NFL Nation: Jordan Kent

Challenging the 49ers' divisional dominance

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
10:28
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The San Francisco 49ers have changed head coaches and coordinators multiple times in recent years, but there has been at least one constant.

The team keeps defeating division opponents at home.

The 49ers have won their last seven NFC West games at Candlestick Park. The average final score: 31-12.

It's something to keep in mind when the Seattle Seahawks visit later Sunday. Seattle is the most recent NFC West team to defeat the 49ers at Candlestick, back in Week 8 of the 2008 season.

Eight 49ers starters from that 2008 defeat remain in the lineup or at least part of the game plan this week: Josh Morgan, Joe Staley, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Parys Haralson, Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. Several 49ers backups and inactive players from that game also remain with the team, including Ray McDonald and Delanie Walker. Alex Smith was on injured reserve and did not play that season.

The Seahawks have had almost zero carryover. Koren Robinson, Walter Jones, Mike Wahle, Keary Colbert, Seneca Wallace, Jordan Kent and current 49ers assistant Bobby Engram were among their offensive starters that day. They're hoping a nearly all-new team can produce different results against the 49ers on the road.

New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh inherits a team that has gone 11-3 in its last 14 divisional games, home or away. Seattle has accounted for two of those three defeats, including in the 2010 opener.

Larry Fitzgerald's arrival with the Arizona Cardinals via the 2004 NFL draft serves as the starting point for the latest item looking at recent NFC West choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to fill out the roster and hope we find depth for special teams ...
Of all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.US PresswireOf all the 2007 NFC West draft picks, the Cardinals' Levi Brown and the 49ers' Patrick Willis have started the most games.
JaMarcus Russell's demise as an NFL player is back in the news, shining light upon the perils of investing millions in unproven prospects.

The 2007 NFL draft was about more than Russell, of course.

That draft also produced Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis and Lawrence Timmons among the top 15 choices.

For as much criticism as the Arizona Cardinals have taken for selecting tackle Levi Brown fifth overall, Brown has started 59 regular-season games, second only to Willis (63) among NFC West draft choices that year. He has also started six playoff games, including a Super Bowl, and coach Ken Whisenhunt expects good things from him.

I've put together a couple charts showing what NFC West teams have gotten from their draft choices that year. More on those in a bit.

First, I've taken a team-by-team look at the players selected, whether they remain with their original teams and how many games each has started for his drafted team.

The 49ers had the best draft among NFC West teams. They also had the most draft capital to work with, selecting twice in the first round. The Seattle Seahawks had no first-rounder that year thanks to the Deion Branch trade, so expectations were lower.

Arizona Cardinals

Total picks: five

Still with team (4): Brown (59), Steve Breaston (26), Ben Patrick (20), Alan Branch (3)

No longer with team (1): Buster Davis (0)

Comment: The Cardinals had fewer total selections than any team in the division. Hitting on Breaston in the fifth round was outstanding, but the Cardinals haven't gotten enough from their top three selections that year. Branch never panned out as a second-rounder. Davis, the third-rounder, didn't make it out of camp. Whisenhunt takes pride in making roster decisions with less regard for draft status. He wasn't going to give Davis or anyone a free pass. That's admirable, but in the bigger picture, Arizona still came up short in this draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Total picks: nine

Still with team (5): Willis (63), Joe Staley (50), Ray McDonald (9), Dashon Goldson (34), Tarell Brown (5)

No longer with team (4): Jason Hill (2), Jay Moore (0), Joe Cohen (0), Thomas Clayton (0)

Comment: Former general manager Scot McCloughan gets credit for selling former coach Mike Singletary on Willis as an elite prospect. That seems odd given Singletary's background as a Hall of Fame linebacker, but the 49ers got the right guy, so the "how" part matters less. That one selection makes this draft the best in the division for 2007. Staley is the starting left tackle. McDonald has been a solid rotation player. Goldson became a starter. All in all, this was a strong draft.

