NFL Nation: Dan Kreider
They felt it, too.
Arizona finished with a 5-11 record largely because quarterback Kurt Warner retired. The team hoped it had enough veteran strength throughout its roster to keep the Cardinals competitive. A favorable schedule and division in transition made it seem possible.
Looking back, the roster turnover played a leading role in the Cardinals' fall, coach Ken Whisenhunt said from the Super Bowl media center Friday.
"What you lose more than anything is that equity buildup that you have had for a couple years," Whisenhunt said.
Specifically, Whisenhunt said the Cardinals too often couldn't draw on shared experiences -- say, adjustment that worked against an opponent the previous season.
"Even though you have a Kerry Rhodes, you have Paris Lenon, you have guys you are comfortable with that are good players in the league, they don't know what you have gone through to get to that point," Whisenhunt said. "To have those guys step up and say, 'Listen, we are not practicing the right way, we are not making these plays like we should be,' you don't have that history with them. You can get away with that if it is one or two, but if you have five or six -- especially if they are good football players -- that is hard to overcome."
The Cardinals parted with a long list of players featuring Warner, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle, Bryant McFadden, Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Reggie Wells, Neil Rackers, Anthony Becht, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban, Matt Leinart, Ralph Brown, Monty Beisel and Dan Kreider.
"You can never go in and say, 'Gosh, woe is me because we lost those guys,' because you are counting on the other guys to step in and you always want to be positive," Whisenhunt said. "But you have to recognize it's a pretty big blow to lose [key] guys."
Whisenhunt called the situation a "perfect storm" with Warner retiring, key players hitting the market and the NFL heading toward an uncertain labor situation.
"There is no operating plan for what you do or how you do it," he said. "It doesn't really matter at this point. You just have to move forward."
Quite a few younger players gained more experience than anticipated. That could help Arizona build back some of that equity Whisenhunt said was missing. But so much comes back to the quarterback situation. An upgrade at that position would cover for imperfections elsewhere on the roster.
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.
Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.
Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, TE Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.
Franchise player: none
What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart.
St. Louis Rams
Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.
Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.
Franchise player: none
What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.
Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.
Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.
Franchise player: K Olindo Mare
What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.
San Francisco 49ers
Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.
Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.
Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin
What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.
An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.
Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.
Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.
San Francisco 49ers
Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.
Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.
Unrestricted free agents: DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.
Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind.
St. Louis Rams
Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.
Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.
1. The Cardinals have a few injury concerns.
The knee injury Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered Sunday appeared serious at first, but the team called it only a contusion, listing his return as questionable. That suggests Rodgers-Cromartie could be OK for the playoffs. The Cardinals will need him against the Packers' talented receivers.
Ankle and knee injuries forced receiver Anquan Boldin from the game. A thumb injury could affect defensive end Calais Campbell's status.
Arizona removed some starters early in the game Sunday. Others did not play. Antrel Rolle, Dan Kreider, Ben Patrick, Sean Morey and Bertrand Berry were not even active. Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner and other key players did not stay in the game long.
Berry had 3.0 sacks in his previous four games. He is 34 years old, though, and has not played at a high level consistently this season. The time off Sunday should help the Cardinals' pass rush, which will be a critical element against the Packers. Green Bay significantly reduced sacks allowed in the second half of the season.
2. For Arizona, this matchup beats one alternative.
The Cardinals could have faced Dallas in the first round under one scenario. That matchup could have been tough for Arizona because the Cowboys' Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware can be so disruptive.
The Packers are very good on defense as well and they can win one-on-one matchups against the Cardinals' offensive line. But Green Bay is less dynamic in its front seven after Aaron Kampman's season-ending injury.
Green Bay has a game-changing defensive back in Charles Woodson (a shoulder injury he suffered Sunday could affect his status). The Packers could be vulnerable against three- and four-receiver personnel, however, because nickel back Jarrett Bush has struggled in an expanded role since Al Harris' season-ending injury. Arizona can spread the field with three receivers even if Boldin is limited.
