NFL Nation: Mansfield Wrotto
The NFC North now outranks the NFC West in players entering the NFL as draft choices under Holmgren: Rob Sims and Lawrence Jackson in Detroit, Mansfield Wrotto and Chris Spencer in Chicago, and now Carlson in Minnesota.
Seattle drafted all of those players when Tim Ruskell was making the Seahawks' personnel decisions as the general manager. Carlson was the one Holmgren was most responsible for drafting. He pushed hard for Carlson because he badly wanted a versatile tight end for his offense.
Carlson set a franchise single-season receiving record with 55 catches as a rookie in 2008. Injuries, quarterback issues, roster atrophy and coaching turnover affected Carlson and the offense in subsequent seasons.
The Seahawks' current leadership was not opposed to bringing back Carlson, but the team's decision to pay $6.8 million per season to Zach Miller last offseason redefined where Carlson stood on the roster. There was less room for Carlson to become the player Holmgren envisioned when Seattle made Carlson a second-round draft choice.
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.
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.
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.
Nix revealed that the Bills will host Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at One Bills Drive. No other quarterbacks have been scheduled, but Nix did say they've accounted for only 25 of their 30 allowable on-campus meetings.
"We might bring in a couple more," Nix said.
Nix admitted quarterback wasn't Buffalo's greatest need because they have reliable veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even so, that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a monster payoff to picking up a future star.
"Now our greatest need is not quarterback. It's definitely not quarterback. Invariably, if there's going to be a franchise guy there and one we deem as a guy that can go eight or 10 years, be the face of the organization and take us to the playoffs and win every year, you can't pass him up."
Gailey said he will be completely frank about Buffalo's quarterback situation when he speaks with Newton on Monday night and Tuesday. The visit will begin with a physical and then include meetings with the Bills' staff.
"I lay everything on the table with guys when they walk in here," Gailey said. "I try to get them to understand exactly who we are, what we're about, where we're going and how we plan to get there. And if we end up working together, this is how they might fit into the scheme and into the system."
The Bills also met with Newton at the NFL scouting combine in late February and had dinner with him the night before his March 8 pro day at Auburn.
Other notes from Monday night's event:
- Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon said new season tickets and renews were selling better than at this time last year.
- Brandon reaffirmed the team's commitment to playing games in Toronto, stating their season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since the Bills started playing games there in 2008. The Bills are making $78 million off the series, which runs through 2012. Brandon suggested the Bills would be interested in extending after it expires.
- Brandon conceded if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been hammered out by late June or July, then training camp at St. John Fisher College "could be in peril" because of the "operational and logistical" elements that must be addressed ahead of time.
- Nix on talking about the draft at this time of year: "I want to make one thing clear. There's an unwritten rule that it's not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft stuff. Everybody does it. It's accepted. So everything you hear or read or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it's the truth."
- Gailey on how he views himself: "I'm not very flamboyant. That's just not me. I'm not a comedian. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a philosopher. I just coach football. I want to coach your football team and get us to where we want to be, and that's be champions again and have things rocking and rolling out at Ralph Wilson Stadium."
- Nix was pleased with in-season additions of offensive linemen Erik Pears, Mansfield Wrotto, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart. Nix said Pears, a two-year starter for the Denver Broncos, could be the Bills' next right tackle, but added, "We also need another tackle. We need a tackle through the draft or through free agency -- if and when that happens."
- Gailey reiterated the Bills will play a hybrid defense rather than a straight 3-4 or a 4-3. Nix noted his scouting department is focused on 3-4 players, but will not dismiss a player simply because he's not a perfect fit.
- Nix will attend North Carolina's pro day Thursday to see defensive end Robert Quinn and Clemson's pro day Friday to check out defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who reportedly has failed physicals because he hasn't recovered enough from knee surgery.
- Nix on Bowers' workout: "It's big for him. I'm not sure that you'd write him off if he's not completely healthy Friday. But it's time for him to show he either is healthy or that he needs more work and more time."
Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: biggest team needs.
Where would you like to start?
Offense? How about left tackle, right tackle, tight end and -- if there's a great one still on the draft board -- quarterback?
Defense? How about the line, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback and safety?
Special teams? OK, the Bills are fine there.
But kicker, punter and running back are about the only positions the Bills can draft third overall and not help themselves.
The most pressing needs, however, are tackle and outside linebacker. The Bills haven't drafted an offensive tackle earlier than the fifth round since taking Mike Williams in the first round in 2002, and their line play shows that. They have tried to coach up late draft picks (Demetrius Bell, Ed Wang) and rummaged through free agency (Cornell Green, Mansfield Wrotto, Jonathan Scott, Jamon Meredith) rather than acquire that prized blindside protector.
The Bills were so desperate at outside linebacker they plucked the injury-ravaged Shawne Merriman off waivers last year and then, even though he got hurt again minutes into his first workout, gave him a contract extension.
They can't bank on Merriman to anchor their pass rush. Yet even if he can contribute, they'll need more help. The Bills recorded 27 sacks last year. Only three teams had fewer.
The Dolphins probably will need a running back. They could stand to upgrade at quarterback if they can.
But they definitely need interior offensive linemen.
They recently re-signed left guard Richie Incognito to an extension, but they still have problems at center and right guard. Although they have two solid book-end tackles in Pro perennial Bowl left tackle Jake Long and veteran Vernon Carey, they've been a mess in between for the past three years.
The Dolphins need to upgrade their power running game. Despite having a capable and healthy backfield tandem in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams last season, the Dolphins ranked 21st in rushing yards, 29th in yards per carry and 29th in rushing touchdowns.
A stud running back certainly can help, and the Dolphins might have little choice but to take one with their 15th selection. Brown's and Williams' contracts are up. That's why so many draft analysts project the Dolphins will take Alabama running back Mark Ingram and then address the O-line later.
New England Patriots
Funny how things work for the Patriots when it comes to draft picks. The reigning AFC East champs might have the fewest needs but have the most draft picks at their disposal.
The Patriots went 14-2 last season and own two draft choices in each of the first three rounds. So the Patriots have the flexibility to go any number of directions.
The most obvious need is outside linebacker. The Patriots' entire outside linebacking corps mustered 13.5 sacks last year. Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake generated 14 sacks all by himself.
Offensive line is another concern because there are so many question marks. Right guard Stephen Neal retired. Left guard Logan Mankins is upset. Left tackle Matt Light isn't signed. Nick Kaczur is coming off serious back surgery. The timing is right to bring in some fresh O-line blood.
The Patriots had one of the NFL's most entertaining backfields last year, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushing for over 1,000 yards and Danny Woodhead making the Jets look foolish for cutting him. But each running back has his limitations, and the Patriots could be on the lookout for an all-purpose back adept at catching a pass and converting a third-and-short.
New York Jets
The Jets are in a weird spot. They finished the season as a team with talent at virtually every position.
But they have a crowded group of free agents and couldn't bring themselves to sign any (aside from giving inside linebacker David Harris the franchise tag) until a new collective bargaining agreement was in place. The Jets want to know what the new salary cap is before moving forward.
That leaves a lot of loose ends for the Jets heading into the draft. Will they need a receiver to replace Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards? A cornerback to replace Antonio Cromartie?
The needs we can bank on are outside linebacker and safety.
The Jets must generate a better pass rush and still need to recover from the Vernon Gholston pick that set them back. Outside linebacker Bryan Thomas is competent, but no star. He led the Jets with just six sacks. Calvin Pace had 5.5 sacks. The recently released Jason Taylor added five.
Safety is an area of emphasis because they could have stood to upgrade even before Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo became free agents. Jim Leonhard is a Rex Ryan favorite but recovering from a broken shin.
The NFL and NFL Players Association cannot agree upon whether the franchise tag even exists this offseason, but if it does, the tag will effectively take Mankins off the market.
