NFL Nation: Brooks Foster

Aaron Curry's recent signing with the New York Giants invites a look back at the 2009 NFC West draft class, painful as it might be in some cases.

Four of the 29 players NFC West teams selected in that draft remain with their original teams: Michael Crabtree in San Francisco, James Laurinaitis in St. Louis, Max Unger in Seattle and Rashad Johnson in Arizona.

Unger is the only one of the 29 to earn Pro Bowl honors. Unger and Laurinaitis are the only ones to receive long-term contract extensions from their original teams.

NFC West teams have fired the head coaches and general managers associated with those 2009 selections.

Reasons for those firings went far beyond the 2009 draft, of course. Still, the massive turnover since that draft reflects poorly on what was, by most accounts, a weak class across the league. It also shows how frequently personnel turns over in the NFL. The league has 21 new head coaches and 19 new general managers since the 2009 season concluded.

Curry was widely considered the "safest" choice in that 2009 draft as a fearsome linebacker from Wake Forest. Seattle would trade him to Oakland for seventh- and fifth-round picks before Curry had finished his third season.

Jason Smith, chosen second overall by St. Louis in 2009, supposedly had a mean streak and was a natural leader. The Rams would trade him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter after three disappointing seasons.

Beanie Wells came to the Cardinals in the first round of that 2009 draft pretty much as advertised: highly talented, but not very durable. The Cardinals released him this offseason, and Wells remains unsigned amid questions about his knee.

2009 was also the year Arizona sought to upgrade its pass-rush by selecting Cody Brown in the second round. The 49ers tried to improve their depth at running back by using a third-round choice for Glen Coffee. Brown would never play in an NFL game. Coffee would retire after one season.

The chart shows how many regular-season NFL starts each 2009 NFC West draft choice has made, regardless of team.
Larry Fitzgerald's arrival with the Arizona Cardinals via the 2004 NFL draft serves as the starting point for the latest item looking at recent NFC West choices.

Fitzgerald already has 613 receptions, far more than any other NFC West receiver over the last seven seasons.

In fact, the wide receivers with the most receptions for the Cardinals' division rivals during the same time period -- Torry Holt (St. Louis), Bobby Engram (Seattle) and Arnaz Battle (San Francisco) -- have long since moved on. I ran across Engram in the 49ers' main lobby Wednesday; he's a quality control coach with the team.

History tells us receivers carry more risk than some other positions. For every Fitzgerald, there seems to be a Koren Robinson, David Terrell or Troy Williamson -- high picks that never came close to realizing their potential. Mike Williams' revival with Seattle last season was an exception.

The charts break down every receiver NFC West teams have drafted since 2004. Will the St. Louis Rams add Julio Jones to their list of drafted wideouts?

As in the past, I'll preface each chart with thoughts from the teams' perspectives.

Immediate needs don't matter so much when front-line talent is available ...

Time to start finding replacements for veterans who might not fit into our plans (Terrell Owens for the 49ers, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt for the Rams) ...

These guys might not start, but every team needs secondary options in the passing game ...

We're getting late enough in the draft to consider grabbing a receiver while a few with decent potential remain on the board ...

Time to fill out the roster and hope we find depth for special teams ...
The St. Louis Rams needed more offensive firepower last season, particularly at wide receiver.

That was obvious at critical moments.

Left unsaid: The Rams have addressed the position. Since 2008, the team has used three draft choices in the first four rounds to select wideouts, tied with six other teams for second-most in the league. But Donnie Avery (2008 second round), Keenan Burton (2008 fourth round) and Mardy Gilyard (2010 fourth round) combined for six receptions last season.

Avery is doing much better following reconstructive knee surgery. Burton is off the roster and has not played in a regular-season NFL game since suffering a torn patella against New Orleans in 2009. Gilyard is recovering from wrist surgery after playing little and failing to catch a pass in the Rams' final 10 games.

The chart shows how many skill-position players NFL teams have drafted in the first four rounds since 2008. I excluded tight ends because some project more as blockers.

