Around the NFC West: 49ers and Martz effect

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a closer look at 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Martz-led offenses have finished among the NFL's top 10 in passing yards every season since 1999. The rushing stats have lagged, however, and his teams have allowed quite a few sacks.

Also from FitzGerald: Martz through the eyes of Kurt Warner, who calls him "the most intelligent" coach he's been around (no offense, Ken Whisenhunt).

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Martz became frustrated early in camp when Alex Smith and Shuan Hill weren't trusting his system. J.T. O'Sullivan had no such issues, having practiced in the system for Detroit last season.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes several key changes surrounding Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. The team has a new guard, a new center, injury concerns at receiver, a new coordinator and a rusty left tackle. "Other than that," Thomas writes, "everything is pretty much settled in for Marc Bulger as he embarks on his sixth season as a full-time starter."

Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post examines the Warner effect in Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin put up better numbers with Warner at quarterback.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals respect 49ers receiver and former teammate Bryant Johnson as a deep threat and disciplined route runner.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals spent the offseason stewing over two losses to the 5-11 49ers last season. Those losses kept Arizona from finishing with a 10-6 record and a playoff berth.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat previews the non-matchup between Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News charts uncertain futures for 49ers coach Mike Nolan and quarterback Smith.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee focuses on Smith's future. As he also notes, the 49ers will wear throw-back jerseys against the Seahawks on Oct. 26 and again against the Redskins on Dec. 28.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes inventory on the Holmgren years in Seattle. Thanks to Holmgren, the team's mascot no longer fires T-shirts into the crowd after games. That, and the team also wins playoff games occasionally.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says Deion Branch isn't sure when he'll return from ACL surgery. Also, the team hasn't decided on return specialists.

Also from Romero: 10 questions heading into the Seahawks' season.

Bill Reader of the Seattle Times takes a look at the Seahawks' draft classes from 1999 to 2002, when Holmgren was general manager. This would be in the spirit of a season preview.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks expect to be without starting right tackle Sean Locklear in the opener. Courtney Taylor starts at flanker. Nate Burleson starts at split end. Logan Payne might play in the slot.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with rookie starters Lawrence Jackson and John Carlson. Neither is taking his starting job for granted. Also, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu expects to play Sunday despite a bruised knee.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune surveys the NFC West for serious threats to Seattle's dominance. His findings? "The Seahawks are still the class of the division, and it would represent a major stumble if they failed to win their fifth straight title."