Warner and his deep fleet of receivers have a chance to exploit that matchup.
3. The Week 17 result means what?
Arizona is an all-or-nothing team. The Cardinals have often been at their best when the stakes were highest. They had little to nothing on the line Sunday and it showed. They'll hear about it all week. Expect a much better effort when it matters.
That doesn't necessarily mean the Cardinals will prevail. Their starters struggled against the Packers in the third week of the exhibition season, falling behind 38-10 at halftime. The Cardinals fell behind right away Sunday when both teams still had quite a few starters on the field.
Arizona has something to prove.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News sees evidence of the 49ers favoring Alex Smith over Shaun Hill at quarterback. Kawakami: "Given the right opportunity -- and not an unending string of new offensive coordinators, a wrecked shoulder and a silly cold war initiated by former coach Mike Nolan -- Smith is a tough talent to ignore." The 49ers do seem more positive toward Smith now that the quarterback is healthy and the team has parted with Nolan and offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Smith still has to win the job.
Michael Fabiano of NFL.com thinks Josh Morgan is positioned to jump past Isaac Bruce and Michael Crabtree as the 49ers' leading receiver. Fabiano: "Morgan, a second-year receiver out of Virginia Tech, has made a name for himself among the team's coaching staff this offseason. He was a top performer throughout OTAs and is expected to enter training camp as a starter opposite Isaac Bruce and ahead of Crabtree on the depth chart. Considering Crabtree's lofty contract demands and the chance for a holdout, Morgan could become the better option in fantasy drafts."Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' defense figures to appear more straightforward. For example, Justin Smith will line up at right defensive end, not all over the place, as he did early last season.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee explains how the physically unable to perform (PUP) list works after the 49ers used the designation for defensive end Ray McDonald.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the atmosphere at Cardinals camp was far more festive than for past camps. Attendance swelled from an estimated 2,000 for the morning session to perhaps double that in the afternoon. Linebacker Karlos Dansby on the change from past seasons: "Night and day. Apples and oranges. Oil and water. Whatever you want to call it, that's how it is. It's cool. I'm soaking it up."
Also from Somers: Cardinals notes, including one about fullback Dan Kreider suffering a hamstring injury that could sideline him a couple days.
More from Somers: He isn't hearing anything new on unsigned first-round choice Beanie Wells. I haven't seen general manager Rod Graves since camp opened. President Michael Bidwill did make an appearance at practice. He was wearing his newly presented NFC championship ring.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says new cornerback Bryant McFadden was able to match up with Anquan Boldin in practice. Both are physical players.
Also from Urban: Warner has always had confidence in his abilities.
More from Urban: Darnell Dockett is the latest Cardinals player to say he's putting football ahead of personal contract concerns. Boldin and Bertrand Berry struck similar notes.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune offers highlights from media sessions with Kurt Warner and Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt credits Dockett's meeting with Graves for the defensive tackle's focus on football, not a new contract.
Also from Bordow: Matt Leinart reported to camp at 227 pounds, his lowest weight since college.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones appears well on his way to recovering from knee surgery. Guard Rob Sims also looked good, matching up effectively against defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune wonders whether Marcus Trufant's sore back could become a problem. Williams: "We want to be cautious with backs, given our history. And so when Marcus is ready to go, then he'll be back out there. It doesn't appear to be anything serious, other than just sore."
Also from Williams: There was plenty to stress about at Seahawks camp as the team released Mike Wahle, awaited Aaron Curry's signing and placed Marcus Trufant on the physically unable to perform list.
John Morgan of Field Gulls sees a little too much potential -- as opposed to accomplishment -- from the Seahawks' outside linebackers.Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com says long hours led to a somewhat sluggish start to training camp, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck saying the players need to step it up.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times tries to make sense of the Seahawks' offensive line. He has Max Unger as the third-string center and second-string right guard.
Also from O'Neil: Notes from camp, including one about how Nate Burleson impressed despite suffering a torn ACL less than one year ago.
