NFL Nation: John Marshall
|Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PRESSWIRE|
|Coach Tom Cable has spent the early part of camp focusing on teaching the basics.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
NAPA, Calif. -- In his first training camp as a head coach in the NFL, Tom Cable is breaking it down.
He is trying to end the Oakland Raiders' six-year slump by going back to basics.
"It's all about learning," Cable said. "That what we're trying to do here."
Cable, who went 4-8 on an interim basis last season after the tumultuous Lane Kiffin era ended, is methodically trying to improve his team. Here's how he started: Players reported on Tuesday. The team spent all day Wednesday in meetings before hitting the practice field on Thursday.
It wasn't exactly a strenuous football practice; the team went through two glorified walk-throughs on opening day. Cable ended plays shortly after the ball was snapped. The team won't start hitting until Monday.
The 2009 Oakland Raiders are starting with a classroom on the grass. Why not? The past six years have produced report cards with nothing but F's. The Raiders are a combined 24-72 since 2003. It is the worst six-year span by any team in NFL history.
Players, tired of Oakland literally being an NFL Black Hole, are behind Cable's slow instructional pace.
"We're really breaking it all down and starting over," linebacker Thomas Howard said. "It's good. We need it. This is all about learning and being instructed."
|AP Photo/Paul Sakuma|
|The Raiders clearly want JaMarcus Russell to develop into their long-term starter, but Jeff Garcia might be their best option to compete right now.|
1. Can JaMarcus Russell develop? Whether or not Oakland can end its six-season slump will likely depend on its third-year quarterback.
Cable said Thursday it's all about whether Russell can win. It has gotten to that point. If Russell fails to make strides this season, his job could be on the line. Considering that veteran Jeff Garcia is looking to take his job, Russell's progress is definitely the biggest issue in Oakland this season.
Russell, who admitted that he reported to training camp heavier than he wanted to, needs to become more consistent and the Raiders want to see him become more of a leader. If he doesn't improve, the Raiders may be in trouble in both 2009 and beyond.
2. Can the run defense improve? So much has been made of the Raiders' problems in the passing game, but the run defense has been a huge issue in recent seasons.
Oakland was 31st in the NFL against the rush last season, allowing 159.7 yards a game on the ground. Oakland was ranked 27th overall on defense last season.
That weakness set the tone for Oakland's defense. If a team can't stop the run, it can't win consistently. It's that simple. Teams that have trouble against the run get eaten alive and wear down.
Oakland has to find a way to improve in this area. The Raiders haven't changed their personnel much, so they have to get better play from their defensive tackle rotation. New defensive coordinator John Marshall, an NFL veteran, appears bent on teaching fundamentals and is very vocal in camp. He has a tall task ahead of him.
But they are both still learning and are not sure things. If they continue to develop, Russell will get the help from his receivers that he needs. The Raiders, of course, are also counting on rookies Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy. If two of these four players show they can be consistent weapons in 2009, Oakland's run-first offense has a chance to succeed.
|AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez|
|Darrius Heyward-Bey signed his rookie contract and was in camp on Thursday.|
Heyward-Bey's best move so far was to sign his rookie contract. He arrived at training camp Thursday after agreeing to a contract with more than $23 million in guarantees. That's big money for someone who is not considered to be a guaranteed NFL success.
But Heyward-Bey gave himself a chance to succeed by not missing much camp time. By all accounts, he is a talented, raw player who needs practice. He lost valuable time in the offseason due to a hamstring injury. For a player who was inconsistent and who had trouble holding on to the ball in college, the lost time was not ideal. Heyward-Bey is super fast and has big-time potential. But he needs work before he can help the receiver-
Newcomer to watch
I just get the feeling that Garcia's shadow is going to hover over Russell all season or until Garcia takes over. Garcia is honest and expresses his thoughts whenever he's asked. Garcia believes he gives the Raiders the best chance to win, but he'll support Russell while he is the starter.
That's just not the best atmosphere for a young quarterback who needs to make quick progress. Russell doesn't need to be feeling heat. He needs to feel relaxed as he tries to become a quality NFL player. Having Garcia hover may make that impossible. Before the end of the season, Garcia's presence on this team will become a major storyline. It appears inevitable.
