NFL Nation: Mike Gandy

Kevin KolbChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesSigning Kevin Kolb signals that the Cardinals are ready to bounce back after a transition season.

Kevin Kolb's arrival from Philadelphia gives the Arizona Cardinals renewed hope at quarterback and clear direction following Kurt Warner's retirement.

It provides a fresh start after a forgettable 2010 transition season for Arizona.

So much has changed for the Cardinals since their Super Bowl appearance following the 2008 season. Other rosters around the league have turned over since then, of course, but not every team was coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

Quite a few teams have sought change. For the Cardinals, it just happened.

Warner's departure, while easily the biggest change, was far from the only one. Between five and eight starters from that Super Bowl game project as starters in 2011, depending upon how many of the team's unrestricted free agents re-sign.

When Steve Breaston left the Cardinals for Kansas City this week, drawing attention to the cumulative effect of Arizona's roster upheaval, a Seahawks fan drew parallels between Seattle's post-Super Bowl decline and the Cardinals' plight last season.

"Don't misunderstand," Ricky Frey wrote on my Facebook wall, "I'm a Hawks fan, but it seems eerily familiar to watch this happen and know what happened to Holmgren/Mora. Writing on the wall?"

Not if Kolb has anything to say about it. Acquiring a relatively young, potentially ascending quarterback puts Arizona in position to avoid the decline Seattle experienced as a Matt Hasselbeck struggled with injuries while the roster around him withered away. The NFC West remains in transition overall, and the Cardinals know it.

"It’s obviously winnable, but it’s funny to think that everybody thinks you can just step in and win it," Kolb told reporters Friday. "You’re talking about NFL football teams here. I know last year 7-9 is what won it, but it doesn’t matter. ... The door is open, we know, and we’ll be ready to kick it in when it’s time, but it’s not going to be an easy task."

Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson and the recently re-signed Lyle Sendlein started for Arizona in the Super Bowl and remain starters in 2011. Another starter from that Super Bowl game, Gerald Hayes, was released this week. Three more are becoming unrestricted free agents: Deuce Lutui, Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson.

Six Arizona starters from that game are retired or did not play last season: Mike Gandy, Warner, Edgerrin James, Terrelle Smith, Chike Okeafor and Monty Beisel. Seven more play for other teams: Reggie Wells, Leonard Pope, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Smith, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and the recently traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Some were role players. Others were tougher to replace.

Breaston was a backup on that team, but he played extensively as the third receiver and finished the season with more than 1,000 yards.

Kolb's addition headlined a flurry of transactions the Cardinals announced Thursday and Friday.

Sendlein, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Michael Adams, tackle D'Anthony Batiste, center Ben Claxton, punter Ben Graham, fullback Reagan Maui'a and tight end Stephen Spach re-signed.

Five draft choices have signed. Guard Daryn Colledge, defensive end Nick Eason, tight end Jeff King, receiver Chansi Stuckey and linebacker Stewart Bradley have signed as free agents from other teams.

Re-signing Sendlein while adding Kolb, Colledge and Bradley suggests the 2011 team is still coming together, not necessarily falling apart.
DALLAS -- The Arizona Cardinals experienced more roster turnover than most from 2009 to 2010.

They felt it, too.

Arizona finished with a 5-11 record largely because quarterback Kurt Warner retired. The team hoped it had enough veteran strength throughout its roster to keep the Cardinals competitive. A favorable schedule and division in transition made it seem possible.

Looking back, the roster turnover played a leading role in the Cardinals' fall, coach Ken Whisenhunt said from the Super Bowl media center Friday.

"What you lose more than anything is that equity buildup that you have had for a couple years," Whisenhunt said.

Specifically, Whisenhunt said the Cardinals too often couldn't draw on shared experiences -- say, adjustment that worked against an opponent the previous season.

"Even though you have a Kerry Rhodes, you have Paris Lenon, you have guys you are comfortable with that are good players in the league, they don't know what you have gone through to get to that point," Whisenhunt said. "To have those guys step up and say, 'Listen, we are not practicing the right way, we are not making these plays like we should be,' you don't have that history with them. You can get away with that if it is one or two, but if you have five or six -- especially if they are good football players -- that is hard to overcome."