710ESPN radio in Seattle previews the Seahawks' training camp with Brock Huard, Mike Salk, Steve Raible and Warren Moon. Moon recalls the time a team released a defensive player for hitting him during practice. Quarterbacks get special treatment. Moon also thinks the atmosphere at the Seahawks' practice facility makes camp more bearable for players. Raible thinks Seattle has dramatically upgraded on defense.
Also from 710ESPN: an interview with Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.Dave Mahler of KJR radio in Seattle checks in with Seahawks receiver Deon Butler, who says T.J. Houshmandzadeh makes route running appear effortless.
Elise Woodward of KJR radio checks in with Unger, who has a ways to go before he has command of the playbook.
Bernie Miklasz of 101ESPN radio in St. Louis asks Rams general manager Billy Devaney about upgrades to the offensive line. Devaney expects vast improvement, pointing to center Jason Brown as a smart player with the size to help the team become more physical. Devaney also notes that Richie Incognito had the best offseason of any Rams offensive lineman.
Also from Miklasz: more with Devaney.
Will of RamsHerd.com files a detailed report from Rams practice, complete with photos. Jason Smith's quickness impressed him.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports from Steve Spagnuolo's first practice as the Rams' head coach. The coach had trouble sleeping the night before.
Also from Thomas: details, insights and reflections on a potential franchise relocation.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams running back Steven Jackson, who probably will not be making public predictions about his production this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at some of the 49ers' predraft visitors, noting that Aaron Maybin is the only top pass-rush specialist known to have visited. Crumpacker thinks Ole Miss tackle Michael Oher will be available when the 49ers pick at No. 10.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat isn't sure if Kentwan Balmer will become a good player, but the 49ers' first-round draft choice does seem to work hard. Balmer played about 18 percent of the snaps for the 49ers last seaon, according to a scout I know.
Also from Maiocco: Would the 49ers add a third quarterback to their competition for the starting job in 2009? Mark Sanchez visited team headquarters recently.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks B.J. Raji will go fourth to Seattle or fifth to Cleveland, assuming the defensive tackle did not test positive for drugs at the combine, as some reports have suggested. I don't see Raji as a likely candidate for Seattle after the team added Cory Redding and Colin Cole, but he would give them an interior defensive lineman to push the pocket.
Florida Danny of Niners Nation takes a look back at how the 49ers drafted under Carmen Policy from 1994 to 1998. An overemphasis on free agency at the expense of the draft might have contributed to the 49ers' eventual fall, he reasons.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals nose tackle Alan Branch is at a career crossroads after a disappointing start to his career. Branch: "Last year I really didn't understand how much the weight was important to the coaches. Last year, I thought even if I was a little overweight, even if I played well, it wouldn't matter. But what Coach Whisenhunt told me was not coming in at the weight he wanted proved that he couldn't fully trust me."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks back at Larry Fitzgerald's run through the playoffs. Fitzgerald: "The whole experience, those five weeks, man, the practices leading up to the game, it was just amazing. Simply amazing."
Matt Pawlikowski of the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal says Dan Kreider is happy to enhance the Pittsburgh flavor on the Cardinals' roster. Pawlikowski: "Kreider says he is not sure how much time he will see on the field considering the Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. But [Ken] Whisenhunt has said he wants to run the ball more, so the Manheim Central graduate might figure prominently in 2009."
