NFL Nation: Jerheme Urban

Wide receivers Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Laurent Robinson, Josh Morgan, Eric Weems and Harry Douglas have found new homes after hitting the NFL's free-agent market.

Franchise tags essentially removed from consideration Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson.

Others, such as Marques Colston, re-signed before free agency.

Teams still searching for help at the position -- that would be pretty much everyone but Seattle in the NFC West -- are left with a picked-over group of free agents.

Jerome Simpson, Burress, Brandon Lloyd, Legedu Naanee, Devin Aromashodu, Roy Williams, Mario Manningham and Early Doucet are the only ones remaining to have played at least half of their team's offensive snaps during the 2011 season.

As the chart shows, Burress was particularly effective in the red zone for the New York Jets. He converted first downs 38 times in 45 receptions for the third-highest percentage among wide receivers with at least 40 receptions, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Burress is also up there in age. He's among 12 available wideouts already in their 30s: Hines Ward (36), Burress (34), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (34), Kevin Curtis (33), Patrick Crayton (32), Deion Branch (32), Rashied Davis (32), Donte Stallworth (31), Jerheme Urban (31), Bryant Johnson (31), Lloyd (30) and Williams (30).

Of them, Lloyd has visited the San Francisco 49ers.

Nine more are 29 years old: Greg Camarillo, Keary Colbert, Mark Clayton, Jerricho Cotchery, Roscoe Parrish, Michael Clayton, Courtney Roby, Michael Spurlock and Braylon Edwards.

Still interested?

OK, let's check out 18 others, all younger than 29: David Anderson, Legedu Naanee, Devin Aroshamodu, Donnie Avery, Anthony Gonzalez, Maurice Stovall, Derek Hagan, Mike Sims-Walker, Ted Ginn Jr., Andre Caldwell, Steve Smith, Doucet, Brett Swain, Chaz Schilens, Simpson, Manningham, Devin Thomas and Kevin Ogletree.

Schilens visited Arizona and San Francisco. Manningham visited the 49ers and the St. Louis Rams.

I've also broken down the available wideouts by drafted round:
  • First: Williams, Burress, Ginn, Stallworth, both Claytons, Johnson, Gonzalez and Edwards
  • Second: Avery, Thomas, Simpson, Smith, Parrish, Branch, Colbert
  • Third: Roby, Doucet, Hagan, Stovall, Manningham, Caldwell, Curtis, Sims-Walker, Ward
  • Fourth: Cotchery, Lloyd
  • Fifth: Legedu Naanee
  • Sixth: none
  • Seventh: Houshmandzadeh, Crayton, Schilens, Aromashodu, Anderson, Swain
  • Undrafted: Davis, Urban, Camarillo, Spurlock, Ogletree

Only a handful of the available receivers project as starters. None would qualify as an outright game-breaker.

The Rams in particular need playmakers, but in looking at what is available, how many would qualify as dramatically better than what they already have? Austin Pettis, Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander, Dominique Curry, Greg Salas and restricted free agent Danny Amendola are their current wideouts.
DALLAS -- The Arizona Cardinals experienced more roster turnover than most from 2009 to 2010.

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.

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, Dre' Bly, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Mike Teel, 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, Nick Reed, 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, Ken Lucas, 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, Mike Hass, 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, Jay Feely, 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, Rob Sims, Jamar Adams, Anthony Becht, Na\'il Diggs, Damion McIntosh, Tyler Polumbus, Derek Walker, Louis Rankin, Nate Ness, 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, Jim Dray, Josh Hull, Phillip Adams, Max Komar, Stephen Williams, Thaddeus Lewis, Max Hall, Chris Patrick, Clint Gresham, Danny Gorrer, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, LaJuan Ramsey, Roger III Allen, Ryan McKee, Ted Jr. Ginn, Tramaine Brock, Trevor Canfield

Kansas City Chiefs cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of Kansas City’s roster moves.

Biggest surprise: There were some eye-openers on Kansas City’s cut list. Perhaps the biggest surprise was cutting defensive tackle/fullback Derek Lokey. He had a fine training camp and preseason. He appeared to have found a niche for himself as a fullback in short-yardage downs. Fullback Mike Cox was kept. Second-year player Alex Magee was kept ahead of him. Magee, a third-round pick, appeared to be on the bubble. The team cut third-year safety DaJuan Morgan, who was highly valued by the previous regime, but never caught the imagination of the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley regime.