Seattle Seahawks

Total picks: eight

Still with team (2): Brandon Mebane (53), Will Herring (7)

No longer with team (6): Josh Wilson (24), Steve Vallos (8), Mansfield Wrotto (5), Courtney Taylor (4), Jordan Kent (1), Baraka Atkins (0)

Comment: Not having a first-round selection severely hurt this class' overall potential. Wilson seemed like a solid selection in the second round given the playmaking value he offered, but multiple changes in organizational leadership left him on the outside in terms of fit. Mebane was a solid choice in the third round. Vallos and Wrotto remain in the league elsewhere.

St. Louis Rams

Total picks: eight

Still with team (1): Clifton Ryan (27)

No longer with team (7): Adam Carriker (25), Brian Leonard (7), Jonathan Wade (6), Dustin Fry (0), Ken Shackleford (0), Keith Jackson (0), Derek Stanley (0)

Comment: This draft was a disaster for the Rams and made worse by massive organizational changes. On the bright side, the Rams might not have been in position to select Sam Bradford first overall in 2010 without selecting so many non-contributors in 2007.

Now, on to the charts. The first one takes a round-by-round look at the number of starts each team has gotten from its 2007 selections. I have used dashes instead of zeroes to show when teams did not have a selection in a specific round.

The second chart divides the number of starts by the values of the selections each team held, using the draft-value chart.

For example, the value chart said the Seahawks' picks that year were worth 669.2 points, far less than the picks for other NFC West teams were worth. Using this measure, Seattle got more bang for its buck if we valued all starts equally (and we should not value them all equally, but we can still use this as a general guide).

Some of the choices were compensatory and could not be traded, so the chart would not have valued them for trading purposes. I assigned values to them for this exercise, however, because we were not considering the picks for trading purposes.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
2:21
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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.
Tags:

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

Rams back away from Terrell Owens

July, 26, 2010
7/26/10
3:43
PM ET
The Cincinnati Bengals, apparently suspecting Terrell Owens might be using the St. Louis Rams for leverage, called the free-agent receiver's bluff earlier Monday.

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

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

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

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

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Among the things I'll be watching when the Seahawks face the Broncos in their second exhibition game Saturday night:

  • Sean Locklear at left tackle. The Seahawks hope Walter Jones can return from knee surgery in time to play a full season at left tackle. Locklear will work there in the meantime. The team's usual right tackle can earn an additional $600,000 in 2010 compensation if he plays half the snaps at left tackle in half the Seahawks' regular-season games this season. That price would be a bargain if Locklear plays well.
  • Depth at receiver. Jordan Kent, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, Mike Hass and Michael Bumpus are battling for one or two roster spots behind receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Deon Butler. Kent, Obomanu and Taylor do not have practice-squad eligibility. They need to produce now.
  • Nick Reed, Michael Bennett and Baraka Atkins. At least one of these players could be affected if the Seahawks keep fewer than 10 defensive linemen. Another impressive showing from Reed, who had two sacks and an interception in his exhibition debut, could make it tougher for Seattle to sneak him onto the practice squad.
  • Matt Hasselbeck. The quarterback has yet to take a hit since last season. The Broncos pressured the 49ers' quarterbacks last week by exploiting fullback Zak Keasey in blitz pickup. Seattle fullback Owen Schmitt needs to prove he can play consistently well in that area. One lapse could expose Hasselbeck to punishment.
  • The kickers. Brandon Coutu needs to get more depth on his kickoffs. He and Olindo Mare are competing for one roster spot. The team will not keep two kickers this season.
  • Cameron Morrah. Seattle will likely choose between Morrah, a seventh-round rookie, and Joe Newton as the third tight end. It's the sort of competition you'll probably appreciate if you've lasted this deep into a blog entry about things to watch during a game few will remember one month from now.
NFL Network is carrying this game live at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals, 49ers and Rams have played their exhibition openers, leaving only the Seahawks among NFC West teams on the Saturday night viewing schedule.