I'll break them out by NFC West team:
    [+] EnlargeSam Bradford
    Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesSam Bradford is coming off a record-breaking rookie season in which he threw for over 3,500 yards.
  • St. Louis Rams (4): Quarterback Sam Bradford (2010 first round) is coming off a record-setting rookie season. He could use some help from Avery and Gilyard.
  • Arizona Cardinals (3): Receiver Andre Roberts (2010 third round), running back Beanie Wells (2009 first round) and receiver Early Doucet (2008 third round) remain prominent in the Cardinals' plans. The 2011 season will be a big one for Wells, who looked better as a rookie than he did last season. The knee injury Wells suffered during the exhibition season required surgery. That presumably affected his play.
  • San Francisco 49ers (2): Receiver Michael Crabtree (2009 first) had 55 catches last season, including six for touchdowns. His season was a bit underwhelming, however, as the 49ers' quarterback and coordinator instability continued. Running back Glen Coffee (2009 third round) became a bust when he retired after only one season, citing a lack of love for the game.
  • Seattle Seahawks (2): Receiver Golden Tate (2010 second round) made an immediate impact during minicamps last offseason, only to justify the usual disclaimers about rookie receivers often struggling when the games start counting. Tate's game needs refinement, by his own admission. He has the athletic ability to make plays on the ball and gain big chunks after the catch. Meanwhile, Deon Butler (2009 third round) is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a career-threatening leg injury, coach Pete Carroll said. Butler's on-field future remains in question, however.

I singled out the first four rounds because those choices are more valuable.

NFC West teams have found some bargains at the skill positions in the later rounds since 2008, including: Tim Hightower, LaRod Stephens-Howling and possibly John Skelton in Arizona; Josh Morgan and Anthony Dixon in San Francisco and Justin Forsett in Seattle.

The Rams' late-round selections -- Keith Null, Chris Obgonnaya and Brooks Foster -- no longer play for the team.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)

Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)

Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)

San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)

The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.

Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, William James, Justin Green, Raheem Brock, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, David Carr, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Isaac Bruce, Charlie Whitehurst, Chris Clemons, Shaun HIll, Junior Siavii, Leroy Hill, Kevin Dockery, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Rex Hadnot, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Brandon McDonald, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Ryan Neill, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Clinton Hart, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Leger Douzable, Jerome Johnson, Trumaine McBride, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Shane Andrus, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Leon Washington, Troy Smith, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Randy McMichael, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Brian St. Pierre, Ruvell Martin, Mark Clayton, Ben Hamilton, Anquan Boldin, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Chester Pitts, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Chris Baker, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Hank Fraley, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Jason Hill, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Brandon Frye, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Quinton Ganther, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Seneca Wallace, Thomas Clayton, Paris Lenon, Deon Grant, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Steve Vallos, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Anthony Becht, Na\'il Diggs, Damion McIntosh, Tyler Polumbus, Derek Walker, Louis Rankin, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Cyril Obiozor, Mike Iupati, Kevin Houser, Dan Williams, Russell Okung, Golden Tate, Anthony Dixon, Anthony McCoy, Mardy Gilyard, Earl Thomas, A.J. Jefferson, Kennard Cox, Andre Roberts, Walter Thurmond, Rodger Saffold, George Selvie, Daryl Washington, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, John Skelton, Nate Byham, Eugene Sims, Jermelle Cudjo, Ricky Schmitt, Dominique Curry, Fendi Onobun, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Phillip Adams, Stephen Williams, Thaddeus Lewis, Chris Patrick, Clint Gresham, Danny Gorrer, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, LaJuan Ramsey, Roger III Allen, Ryan McKee, Ted Jr. Ginn, Tramaine Brock, Trevor Canfield

Rams back away from Terrell Owens

July, 26, 2010
The Cincinnati Bengals, apparently suspecting Terrell Owens might be using the St. Louis Rams for leverage, called the free-agent receiver's bluff earlier Monday.

Now the Rams have made it clear they won't be used, either.

As Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, the Rams have decided not to pursue Owens after discussing the matter in recent days.

This is probably a wise move even though Owens would have become the best receiver on the team. Current Rams receivers include Brandon Gibson, Keenan Burton, Dominique Curry, Danny Amendola, Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson, Brandon McRae, Mardy Gilyard, Jordan Kent and Brooks Foster.

Earlier: Pros, cons of adding Owens to the Rams.