John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up Oklahoma receiver Juaquin Iglesias as a potential choice for Seattle with the 68th overall choice in the draft. Morgan: "I'm a sucker for good route runners, and Iglesias is a good route runner. I'm gaga for players with poor timed speed that excelled at speed-dependent skills like rushing and returning. Iglesias was a top twenty return man his first two seasons, peaking at 28.48 yards per return in 2007, but saw his return production drop as his receiving production improved."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com previews receivers available in the NFL draft. The Rams could certainly use one. Wagoner: "One year after taking two wideouts in the first four rounds, the Rams will again be on the hunt for help catching the ball in this year's draft. ... Armed with the No. 2 selection in the draft, the Rams have showed at least some interest in Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Mizzou's Jeremy Maclin. ... Perhaps more likely, though, is the possibility that the Rams would use a second or third round choice on a receiver."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' expected agreement with Gus Frerotte fell through after the veteran quarterback expressed concerns about St. Louis possibly drafting a quarterback. The sides agreed to pick up discussions after the draft.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Alex Barron regarding Barron's move to left tackle. The quotes from Barron do not make him sound enthusiastic about the move, which could be temporary if the Rams draft a left tackle early. Also, each of the Rams' players attended the first minicamp practice of the Steve Spagnuolo era.
More from Coats and his colleagues: Thoughts on what the Rams will get from this first camp under Spagnuolo.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat details the Rams' media access policy for Spagnuolo's first minicamp. Future camps could be more accessible.
Niners general manager Scot McCloughan, writing in his mailbag, says he expects Patrick Willis to blitz more in the future, but not at the expense of what he does best. McCloughan: "His value sideline-to-sideline is so important to us that we keep him in coverage a lot of time on a running back, because there's a lot of check-downs nowadays with these offenses and we need a guy who can really cover some ground. It also frees our safety up so he can stay deep."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers will be "far better off" with Shaun Hill than Jay Cutler. Lynch: "Cutler's a sniveling prima donna with a big arm and a bigger attitude. One NFL expert I talked with called Cutler a 'thug' and said the Broncos would much rather have troubled wide receiver Brandon Marshall in their locker room than Cutler." Other than that ...
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' interest in Cutler was passing. They might have considered him if more aggressive teams had stumbled in their attempts to land him. That was Barrows' take before the Broncos traded Cutler to Chicago.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Dan Kreider's signing in Arizona means the Cardinals will be less likely to re-sign Terrelle Smith.
Also from Somers: About 55 of the 68 players on the Cardinals' roster have attended voluntary conditioning workouts. The number will rise once Kreider reports and once other players, including Larry Fitzgerald, return next week. Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson have not shown. All want new contracts. Meanwhile, Karlos Dansby's agent was expected to arrive for contract talks.
More from Somers: He isn't reading much into the latest comments from Boldin.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says there's no way Smith will return now that Kreider is under contract. Urban: "Kreider, 5-foot-11 and 255 pounds, will have the edge to win such a job with the Cardinals. Both [Justin] Green and [Tim] Castille excel on special teams, but neither is proven as an offensive cog."
Also from Urban: He'll miss Smith, whose personal story about his ailing mother warmed hearts heading into the Super Bowl.
And this from Urban: A behind-the-scenes look at the Cardinals' trip to USC for the Trojans' pro day.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind looks at the last 10 players drafted 31st overall. The Cardinals hold that pick this year. Good luck finding a dominant pass rusher.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says former Seahawks center Robbie Tobeck will co-host a radio show in Seattle each Saturday beginning April 11.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times displays an image showing one of the new green jerseys available through the Seahawks' pro shop. Did I mention it's green?
John Morgan of Field Gulls looks at USC players other than Mark Sanchez who could be attracting the Seahawks' attention.