A few things I'll be watching for once their game against the Chargers kicks off at 10 p.m. ET on NFL Network:

  • Zone blocking: The Seahawks' have overhauled their blocking scheme. Let's see how well each player seems to fit in a zone scheme. Does the line produce cut-back lanes for Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett? How well does the scheme seem to fit those backs? Speaking of backs, is Owen Schmitt going to remain the starting fullback?
  • Quarterback health: Matt Hasselbeck hasn't taken punishment in a game since his back imploded last season. The Chargers have the potential to pressure him, particularly against a Seahawks line without Walter Jones. How will Hasselbeck hold up?
  • Aaron Curry: The fourth overall choice in the draft will start at strongside linebacker. The Seahawks also plan to try him at defensive end as they figure out how well he rushes the passer. One game won't necessarily tell us much, but the Seahawks are obviously very much interested in finding out what Curry can do.
  • Young receivers. Teams tend to like their depth until that depth has to play. That was the case when the Seahawks ran out of receivers last season. They liked Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor as role players, not front-line contributors. Seattle's top four at the position appear set heading into 2009 (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Deon Butler). Ben Obomanu seems likely to stick for what might be one of the final two spots. What about Taylor, Kent, Logan Payne, etc.?
  • Brandon Mebane. The Seahawks think he can be effective as an up-the-field defensive tackle. The team has been very excited about this move. Let's see if Mebane shows early signs of making it work. He's a good player. Is this the position for him?
  • The safeties. Jordan Babineaux needs to play well in the preseason to seriously challenge veteran Brian Russell as the starting free safety. I didn't see evidence in camp that Babineaux was making a strong run. Can Babineaux live up to his "Big Play Babs" reputation as a free safety, or only as a role player off the bench?
I'll also be interested to see how much Patrick Kerney and Cory Redding will play. Both are hugely important players for Seattle. Both have also rested some during camp as they try to avoid injuries and prepare themselves for the regular season. How they play in an exhibition opener might not mean much.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

RENTON, Wash. -- Emptying the notebook after watching the Seahawks practice on a bright, sunny day at their lakefront facility:

  • Tight end John Carlson stands out right away. Defensive backs are bouncing off him after he catches the ball and turns upfield. Carlson makes overhead catches appear routine even with a defender trailing him closely. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said the staff is using Carlson extensively across multiple packages, including on third down. There were times last season when Carlson inexplicably -- to me, anyway -- came off the field in those situations.
  • Aaron Curry covers Carlson better than anyone, but coach Jim Mora singled out the rookie linebacker's pass-rush skills as a pleasant surprise so far this offseason. Mora issued the usual disclaimer about how it's tough to fully evaluate when players aren't wearing pads. But he said the pass-rush aspect was something they did not see from him in college because Wake Forest didn't ask him to do it much.
  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh doesn't dazzle in practice. I suspect he's a master of maximizing situations during games to get open and make contested catches.
  • Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent watched practice. His son, Jordan, faces increased competition for a roster spot at receiver. Jordan appears stronger than in past seasons, but he'll need to produce in exhibition games to earn a roster spot if Seattle remains reasonably healthy at the position.
  • Receiver Deion Branch and defensive lineman Cory Redding returned to practice after rehabbing injuries. Branch said he has no pain in his surgically repaired knee.
  • Seneca Wallace still throws a better deep ball than anyone on the team. He found Mike Hass for a long touchdown up the left sideline against Marquis Floyd. Wallace also found Deon Butler for a long gain despite tight coverage from Josh Wilson.
  • Logan Payne is practicing at full speed and without a knee brace. The receiver suffered a serious knee injury early last season.
  • Who is the backup tight end again? Carlson looks terrific, but I'm not sure the Seahawks can run their passing game as intended if something happens to him.
  • Lawrence Jackson, Darryl Tapp and Baraka Atkins have impressed coaches this offseason. Mora said he has seen "flashes" from each player and it's time for them to step up their games. I mentioned Jackson and Tapp when asking the question. Mora answered quickly and added Atkins' name to his answer.
  • Kevin Hobbs makes aggressive plays on the ball. He broke up a high pass to Houshmandzadeh early in practice, leaving the veteran receiver with obvious discomfort in his left hand. Houshmandzadeh kept practicing. Later, Hobbs picked off a pass from Wallace over the middle. Wallace took responsibility for the turnover.
  • Hasselbeck explained one big difference in practices since Mora replaced Mike Holmgren. The change to a defensive coach has led to much more emphasis on playing hard to the whistle and trying to force turnovers. Holmgren put more emphasis on the offense playing with precision and never letting the football hit the ground.
The Seahawks are back on the field Thursday and Friday. Their first training camp practice is expected to be held Aug. 1, although the team has not announced a schedule.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch outlines possible training camp sites for the Rams, who will not return to Concordia University this summer. Also, Steve Spagnuolo has become the first coach in St. Louis Rams history to shut out reporters from watching full minicamp practices. Every coach has his style, but the only championship coach in St. Louis Rams history -- Dick Vermeil -- was also the most accommodating. I once saw Vermeil seek out a reporter in a media workroom at an NFL owners' meeting, just to make sure a beat reporter had gotten the access he needed. 

