NFL Nation: Antonio Pittman

Rams: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
3:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Biggest surprise: The Rams cut former special-teams captain Todd Johnson, a safety, and they also flushed out two veteran receivers they hoped would contribute, Ronald Curry and Tim Carter. Keeping rookie quarterback Keith Null over the more experienced Brock Berlin made sense because the Rams' top two quarterbacks, Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, have lots of seasoning. The biggest roster surprise came when the team traded 2006 first-round cornerback Tye Hill to the Falcons. Free-agent addition Quincy Butler stuck on the 53-man roster after a strong training camp and preseason. He looked better than Hill, frankly, and the Rams' new leadership wasn't afraid to part with symbols of past failures. Placing defensive tackle Adam Carriker on injured reserve cleared another spot.

No-brainers: The Rams also released linebacker K.C. Asiodu, defensive tackle Antwon Burton, tight end Eric Butler, defensive end Ian Campbell, linebacker Dominic Douglas, tackle Renardo Foster, fullback Jerome Johnson, center Tim Mattran, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, cornerback Cord Parks, running back Antonio Pittman, safety Mark Rubin, guard Roy Schuening, tackle Phil Trautwein and receiver Sean Walker.

What's next: The Rams still need to make one move by the 6 p.m. ET deadline for complying with the 53-man limit. With only four running backs on the roster, counting fullback Mike Karney, the team probably needs to seek help at the position. Backup Samkon Gado suffered injured ribs in the final exhibition game. The Rams lack quality depth and they are starting over. As a result, the team could pursue players released from other teams.

Update: The Rams placed defensive lineman Eric Moore on injured reserve to comply with the 53-man limit.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' roster requires additional study after a thorough house-cleaning this offseason. With so many new faces, I feel less familiar with the Rams than with the other teams in the division. This initial look at the roster will hopefully help bring some focus.

Donnie Avery's injury and overall health concerns at receiver could influence how many players the Rams carry into the season at the position.

Marc Bulger's broken pinky shouldn't affect the roster as long as he recovers on schedule. Teams must reduce to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 players by Sept. 5. Those initial 53-man rosters sometimes change by Week 1 kickoffs. For that reason, I've been focusing on Week 1 rosters when setting baseline expectations for each position.

St. Louis Rams
Week 1 Roster
Counts since 2003
QB RB WR TE OL DL LB DB ST
Fewest 2 5 5 2 9 8 5 8 2
Most 3 7 6 4 10 9 7 11 3
Average 2.8 5.5 5.5 3.0 9.2 8.3 6.3 9.7 2.7
Currently on roster
4
7 10 5 15 13 9 14 3

The chart provides a framework for how many players the Rams might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Seahawks.

Here's a quick look at which Rams players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:

(Read full post)

Three and Out: Rams

August, 16, 2009
8/16/09
10:05
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Three quick hits on the St. Louis Rams:

In the interest of continuity: The Rams have shuffled their offensive linemen too many times for quarterback Marc Bulger to count. The idea this season is to settle on five guys, build continuity and improve over the course of the season. Signing center Jason Brown from the Ravens in free agency gave the Rams badly needed stability in the middle. First-round choice Jason Smith will presumably replace Adam Goldberg at right tackle sometime soon. "There is just something about the line when they are together and working together that makes everyone look good," Bulger said.

Football Outsiders
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St. Louis Rams

Insurance behind Jackson: The Rams know they're in trouble if something happens to franchise running back Steven Jackson. They need all the insurance they can get from his backups. Samkon Gado and Antonio Pittman made a positive first impression in the exhibition opener. Kenneth Darby, the favorite heading into training camp, needs to show improvement after a rough performance in the opener. Gado's 77-yard touchdown run was impressive even though it came against the Jets' backups. Pittman also helped his cause. It's too early to know whether any of the Rams' backup runners can provide quality depth at the position.