On the radar: Surprise injuries

June, 24, 2010
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

A sore hip bothered Kurt Warner at Arizona Cardinals camp last summer. It wasn't a big deal.

[+] EnlargePatrick WIllis
Brett Davis/US PresswirePatrick Willis has already practiced after his offseason knee surgery and will seemingly be ready for training camp.
Two summers ago, the Seattle Seahawks downplayed Matt Hasselbeck's bad back because they didn't know the full extent of the problem. That one turned out to be more serious than expected.

Having the right feel for each injury situation can be tough. I'm sure a surprise injury or two will become a story after NFC West teams report for training camps in late July.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (knee), St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (back), Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee) and Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (pectoral) are among the high-profile NFC West players coming off surgery rehabs. Their situations will bear monitoring.

The following players ended last season on injured reserve (some are no longer with NFC West teams):

Arizona Cardinals

Matt Ware, Mike Gandy, Justin Green, Cody Brown

San Francisco 49ers

Tony Pashos, Ricky Schmitt, Thomas Clayton, Jeff Ulbrich, Walt Harris, Kentwan Balmer, Curtis Taylor

Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Roehl, Walter Jones, Kevin Houser, Brandon Frye, Tatupu, Mike Hass

St. Louis Rams

Marc Bulger, Adam Carriker, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Eric Bassey, C.J. Ah You, Brooks Foster, Gary Gibson, Jacob Bell, Daniel Fells, Chris Massey, Bradley Fletcher, Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton

NFC West Team Wrap-ups

January, 6, 2010
NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South
Clayton: Video | AFC grades ... NFC More: Fantasy MVPs | FB Outsiders | Awards

A team-by-team analysis of the division. The arrow indicates which direction each team is trending.

Arizona Cardinals

Final Power Ranking: 8

Biggest surprise: Arizona posted a 6-2 road record, allowing the Cardinals to win the division comfortably even though they lost both games to the 49ers. Coach Ken Whisenhunt spent his first two seasons building a strong home-field advantage at University of Phoenix Stadium. It would have been shocking to think the Cardinals would finish the 2009 regular season with a better record on the road than at home.

Biggest disappointment: Getting three key players injured during a meaningless game against the Packers in Week 17 could threaten the Cardinals' postseason staying power. Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee), receiver Anquan Boldin (ankle) and defensive end Calais Campbell (thumb) could be at less than full strength. It's possible one or more could miss the wild-card game. That's disappointing for a team that made staying healthy such a priority.

Biggest need: The Cardinals need to shore up their situation at tackle as they move closer to life without Kurt Warner. Left tackle Mike Gandy is in the final year of his contract. He seemingly hasn't played well enough to command a lucrative extension. The team invested a high first-round pick in right tackle Levi Brown, with underwhelming results. Warner's ability to get rid of the ball quickly allows the Arizona passing game to function even without solid pass protection from the tackles. That arrangement will not last.

Team MVP: Warner makes the offense work. The team appeared lost when he wasn't in games this season. Backup Matt Leinart was shaky in the second half at St. Louis and during extended playing time against the Packers in Week 17. The team had to put Warner back in the game after building a big lead at Chicago. Leinart put together an impressive drive at Tennessee, but that was about it. Appreciating Warner's value became easier every time Leinart went into games.

Future watch: Significant decisions await the Cardinals this offseason. Franchise player Karlos Dansby can become a free agent. Free safety Antrel Rolle's salary is scheduled to swell, likely forcing a renegotiation. Receiver Anquan Boldin will be entering the final year of his deal. Is it time to trade him? Those are just a few of the issues facing Arizona in the coming months.

San Francisco 49ers

Final Power Ranking: 19

Biggest surprise: Old-school coach Mike Singletary and older-school offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye ditched the team's power offense for a shotgun passing attack that diminished Frank Gore's role. The team gradually found ways to reincorporate Gore, but the offense remained quite a bit different. That was understandable once Alex Smith took over at quarterback and Michael Crabtree joined the team, but it went against everything Singletary and Raye preached all offseason.