Second-year running back Darren McFadden looks healthy and primed to live up to his rookie hype. McFadden can also help when lined up as a wide receiver. Expect McFadden to lead a strong running attack that also features Michael Bush and Justin Fargas ... Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly jumped offsides three times Thursday. Penalties have long been a problem in Oakland. It is clear the team needs to work on discipline this summer ... Look for former Cleveland starter Charlie Frye to be the Raiders' No. 3 quarterback ... Linebacker Ricky Brown has been working at outside and inside linebacker and the team thinks he may be ready to live up to his potential ... The Raiders are giving Mario Henderson a chance to be the starting left tackle. He has promise. If former Jacksonville starter Khalif Barnes doesn't beat out Henderson, Barnes could be moved to right tackle ... The Raiders expect to get a lot of production out of pass-rushers Greg Ellis and Trevor Scott. The Raiders think Ellis, signed this summer after Dallas cut him, can still be a factor and that Scott, a second-year defensive tackle, is ready for prime time. The presence of Ellis and Scott is a major reason the Raiders aren't sweating the puzzling holdout of defensive end Derrick Burgess ... Keep an eye out for tight end Zach Miller. He is getting better in all phases of the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The AFC West has become the Great Unknown.
After a turbulent offseason, the only team in the division that doesn't belong in the mystery section is the San Diego Chargers.
"The rest of them have all changed big time," said ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, who was part of the turmoil when he was fired by Kansas City earlier this year. "It's a whole new division in a lot of ways."
In Denver, there is a new head coach for the first time in 14 years and a new quarterback. In Kansas City, there is a new general manager, a new head coach and a new quarterback. In Oakland, there is a new permanent head coach and a new defensive staff.
For every team in the AFC West, this offseason has been about trying to figure out their division opponents. There is no built-in familiarity in the division that was arguably the weakest in the NFL in 2008. It's as if there are four teams from different divisions converging together.
It's a cause for consternation, even for those directly involved in the change.
"I don't think it's a good thing," new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "It's a pain in the butt to get ready for them in the offseason ... this makes it a little more challenged because you've had too much turnover.
"So your preparation in the spring is a little difficult because you can't just turn on the tape from last season and go 'OK, that's what we have to beat next year' because it's going to change."
The kinetic offseason was a popular topic at San Diego's recent minicamp. The Chargers marveled at all the change. San Diego remained nearly intact from the team that won its final four games of the regular season to salvage a third straight division crown. And the Chargers are relieved it is the other teams that are dealing with facelifts instead of them.
"It's been really wild to watch," San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. "In Denver, we're not going to be dealing with Mike Shanahan anymore. In Kansas City, the New England way of doing things will be in play, like in Denver, and Oakland has a new defensive staff. You have to prepare for the changes."
Chargers general manager A.J. Smith admits his uneasiness about the adjustments that are afoot in the AFC West in 2009.
"I'm not comfortable with it because there is so much change," Smith said. "All of these changes are designed to improve these teams, so you always have to be concerned about that as a competitor."
There's no doubt change was needed in most instances. The Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs combined for 15 wins last season.
The majority of the change will occur in Denver and Kansas City. The Raiders -- led by Tom Cable, who coached the team in the final 12 games last season -- will implement a new defensive scheme under new coordinator John Marshall. Still, the Raiders will still stick to the philosophy the team has had for the past five decades of the Al Davis era.
"The Raiders are going to be the same in a lot of ways," Edwards said. "They're going to be a power running team on offense and they will attack on defense. We know that there will be some changes. But in Denver and Kansas City, there are more questions."
The biggest change both the Broncos and Chiefs are making is on defense. Both teams are transitioning to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Having both teams switching to a similar scheme could help the Raiders and Chargers prepare for them.
McDaniels will run the show in Denver. He came from New England, where he was the offensive coordinator. Kansas City's new leader is general manager Scott Pioli, who was an executive with the Patriots. The Patriots Way will be alive and well in half of the AFC West.
"The New England way of doing things have been very successful," Smith said. "There is good leadership there and with the influx of the New England influence, you have to account for it ... Things are changing in this division. We all have to be ready for it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Terrell Davis is starting to believe in Josh McDaniels.