It's unclear whether any NFC West team would make a strong push for Mankins given the expected price tag, but the thought had appeal for Seattle Seahawks fans still stinging over Steve Hutchinson's departure as a transition player following the 2005 season.
Floyd Womack, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Mike Wahle, Mansfield Wrotto, Steve Vallos, Mike Gibson, Ben Hamilton, Chester Pitts and Tyler Polumbus have started at left guard for Seattle since Hutchinson got away. Trading away Sims last offseason proved unfortunate once Alex Gibbs retired as line coach and Seattle stopped favoring smaller guards.
The chart, based on information from rosters I maintain for every team in the league, shows how many players from 2009 Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists now reside on the same teams' 53-man rosters (but not IR). The numbers measure turnover and attrition -- by design, injuries, etc.
The bottom line: Seattle has the freshest 53-man roster in the league. The team has subtracted Red Bryant (IR), Deion Branch (trade), Julius Jones (released), Leroy Hill (IR), Mansfield Wrotto (released) and Max Unger (IR) since the 2010 regular season began.
- Running back Rashad Jennings
- Guard Kevin Haslam
- Tight end Zach Potter
- Defensive end Aaron Morgan
- Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley
- Defensive tackle Landon Cohen
- Linebacker Justin Durant
- Safety Sean Considine
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.
They think the 49ers face at least as many questions as the Arizona Cardinals, from Alex Smith's abilities as a starting quarterback to the effects of playing two rookies on the offensive line.
Our conversation pointed to something I wrestle with all the time: perception vs. reality.
Sometimes those perceptions get out of hand. It could be happening in the NFC West right now. A few things to consider along those lines heading into the regular season:
- The Seattle Seahawks are taking flak for dumping T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Josh Wilson and others (Rob Sims and Nate Burleson come to mind) during an ongoing roster overhaul. It's fair to ask whether all the changes were necessary. It's fair to question whether Seattle might fall off some in the immediate term while less experienced players take over. But why pretend as though the Seahawks needed only some fine-tuning? They needed an overhaul and they're getting one. Sometimes a team gets a little worse before it gets better. But if you honestly assess each roster change, you might find more upgrades than downgrades. How much will this really team miss Ken Lucas, Cory Redding, Justin Griffith, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh, Owen Schmitt, Mansfield Wrotto, Lawrence Jackson, John Owens, Darryl Tapp, Deon Grant, Lance Laury and the others? It's tough to argue that those players were part of the solution.
- The Cardinals are worse off without Kurt Warner. That much is a given. But should recent instability at quarterback significantly lower those already reduced expectations for the upcoming season? It's probably better to rule out Matt Leinart now than to do so four or five games into the regular season. Quarterback was already a concern. It's still a concern. But let's not pretend the 49ers are dramatically better off with Smith under center. I'm favoring the 49ers in the division because they're the safest bet following an offseason without much roster turnover. They appear slightly better than the team that went 8-8 in 2009. But it's no shock if the Cardinals win this division. I'd call it only a mild surprise.
- The Rams are easy to write off with a rookie quarterback under center and only six wins over the last three seasons. It's not the upset of the century, however, if they find a way to prevail in Week 1. They trailed the Cardinals 21-3 at halftime in the Edward Jones Dome last season. A concussion prevented Warner from returning. Final score: 21-13. If you're the Rams and you know Warner won't be there Sunday, and you know Marc Bulger posted a 57.8 rating as your quarterback in that 21-13 defeat, you're thinking you've got a chance this time around, right? Right.
- About those 49ers. Let's not get carried away with the 12-4 predictions, OK? One step at a time. The 49ers were 5-1 in the division last season. Are they really going to match that record or improve upon it and then add three more victories outside the NFC West? It's possible with AFC West teams on the schedule, but the 49ers have only seven true home games this season. Two of those are against New Orleans and Philadelphia. They play road games against Atlanta, Green Bay and San Diego. Find a dozen sure victories on that schedule and I'm guessing you're a 49ers fan.