The Cardinals parted with a long list of players featuring Warner, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle, Bryant McFadden, Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Reggie Wells, Neil Rackers, Anthony Becht, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban, Matt Leinart, Ralph Brown, Monty Beisel and Dan Kreider.

"You can never go in and say, 'Gosh, woe is me because we lost those guys,' because you are counting on the other guys to step in and you always want to be positive," Whisenhunt said. "But you have to recognize it's a pretty big blow to lose [key] guys."

Whisenhunt called the situation a "perfect storm" with Warner retiring, key players hitting the market and the NFL heading toward an uncertain labor situation.

"There is no operating plan for what you do or how you do it," he said. "It doesn't really matter at this point. You just have to move forward."

Quite a few younger players gained more experience than anticipated. That could help Arizona build back some of that equity Whisenhunt said was missing. But so much comes back to the quarterback situation. An upgrade at that position would cover for imperfections elsewhere on the roster.

NFC West left tackles in Week 9 spotlight

November, 7, 2010
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The last time Chester Pitts started at left tackle in a game at Qwest Field, injuries and other considerations prompted his Houston Texans to use four combinations on their offensive line.

In the first quarter.

"You have to do what you have to do," Pitts said after the Texans' 42-10 defeat in Seattle five years ago. "They aren't going to cancel the game just because of an injury."

Those words ring true for Pitts' Seahawks against the New York Giants in Week 9.

Pitts becomes the Seahawks' eighth player to start at left tackle over the team's last 29 regular-season games, an unnecessary reminder of the value Walter Jones provided as a perennial Pro Bowl choice at the position. Pitts will be facing Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who leads the NFL with seven forced fumbles while ranking tied for second in sacks with eight.

Teams can help offensive tackles in protection multiple ways. Tight ends and running backs can help with blocking. Coordinators can call designed rollouts, moving the pocket away from potential trouble. Running the ball directly at elite pass-rushers can also help. But almost any offense at least occasionally asks its left tackle to hold up on his own.

How well NFC West left tackles handle the job Sunday stands as an important storyline.

Arizona's Levi Brown is the Cardinals' third starting left tackle in the team's last 11 regular-season games, succeeding Mike Gandy and Jeremy Bridges at the position. He faces Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen when the Cardinals visit the Minnesota Vikings for an early game Sunday. Allen's sack production has lagged this season. Bridges largely contained him when the teams played last season.

Brown has been stronger at run blocking than pass protection throughout his career.

That seemed to be the case against Tampa Bay in Week 8. I watched the game again Saturday night and made four notes on Brown. Two pass-protection breakdowns killed plays in the first half. A strong run block freed Beanie Wells for an 11-yard gain. Strong pass protection helped Derek Anderson complete a 25-yard pass to Early Doucet in the third quarter.

Allen, meanwhile, ranks tied for 119th in the league this season with one sack.

"I'm looking for him to have a bust-out game," Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said this week.

Rams dodge Alex Barron's 22nd holding call

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
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The St. Louis Rams sacrificed depth on their offensive line when parting with Alex Barron, who had started for them at tackle since 2005.

That sacrifice resembled addition by subtraction when Barron's holding penalty Sunday negated the Dallas Cowboys' winning touchdown pass as time expired. This was the third holding call of the game against Barron and the 22nd of Barron's career. The Rams traded Barron to the Cowboys for linebacker Bobby Carpenter, a player St. Louis released.

Barron had run his course in St. Louis, becoming known for penalties and inconsistent play. As the chart shows, Barron ranks third among NFL players in offensive holding penalties since entering the league as a first-round choice in 2005, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Rams' offensive linemen were not flagged for holding in Week 1.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
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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

Camp Confidential: Arizona Cardinals

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 15

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- You know what the 2010 Arizona Cardinals are not.