My take: The Broncos are a proud franchise and there are many former stars like Davis who are keeping their eye on this situation. Mike Shanahan was a legend to many in Denver so McDaniels will have to prove to those people he is the right person to lead this franchise into the future.
Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley is mum on the Chiefs' opening.
My take: Of course, he will be quiet about this one. With the biggest game of his career looming, there is no way Haley will discuss the opening in Kansas City and create a distraction for himself and the team. After the Super Bowl, of course, all bets are off.
John Marshall could be a defensive coordinator candidate in Oakland.
My take: This is just another sign that interim coach Tom Cable will be the head coach. It would be difficult to believe another head coach being in the mix with coordinator already being discussed.
The Chargers aren't moving to Los Angeles yet.
My take: Until a new stadium deal is struck in San Diego and until another team relocates to Los Angeles, this will be an issue for the franchise.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin hopes to play against the Eagles after a hamstring injury sidelined him in the divisional round.
Also from Somers: A force greater than the Cardinals seems to be at work in what is becoming a magical season for Arizona.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are at their best when critics show them no love.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic anticipates a cathartic experience for Cardinals fans when the team faces the Eagles in the NFC title game. Bickley: "The road to a Super Bowl goes through Glendale, where you are free to influence the outcome. You will channel 20-plus years of torture into a single voice, and it will be the most powerful sporting event this state has ever seen."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves mingled with fans waiting in line to purchase tickets to the NFC title game.
Also from Urban: A surge of traffic to the team's Web site prevented him from blogging for a time Sunday. A good problem to have.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says the Phoenix area has rarely seen a team such as the Cardinals. The 1996 Arizona State team, which went from 6-5 the previous season to 11-1 and on the verge of a national title, might come close.
The 49ers' Web site carries a statement addressing speculation about the team's inability to secure a new stadium. The statement reads, in part: "Although our opening day target may need to be adjusted as part of the term sheet, the 49ers ownership group continues to remain committed to building a new NFL stadium in Santa Clara and is spending significant resources to make this goal a reality."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat describes Rob Chudzinski as an up-and-coming offensive coach while questioning whether he would fit into Mike Singletary's plans for the 49ers' offense.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says only two teams -- Denver and Jacksonville -- forced fewer turnovers than the 49ers during the regular season. Barrows: "The common denominator among the teams that are advancing [in the playoffs] is not that they can consistently run the ball but that they have been excellent on defense and are forcing timely turnovers."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Giants' loss clears the way for teams to interview defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as a head coaching candidate. It remains unclear where Spagnuolo might fit in the Rams' coaching search. Rex Ryan interviewed Sunday. Meanwhile, the team will interview the 49ers' Mike Williams as a candidate for director of pro personnel.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat gives the Rams' specialists an A-minus grade for their performance during the 2008 season.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says John Marshall and Dwaine Board likely will not return to the Seahawks' defensive staff after the team hired Casey "Gus" Bradley and Joe Barry. The Seahawks advised Marshall, Board and other assistants to consider options elsewhere.
William Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts summarizes his recent positional breakdown of the Seahawks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have yet to dispel negative perceptions despite a 7-5 record and imminent division title.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals made their punting change with East Coast weather in mind. Field position could be key when the Cardinals visit the Patriots in Week 16 or if they face a road game in the playoffs.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals are trying not to focus on the big picture.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic would rather see the Cardinals claim a division title by beating the Rams than by having the 49ers lose.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals are hoping to jump-start their pass rush against the Rams, who allowed zero sacks in Week 13.
Also from Tulumello: Neil Rackers adjusts to a new holder on field goals and extra points.
John Morgan of Field Gulls thought Seahawks rookie Lawrence Jackson showed signs of improvement against the Cowboys. I would love to know how many times Jackson maintains run containment to his side. Seems like not enough.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times counters perceptions about Patriots coach Bill Belichick. I've always thought Belichick needed better questions more than he needed better answers.
Also from O'Neil: Mike Holmgren says the Seahawks' decision to name Jim Mora the next head coach hasn't affected performance on the field, even though Holmgren would have preferred the arrangement to have remained a private matter.
Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider disputes Deon Grant's contention that reporters took the Seattle safety's postgame comments out of context. Grant seemingly criticized defensive coordinator John Marshall after the 34-9 defeat at Dallas.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the NFL's 30th-ranked defense "got defensive" about what Grant meant by his comments.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says Seahawks center Chris Spencer lost feeling in his toes thanks to a herniated disk.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers safety Mark Roman is looking for his first interception in two years.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says 49ers coach Mike Singletary has improved his approach since a rough first week on the job.
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says Frank Gore deserves better than what the 49ers have to offer.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle polled 49ers players on gun ownership. Ten said they owned guns. Six declined to answer. Twenty-seven said they did not own a firearm.
Also from Crumpacker: The 49ers plan to honor Fred Dean at halftime Sunday.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers cornerback Nate Clements is playing with a broken thumb. The injury could limit Clements' availability as a return specialist while complicating efforts to play press coverage.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Cardinals can clinch a home playoff game for the first time since the Truman Administration. Thomas: "For many St. Louis football fans over the age of 35, this could be a tough day. Our old team, with our old quarterback, winning our division."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls Rams running back Steven Jackson "235 pounds of paradox" while saying there isn't a more complex athlete in St. Louis. Since Jackson became a starter, the Rams are 21-33 when he plays and 1-10 when he does not play. They average an additional 59 yards rushing per game when Jackson plays.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams hope to move veteran Chris Draft into the starting lineup at middle linebacker. Usual starter Will Witherspoon is hurting. Rookie David Vobora got the start in Week 13. Also, coach Jim Haslett says he has never owned guns, but cornerback Ron Bartell does pack a firearm.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers players are backing Mike Singletary's bid to become head coach beyond this season.
Also from FitzGerald: Singletary singles out Donald Strickland for having a strong game against the Bills in Week 13.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have hired former NFL referee Ron Blum to assist with game-day operations. Blum also helps officiate practices.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer sizes up the Seahawks' injury situation before checking in with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Meanwhile, coach Mike Holmgren downplays Deon Grant's criticism toward defensive coordinator John Marshall.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says D.D. Lewis would start at linebacker for the Seahawks if a stinger sidelines Leroy Hill.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones will start against the Patriots despite a leg injury that prevents him from practicing.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' offensive struggles only intensify once the team reaches the red zone. The Rams have only 19 red-zone trips this season, less than half the average for the other 31 teams.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat provides an extensive injury update relating to the Rams. Also, rookie guard John Greco was more effective blocking for pass than run, while Oshiomogho Atogwe continued his ball-hawking ways.
Also from Korte: Rams coach Jim Haslett absolves quarterback Marc Bulger from blame on two of three second-half interceptions against the Dolphins.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals, fresh off defeats to the Giants and Eagles, hope to regain confidence playing at home against the Rams.
KTAR.com says Tom Dillon, former radio voice of the Cardinals and a 17-time honoree as Arizona Sportscaster of the Year, has died at age 65. Dillon also spent 20 years as the voice of Arizona State University sports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic looks at the relationship between Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Warner: "We talk so much ... my wife thinks sometimes I'm having an affair with coach Haley." Quote of the year from Warner?
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to make his first NFL start against the 49ers in Week 10. This is a logical time to make a move that has seemed inevitable. Rodgers-Cromartie replaced Eric Green in the base defense after Green allowed an 80-yard touchdown reception.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals will open the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium for their game against the 49ers. Somers revisits NFL rules governing retractable roofs.
Also from Urban: Sizing up Warner's chances for MVP honors. The quarterback can't struggle in the high-profile games that await.Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune reaches back to the 1992 season for perspective on the Seahawks' current struggles. That team produced the NFL's defensive player of the year and Sports Illustrated's coach of the year despite a 2-14 record.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald said Ray Willis would be the likely starter at right guard if a foot injury sidelines Floyd Womack. The Seahawks expect Womack to play.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter on alleged inconsistencies of NFL disciplinary policy. Porter wonders how the league can fine players for small stuff while letting Matt Jones continue playing after a cocaine bust.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks think they can rally once they get key players back from injury.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall is keeping the faith. Players seem to be upbeat.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams cornerback Tye Hill plans to consult with Dr. James Andrews next week. A lingering knee injury doesn't seem to be getting better.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams running back Kenneth Darby, who could start in Week 10. Darby draws inspiration from the memory of his late father, who died of cancer when Darby was in college.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat looks at Samkon Gado's return to the NFL. The running back had been preparing to attend medical school.