Also from Thomas: Orlando Pace would be reunited with former Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith if he took a job with the Bears.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com reports from the first day of the Cardinals' 2009 offseason conditioning program. It's a chance for new teammates to meet one another and see which ones are willing to work the hardest. New cornerback Bryant McFadden: "It develops team chemistry and team unity. It's a big part of being successful, being around in the offseason and getting to know your teammates."

Peter King of SI.com suggests Anquan Boldin's agent might be able to pressure the Cardinals into a trade through "guerrilla" tactics. King: "If the Cards think it's going to be tense with Boldin, with more problems at training camp like last year, they're going to have to think seriously of auctioning Boldin and spending the money on Karlos Dansby long-term." On the other hand, signing Dansby to a long-term deal would actually create cap room that could be used to re-sign Boldin.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat clarifies an earlier report by saying the 49ers have yet to meet with draft prospect Michael Oher. He also expects Michael Crabtree and B.J. Raji to visit the 49ers.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider watched 2007 Steelers-Chargers and Steelers-49ers tape to see how a healthy Marvel Smith handles himself. Quite ably, it turns out. As Lynch saw things, Smith often handled Shawne Merriman.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Smith grew up a Raiders fan. According to Smith, his fan allegiances vanished once he made it to the NFL.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the Cowboys listed Aug. 29 as the date for the 49ers-Cowboys game at the Cowboys' new stadium.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation sees modest upside and very little downside in the 49ers' offseason moves to date.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune provides a positional roster breakdown for the Seahawks. At receiver, he thinks Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor could have an edge over Logan Payne and Ben Obomanu. Of the four, Obomanu enjoyed the strongest training camp last season. He spent the season on injured reserve.

Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts wonders how serious the Seahawks might be about Ken Lucas after the Chicago Sun-Times suggested Seattle might have interest. Seattle is not going to pursue Lucas with a lucrative offer, but I do think the Seahawks would sign him to a modest deal if Lucas were willing to compete for playing time. 

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times explains the player grading scale Seattle uses for draft prospects. O'Neil: "The Seahawks use a grading scale that ranges from 1 up through a perfect 10. However, the highest grade [general manager Tim] Ruskell's teams have ever applied is an eight, which he affixed to Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders and Troy Aikman. A rating of a 5.9 translates to a solid starter. A grade of 6 or higher is what the Seahawks equate to an impact player."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' high draft choices on defense. We're going to stick with this theme across the division today. I've prepared a look at the last 10 defensive players each team has drafted in the first three rounds.

Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with former 49ers player Ben Lynch, who is leading efforts to better understand and avoid concussions.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Steve Breaston refused to run onto the field for introductions in honor of the fallen teammate he replaced, Anquan Boldin. Also, the Cardinals hold sole possession of first place in the division later than they have since the 1988 team opened with a 4-2 record.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explores connections between the Cardinals' coaching staff and the Cowboys, who visit University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes Rams-related questions from readers. He thinks Dante Hall is "on a very short leash."

Also from Thomas: The Rams cut Eddie Kennison, then re-signed him almost immediately.

More from Thomas: Rams defensive end Leonard Little has high hopes now that he's healthy.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune describes Jordan Kent, recently signed from the practice squad, as the Seahawks' best deep threat at receiver.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at what remains of the Seattle passing game. It's not a pretty picture.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seattle defense faces a long list of talented running backs.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Deion Branch participated in the 11-on-11 portion of practice with the Seahawks Wednesday. The team now expects to hold out Branch and Bobby Engram for the next two games. So go ahead and disregard the previously established "hope" that Branch would be back for the opener.

Also from O'Neil: Jordan Kent is back on Seattle's practice squad, but the Colts claimed running back Justin Forsett off waivers. Forsett was impressive in the exhibition season, but so was Kent, albeit not the same degree.

And this as well: audio from Mike Holmgren about possibly bringing back Koren Robinson. Holmgren said he would be "fine" with bringing back Robinson. We all know team president Tim Ruskell makes the call, and Ruskell was the one who released Robinson before Seattle made its Super Bowl run in 2005. Holmgren might not have released Robinson at that time.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Forsett's departure made for emotional goodbyes at Seahawks practice. The other running backs loved him.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says nose tackles Gabe Watson and Alan Branch were back at practice after rehabbing injuries. The Cardinals need them to shore up their run defense.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers quarterback Alex Smith will wait before deciding whether to undergo additional surgery on his season-ending shoulder injury.

Barrows also thinks 49ers coach Mike Nolan wasn't being candid by saying he didn't know specifics of Smith's injury.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers checks in with Holmgren on a conference call. Holmgren wouldn't rule out taking a job anywhere in the NFL after stepping away from the game for the 2009 season. Not that the 49ers could use a Super Bowl-winning figure with ties to the organization and credibility to spare.

Also from Maiocco: Some of Alex Smith's teammates had no idea the quarterback had been placed on injured reserve.

Bill Coats of Around the Horns says the Rams' home game against the Giants has sold enough tickets to lift a local blackout. We know what that means in St. Louis.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle explores Ashley Lelie's move from the 49ers to the Raiders. Barry Sims and Kwame Harris have also played for both franchises. "In the right situation and with the right coaching, Lelie could be a decent vertical option for a team," she writes. Lelie has speed, which can't be coached. The Raiders have long coveted speed at the position. Drew Carter's injury left them depleted at receiver.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Quinton Culberson is beating the odds once again. Culberson surprised when he earned a roster spot as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He finished last season strong and won a starting job this summer when injuries limited veteran Chris Draft. The Rams need Culberson to produce after Brandon Chillar left in free agency.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com perked up when former Cardinals linebacker Calvin Pace, now with the Jets, ragged on the talent in Arizona. Pace: "This is a far better situation than Arizona because we have talent here. I'm not saying they don't have talent there, but when I first got out there it was ridiculous. Here you got guys that are Pro Bowlers, guys that have played in the Super Bowl, guys that have been in the league nine, 10 years. You've got some good rookies. It's a good mix of people."

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' unknown receivers relish being unknown receivers. Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne call themselves "The Mystery Group" -- not the most creative nickname, but an accurate one. Romero: "Kent led the team in receptions in exhibition play with 11. Payne overcame a rib injury from the public scrimmage a month ago and made eight catches while showing his worth on special teams. Taylor had just four catches in exhibition play, but has regular-season game experience and will likely start with veteran Nate Burleson."

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks running back Julius Jones, who has found a laid-back atmosphere in Seattle after stints at Dallas and Notre Dame.