They're not the team with Pro Bowl-caliber talents Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle. They're not the team with established veterans Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Bertrand Berry and Mike Gandy. They're not the team that won the past two NFC West titles and posted a 4-2 postseason record.

They're not dead, either. Who are these new-look Cardinals? A trip to training camp at Northern Arizona University provided some clues.

This team will be easy to underestimate for those analyzing from afar. What I saw up close was a team with strong leadership -- both vocally and by example -- throughout its roster. The Cardinals are accountable to one another. I saw an organization with a track record for developing young talent (think Calais Campbell, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, to name three). I saw a head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, who loves a challenge and thinks the Cardinals will do just fine in one of their favorite roles -- underdogs.

This team has an edge to it. The Cardinals will compete and they can make another playoff appearance with a little help from their quarterback.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeLeinart
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Cardinals have confidence that Matt Leinart can succeed in this offense.
1. What's up with Matt Leinart? Let's take a listen to Whisenhunt: "You see it in his body language, you see how he handles himself in the huddle and then you also see it in the confidence when he takes a step and he throws the football, or even when he makes the checks in the run game. There is not the hesitation that there used to be." If you think that quote reflects renewed confidence in Leinart heading into the 2010 season, you'd be wrong. That's what Whisenhunt said about Leinart in training camp two years ago, before the Cardinals switched to Warner and won back-to-back division titles.

What's he saying now? Whisenhunt dismisses Leinart's shaky 2009 performance against Green Bay in Week 17 as a product of unusual circumstances (the Cardinals watered down their game plan with an eye toward playing the Packers in the wild-card round). He points to Leinart's performance against the Tennessee Titans last season -- 21 of 31 passing for 220 yards and an 88.1 rating -- as evidence the quarterback knows the offense well enough to succeed even without getting practice reps (Warner was scratched from the lineup shortly before kickoff). For that reason, Leinart will not get extra playing time during the upcoming preseason. Whisenhunt doesn't think it's necessary.

"I feel like there's a hurdle you have to cross as a young quarterback where no matter what situation you're thrown into, you have to perform," Whisenhunt said. "He is at a point with our offense where he is comfortable and he may not get the reps."

Leinart has four seasons in Whisenhunt's offense. He's playing for a new contract, backed by two productive running backs and one of the NFL's elite receivers in Larry Fitzgerald. Leinart will never be Warner, but he will not have to be. He'll be leading a re-made offense with increased emphasis on the running game. I'm not entirely sold. Leinart has much to prove.

"The last two years, I've learned really how to prepare mentally and studying and all that," Leinart said. "I finally get to take that to the field every single day and get the reps and make mistakes, but come back and learn from them. I worked extremely hard just to get to this point."

2. What does Joey Porter have left? The former Pro Bowl pass-rusher showed up for training camp in vastly better condition than he appeared during offseason minicamps. His speed and quickness stunned me during the Cardinals' afternoon practice Monday. Porter even kept pace with Fitzgerald on a special-teams coverage play 35 yards downfield. And he stayed home defending bootlegs.

The team's training camp practice jerseys do not feature players' names across the backs, and with so many new faces in camp, I double-checked the roster to make sure No. 55 was indeed the 33-year-old Porter. It was him.

The Cardinals knew they were getting a fiery personality and potential mentor for some of their younger players. The first few days of training camp have given them reason to think Porter might have more left physically than first anticipated. He had nine sacks for the Miami Dolphins last season and 17.5 the year before. Arizona will put him on the same side as Campbell, who had seven sacks at defensive end. There's potential for Porter to help this defense more than expected. Let's see if he can sustain the fast start.

[+] EnlargeWashington
AP Photo/Matt YorkRookie Daryl Washington may be called on early to contribute.
3. Are the Cardinals in trouble at inside linebacker? Veteran Gerald Hayes called out defensive teammates after a rough stretch of practice Tuesday. They were getting pushed around by the offense in the running game. There's reason to wonder if the Cardinals should expect more of the same, on a larger scale, when the regular-season schedule serves up Steven Jackson and Michael Turner in the first two weeks.