No-brainers: The entire draft class was kept. Haley has lauded this group and he thinks it can be special. Undrafted rookie receiver Jeremy Horne made the team. He was a training camp star, who played well with the first team during the preseason. With Jerheme Urban being put on the injured reserve, Horne could have a role as a rookie.

What’s next: Perhaps Kansas City will pursue a third quarterback. Tyler Palko was cut. Matt Leinart is available. He played for Haley in Arizona and with Matt Cassel at USC. Still, as of Saturday evening, there were no indications that the Chiefs were pursuing Leinart. The team could also look for experience at receiver, the offensive line and on the front seven. Perhaps the team would be interested in a veteran pass rusher such as Derrick Burgess, who was cut by New England.
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.

Mike Williams
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonFormer first-rounder Mike Williams was out of the NFL last year, but he finally appears serious about his career.
Every team in the division is making some sort of transition at wide receiver. The position will be one to watch all summer.

  • Arizona: The Cardinals have parted with Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey and Jerheme Urban. Rookie third-round choice Andre Roberts hasn't gotten much attention to this point and the Cardinals shouldn't need much from him in the short term as long as Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are healthy. Still, this group has undergone an offseason transformation.
  • San Francisco: Michael Crabtree performed well as a rookie even after missing minicamps and training camp. Getting him on the field all summer will help Crabtree, quarterback Alex Smith and the offense. The 49ers will also be curious to see whether Ted Ginn Jr. can contribute anything to their offense. Isaac Bruce will retire and Brandon Jones will try to prove there's a place for him in the rotation.
  • Seattle: Mike Williams, a bust as the 10th player drafted in 2005, is finally in shape and serious about his career. The Seahawks can't be sure he'll continue on this trajectory, which explains why coach Pete Carroll isn't getting too excited just yet. But every indication suggests Williams could emerge as an effective player under his former college coach. Williams always had the talent. He lacked the dedication to keep himself in shape and approach the game seriously. The Seahawks also parted with Nate Burleson and drafted Notre Dame's Golden Tate as part of a positional overhaul.
  • St. Louis: Graduation rules prevent fourth-round choice Mardy Gilyard from practicing with the Rams until well into June, so the team will have to wait until training camp before getting a better read on what Gilyard might offer the offense. Might he become a difference-maker right away? The Rams face multiple other questions at the position and most relate to injuries. Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson and Keenan Burton have had a hard time staying healthy.

Draft Watch: NFC West

March, 26, 2010
NFC Under-The-Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Under the radar needs.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals haven't had to address the receiver position in years and they're still strong at the top with Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. But with Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban elsewhere, the depth isn't what it used to be. Early Doucet should continue to develop. Sean Morey has yet to re-sign and he doesn't factor into the mix at receiver much anyway.

The special teams could be in transition as well. Morey has been a mainstay, but he has had concussion problems and could be nearing the end, even if he returns. Kicker Neil Rackers and safety Matt Ware also have yet to re-sign. Both could return, but there are no guarantees. Drafting LaRod Stephens-Howling last year gave the Cardinals an elite young special-teamer. Another one wouldn't hurt.

The Cardinals also could use a third-string quarterback in case Brian St. Pierre doesn't return or factor into their plans.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers never did find a backup blocking tight end last season. They released 2009 sixth-round pick Bear Pascoe, then went with only two tight ends on the active roster. Vernon Davis always has been an excellent blocker. He has become a dynamic downfield threat in the passing game. Delanie Walker fits the H-back mold. Adding another blocking tight end to pair with Davis situationally might help.

The situation at running back should be settled with Frank Gore and 2009 third-round choice Glen Coffee on the roster, but the 49ers could be in the market for a change-of-pace back with value as a return specialist. This one isn't necessarily under the radar -- the C.J. Spiller talk has been in high gear for weeks -- but running back is not a primary need.

Seattle Seahawks

Coach Pete Carroll pointed to Charlie Whitehurst's combination of size and athleticism as drawing points after Seattle acquired the quarterback from San Diego.

That could affect third-string quarterback Mike Teel, a sixth-round choice of the Seahawks' previous leadership. One scouting report on Teel read, "Lacks the mobility to consistently make plays outside the pocket." It's something to keep in mind as the Seahawks fill out their roster at quarterback behind Matt Hasselbeck and Whitehurst.

The situation at receiver also bears watching. Adding Brandon Marshall by trade would solve the problem. But with Nate Burleson leaving for the Lions, Seattle doesn't have much to offer at the position beyond 32-year-old T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Overpriced Deion Branch and unproven Deon Butler are next on the depth chart.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams have needs everywhere and I'm not sure how many are truly under the radar. But here goes.

