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News previews the 49ers' 2012 season. He looks at five impact players, the 49ers' NFC West rivals and the team's offense.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle passes along thoughts from Alex Smith.

Cardinals, 49ers and the OLB shuffle

September, 2, 2012
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The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals opened the 2006 through 2009 seasons against one another.

Their first 2012 matchup isn't until Week 8, but already these NFC West rivals are competing.

Arizona recently prevailed over San Francisco in a waiver claim for Jamaal Westerman, an outside linebacker released by the Miami Dolphins on the reduction to 53-man roster limits. Westerman, 27, gives the Cardinals a fourth outside linebacker for their 3-4 defense.

The 49ers are turning to the Cardinals' cut list for help at the position. Clark Haggans, released by Arizona at the 53-man deadline, plans to sign with the 49ers, Matt Barrows reports. Haggans, 35, will serve as the fourth outside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme.

Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson are the 49ers' other outside linebackers. Arizona has Acho, Schofield, Quentin Groves and Westerman.

Haggans' sack total fell to three last season as the Cardinals gave more playing time to the younger O'Brien Schofield. Schofield is now the starter opposite Sam Acho.

Haggans has one sack in eight career games against the 49ers. He has 46.5 career sacks, including a career-high nine with Pittsburgh in 2005. Haggans started all 16 games with Arizona in 2011.

2012 NFC West practice squad eligibility

September, 1, 2012
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NFL teams can begin forming practice squads once eligible players clear waivers Saturday.

A look at which players released by NFC West teams have eligibility:

Arizona Cardinals

Eligible: Crezdon Butler, Antonio Coleman, Blake Gideon, Ricky Lumpkin, Colin Parker, Larry Parker, Steve Skelton, Quan Sturdivant, Everrette Thompson, Martell Webb, Scott Wedige, Brandon Williams, Isaiah Williams, D.J. Williams.

Not eligible: DeMarco Sampson, Alfonso Smith, Ronald Talley, Stephen Williams, Clark Haggans, Russ Hochstein

St. Louis Rams

Eligible: Cornell Banks, Tim Barnes, Tom Brandstater, Mason Brodine, Aaron Brown, Sammy Brown, Kendric Burney, Ben Guidugli, Cory Harkey, T-Bob Hebert, Jamaar Jarrett, Nick Johnson, Joe Long, Deangelo Peterson, Chase Reynolds, Scott Smith

Not eligible: Vernon Gholston, Bryan Mattison, Jose Valdez, Kellen Clemens, Ovie Mughelli

San Francisco 49ers

Eligible: Derek Hall, Joe Holland, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson, Matthew Masifilo, Anthony Mosley, Kyle Nelson, Al Netter, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Mike Person, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Michael Thomas, Kenny Wiggins, Michael Wilhoite

Not eligible: Eric Bakhtiari, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson, Brett Swain

Seattle Seahawks

Eligible: Pierre Allen, Allen Bradford, Kris Durham, Cooper Helfet, Rishaw Johnson, Jermaine Kearse, Kyle Knox, Cordarro Law, Pep Levingston, Ricardo Lockette, Sean McGrath, Kris O'Dowd, Josh Portis, DeShawn Shead, Vai Taua, Korey Toomer, Lavasier Tuinei

Not eligible: Phillip Adams, Deon Butler, Paul Fanaika

Note on eligibility

Straight from the collective bargaining agreement:
"The Practice Squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad:
  • "players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience;
  • "free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s).

"An otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.

"A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season.

"(For purposes of this Section, a bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)"
San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was good during a 35-3 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

Very, very good.

Kaepernick's performance came against backups (and, in some cases, against backups to the backups). That should prevent anyone from campaigning for Kaepernick to supplant Alex Smith as the starter in Week 1. But the broader context -- strong training camp, generally strong preseason -- has to be encouraging.