Delegating responsibilities: The Rams hired coach Steve Spagnuolo based largely on his record coordinating the Giants' and Eagles' defenses. Spagnuolo suggested Saturday that he mostly stood back while defensive coordinator Ken Flajole called plays in the exhibition opener. I had assumed Spagnuolo would probably call the defense this season. "I am going to try not to step on toes," Spagnuolo told reporters. "You hire people to do their jobs and I thought they both did a good job of it." Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will obviously call the offense. Spagnuolo is ultimately responsible for how the defense performs. For him to trust defensive calls to a first-time coordinator shows great faith in Flajole.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Rams appear content moving forward with their current receivers after learning Donnie Avery suffered a broken fourth metatarsal bone. They added safety Mark Rubin to replace the injured Eric Bassey.

I arrived at Rams camp in time to watch most of their afternoon practice. This was a non-contact practice without pads. I did not see pass-rush drills and did not see enough from the healthy receivers to get an initial feel for them. Nate Jones and Sean Walker caught deep passes. Friday will provide a much better opportunity to get a feel for the Rams.

Running back Kenneth Darby and quarterback Keith Null botched a handoff exchange. Running back Antonio Pittman dropped a short pass from Kyle Boller. Rubin picked off a pass from Null after a teammate whose identity eluded me batted it near the line of scrimmage.

Adam Goldberg was still working with the starters at right tackle, ahead of No. 2 overall choice Jason Smith. Smith won't get a break in this camp as long as Leonard Little is healthy. That's a difficult matchup for the best veteran tackles, let alone a rookie. I'll be watching Smith very closely in the Rams' exhibition opener against the Jets.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers players embraced coming to work Monday even though former coach Mike Nolan would have given them the day off. Shaun Hill says most players would come to work even if given the day off.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers coach Mike Singletary is focusing on team building across offensive and defensive lines.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary might as well adopt the old "We are family" mantra of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Singletary and offensive coordinator Mike Martz are getting along very well, according to Singletary. That probably makes it true. Singletary doesn't seem capable of lying.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Arizona will keep pushing even if the Cardinals clinch the NFC West title with weeks to spare.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals sound confident heading into their game against the Giants. Coach Ken Whisenhunt likes having the game at home.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the NFL should not suspend Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson for a hit that wasn't an obvious violation of rules.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks have assumed the spoiler role heading into their final six games. Also, fullback Leonard Weaver says the team is mature enough to handle the transition from Mike Holmgren to Jim Mora.

John Morgan of Field Gulls comes away impressed after breaking down Seattle cornerback Josh Wilson's first-quarter performance against the Cardinals in Week 11.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Matt Hasselbeck was far more lucid Monday when he took back things said about the Cardinals on Sunday night. Also, cornerback Marcus Trufant will play in Week 12 after suffering a concussion Sunday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are sticking with Marc Bulger at quarterback, noting that the coaching staff thinks Bulger gives St. Louis its best chance to win. Bulger threw the ball well against the 49ers except for a 9-minute span featuring seven bad plays, coach Jim Haslett said.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steven Jackson will miss the Rams' next game after getting a second opinion on his thigh injury. That means Antonio Pittman will start.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says rookie John Greco would start at right guard if a shoulder injury sidelines Richie Incognito. Meanwhile, Adam Goldberg is taking over at left tackle for Orlando Pace, whose season could be finished.

Also from Korte: The Rams are sticking with Bulger in part because the team committed a $65 million contract to the quarterback.

VanRam of Turf Show Times can't understand the decision to stick with Bulger. He also wonders if Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would make a good fit as head coach in St. Louis next season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer quotes Mike Holmgren as calling the Seahawks' game against the Cardinals a "must-win" game for Seattle.

Brian McIntyre of Scout.com predicts a 27-23 Seahawks victory over the Cardinals, noting that Arizona has struggled at Qwest Field.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks expect to have their top two quarterbacks healthy Sunday.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks rookie Owen Schmitt, who hopes to dish out more punishment after absorbing a welcome-to-the-NFL hit against the Eagles.

Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says Courtney Taylor remains confident in his abilities as a receiver despite playing poorly when given chances early in the season.

Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com checks in with the 49ers' coordinators heading into the Rams game.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Isaac Bruce is taking a low-keyed approach to facing his former team. Also, Frank Gore will start and Vernon Davis stayed after practice Friday to catch additional passes.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Adam Snyder remains the 49ers' right tackle even though Jonas Jennings is back at practice.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat quotes former 49ers coach Mike Nolan as saying the 49ers need to be better prepared for situations like the one that arose Monday night. The quotes were part of an interview on Sirius radio.

John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan fared better on his most recent radio appearance.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says special-teamer Keith Lewis could start at free safety while Mark Roman and Dashon Goldson recovery from injuries.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at Antrel Rolle's penchant for scoring touchdowns on interception returns. If only officials wouldn't negate them by penalty.

Also from Urban: He's amused when people affiliated with the Seahawks refer to Steve Breaston by his jersey number instead of his name.

Scott Allen of Raising Zona wants to pick a Cardinals victory in Seattle, but he remains wary of the Seahawks.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic quotes Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis and others as to the Cardinals' legitimacy this season. They seem to think Arizona is for real as long as Kurt Warner stays healthy.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams expect more from Antonio Pittman in relief of Steven Jackson. Coach Jim Haslett says it's time for Pittman to prove he has a long future in the league. Another effort like his 28-yard day against the Jets will not cut it.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Rams cornerback Ron Bartell is looking forward to his matchup with ex-teammate Isaac Bruce. Bruce used to pay $100 to Bartell every time Bartell picked off a pass in practice.

Also from Korte: Jackson won't even make the trip to San Francisco.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post Dispatch says the Rams haven't committed to a starting quarterback for Week 11 after benching Marc Bulger during a humiliating defeat to the Jets. I don't see how the Rams can realistically give up on Bulger, unless the Rams feel as though Bulger has given up on them. The $65 million deal the Rams gave Bulger, coupled with backup Trent Green's advancing age, puts the team in a tough spot.

Also from Coats: Hands out three "F" grades for the Rams, but he reserves a "C" for the coaching. He's putting this one on the players.

More from Coats: The Rams' defensive line stood no chance against the Jets.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls the Rams a "disgrace" while questioning their effort against the Rams, a departure from recent form.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Rams coach Jim Haslett felt "humiliated" by the team's performance in the first half.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams came close to suffering the worst defeat in franchise history. The Jets' decision to run out the clock deep in Rams territory might have spared them. Embarrassment is the key word in the Rams' locker room.

Also from Thomas: Running back Antonio Pittman gutted it out on a bad hamstring. Afterward, Haslett had "no idea" when Steven Jackson might return.

Brian Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch blames the Rams' front office for shortcomings exposed against the Jets.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Seattle Seahawks (2-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-4), 1 p.m. ET
The Dolphins have committed a league-low six turnovers. The Seahawks are tied for the league low with eight takeaways.

And they say something has to give? Not necessarily, and that's probably bad for Seattle. It's tough to envision the Seahawks winning this game without scoring points on defense.

On offense, Seattle remains an injury-depleted team that needs an identity but isn't necessarily searching for one.

Yes, injuries explain a large part of the team's struggles. A healthy Matt Hasselbeck would probably give the offense a chance to lead with the passing game, the way coach Mike Holmgren likes it. But the Seahawks don't have a healthy Hasselbeck. They haven't had one for several weeks. Time to adjust?

The Seahawks could probably do more to exploit their straight-ahead running game. Seattle ranks among the NFL leaders with nine rushing plays of at least 20 yards, but the offense appears lost when the passing game fails to lead the way.

That needs to change, but it probably won't in Week 10. The Dolphins have allowed a league-low one rushing play longer than 20 yards. They own victories over the Patriots, Chargers, Bills and Broncos. The Seahawks appear ready to join the list.

St. Louis Rams (2-6) and New York Jets (5-3), 1 p.m. ET
No reasonable analysis points to the Rams winning this game at the Meadowlands.