Gary Peterson of Bay Area News Group recalls the late Lenvil Elliott, whose career peaked at the right time.
Tom Pedulla of USA Today looks at Mike Singletary's start as 49ers interim coach, noting that Singletary keeps a journal and updates it about 10 times per day.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee gets 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis' take on Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. The two became friends at the ESPY Awards in July. "He's just a cool, down-to-earth, funny guy," Willis says.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Willis figures to be busy against Jacobs and the Giants.
Also from Crumpacker: The 49ers claim an offensive lineman off waivers while one of their current starters tangles with linebacker Roderick Green.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers will have to play more physical to hang with the Giants at the Meadowlands.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News looks at 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes, who is suddenly forcing turnovers.Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams have confidence in Adam Goldberg if Orlando Pace can't start at left tackle.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams haven't scored more than 19 points in a game this season.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will wait until Sunday before determining whether Pace plays this week. Pace doesn't have to practice in order to play.
Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says former Rams linebacker Brandon Chillar has become a key player for the Packers on defense. Chillar has helped Green Bay defend opposing tight ends.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the NFL stands by the holding call that wiped out Julius Jones' 51-yard run against the Packers. I watched the play closely and thought Mike Wahle did hold on the play, at least technically. He grabbed the defender's jersey. This was not a blatant hold, however, and referees routinely allow much more flagrant holds. That makes it tough for an offensive lineman to know how a call might be applied.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times gives Seneca Wallace a good chance to start at quarterback for the Seahawks at Tampa Bay.
Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer envisions a Seahawks future without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Are age and injuries catching up to the former Pro Bowl passer?
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall. Seattle has forced only four turnovers this season. Marshall says it's no mystery why.
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts says the Seahawks' Jones has managed to tick off another opponent with bulletin-board comments.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks have allowed 71 points in their last two games.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are grabbing the national spotlight. Great quote from Cardinals Hall of Famer Larry Wilson following Arizona's overtime victory over Dallas: "I tell you what, my chest has been puffed out all week, and almost since the start of the season. When you whip up on Dallas, it's pretty special. I'm running into people who are telling me, 'Way to go! Way to go!' What the hell did I do?"
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are fielding an effective pass rush.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com was in the Arizona locker room when Olympic wrestler Henry Cejudo, a gold-medal winner, showed off his hardware to players. Guard Deuce Lutui asked to wear it, then claimed to have won it in a pie-eating contest.
Also from Urban: Right tackle Levi Brown gets ready to face Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor, a key matchup for Arizona in Week 3.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic asks Cardinals players about the passer-rating formula after quarterback Kurt Warner posted a perfect rating in Week 2. The man who invented the rating lives in Arizona. I spoke with him several years ago and will revisit that conversation in an item here later today.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are mindful of the role conference games can play in earning a playoff berth.
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat spent enough time with 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce to conduct an informal Bible-study session. Proverbs 18:21 is a personal favorite for Bruce. Cohn has a full transcript of an interesting conversation.
Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with former Home Depot employee Tony Wragge, now the 49ers' starting right guard. Said Wragge's wife: "He is the most dedicated person I've ever met. When he wasn't with a team, he would never be just sitting on the couch waiting for a phone call. He's always doing something. Nothing gets him down."
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn't making a big deal about facing his former team. But the players know his history with the Lions. Running back Frank Gore: "It would be great if we could go out and beat them real bad."
Also from FitzGerald: Jonas Jennings apologizes for missing so many of the 49ers' games because of injury. A bad right shoulder is the culprit.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Jennings thought he had overcome the shoulder problems after making it through last season without any dislocations. But the shoulder popped out during the 49ers' game against Seattle, and another surgery is a possibility.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has completed only 17 passes to wide receivers this season. Also, Michael Bumpus remains the team's best option as a slot receiver.
Also from Farnsworth: Deon Grant picked off two passes and broke up three others during the Seahawks' practice Thursday.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks safety Brian Russell as saying the defense hasn't paid close enough attention to detail, leading to big plays for opposing offenses.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall as saying the Seattle defensive backs weren't necessarily blowing coverages against the 49ers, but they certainly weren't making plays.