Also from Hughes: Olindo Mare's strategy for winning the kicking job in Seattle.

DraftRoundPickTeamRookie WRStartsRec.Yds. TD
2003254ARIAnquan Boldin161011,3778
200413ARILarry Fitzgerald 16587808
2003117ARIBryant Johnson8354381
20025149ARIJason McAddley8253621
20057226ARILeRon McCoy4181911
20034124SFBrandon Lloyd 1142122
20034106STLShaun McDonald110620
20075142ARISteve Breaston08920
2004131SFRashaun Woods071601
20076197SEACourtney Taylor05380
2003374STLKevin Curtis14130
2007376SFJason Hill0160
20055174SFRasheed Marshall01-10
20076210SEAJordan Kent0000
20077249STLDerek Stanley0000
2006384SFBrandon Williams0000
20065144STLMarques Hagans0000
20067218ARITodd Watkins0000
20067249SEABen Obomanu0000
20056192STLDante Ridgeway0000
20057223SFMarcus Maxwell0000
2004377SFDerrick Hamilton0000
20045157SEAD.J. Hackett0000
20036197SFArnaz Battle0000
20037224SEATaco Wallace0000
2002395STLEric Crouch0000

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

I put together this chart as a companion to the earlier entry on rookie receivers. This shows rookie stats for every receiver NFC West teams have drafted since 2002. Eighteen of the 26 started zero games as rookies. Only four reached 20 receptions as rookies. Arizona has been the only team to draft productive rookie receivers with any consistency.

A quick look at the NFC West's rookie receivers and their likely prospects for 2008:
  • Arizona: Injury problems prevented third-round choice Early Doucet from seriously challenging for the No. 3 job vacated by Bryant Johnson. Doucet should play in a reserve role. Undrafted free agent Lance Long appears headed for the practice squad if he doesn't earn one of the final roster spots. Long has impressed in camp.
  • San Francisco: Sixth-round choice Josh Morgan has been the surprise of camp. He could figure into the rotation if the 49ers continue to suffer from injuries. Undrafted free agent Cam Colvin appears headed for the practice squad.
  • St. Louis: Second-round choice Donnie Avery and fourth-rounder Keenan Burton should play more than most rookies at the position. Avery adds value as a return specialist. Undrafted free agent Matt Caddell has one catch for 5 yards during preseason.
  • Seattle: Undrafted free agent Michael Bumpus has played well enough to land on the practice squad if, as expected, he misses the cut.
The receiver position in general has confounded NFL teams. John Clayton explored some of the reasons in a previous column. As Clayton discovered, NFL teams have developed only six Pro Bowl receivers since 2001.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Scott Linehan is feeling good upon hearing news of Steven Jackson's return from a holdout. Also: The Rams say 93 percent of season-ticket holders renewed despite a 3-13 record last season.

Jeff Gordon of STLtoday.com says Jackson was in a lose-lose situation before "coming to his senses" and reporting to "honor his old contract" while the team works toward a new one. I don't think Jackson would be reporting without a new deal being imminent. The Rams' offense was not going to scare anyone without Jackson.

Matt Maiocco of the Instant 49ers says the team will start undrafted rookie free agent Brian de la Puente at left guard against the Bears on Thursday. Maiocco also has a story on veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes. Spikes was interested in learning about the 49ers' offense -- not just its defense -- before signing with the team.

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic calls out Anquan Boldin over the receiver's stance in contract negotiations. Young notes, interestingly, that Larry Fitzgerald went out of his way to praise coach Ken Whisenhunt for helping him get a new contract. Fitzgerald and Whisenhunt even went to an NBA game together. Might Boldin feel as though Whisenhunt hasn't done as much to help him get a new deal?