Biggest disappointment: Failing to beat the struggling Seahawks in Seattle, when the 49ers absolutely had to win, stood out as the most disappointing defeat, just ahead of the loss at Minnesota on Brett Favre's heave in the final seconds. More broadly, the offensive line wasn't as good as the team anticipated, preventing Raye from establishing consistency in the ground game. Both starting guards struggled for the first half of the season. The line seemed to play better late in the year, but by then a knee injury had sidelined left tackle Joe Staley. The line never really jelled to the degree San Francisco could have anticipated.

Biggest need: Ahmad Brooks' emergence might diminish the team's need for a pass-rusher, although that remains a subject for debate. If Brooks is the real deal, the 49ers' biggest need might be for another top-tier offensive lineman. Finding a right tackle to serve as a bookend with Staley would certainly help.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker Patrick Willis is a dominant player in his prime. He helped the 49ers field the best defense in the division. Willis met or exceeded career highs with four sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also had eight passes defensed. Willis scored a touchdown on an interception return for the second consecutive season.

Future watch: Smith's partial emergence at quarterback left the 49ers hopeful but ultimately unsure of his prospects. The team will have to take a wait-and-see approach with him. It's possible the 49ers will draft a quarterback or sign a veteran in free agency, but Smith will likely enter the 2010 season as the starter.

Seattle Seahawks

Final Power Ranking: 27

Biggest surprise: Third-string running back Justin Forsett emerged as a more capable runner than the Seahawks ever could have imagined. He was outstanding in pass protection and showed he could sometimes produce as an every-down back. Forsett probably isn't the answer as a starter, but he stepped up when called upon.

Biggest disappointment: Having general manager Tim Ruskell resign during the season stood out as a low point in a winter filled with them. Ruskell had been riding high after a seemingly productive draft. But with the team slumping and the pressure mounting, Ruskell forced the organization's hand by asking whether his contract would be renewed. The team would not commit to him. Ruskell's resignation left coach Jim Mora as the next biggest target for criticism. It was a bad situation all the way around.

Biggest need: Upgrading the offensive line has to stand as a top priority for the Seahawks. They were down to their fourth-string left tackle at one point, making success impossible for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck during a make-or-break game against Arizona in Week 6. Seattle needs to restore some toughness up front through the draft and possibly through free agency. The status quo simply isn't acceptable.

Team MVP: Hasselbeck was the clear choice even though he tossed nine interceptions over the final three games. The veteran quarterback's toughness and resolve stood out all season. He played through injuries. He symbolized the fight Seattle needed to show during one of its darkest seasons. The production often wasn't there, but that could be said for the whole team.

Future watch: The organization finds itself at a critical point four years after appearing in Super Bowl XL. Ownership must make the right choice in its search for a general manager. Its new leadership must make wise use of two first-round draft choices. Tough decisions must be made throughout the roster and on the coaching staff. The margin for error is gone.

St. Louis Rams

Final Power Ranking: 32

Biggest surprise: Unknown receiver Danny Amendola provided instant life to the Rams' return game while also making contributions as a wide receiver. The Rams signed Amendola from the Eagles' practice squad in September. Amendola averaged 11.6 yards on 31 punts returns, 3.1 yards better than the league average, with five returns of 20 yards or longer. He also averaged 24.5 yards per kickoff return. The Rams ranked eighth in punt return average and 11th in kickoff return average. Amendola had a lot to do with that.

Biggest disappointment: Injuries prevented several key young players from developing during a lost season. First-round draft choice Jason Smith had trouble shaking the effects of a concussion. He lost valuable experience and never got a chance to play left tackle for an extended period. Smith, receiver Keenan Burton, defensive tackle Adam Carriker, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, receiver Brooks Foster and receiver Laurent Robinson all needed to play more this season. Each wound up on injured reserve.

Biggest need: The Rams lack playmakers on both sides of the ball. They badly need more firepower in the passing game. Finding a quarterback probably stands as the most important priority. Marc Bulger's $8.5 million salary next season appears prohibitive. Receiver is another position of need.

Team MVP: Steven Jackson showed toughness and leadership while producing at a high level all season even though teams were loading up against him every week. The maturity Jackson showed even when frustrated made life easier for first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo. Had Jackson spoken out -- as he had done previously -- a tough season could have become tougher.