Also from O'Neil: Seattle has company as one of 10 teams with an 0-2 record. Jacksonville, San Diego and Minnesota can relate.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times checks in with Brandon Coutu, one of two kickers on the Seahawks' roster.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steven Jackson wants the ball, sure, but the Rams' running back isn't making public demands.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch follows up with Rams kicker Josh Brown, who returns to Qwest Field as the enemy.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat also checks in with the Rams' kicker. Brown's prekick routine is straight out of Major League.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Anquan Boldin's comments Monday made waves in Arizona and beyond, but sometimes these things take a while to resonate throughout a roster. Players are sometimes too busy rehabbing or studying or practicing or lifting to follow the news closely.
Chike Okeafor, the Cardinals' veteran defensive end and outside linebacker, has always offered fresh perspectives. In speaking with him Tuesday about several subjects, I asked about the comments Boldin had made. Cardinals fans might find his answer reassuring:
"'Q' is a great guy and he has his issues with the club and his contract and feeling that respect is given where it's due, but I don't think he's the type of player to let that spread and create a cancer that negatively affects the team.
"Everyone is close, so everyone knows everything that is going on. He is a professional and he is not going to let that affect his play or how he practices."
Boldin's complaints about his contract have been simmering for months. His latest comments blamed coach Ken Whisenhunt for taking an inappropriate role in negotiations. Boldin said he and Whisenhunt are no longer on speaking terms. More from Okeafor:
"I wasn't aware what you were saying about not speaking with coaches and stuff like that. Every man is an individual and you can't put yourself in their shoes. Every situation is different and a different person handles it in their own way. Unless you know all the facts, it's hard to form an opinion.
"We'll be good. We have a real professional organization here and we're about winning ballgames. I think those things will iron themselves out. Probably a little bit of miscommunication and non-communication. Those things will hopefully be resolved in time because he is a great player and a great person for our organization."
Whisenhunt recently began addressing reporters in Arizona. We'll have an update if there's anything new in this ongoing story.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic puts Anquan Boldin's contract complaints in perspective. Somers says the team has connected the dots between Boldin's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and various media outlets (including ESPN) that carried the receivers' comments Monday. Somers: "It's easy to say the situation is irreparable, but don't underestimate the healing powers of money."
Also from Somers: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt says Matt Leinart is the starting quarterback, but not necessarily for the regular-season opener. Whisenhunt: "We haven't changed, as we've said all along, Matt's the starter right now, and Kurt is pushing him." A statement such as that one might serve to keep the pressure on a younger player while keeping the interest of an older one. Or, as Somers notes, the Cardinals might want to keep the 49ers guessing. Arizona opens at San Francisco.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune quotes Boldin extensively. Boldin thinks Whisenhunt crossed a line by joining negotiations. Whisenhunt denies doing any such thing. Boldin: "That's where it became a problem. ... I think it should be completely separated. I think that's why we have a department that deals with that."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Boldin's words have more bite than the tone he uses when delivering them.
Also from Urban: Like Somers, Urban went back into the archives to compare Boldin's current comments with past comments. He included the following 2003 lead from a story he wrote as beat writer for the East Valley Tribune: "Growing up, Anquan Boldin heard a constant message from his parents. 'A good name, they said, is better than riches and gold.'" A reminder: Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes note of Dante Hall's revival under Al Saunders. Hall is the Rams' third receiver. That should sound a little scary if you're a Rams fan; Hall has been a return specialist primarily. But we'll reserve judgment for now.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch risks putting a jinx on Alex Barron by lauding the right tackle's durability. I'm kidding. Sort of. As a beat writer covering the Seahawks a few years ago, I remember guard Chris Gray asking me not to bring up his team-record starting streak, for fear of jinxing him.
Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer provides an update on Jason Babin's attempt to earn a roster spot with the Seahawks. Babin was arguably miscast in the Texans defense after Houston made him a first-round draft choice. He has fared better in camp with Seattle. Babin has always been a hard worker, whether pulling a tire around town to build strength or wiring houses with his electrically inclined father.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks are giving first-round choice Lawrence Jackson every chance to seize the starting job at right defensive end. Defensive coordinator John Marshall, after watching Jackson start against the Bears in the most recent exhibition game: "He's certainly not polished, but he did show pass-rush ability. He showed the thing that he showed at USC, [which] was his awareness in certain situations against certain blocking schemes -- crossing faces, reading things. He does a very, very good job of that."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat describes the 49ers' quarterback situation in the words of J.T. O'Sullivan and Alex Smith. If only one of them would say something.
Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read pasted the full transcript from Smith, O'Sullivan and coach Mike Nolan. I was there and didn't find anything worth writing about. It's the same old non-answers to the same old questions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals refused Anquan Boldin's latest request for a trade. The team still wants to extend Boldin's contract, a spokesman said.
Also from Somers: Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart is taking the quarterback competition in stride. Leinart remains the starter, but Kurt Warner continues getting first-team reps. Leinart doesn't have a free pass this season. He must produce.
One more note: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt explains why Deuce Lutui could be in danger of losing his starting job to Elton Brown at right guard. Whisenhunt: "Deuce has shown signs of making good plays, but then he'll have one or two plays a game that are not acceptable, so Elton is making a strong push. This week, we'll see if we can rotate (Brown) in some during the game and see how that goes."
Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read provides historical perspective for Alex Smith's situation. It's tough to find healthy No. 1 overall draft choices who didn't start in their fourth seasons.
Also from Brown: Ray McDonald is making progress on the defensive line.
And this: more on the quarterbacks, including a look at their disparate salaries.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee brings us up to date on the 49ers' quarterback situation. J.T. O'Sullivan has worked with the starters since Aug. 6.
Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers answers questions about Smith's future with the team. He doesn't see the organization releasing Smith this season if the organization goes with O'Sullivan as the starter.
Also from Maiocco: A notebook that leads with the quarterback situation but also touches on Takeo Spikes' progress on defense. The recently signed Spikes is mostly concerned about getting lined up properly.
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers moved Jonas Jennings from left to right tackle in part because of Jennings' injury history. Jennings underwent surgery to repair a broken knuckle in his right hand. An offensive tackle's outside hand is hugely important, one reason coach Mike Nolan was concerned about what type of cast Jennings might wear. An overly restrictive cast would inhibit Jennings' ability to do his job.
Also from FitzGerald: O'Sullivan is all but certain to start the regular-season opener.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are fighting to recoup bonus money paid to suspended defensive tackle Claude Wroten.
Also from Thomas: Anthony Becht's hamstring injury is affecting the Rams' plans for their tight ends. Becht: "I know my main (attribute) is the blocking factor. Short-yardage, goal line, two tight situations. ... I get a real thrill out of getting big runs for the running backs. That's something that's important to me."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with John Greco and Roy Schuening, the Rams' rookie offensive linemen. Both are on alert after the team lost backups Mark Setterstrom and Brandon Gorin to season-ending injuries. Greco is working at guard and tackle. Also, quarterback Marc Bulger threw without limitations. He has a sore shoulder.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer followed the Seahawks inside to their new indoor practice field. Not that rain is ever a factor in the Northwest.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says center Chris Spencer isn't quite ready to resume full-contact work, but he's getting closer. Also, coach Mike Holmgren thought the Seahawks were far too sloppy during their most recent exhibition game. Williams also checks in with Matt Hasselbeck.
Also from Williams: A conversation with defensive coordinator John Marshall, who is "really happy" with cornerback Josh Wilson's improvement.
Also from Romero: Hasselbeck and Spencer were back at practice.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Pat Yasinskas and I broke away from training camps briefly Tuesday to shoot an ESPN Insider segment on the divisions we cover. Reischea Canidate asked me about Mike Martz, Steven Jackson, Julius Jones and the Seattle defense (sorry, Cardinals fans, but your team didn't come up this time). I went through and transcribed my portion. I paraphrased the questions, but the answers are verbatim.
Q: What should we expect from Mike Martz in San Francisco?
Sando: I think they'll come out of the gates fast because that is what Mike Martz does. He goes into places and they get better offensively. Longer term, I'm anxious to see if the fit is right. You've got probably their best players on offense being Frank Gore the running back and Vernon Davis the tight end, and I'm not sure we've seen Mike Martz run an offense where those are your two best guys. Can he feature those guys the way they need to be featured give the fact that the 49ers really aren't loaded elsewhere on the offensive side of the ball. I think that is the big thing to watch long term.