Safety shouldn't be a serious need with Oshiomogho Atogwe around, but the draft could come and go without resolution to Atogwe's status. The Rams must bump their offer to Atogwe from $1.226 million into the $7 million range by June 1 to keep his rights.

Backup running back is another lower-profile area the Rams could stand to address. Steven Jackson wore down late last season.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 3, 2010
Arizona Cardinals

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.

Seattle Seahawks

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.

Cardinals run out of players, answers

January, 16, 2010
Kurt WarnerRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesKurt Warner was briefly knocked out of the game during the first half in Arizona's loss to New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Arizona Cardinals did not have their best plan or the players to execute it Saturday.

They were no match for the New Orleans Saints.

This 45-14 defeat in the NFC divisional playoff round shouldn't take long to digest or dissect.

Quite a few of the Cardinals' problems were beyond their control. Losing safety Antrel Rolle and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to early injuries put Arizona in a nearly impossible predicament against Drew Brees and the NFL's highest-scoring offense in 2009.

This was the second week in a row Arizona faced a dynamic quarterback, a reflection of life in the NFC this postseason.

And the atmosphere in the Superdome would have put any offense at a severe disadvantage.

The only way the Cardinals could have kept this game close with Greg Toler at corner and Hamza Abdullah at safety was to control the clock by leaning on a bruising ground game. Inside linebacker Gerald Hayes was already out. Nose tackle Gabe Watson suffered a knee injury.

Trailing 28-14 with 6:48 left before halftime, Arizona needed to attack the Saints' suspect run defense with Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. Closing the half with a clock-eating touchdown drive was their only chance.

Instead, the Cardinals got cute and it cost them. Facing second-and-6 from their own 32, they spread the field with four wide receivers for only the second time in a 14-play span. Pressure affected quarterback Kurt Warner. A quick flip pass didn't fool Saints defensive end Will Smith. Smith tipped the ball to himself and headed upfield.

Warner took a crushing hit trying to make the tackle. The glassy look in his eyes suggested another concussion. It's a mystery how Warner avoided one. Chest and rib injuries knocked him from the game for the rest of the half. The Cardinals trailed 35-14 by the time Warner recovered enough to reenter the game.

Season over.

"It just wasn't our day today," Rolle said.

Warner's postseason brilliance makes it tough to criticize any Arizona plan to lean on the quarterback. But the Cardinals' ground game after the first offensive play amounted mostly to cute little inside handoffs from passing formations, not tone-setters with two tight ends like the one that sprung Hightower's 70-yard scoring run on the game's first play.

Hightower had sent a message early. Wells had scored easily on a 4-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-14.

Warner had thrown an interception six plays before Wells' scoring run, a turnover negated only when officials flagged Saints linebacker Scott Shanle for roughing the passer. The Superdome crowd, as loud as any I can recall hearing this season, was giving the Saints' pass-rushers an advantage off the ball.

Arizona passed on five of its first six second-down plays, situations that presented opportunities to slow down the game with Wells and Hightower. The single run was a give-up play on second-and-long. The interception negated by Shanle's penalty came on another second-down throw.

Did the Cardinals do enough to set the tone on the ground?

"I don't have an answer for you on that," Warner said. "We just weren't able to establish much down the stretch to get back in the game."

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has had the right answers more often than not. Arizona has improved its record every season under him.

One late-season move had negative consequences Sunday.

Asking receiver Anquan Boldin to play one more series against Green Bay in Week 17 looked bad when Boldin suffered ankle and knee injuries that would prevent him from playing again this season. The decision to leave Boldin on the field in that meaningless game looked even worse when receiver Jerheme Urban -- active only because Boldin could not play -- fumbled following a 28-yard gain on the Cardinals' second possession Saturday.

The turnover was a killer for Arizona.

"You can't do that," Whisenhunt said. "Not in this situation against that team, against that offense."

No doubt.

A stronger commitment to the ground game might have helped Arizona, but it wasn't going to change the eventual outcome. The Saints were just better. Brees, like the Cowboys' Tony Romo, has been too good for postseason success to elude him forever.

"Are the Saints that much better than us?" Darnell Dockett asked. "Today they were, and you have to hand it to them."

The Cardinals needed to force turnovers to win. They had no realistic shot at doing that once Rolle and Rodgers-Cromartie left the game. Rodgers-Cromartie had four interceptions over the last three full games he played before Saturday. Rolle picked off four passes in the Cardinals' first nine games this season, but injuries bothered him down the stretch.

