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Saturday, August 9, 2008
Around the NFC West: 49ers QBs spin wheels


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle wasn't impressed by the 49ers' quarterbacks Friday night. Alex Smith, J.T. O'Sullivan and Shaun Hill remain stuck in the starting blocks, it seems. When Smith faced fourth-and-2 from the Oakland 4-yard line, coach Mike Nolan opted for the field goal.

Also from FitzGerald: a notebook with several nuggets, including evidence that Dashon Goldson played well at free safety. Goldson is pushing veteran Mark Roman for the starting job.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider followed up on the fourth-and-2 play call. Nolan said the 49ers were working on special teams, too, and would have gone for it on fourth-and-1. Smith: "It would have been nice (to go for it), but it's not my call. I'm kind of indifferent."

Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at both Bay Area teams, but she knows better than to draw hard conclusions after one exhibition game. In general, 49ers fans have more reason for concern than Raiders fans after this game, but it's early.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee describes 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan as "disgusted" with his play against the Raiders. Nolan came to O'Sullivan's defense: "Without question, the game is not too big for J.T. O'Sullivan."

Barrows and Bee teammate Jason Jones led their notebook with an item about rookie receiver Josh Morgan living up to expectations set in camp. Morgan is making a case for significant playing time. The longer this continues, and the more time Ashlie Lelie misses, the easier time the 49ers will have keeping only five receivers (Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson, Morgan and Hill). Also: The 49ers opened this game in a 4-3 defense, with Justin Smith at left defensive end.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News couldn't find anything exciting about the 49ers' new offense under coordinator Mike Martz. Brown went a step further than analyzing only the fourth-and-2 decision to kick a field goal. One player earlier, on third-and-3, the 49ers called a handoff to the fullback instead of giving Smith a chance to throw.

More from Brown: breaking down the quarterbacks while wondering, in jest, if Kyle Wright was the big winner Friday night.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic sifts through the Cardinals' performance against New Orleans in the exhibition opener. The best news for Arizona: no new injuries of significance.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals expect receiver Anquan Boldin back at practice Sunday. Meanwhile, rookie running back Tim Hightower is proving he has the right approach. Hightower scored the Cardinals' only touchdown against the Saints, but he missed a block and wasn't happy about it.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks made a statement to the rest of the NFC during their 34-17 victory over Minnesota. Coach Mike Holmgren isn't going that far: "You like to win the first game, they feel pretty good, and we did that. But they can't feel real great because they made a number of errors that we can coach to. But that's kind of what you want in a first game: win the game but also correct some things in some meetings."

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer isn't quite accustomed to covering impressive Seattle performances during the exhibition season. I know this from being on that beat with Clare for close to a decade. Previous Seattle teams have sometimes looked horrible when the games didn't count. Not this time. Running back Maurice Morris used the opportunity to remind us that Julius Jones has competition for the starting job.

Also from Farnsworth: an in-depth look at Jordan Kent's touchdown reception. Kent is fighting for a roster spot. He dropped two balls in practice Wednesday, so his touchdown grab meant a lot to him. Said Matt Hasselbeck: "Jordan was doing a good job of being physical on his guy. But he kept fighting. The offensive line gave me time. It was a great play."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch finds evidence of progress in the Rams' third season under coach Scott Linehan. Of course, all bets are off if the Rams lose four-fifths of their offensive line again. Thomas: "With new coordinator Al Saunders now calling the plays -- he'll be situated in the press box tonight -- the offense has made impressive strides on the practice field over the last week or so."

More from Thomas: what to watch when the Rams open their exhibition season against the Titans. He singles out Orlando Pace, Leonard Little, Chris Long, Quinton Culberson, the third-team quarterbacks and the running backs (minus Steven Jackson).

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams like the way James Hall has handled a potentially difficult offseason. I got that feeling when visiting Rams camp. The Rams think Hall will be more effective as a rotation player behind Chris Long.