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are looking to draw better. Let me rephrase that. The Cardinals have actually drawn well at their new stadium. It's the draw play they're looking to improve heading into the season. Also, former Seahawks receiver Jerheme Urban seems to have solidified his hold on a roster spot, perhaps as the third or fourth receiver. Rookie Early Doucet makes his exhibition-season debut this week, but he has much ground to make up. The Cardinals drafted Doucet to replace Bryant Johnson, who signed with the 49ers and, like Doucet, also missed much of camp with a hamstring injury.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer answers readers' questions, including one about the situation at receiver. He likes Logan Payne's chances, adding: "There's starting split end Nate Burleson and Courtney Taylor, the starting flanker until either Branch or Engram can return. There's also Ben Obomanu, who isn't taking advantage of the extra chances he's getting. There's Jordan Kent, an impressive athlete who has made some nice catches but still drops too many balls -- including one in an against-air drill Wednesday morning. Payne is a tough (he's practicing and playing with a crack rib), sure-handed, can contribute on special teams and also help fill the void in the slot until [Bobby] Engram comes back."

Michael Steffes of Seahawks Addicts lays out a plan for how the Seahawks can best maximize roster spots based on injuries to Deion Branch and Bobby Engram. He favors recommitting to the run early in the season, which would justify carrying an extra running back (Justin Forsett). This would also help Matt Hasselbeck stay healthy while making good use of the one area Seattle spent the most resources upgrading this offseason: the rushing attack.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune was there when Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier blasted three consecutive punts off the same beam suspended 110 feet from the floor of Seattle's new indoor facility.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a few notes gleaned from watching a replay of the Packers-49ers game. At the end, he puts Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's record-shattering 100-meter dash time into football terms. Bolt finished in 9.69 seconds even though he seemed to be coasting near the end. That works out to 3.54 seconds for every 40 yards. It doesn't mean Bolt could run a 40-yard dash that quickly, but I like the breakdown anyway.

Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read digs up some telling quotes from Alex Smith's former college coach at Utah, Urban Meyer. The comments Meyer made in 2006 suggest Smith would benefit much more from getting all the first-team reps in practice. Meyer's comments are toward the bottom of the item. I found them interesting.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers takes a player-by-player look at how each member of the roster fared against the Packers on Saturday night. Josh Morgan, Ray McDonald and Jonas Jennings were among those faring well.

Maiocco follows up with an item summarizing Mike Nolan's day-after-game news briefing. Did we say news? Sorry. Still not an announcement on the starting quarterback.

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic plays point-counterpoint in the debate over whether Matt Leinart or Kurt Warner should start for the Cardinals.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic breaks down the Cardinals on offense, defense and special teams. Arizona has a long list of pass rushers, but not enough depth at offensive tackle. And if the Cardinals need a clutch field goal, Neil Rackers might make it.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers a few postgame notes on the Cardinals. In his view, Steve Breaston has only tightened his grip on the No. 3 receiving spot. Early Doucet's hamstring injury has taken him out of the running for now.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune provides a scouting report from the Seahawks' latest exhibition game. Seattle must keep running back Justin Forsett, he says. Boling also thinks Jordan Kent has evolved into an NFL receiver, not just a prospect. He charts Josh Wilson's recent improvement at cornerback. He likes what he sees from fill-in center Steve Vallos. And he excluded fill-in snapper Tim Lindsey from blame for two blocked punts.

Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider lists less-established players who performed well against the Bears: Forsett, Wilson, Kevin Hobbs, Owen Schmitt, Kent, Brandon Coutu and Lawrence Jackson. Wilson, in particular, seems to be faring better as camp progresses. 

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer compares Forsett to the late soul singer James Brown. Forsett had 261 all-purpose yards in Seattle's exhibition victory over the Bears on Saturday night.

Farnsworth also sizes up Charlie Frye's up-and-down performance at quarterback for Seattle. Frye tossed three interceptions, but his night wasn't a total loss. The reps are sure to benefit the Seahawks' third-string quarterback.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the bad news for Rams fans: Mark Setterstrom and Brandon Gorin are out for the season.

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