Good health was the difference for Arizona during its Super Bowl run last season.

The 2009 Cardinals ran out of players. They also forgot how to tackle, allowing 90 points in two playoff games, an unacceptable total.

Whisenhunt and the Cardinals must figure out two things this offseason.

They need to determine whether their late-season defensive collapse had more to do with injuries and the opponents they faced or anything related to scheme or front-line personnel. And then they need to convince Warner to return for one more run at a championship.

"I have lots of ideas in my head, but what I need to do now is just get away," Warner said.

When Warner assesses his options, he'll see a team that can go all the way with a few upgrades and better luck with injuries. This was no way for anyone to go out.

NEW ORLEANS -- The Cardinals were outmanned on defense and sloppy on offense.

Their offensive approach also seemed questionable when Arizona failed to more fully explore holes in the Saints' run defense when the score was still close enough for the Cardinals to stick with their game plan.

Not that it probably mattered. The Saints were the better team. The Cardinals needed a near-perfect performance. They weren't even close to delivering.

The fumble receiver Jerheme Urban lost on the Cardinals' second offensive play squandered the momentum Arizona built with Tim Hightower's 70-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

Turnovers are important for every team, but especially so for Arizona. The Cardinals entered the game with a 22-1 record under Ken Whisenhunt when they won the turnover battle. They were 2-19 when they lost it and 7-2 when finishing even in turnovers.

Arizona is now 2-20 under Whisenhunt when suffering more turnovers than the opposition.

The Cardinals were fortunate to get out of the Superdome with quarterback Kurt Warner still able to function, albeit at less than full strength after suffering a chest injury.

The Saints exploited the Cardinals' age at outside linebacker and depth in the secondary. Arizona couldn't get pressure and couldn't cover even before injuries sidelined cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Antrel Rolle. Without Rodgers-Cromartie and Rolle to worry about, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had an easier time picking on cornerback Bryant McFadden. Arizona's defense also continued to suffer from poor tackling.

The Cardinals go into this offseason facing important questions. Warner's thoughts on retirement will be pivotal. On defense, they allowed 45 points in each of their two playoff games. That is unacceptable even against great quarterbacks.

Cardinals list Boldin among inactives

January, 10, 2010
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals will be without receiver Anquan Boldin when they face the Packers in the wild-card round Sunday.

Boldin's name appeared on the team's list of inactive players, submitted 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

Also inactive for Arizona: Nehemiah Broughton, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Herman Johnson, Jeremy Clark and Stephen Spach. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback.

Receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet, Jerheme Urban and Sean Morey are active for the Cardinals.

The ankle and knee injuries Boldin suffered in Week 17 limited him too much for the Cardinals to leave open a spot on their 45-man roster.

Gandy active, will start for Cardinals

December, 14, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Gandy is active and will start at left tackle for the Cardinals after backup Jeremy Bridges helped hold Vikings pass-rusher Jared Allen to zero sacks in Week 13.

Bridges will serve in the No. 2 role. Gandy missed the Minnesota game after suffering a pelvic injury. The 49ers gave Gandy problems in the season opener.

The Cardinals listed the following players inactive: Greg Toler, Reggie Walker, Will Davis, Herman Johnson, Brandon Keith, Stephen Spach and Jerheme Urban. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback.
Jerry Lai/US Presswire
Larry Fitzgerald pulled in two touchdowns to spark the Cardinals offense.
Posted by's Mike Sando

CHICAGO -- Recent history urges extreme caution for anyone remotely close to thinking the Arizona Cardinals have finally grown into a consistent team.
Week 9 Coverage
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• Seifert: Bears at a loss
• Sando: Cardinals hot and cold
• Wojciechowski: Joke's on the Bears
• Mosley: Defense carries Cowboys
• Graham: Patriots pull away
• Reiss: Patriots tame Wildcat
• Clayton: Last Call
• Pasquarelli: Rivers best for a night
• MNF: On the same path | MN HQ
• NFL Nation: Reactions | Wrap-ups | Live

Doubts naturally linger following their 41-21 dismantling of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Week 9.

"The thing I like best about our team is that we do respond," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Hopefully, we've learned from out last home game [34-21 defeat to Carolina] that we can't go into the game and have a letdown like that."

Is this team for real? Or will the Cardinals, notoriously unable to handle success without high stakes, again fall flat following another impressive road victory?