Hayes could return from back surgery by then. The Cardinals will find playing time for second-round choice Daryl Washington. They'll lean on veteran Paris Lenon. They'll move strong safety Adrian Wilson into the box for run support as needed.

It might not be enough.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Rashad Johnson. The second-year safety appears more physical and closer to contributing. His rookie season was a wash. Johnson might not be needed for extensive snaps, but they might not have to dread turning to him in a pinch.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Hayes' injury status. The Cardinals downplayed their key run defender's back situation during the early stages of the offseason. They hoped Hayes would overcome the back problems that slowed him last season. Hayes finally underwent surgery. He's a spectator and the Cardinals miss him.

OBSERVATION DECK
[+] EnlargeLarry Fitzgerald
AP Photo/Matt YorkWide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is one of several veteran leaders on the team.

  • Guard Deuce Lutui was arguably the Cardinals' best offensive lineman last season. He could have a hard time staying active for games in 2010. Alan Faneca's addition at left guard sent 2009 left guard Reggie Wells to the right side at Lutui's expense. If Lutui fails to win back the starting job -- contract issues kept him away from the team this offseason and he reported to the team overweight -- his inability to play another position on the line could make it tough for the Cardinals to make him one of the two active backups for games. Jeremy Bridges can play guard or tackle. Rex Hadnot can play center or guard. Even Wells could play tackle in a pinch.
  • This team has strong, outspoken leaders everywhere. Fitzgerald organizes offseason workouts with Cris Carter, Jerry Rice and various current NFL stars, setting a standard for receivers. Faneca provides the offensive line with a needed voice and identity. Wilson is the enforcer in the secondary and the most credible leader on the team. Porter adds veteran leadership and attitude at linebacker. Darnell Dockett holds the defensive line accountable.
  • The Cardinals do not fear the truth. They confront issues directly. Free agent Kerry Rhodes came to Arizona with a reputation as Mr. Hollywood. Even Rhodes acknowledged that former New York Jets teammate Kris Jenkins was likely targeting him with comments suggesting the team had added "real men" to replace the "women" they had lost. Rhodes didn't like it much when Dockett questioned his work ethic amid globe-trotting tweets from the vacationing safety. Whisenhunt's response? No big deal. "Besides," Whisenhunt said of Rhodes' reputation, "our guys have been on him hard enough about it that they're not going to cut him any slack."
  • Speaking of Rhodes, the Cardinals think he can be a good blitzer for them, particularly in combination with Wilson.
  • Fitzgerald's capacity for self-motivation borders on the ridiculous, but it works for him. "I'm getting older. The window of opportunity is closing. I was sitting around talking to Cris Carter this offseason and it seems like seven years has gone by so fast. The hourglass is turned over on me now. The sand is going down and my career is on the downward side now. I have to really pick it up and try to help this team get a playoff win and win a Super Bowl."
  • Faneca, 33, struggles in one-on-one pass-rush drills. The Jets released him even though his salary was guaranteed, making a strong statement as to what they thought he had left. The Cardinals couldn't pass up adding Faneca to their line. They can benefit from his leadership and experience. I just wonder whether he'll be one of the two best guards on the team this season, particularly once Lutui rounds into shape.
  • Beanie Wells benefited from his first full offseason in the NFL. Graduation rules at Ohio State prevented him from joining the team until mid-June last offseason. Wells then reported to training camp slightly late and immediately suffered an injury. He appears much better prepared for the upcoming season. Wells is still fine-tuning some aspects of his pass-protection skills. He catches the ball well, though, and his running will set him apart this season. The versatile Tim Hightower remains the starter early in camp and Wells will have to beat him out. I expect that to happen.
  • The Cardinals ran more four-receiver personnel groups than any team in the league last season. I noticed one four-wide play in five practices and that was with backups playing receiver. Teams tend to focus on base packages early in camp. That could partially explain the proliferation of two-receiver personnel groups. Still, the offense appears different from last season and that will carry over into the regular season.
  • Arizona emphasized continuity over the past two seasons, particularly on its offensive line. Only the Seattle Seahawks have fewer players returning from Week 17 last season, however. Center Lyle Sendlein is the only starting offensive lineman returning at the same position.