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts wonders if the Broncos might want to trade into the top five choices after the Cutler trade. How might that affect the Seahawks? I'd be surprised if the Broncos made that type of move. They have too many needs and two picks arguably more attractive than if they were in the top five.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News addresses a Pro Football Prospectus report casting doubt on Nate Clements' contributions to the 49ers' secondary. The report shows Clements allowing more touchdowns and first downs, more yards in coverage and more yards after the catch than other cornerbacks. But there's no mention of the most important variable: playing time. New Orleans' Jason David is also ranked high on these lists, but I did some digging and found out that might not mean much. Clements played more than 1,100 snaps last season. David played about 750 snaps last season. Big difference.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune has an interesting note about the coach-to-player headsets being made available for the defense. Seattle's Lofa Tatupu and Brian Russell are logical candidates to wear them, but neither wants to use the devices. That could leave Deon Grant as the Seahawks' defensive communicator.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with Seattle's Jordan Kent, one of several young receivers trying to make an impact in the Seahawks' scrimmage at Qwest Field today. Kent, an accomplished track athlete with the height to play basketball, has broken the habit of leaving his feet every time he catches the ball.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need more from nose tackle Alan Branch, a second-round choice in 2007. "In the coaches' estimation, Branch needs to lose weight and practice at a high level more consistently." That's not what you want to hear. Worse, 34-year-old Bryan Robinson is working with the starters while No. 1 nose tackle Gabe Watson recovers from a knee injury.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News Democrat says the Rams' Brett Romberg and Richie Incognito remain great friends even as they compete to be the starting center. Incognito could end up playing right guard if Romberg wins the center battle. Incognito: "I don't want to be jumping around, where the last second I'm playing guard. If they want me to play center, leave me at center." Not necessarily how it works.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides context for the Rams' scrimmage, scheduled for 10:50 a.m. ET this morning at Concordia University. I'm looking forward to watching Chris Long today, but apparently we shouldn't be surprised if a brawl breaks out and team president Jay Zygmunt tries to break it up.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with former Steelers fullback Dan Kreider, who is trying to earn a roster spot with the Rams. The best Kreider quote from the story begins this way: "Running routes isn't one of my great abilities." The Rams did not sign Kreider to fully explore Al Saunders' route tree, in other words. Also from Coats: Rams receiver Torry Holt still isn't happy about losing Isaac Bruce, but he is moving on.
The San Francisco Chronicle's QB update chart is worth a look today. And you thought the 49ers' quarterback race was down to Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. The more we hear from 49ers camp, the more we should consider J.T. Sullivan as a viable option. O'Sullivan knows the Mike Martz system, and it's clear the organization isn't going out of its way to push Smith.
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle assesses Dashon Goldson's performance in 49ers camp. My impression after visiting 49ers camp: Goldson will become the starter at some point this season, even if Mark Roman holds onto the job in the short term. Also from Fitzgerald: Tight end Delanie Walker isn't happy about changes to the forceout rule.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu might not play in the Seahawks' scrimmage today. That would be a loss for fans, who haven't been able to watch practices while the Seahawks wait to begin using their new facility Aug. 18. The old facility isn't big enough to accommodate fans. Scrimmages are for backups. Coaches don't want to take risks with banged-up starters. Also from Romero: He singles out Matt Hasselbeck's red-zone touchdown pass to Leonard Weaver as one of the Seahawks' offensive plays of the day. Weaver's strong camp is exactly what the Seahawks needed to see from him. Seattle relies more heavily on a traditional fullback than most teams.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat recalls Fred Dean's incredible impact on the 49ers in 1981. Dean, set to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, sacked Cowboys quarterback Danny White three times in Dean's first game with the 49ers. The team won a Super Bowl for the first time later that season. Also from Maiocco: Alex Smith doesn't have much to say about O'Sullivan's increased reps in practice.
ESPN.com's Chris Conetzkey writes about Dean through the eyes of former teammate Dwaine Board and former opponent Mike Kenn. Kenn offers high praise: "He had this move where he could get a guy moving upfield with an inside one-arm rip on the edge, and he was basically able to reach back around and convert it into a club and basically throw people off the field. Reggie White developed the same type of move to rush from the left side, but Fred Dean was the first to utilize it. Those are the only two players that I saw that actually had the ability to make that work."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com quotes Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart as saying he had "no clue" a year ago. Leinart says he's much more confident this summer. More than a couple of coaches and personnel people I've spoken with around the league think Leinart will develop into a good quarterback. I can see why some fans want Kurt Warner, but I think the organization owes it to itself to figure out whether Leinart can lead the offense effectively without
being as careless with the football as Warner tends to be.
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