To be continued in the comments section, and beyond.
The team said it has released offensive linemen Mansfield Wrotto and Steve Vallos, and safety Kevin Ellison. The team said it has claimed off waivers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith from the Green Bay Packers and defensive back Nate Ness from the Miami Dolphins. The team also announced offensive lineman Stacy Andrews' acquisition from Philadelphia.
The team made no mention of previously reported moves involving Julius Jones, Jordan Babineaux, Kevin Vickerson or Junior Siavii.
The roster appears in flux to such a degree that meaningful analysis should be postponed. My plan is to step outside for the next hour or so, mow the lawn, then come back inside and see if the pieces have come together any more clearly. The grass is getting high, anyway -- unless Pete Carroll and John Schneider cut that, too.
- Russell Okung's ankle injury has not hurt Seattle a great deal in this game. Mansfield Wrotto has seemed to fare well, particularly early. But losing Okung for any length of time severely depletes the depth at tackle, particularly with backup right tackle Ray Willis already needing knee surgery. Getting Chester Pitts healthy enough to factor at tackle becomes more important pending news on Okung.
- The Seahawks' offense helps out the tackles in pass protection. Example: Hasselbeck fooled the Packers twice on one play when he ran bootleg off a play-fake. The Packers bit on the fake and they were in even worse position to deal with the boot. Hasselbeck rolled left and threw across his body to Mike Williams for a first down. A team doesn't need an elite tackle to run that type of play effectively.
- Hasselbeck turned in the type of performance Seattle wanted to see from him, completing 11 of 15 passes for 127 yards, one touchdown and a 120.7 rating. He played the full first half.
- Chris Clemons could become a double-digit sack threat for Seattle with a little pass-rush help from the other side. I did see Aaron Curry bring down Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on one play, but the ball was already gone and Rodgers completed the pass. Clemons again showed he can push back tackles. He drove Chad Clifton into Rodgers' face on one play, but Rodgers got rid of the ball in time to avoid a sack. Also noted: Clemons gave good effort on the first-team punt-coverage unit. Late-half update: Packers rookie Bryan Bulaga was winning his matchup with Clemons. Clemons also gave up a reception in coverage.
- Leon Washington excelled when working with the first-team offense early in the second quarter. Washington got the Packers' attention right away with violent pass-protection block on safety Nick Collins. Washington jacked up Collins, lifting him high into the air. Collins acknowledged Washington's effort after the play. Washington then opened up the pass to Williams with his play-fake to the inside. The drive ended with Washington quickly covering the remaining 11 yards to the end zone on an inside handoff. The touchdown meant the Seahawks matched the Packers, 14-14, when the first-team offenses were on the field (the Packers replaced Rodgers on their next drive, but Seattle left Hasselbeck and its starters in the game, with diminishing returns).
- Rookie free safety Earl Thomas showed his range and leaping ability in breaking up a deep pass near the sideline. He also badly missed an open-field tackle and couldn't break up a spectacular deep connection between Rodgers and Greg Jennings early in the game. Jennings laid out for the ball with Thomas right behind him. This was more a great play by the Packers than a bad one by Thomas (and it wasn't even clear whether Thomas was primarily responsible for coverage on the play).
- Mike Gibson worked some at left guard with the starting offense. Gibson might be better than veteran Ben Hamilton, but line coach Alex Gibbs likes having Hamilton around because Hamilton knows the system. Again, getting Pitts healthy would be a significant plus for Seattle.
- Left cornerback Marcus Trufant looks better than I've seen him in a couple years, at least. He's active and playing with swagger.
- T.J. Houshmandzadeh played extensively and justified the commitment. Hasselbeck seems to trust him more than he did a year ago. That was evident when Hasselbeck threw to Houshmandzadeh without hesitation, including when tight throws were required.
- Julius Jones was the odd man out in the halfback rotation. Justin Forsett and Washington played extensively in the first half.
The Packers hold a 17-14 lead at halftime even though Seattle played key starters longer from what I saw.