A month ago, the 49ers had to wonder whether Kaepernick would nail down the No. 2 job. He did so rather quickly.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat makes the case that Kaepernick is more gifted (but not yet better than) Smith. Cohn: "One pass by Kaepernick stood out. He rolled left -- sprinted actually -- and as he ran, he threw across his body to fullback Bruce Miller for nine yards. It was a beautiful throw and it’s Kaepernick’s signature throw -- toss that sucker while his body goes one way and his arm goes the other, an impossible maneuver. No one does it better than him in the entire league. Certainly not Alex Smith. Not even close."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com notes that both Kaepernick scoring passes came on "well-thrown balls on rollouts to either side."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee was similarly impressed: "Throughout the first half, Kaepernick showed why the 49ers used a high, second-round draft pick on him: He's excellent at evading defenses with his quick feet and then making them pay with his big arm. Kaepernick went into the half 12-18 for 158 yards and a 131.3 passer rating."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' quarterbacks fared well, except for Scott Tolzien. Branch: "On his first series, he sailed a third-down throw to a wide-open Nathan Palmer on a slant route. On his second series, he badly underthrew Chris Owusu, who was open down the left sideline. Two plays later, his third-down pass was picked off by linebacker Bront Bird near the line of scrimmage."

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers postgame notes following the Seahawks' victory over Oakland. Golden Tate suffered a twisted knee. Red Bryant chipped a tooth while celebrating Jaye Howard's safety.

Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest framed the performances of Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn this way: "Wilson played the first two series and one quarter, and didn’t have his previous wow factor. Nor did he feel compelled once to take off running. There simply was no need to risk anything in the final exhibition when the defense was in charge the entire game. For those inclined to offer a pity party for Matt Flynn, the heir apparent to the starting QB job who was usurped by the upstart, there is no need to bother. Taking over in the second quarter, he evinced no depression, moving the club on touchdown drives of 78 and 90 yards."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals couldn't have expected much more from rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley on Thursday night. Somers: "He showed poise in the pocket and patience in making his reads. It helped that the Cardinals were successful running the ball, which has been the lone positive on offense this preseason. Running back Beanie Wells started and gained 35 yards on seven carries in the opening quarter."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals' final exhibition game changed perceptions about which players might earn spots on the initial 53-man roster. Urban: "Now I'm finding it hard to believe outside linebacker Quentin Groves doesn’t stick around. The other backup outside linebacker choice then would come down to Clark Haggans or Brandon Williams. In the secondary, undrafted rookie Blake Gideon got a ton of playing time, and while Rashad Johnson and Adrian Wilson sat out, I start to wonder if Gideon could have a chance to slip on the roster, in place of Johnson, maybe? And there is little question there is a decision coming between A.J. Jefferson, Greg Toler and Michael Adams."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams aren't sure how much time first-round draft choice Michael Brockers might miss. Thomas: "Brockers took an X-ray on site at the Edward Jones Dome, and Fisher said the ankle will undergo an MRI exam today. Brockers left the locker room Thursday night wearing a walking boot on his right foot, so his status is very much up in the air for the Sept. 9 season opener in Detroit. The defensive tackle from Louisiana State was cut block below the knees by a Raven while in pursuit of Baltimore running back Bernard Pierce down the line of scrimmage. Brockers did not return."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers postgame notes, including this one: "DT Matt Conrath left the game with an undisclosed injury and his status moving forward is unknown. The Rams are already a bit thin depth wise at DT and any serious injuries would not be good moving forward."

Age ranks: Seahawks get younger again

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
10:57
AM ET
The Seattle Seahawks got younger this week after releasing veterans Terrell Owens, Deuce Lutui and Alex Barron.

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

Owens was 38. The others were 29.

All became expendable because younger players emerged at their positions.

Braylon Edwards, 29, beat out Owens.

Rookie J.R. Sweezy pushed out Lutui.

Bobby Wagner, another rookie, beat out Ruud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: I updated this chart Thursday to reflect additional moves, including Chris Cooley's release from the Washington Redskins. I also corrected the Baltimore Ravens' information.

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