The answer, plus nine other observations pertaining to the latest performance from NFL's least consistent 5-3 team:

1. The Cardinals have memorized their lesson.

That doesn't mean they've learned it.

Long-term retention might prove challenging for this team, but there's no question in my mind about the Cardinals' resolve heading into a Week 10 home game against the Seattle Seahawks.

"Seattle!" shouted a Cardinals player I couldn't identify as players filed into the locker room Sunday.

Arizona is 4-0 on the road and 1-3 at home this season.

Like young children, these Cardinals respond to simple psychological stimuli. Tell them they cannot win on the road and they'll prove you wrong. Tell them they cannot win at home -- the record speaks for itself this season -- and they'll prove you wrong again.

I think that's what will happen in Week 10. The Cardinals will play their best home game of the season against the Seahawks.

"Seattle has been struggling and that is the most dangerous team," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "Ain't going to be no overlooking Seattle. They know they've got their hands full on Sunday. We have to establish our home field."

2. Anquan Boldin was not missed.

It's tough to fathom how an offense could become better without one of the toughest and most productive receivers in the game.

The Cardinals are now 5-1 since the start of last season when Boldin does not play. Kurt Warner matched a career high with five touchdown passes Sunday. He threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald, one to Steve Breaston and one apiece to tight ends Ben Patrick and Anthony Becht.

Whisenhunt insisted the Cardinals stuck with their intended game plan after deciding 90 minutes before kickoff to rest Boldin and his injured ankle.

That might be true, but Arizona did shake up its personnel use in this game. The team used four wide receivers a season-low 15.6 percent of the time, down from at least 25 percent in blowout victories over Jacksonville and Seattle earlier this season. The team used "11" personnel with one back and one tight end 29.7 percent of the time, a season high. It also showed more willingness to run the ball from passing formations.

Part of me thinks the Cardinals might sometimes be more apt to give their ground game a chance when Boldin is on the sideline.

"We've shown we can do it," guard Reggie Wells said, referring to the ground game in general and not in relation to Boldin's status. "It's just a matter of sticking with it. Sometimes we've gotten away from it."

3. The Cardinals should consider trading Boldin.

This wasn't the first time Boldin seemed unable to enjoy a Cardinals victory. It happened last season and again Sunday when the Cardinals decided to name him inactive.

Boldin, suffering from an ankle injury, warmed up and declared himself ready. Whisenhunt cited loose sod at Soldier Field as one reason he decided to play it safe. Also, Doucet had gotten most of Boldin's reps during practice.

"The only thing I can say is that when I came here, all of my stuff was in my locker," Boldin said. "I went out and warmed up -- felt great -- and when I came back in, everything was gone. Nobody was man enough to come to me and tell me what was the situation.

"I would have probably felt better had somebody been man enough to walk up to me and tell me what the situation was, but I had to walk back in the locker room and find all of my stuff gone."

Two points here.

One, Boldin deserves to be treated with respect. He plays hurt. He appears to be an excellent teammate. I've seen him mentor younger players, including Doucet, during offseason minicamps even when Boldin was upset about his contract.

Two, the head coach has more on his mind than making sure his toughest player's feelings aren't hurt. I highly doubt Whisenhunt meant any disrespect in this case. He was preoccupied with making the right decision and informing NFL officials before the deadline for naming inactive players.

The Cardinals need to strongly consider trading Boldin after this season. They're loaded at receiver without him, they have a young running back who needs to get more carries, they cannot justify giving a long-term deal to a 29-year-old player with injury concerns and it's clear Boldin cannot be happy in Arizona without a new deal.

4. Warner handled pressure much better.

Warner made the Bears pay for rushing five defenders.

He averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and a 104.8 rating when the Bears rushed five. That was up from 5.9 yards per attempt with three interceptions and a 61.3 rating when the Cardinals' previous 2009 opponents rushed five, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Running back Tim Hightower helped hold the Bears without a sack when they came after Warner. His block in blitz pickup freed Warner to find Fitzgerald for an 11-yard touchdown reception early in the game. The Cardinals brought a linebacker as the fifth rusher on that play.

Chicago was most effective against Warner when overloading one side. The Bears did not try it much, however.

5. The defense remains vulnerable to the big play.

Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, burned for a 50-yard touchdown against the Panthers' Steve Smith in Week 8, gave up another big pass play, this one to the Bears' Devin Hester.

Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson had a rough game in coverage against Bears tight end Greg Olsen.