The Rams have allowed a league-high 17 pass plays covering at least 30 yards. The Rams have allowed 26 sacks, sixth-most in the league. The Jets' defense has collected 29 sacks, third-most in the league behind the Steelers and Giants.

Steven Jackson missed practice all week for the Rams. The former Pro Bowl running back will not play against the Jets. His backups, Antonio Pittman and Travis Minor, have been slowed by injuries. Pittman could play, but unknown Kenneth Darby could start after taking most of the first-team reps in practice.

A diminished running game puts too much pressure on quarterback Marc Bulger. Rookie receiver Donnie Avery does offer big-play potential, but he'll have a harder time hurting defenses, at least in theory, without a running game to keep the safeties' attention.

Keep an eye on Bulger's body language. He showed more toughness and leadership while winning in Jim Haslett's first two games as head coach. That needs to extend to the tough times as well. Bulger could get lots more practice if Jackson remains unavailable.

San Francisco 49ers (2-6) at Arizona Cardinals (5-3), Monday Night Football, 8:30 p.m. ET

Let's call this one a do-over for interim coach Mike Singletary, interim quarterback Shaun Hill and the 49ers. Firing Mike Nolan before the bye week put Singletary in tough spot. The ensuing 34-13 home defeat to the Seahawks marked the first time all season the 49ers failed to compete.

There can be no excuses in Week 10. Singletary needs to project stability and control along with the fire and brimstone that comes naturally to him. Hill should help him do that by protecting the football better than predecessor J.T. O'Sullivan did, particularly now that Singletary appears to be calling for a more conservative approach from offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

The 49ers won in Arizona last season with Trent Dilfer at quarterback, but their defense was playing much more consistently. The current defense probably won't stop Kurt Warner and friends from building a lead. That will threaten Frank Gore's role for the 49ers, at which point the Cardinals' pass rush should feast on the 49ers' struggling line.

Strange as it sounds, this is close to a must-win game for the Cardinals. They face the Seahawks (road), Giants (home) and Eagles (road) over the next three weeks. Beating inferior opponents at home is all but required as the Cardinals move closer to a rare playoff berth.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Arizona: Injuries continue to affect Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick, but the Cardinals have enough flexibility to flourish in the passing game without healthy tight ends. Even third tight end Jerame Tuman (ankle) is hurting. Stephen Spach filled in admirably as a run blocker against St. Louis. Larry Fitzgerald has a thumb injury. His hands weren't as good against the Rams in Week 9. Left tackle Mike Gandy has had ankle problems. The Cardinals can't afford injuries on the offensive line.

San Francisco: The right side of the offensive line was having problems even before injuries wiped out tackles Jonas Jennings and Barry Sims. The 49ers will have a hard time protecting quarterback Shaun Hill against the Cardinals' active front eight (counting strong safety Adrian Wilson as a potential blitzer off the edge). Tight end Delanie Walker is healthier coming out of the bye, restoring versatility to the offense. But third receiver Arnaz Battle is out, putting more pressure on rookie Josh Morgan. Time to ride Frank Gore.

Seattle: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, receiver Deion Branch and defensive end Patrick Kerney will miss the game. The Seahawks have enough depth to weather one serious injury for the short term, but it's tough to envision Seattle winning an early game at Miami with so many key players staying behind. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu is expected back from a groin injury. The Seahawks need him to make more plays.

St. Louis: The situation at running back is sapping the life from the Rams' comeback hopes under coach Jim Haslett. Steven Jackson won't be full strength if he's able to play. Backup Antonio Pittman is out. Even Travis Minor is hurting. Kenneth Darby could start. The Rams' pass protection isn't particularly solid even when Jackson is running well. Quarterback Marc Bulger figures to struggle with consistency and confidence until Jackson regains form. Injuries have also chipped away at the Rams' already shaky depth at linebacker, tight end, cornerback offensive line and receiver.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of Around the Horns says Steven Jackson missed Rams practice Wednesday, leaving Kenneth Darby to work with the starters. Samkon Gado is the backup.