Future watch: The Rams have options in the draft because they hold the No. 1 overall choice. They'll have to decide whether they can afford to pass up a quarterback. The 2009 season was harder than the Rams ever expected. They have nowhere to go but up.

Wrap-up: Titans 47, Rams 7

December, 13, 2009
It's tough to fully evaluate a team when its third-string rookie quarterback is throwing to receivers who weren't on the roster when the regular season started, all while the starting right guard is drawing multiple 15-yard penalties for head butts and late hits.

These are the Rams of Week 14. And it showed during a 47-7 loss at Tennessee.

Perhaps most troubling for the team: Some key players aren't getting a chance to develop while the losses pile up.

The Rams likely do not have their long-term quarterback on the roster. That left sixth-round choice Keith Null, a rookie, to start against the Titans when injuries prevented Marc Bulger or Kyle Boller from playing. The experience was valuable for Null, but probably not for the Rams' future.

The offensive line should be building momentum at this point, but rookie first-round choice Jason Smith missed another game to a concussion, and right guard Richie Incognito landed on the bench after two more personal foul penalties. With left tackle Alex Barron probably gone after this season, left guard Jacob Bell and center Jason Brown were the only sure-fire 2010 starting linemen getting work -- and they're the ones who need it the least.

Second-round linebacker James Laurinaitis and fourth-round defensive tackle Darell Scott are getting extensive playing time. But the Rams remain without third-round cornerback Bradley Fletcher and fifth-round receiver Brooks Foster, both on injured reserve, while a return date for Smith remains unknown. Linebacker David Vobora, a seventh-round choice in 2008, left the game Sunday with an apparent knee injury.

There was a time several weeks ago when the Rams appeared to be making strides. That time has clearly passed.

Up next: a home game against the apparently rejuvenated Texans.

How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

November, 17, 2009
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


1. Nate Burleson, Seahawks WR. Enjoying an impressive season following knee surgery, Burleson predicted a Seahawks victory over the Cardinals. That was the last we heard from him. Burleson finished with zero catches during a 31-20 defeat in Week 10. Seattle tried to find him early in the game, but Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had Burleson blanketed. When the game had concluded, T.J. Houshmandzadeh had caught nine passes for 165 yards, moving him past Burleson for the team lead in receptions and yards. Week 11 would be a good time for Burleson to atone. He'll get a shot at Minnesota, the team he left for Seattle.

2. Darnell Dockett, Cardinals DT. If the film doesn't lie, neither does the high-definition digital video. And it's pretty clear Fox cameras caught Dockett pressing his elbow into Matt Hasselbeck's throat following a second-quarter sack. Dockett denied bad intentions, but Seahawks coach Jim Mora expressed outrage, dragging down Dockett's stock at least temporarily. Dockett defended himself through his Twitter account, saying he would lose no sleep over the matter thanks to his king-sized bed and posh pad. Dockett also suggested stuff happens in football, implying that Mora wouldn't understand because he never played the game. Mora did play at the college level and he's been around the game his whole life.

3. Patrick Kerney, Seahawks DE. I'm a little reluctant to harp on the Seahawks' pass-rush woes against Arizona because we have covered the subject in detail. But Kerney has set a high standard over the years. He had three sacks and five quarterback hits in the Seahawks' most recent victory over the Cardinals (2007). His surprising inability to beat Cardinals tackle Levi Brown stood out as a primary reason for the Seahawks' struggles Sunday. Kerney is earning $4 million in salary this season and the Seahawks are on the hook for more than $9 million in salary proration beyond 2009. They need more from him to regain their footing in the NFC West.


1. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals WR. Boldin's stock was falling a week ago after he voiced selfish complaints following an impressive Cardinals victory over the Bears. There was nothing selfish about the way he played against Seattle. His 37-yard reception sparked the Cardinals' victory. Boldin finished the game with eight receptions for 105 yards, his first 100-yard receiving game of the season. Arizona, somehow 5-1 without Boldin since the start of last season, needed him against Seattle. Boldin played angry, reaching the ball forward for extra yardage. If the Cardinals do decide to trade Boldin after the season, the value they get in return could hinge on whether Boldin can build upon his strong showing in Week 10.