Arizona's offense took off the pressure Sunday, but the Cardinals must resolve their problems in coverage. Limiting the big pass play has been Whisenhunt's top defensive priority this season. The Cardinals have shown improvement at times, but they have not been consistent enough in that area.

6. This is a loose, unapologetic team.

Reporters were reaching for their recorders and moving toward the locker room when Whisenhunt informed them he had one more thing to say.

"I'd also like to compliment the Bears because they played hard and they came back," Whisenhunt said. "And the last thing I'll say is, 'We didn't let them off the hook.' "

Whisenhunt's playful reference to predecessor Dennis Green's postgame harangue -- that one following an infamous defeat to the Bears in 2006 -- arguably showed little regard for an already embarrassed opponent.

At least Whisenhunt didn't slug anyone.

7. Tommie Harris' punch had little impact.

The Cardinals players I polled regarding Harris' sucker punch on Arizona guard Deuce Lutui effectively shrugged when asked about the play's impact.

They did not seem to take offense. Even Lutui expressed no malice toward Harris.

"It didn't hurt," Lutui said. "It happened so fast. It was nothing serious. I just know the refs caught it. Things like that happen."

The only effect, if any, was that the Cardinals no longer had to worry about Harris. They were already running the ball effectively when Harris was in the game.

Dockett expressed disappointment in Harris, a player he says he admires, but there were no hard feelings. The key, Dockett said, is to deliver punches during pileups, where officials have a harder time spotting them.

8. Doucet's role no reflection on Urban.

Fitzgerald, Breaston and Doucet generally served as the Cardinals' receivers in three-receiver sets, even though Jerheme Urban outranks Doucet in the receiving hierarchy.

Doucet had taken some of Boldin's reps during practice. Leaving Urban as the fourth receiver meant fewer receivers had to deviate from their usual roles.

Doucet had a 6-yard reception on third-and-5. Urban played less than usual because the Cardinals ran so few four-receiver groupings.

9. Beanie Wells, Hightower deserve more carries.

Both players averaged more than 5 yards per carry on a combined 28 rushes. Wells' first four carries went for 6, 13, 5 and 26 yards.

Hightower remains the superior pass protector, but Wells' big-play ability is apparent.

"I'm sure he's getting more comfortable and adapting to what we are doing as an offense," Reggie Wells said, "but it takes time when you are called upon to do more in our passing game. He has been coming arond great."

10. The rest of the NFC West cannot like this result.

While the 49ers and Seahawks fought tough battles against losing teams Sunday, the Cardinals were breezing to victory over a team with a winning record.

Arizona will be tough to overtake in the division if -- make that when -- the Cardinals take care of business against Seattle in Week 10.
Posted by's Mike Sando

CHICAGO -- Anquan Boldin warmed up for the Cardinals at Soldier Field on Sunday morning, but the team named him inactive at the last minute.

The decision gives Boldin a week to recover from the ankle injury he aggravated against the Panthers in Week 8.

Sitting down Boldin strikes me as a smart decision. If allowed to play, Boldin would have toughed it out, perhaps at the expense of his ability to recover -- and arguably at the expense of the offense.

Steve Breaston joins Larry Fitzgerald in the starting lineup at receiver. Jerheme Urban becomes the third receiver. Early Doucet is active after getting additional reps during the week. Doucet, a third-round draft choice in 2008, hasn't had many opportunities. It's important for him to play well.

Also inactive for the Cardinals: safety Rashad Johnson, linebacker Gerald Hayes, tackle Herman Johnson, guard Brandon Keith, tight end Stephen Spach and tight end Dominique Byrd. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback.

Spach was healthy enough to be active this week.

Posted by's Mike Sando

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Anquan Boldin, slowed by a hamstring injury, warmed up for the Cardinals and is active against the 49ers.

Teammate and fellow receiver Steve Breaston, who suffered a knee injury during preseason, was among the inactive players for Arizona. That leaves Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin, Jerheme Urban, Sean Morey and Lance Long as active receivers for the Cardinals.

Also inactive for the Cardinals: cornerback Greg Toler, linebacker Reggie Walker, tackle Herman Johnson, guard Brandon Keith, receiver Early Doucet and tight end Dominique Byrd. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback.

The 49ers' inactive players include safety Curtis Taylor, safety Reggie Smith, center Cody Wallace, linebacker Ahmad Brooks, receiver Jason Hill, receiver Brandon Jones and defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois. Nate Davis is the third quarterback. The 49ers have four receivers active: Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce, Arnaz Battle and Micheal Spurlock.