Steve Korte of Ramblings says Travis Minor missed Rams practice after being diagnosed with a concussion. Injuries to Jackson, Antonio Pittman and Minor have left the Rams thin at running back.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks expect Patrick Kerney to return this season after doctors found nothing serious wrong with the defensive end's shoulder.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks expect Matt Hasselbeck to start practicing with the scout team. Hasselbeck could return against the Cardinals in Week 11.

Mike Tulumello of Bird Watching says Cardinals rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might be close to overtaking Eric Green as a starting cornerback. Green's failure to tackle the Rams' Derek Stanley during an 80-yard touchdown pass gave early momentum to the Rams.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Stephen Spach was pleased to get so much playing time in his first game with the Cardinals.

Lowell Cohn of the Cohn Zone shares some initial thoughts after interviewing 49ers owner Jed York.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says first impressions were misleading at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams' early goal-line stand wasn't enough to send St. Louis on its way. In my view, that's because these aren't the same old Cardinals.

Also from Thomas: The halftime ceremony honoring Dick Vermeil stood as one of the few highlights for the Rams.

Brian Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rams quarterback Marc Bulger as saying he doesn't care about criticism from fans. Burwell defends Bulger from criticism he considers unfair. Bulger said he felt he had to take risks to score points, one reason he threw the game-turning interception to Antrel Rolle.

Bill Coats of Around the Horns nonetheless gives Bulger a "D" grade for his performance during the blowout defeat. The running backs received a D-minus. Steven Jackson probably should have rested his thigh injury another week.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says consecutive defeats have cut the Rams down to size following two improbable victories to start the Jim Haslett era. Miklasz outlines personnel deficiencies, calling out running back Antonio Pittman as not good enough for the backup role. Pittman's injury situation appears to be a factor there.

Also from Miklasz: A series of quick-hitting thoughts on the game, including a call for a lineup change at center. Miklasz also isn't seeing much from new left guard Jacob Bell.

Rod Kloeckner of the Belleville News-Democrat says Jackson took his poor performance personally and planned to use it as motivation for the rest of the season.

Also from Kloeckner: Derek Stanley's first career reception was a memorable one.

Steve Korte of Ramblings gives the running backs an "F" grade, citing injuries as a key reason for the poor performance.

Also from Korte: Vermeil spreads the credit for the Rams' one successful season under his watch.

More from Korte: No running game meant no chance for the Rams.

VanRam of Turf Show Times thinks the Rams' defense will be strong for years to come. He also ponders lineup changes on offense, from quarterback to the line.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams had plenty of opportunities to beat the Patriots, but the offense couldn't fully capitalize in the third quarter.

More from Thomas: Antonio Pittman gives the Rams a chance at running back while Steven Jackson recovers from injury.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are better under Jim Haslett even when they lose. Haslett plays to win, and players are responding. Marc Bulger even talks about the Rams' ability to control their destiny within the division.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat offers a postgame report card with a "D" for the normally strong specialists. The Rams' special teams committed three penalties, and kicker Josh Brown had to make a tackle to save a touchdown.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are producing turnovers on defense, a big change from early in the season.

Also from Coats: The Rams' rookie draft class is coming up big, from Chris Long to Donnie Avery to Keenan Burton.

More from Coats: A report card with a "D" grade for the offensive line.

VanRam of Turf Show Times can't believe what he's seeing from the new-look Rams, even in defeat. He thought cornerback Jason Craft enjoyed a strong game.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says the Rams stayed on track even without Jackson and even after losing top pass-rusher Leonard Little to injury.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jackson

The Rams' chances for an upset in New England took a hit when the team named running back Steven Jackson inactive Sunday.

Coach Jim Haslett sounded optimistic on Jackson early in the week. He expressed relief Monday upon learning that Jackson had suffered only a thigh bruise against the Cowboys. Haslett's subsequent comments sounded more guarded, but I expected Jackson to play anyway.