2. Justin Forsett, Seahawks RB. The Seahawks weren't sure heading into offseason minicamps whether Forsett could adapt his running style for the zone blocking scheme. They liked what they saw during minicamps and they love what they've seen from Forsett this season. Forsett carried 17 times for 123 yards against the Cardinals, taking over most of the snaps after starter Julius Jones suffered a bruised lung. Forsett has answered every question anyone could have raised about him. With Jones expected to miss at least one game, Forsett might now get a chance to prove whether he can hold up as more of an every-down back. His efforts in passing situations -- including a terrific block on Adrian Wilson in blitz pickup -- have been critical for Hasselbeck.

3. Brandon Gibson, Rams WR. A backup's job is to be ready when called upon, and Gibson certainly held up his end after the Rams lost Keenan Burton to a season-ending knee injury Sunday. The rookie receiver caught seven passes for 93 yards against the Saints. Rams general manager Billy Devaney took some heat, including here, when linebacker Will Witherspoon, the player St. Louis traded for Gibson, scored a touchdown in his first game with the Eagles. The trade looks good right now because injuries continue to strike the position. The Rams have had nine receivers on their 53-man roster this season. Gibson will get plenty of chances to develop over the final seven games as long as he avoids joining Burton and fellow Rams wideouts Laurent Robinson and Brooks Foster on injured reserve.

Posted by'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
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
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)

  AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
  St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo has taken control of the Rams' locker room.

Posted by's Mike Sando

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Steve Spagnuolo has much to prove as a first-time NFL head coach.

Winning over the St. Louis Rams' locker room is no longer one of them.

"Just the way he came in and took control of this building was impressive," quarterback Marc Bulger said in lauding the way Spagnuolo "captivates the team and has everyone focused on one goal."

Camp Confidential: NFC West
Cardinals: Mon., Aug. 3
49ers: Wed., Aug. 5
Seahawks: Mon., Aug. 10
Rams: Today
Training camp index

Players tend to say nice things about their bosses, or else, but Rams players aren't just paying lip service as they work through an unusually physical training camp complete with live tackling.

Steven Jackson, a harsh critic of Rams dysfunction under previous leadership, nearly interrupted an important family matter in Las Vegas just to attend a voluntary March practice (Spagnuolo ultimately told Jackson not to worry about it). If Jackson weren't buying into Spagnuolo, we'd know it.

While others used Memorial Day Weekend as a respite during the ever-shrinking NFL offseason, new Rams center Jason Brown rented a U-haul and made the 13-hour drive from North Carolina to St. Louis. It was about the only time Brown could make the move without jeopardizing his perfect attendance in the Rams' offseason program.

Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe practiced with the team all offseason even though he remained unsigned until July, hoping to score a long-term deal.

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"I thought he was very classy in the way (Atogwe) handled the franchise tag and I thank him almost every other day," Spagnuolo said. "That tells me a lot about him."

It might reveal plenty about Spagnuolo as well. The no-nonsense approach he adapted from mentors Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid has brought structure to a floundering organization. Brown, signed from the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, says he sees parallels to John Harbaugh.

Spagnuolo has gotten the Rams' attention and held it through the first two weeks of training camp. The vibe is unmistakably positive.

"The hiring of Coach Spagnuolo is definitely the biggest move this offseason, the right step for us," Bulger said. "You are either onboard or you are not. I respect that approach and I think everyone has bought into it."

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Posted by's Mike Sando

The Rams' depth at receiver was already a concern before they learned top wideout Donnie Avery would miss four to six weeks with a foot injury.


Avery reported soreness in his foot Saturday, but never did the Rams expect to find an injury this significant. Avery apparently suffered it during the team's scrimmage Friday night.

The Rams have conducted a very physical camp, but none of their injuries appear related to live tackling. This is a very tough break for a rebuilding team without enough depth to compensate for injuries to certain positions, notably receiver.

With Avery out, the Rams might need to consider adding another veteran. Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson, Ronald Curry, Tim Carter, Derek Stanley, Brooks Foster, Jarrett Byers and Sean Walker are the other receivers on the roster.

According to the Rams, the MRI showed more damage than the initial X-ray revealed.

Update: With the regular-season opener five weeks out, Avery has a chance to return in Week 1 or Week 2.