Return specialist Louis Rankin gives the Seahawks a fourth active running back. Another special-teams player, receiver Ben Obomanu, is also active after an injury sidelined him last week.
The Seahawks might also be evolving to more of a one-back, three-receiver offense without a fullback. That was the case against Detroit in Week 9.
Safety Jamar Adams, guard Mike Gibson, guard Mansfield Wrotto, defensive tackle Red Bryant, tight end Cameron Morrah and defensive end Derek Walker are also inactive for Seattle.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks' ability to bring back Ray Willis on a two-year deal significantly upgrades their depth at two and possibly three positions on the offensive line.
Willis appeared likely to find a starting job elsewhere when free agency opened. The Redskins liked him. They considered adding him as their starting right tackle. The money apparently didn't line up with Willis' expectations, which was a break for Seattle.
Willis has starting experience at right guard and right tackle. His presence buys security for the Seahawks on multiple fronts.
If left tackle Walter Jones experiences additional knee trouble,
Seattle could move right tackle Sean Locklear to the left side, with Willis stepping in at right tackle. If Rob Sims or the currently unsigned Floyd Womack isn't the answer at right guard, Willis can help at that position as well.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Tim Hightower is trying to remain patient and disciplined instead of becoming frustrated when big plays fail to develop.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the playing surface at University of Phoenix Stadium graded out highest in a survey of NFL players.
Also from Urban: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt blames overall special-teams problems, not Steve Breaston, for the receiver's diminished numbers as a punt returner.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals hope an extended layoff makes them fresher against the Rams.
Chrissy Mauch of 49ers.com quotes Mike Martz as saying former Cardinals linebacker Calvin Pace fits the Jets' defense exceptionally well.
Also from Mauck: Niners cornerback Donald Strickland welcomes a chance to block Jets kicker Jay Feely in the open field.
Dr. Kristine Setting Clark of 49ers.com revisits the career of Freddie Solomon as the team prepares to honor the former 49ers receiver.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers could be without cornerback Nate Clements against the Jets. Clements underwent thumb surgery during the week.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the criteria by which the 49ers might decide to retain Mike Singletary as head coach. I touched on this in a mailbag item scheduled for later in the day.
Also from Maiocco: The 49ers have until 90 minutes before kickoff Sunday to announce whether Clements will be available against the Jets.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Strickland would likely start at cornerback, with Tarell Brown in the nickel role, if Clements does not play.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wonders what Mike Holmgren could have done to deserve this type of sendoff. Matt Hasselbeck is doubtful and Walter Jones is questionable for Sunday.
Also from Farnsworth: Newly signed backup center Steve McKinney got a crash course at Seahawks practice.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Mansfield Wrotto is fired up about making his first NFL start Sunday, even though the Seahawks would prefer to have their regular starters available.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Donnie Jones' credentials for the Pro Bowl. Jones leads the NFL in gross average. He leads the NFC in net average.
Also from Coats: Jim Haslett wasn't happy about having to leave for Arizona a day early, but changing Scott Linehan's itinerary would have been cost-prohibitive.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat looks at the relationship between Haslett and running back Steven Jackson.
Also from Korte: Jones punts with his left foot despite being right-handed. Haslett vouched for Jones' Pro Bowl credentials.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks listed rookie running back Justin Forsett among their inactive players today, ruling him out as a potential return specialist against the Bills. The move was expected because Seattle is carrying six running backs, a high number.
The other inactive players for Seattle today: rookie kicker Brandon Coutu, offensive lineman Mansfield Wrotto, offensive lineman Sean Locklear, receiver Deion Branch, receiver Bobby Engram and defensive end Baraka Atkins.
None of these was a surprise. Jason Babin stays active as one of the defensive linemen, an indication Atkins might be the odd man out when the team welcomes back Rocky Bernard from suspension. Babin, a former first-round choice in Houston, got some work on special teams during the preseason. He also showed good pass-rush ability.