Quarterback Marc Bulger will likely have to carry more of the offensive load for the Rams. Antonio Pittman's return to health improves the depth at running back, but Jackson is in another class. The Patriots should be able to stop the run with nose tackle Vince Wilfork already enjoying favorable matchups against the Rams' interior offensive line.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Arizona: Tight ends Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick are hurting. Both could miss the game. Jerame Tuman could be the only healthy tight end. A shortage of tight ends could lead the Cardinals to use three or four receivers more often. That's fine by quarterback Kurt Warner, who likes spreading the field. The Cardinals won't say whether Anquan Boldin will return this week, but there's no reason to expect him to miss the game after doctors cleared the receiver. Travis LaBoy's groin injury is a concern. The pass rush isn't as good without him and the Cardinals need him to help limit Bert Berry's reps.

St. Louis: The Rams have hedged on whether Steven Jackson will play against the Patriots, but coach Jim Haslett sounded confident Monday. That general feeling should stand given the nature of the injury. If Jackson misses the game, the Rams are in better position to run their offense now that Antonio Pittman is healthy. Getting Orlando Pace back helps the offensive line, giving coordinator Al Saunders greater flexibility in the passing game.

San Francisco: The 49ers were healthy for most of the season so far, but that is changing. They will miss defensive end Ray McDonald. Safety Mark Roman is hurting and his backup, Dashon Goldson, will miss the game. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer is already on injured reserve. As a result, the 49ers' secondary isn't quite so deep, but the Seahawks aren't in position to pick apart a secondary.

Seattle: Matt Hasselbeck will miss another start. His absence is always significant, but even his return might not be enough to salvage the passing game. Backup Seneca Wallace is better than he appeared against the Bucs. He could continue to suffer from the depleted situation at receiver. The injury situation at receiver and quarterback continue to affect Mike Holmgren's confidence as a playcaller. Holmgren's lack of confidence affects the quarterback. It's just a bad situation overall and one that could continue to drag down the offense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Frank Gore has his eye on the NFL rushing title. I think 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz wouldn't mind adding a rushing champion to his pass-oriented resume, particularly after the Lions said they wanted a coordinator more committed to the ground game.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says cornerback Allen Rossum filled the role of the small, quick receiver Martz covets.

Also from Barrows: Gore's new approach includes letting the game come to him.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers have come to appreciate "Cowboy" Justin Smith, a difference maker on their defense. I've watched Smith closely in the first three games and would say he's better than I anticipated.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic ties up loose ends from the Cardinals' defeat at Washington. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald laments missing a chance for another touchdown. Cornerback Rod Hood thought the defense let down the offense. And receiver Anquan Boldin won't forget Shawn Springs' declaration about their matchup.

Also from Somers: Coach Ken Whisenhunt explains why he elected to punt with 2:46 remaining against the Redskins. Also, nose tackle Gabe Watson might miss another game.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals still must prove they're not the same old Cardinals.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says Edgerrin James has become an afterthought in Arizona, playing a secondary role to Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. I've always viewed James as a solid and consistent player, never a spectacular one.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks will hold informal workouts today, Wednesday and Thursday before taking off for the bye weekend.

Also from Farnsworth: Seattle's ground game gives opponents something new to worry about.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have some choices to make following their bye week given the expected return of injured players, notably Maurice Morris, Bobby Engram and Deion Branch.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks haven't decided whether to put Sean Locklear back in the lineup at right tackle. Ray Willis gives the team a "physical presence" on that side of the line, coach Mike Holmgren said.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls the Rams hopeless and the worst team in the history of football in St. Louis. He thinks firing coach Scott Linehan would be the most humane course of action in the short term.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams weren't competitive in Seattle even though they improved in a few key areas offensively.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams running back Brian Leonard will finally become active for a game now that an injury has knocked out Antonio Pittman.

Also from Coats: No big news from the Rams despite threats from ownership.

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