On the radar: Surprise injuries

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
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NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

A sore hip bothered Kurt Warner at Arizona Cardinals camp last summer. It wasn't a big deal.

[+] EnlargePatrick WIllis
Brett Davis/US PresswirePatrick Willis has already practiced after his offseason knee surgery and will seemingly be ready for training camp.
Two summers ago, the Seattle Seahawks downplayed Matt Hasselbeck's bad back because they didn't know the full extent of the problem. That one turned out to be more serious than expected.

Having the right feel for each injury situation can be tough. I'm sure a surprise injury or two will become a story after NFC West teams report for training camps in late July.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (knee), St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (back), Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee) and Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (pectoral) are among the high-profile NFC West players coming off surgery rehabs. Their situations will bear monitoring.

The following players ended last season on injured reserve (some are no longer with NFC West teams):

Arizona Cardinals

Matt Ware, Mike Gandy, Justin Green, Cody Brown

San Francisco 49ers

Tony Pashos, Ricky Schmitt, Thomas Clayton, Jeff Ulbrich, Walt Harris, Kentwan Balmer, Curtis Taylor

Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Roehl, Walter Jones, Kevin Houser, Brandon Frye, Tatupu, Mike Hass

St. Louis Rams

Marc Bulger, Adam Carriker, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Eric Bassey, C.J. Ah You, Brooks Foster, Gary Gibson, Jacob Bell, Daniel Fells, Chris Massey, Bradley Fletcher, Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton
Bad teams tend to change coaches and overhaul their rosters.

It should come as little surprise, then, to see the Seattle Seahawks retain a league-low 66.1 percent of their players from last season. It should likewise make sense to see the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings retain a league-high 94.4 percent over the same period.

But when the two-time defending NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals rank right behind Seattle and the Detroit Lions with a 70.2 percent retention rate, third-lowest in the league, we gain context for the magnitude of change in the desert. Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, Bryant McFadden, Mike Gandy, Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry combined to start 107 games for the Cardinals last season. All are gone.

Not that change is always bad, even for good teams.

The Indianapolis Colts (73.0 percent retained) and Philadelphia Eagles (74.6 percent) made quite a few changes this offseason. The Colts annually field one of the NFL's youngest teams while funneling massive amounts of cash toward their star players. The Eagles sought to get younger.

Rosters throughout the league will change significantly again as teams comply with 53-man limits in September.

The chart shows how many Week 17 starters, backups and players from injured reserve remain with their 2009 teams. The retention rate divides those totals by the sum of 53 plus all players who were on IR lists in Week 17. The starter totals can be somewhat misleading for teams that rested key players before the playoffs, but the retention rates apply equally. Every team had 53 players on its roster in Week 17.

In double-checking totals, I noticed that teams have parted with 107 of the 294 players listed on IR in Week 17. That works out to 63.6 percent retention for players who were on IR, compared to 82.1 percent retention for players who were on 53-man rosters. The total retention rate -- 79.4 percent -- reflects both sets of players.

The chart breaks down totals based on rosters I have updated through moves made Thursday. I also accounted for the Denver Broncos' reported release of quarterback Tom Brandstater, who was with the team in Week 17. I'm counting unsigned franchise players (Aubrayo Franklin) and unsigned restricted free agents as still being with their 2009 teams, based on the fact that their teams hold rights to them.

Update: I adjusted the San Diego Chargers' total and the Tampa Bay Bucs' total after accounting for trades involving Tim Dobbins and Byron Leftwich, respectively. San Diego dropped two spots. Tampa Bay dropped one spot. The overall retention rate fell slightly.

NFC West thoughts

San Francisco (.833): The 49ers like their team and they have been proactive in re-signing younger players. Continuity has been a top priority and that shows in the totals. The 49ers' retention rate fell because the team has not brought back five of the seven players it listed on IR in Week 17 (Thomas Clayton, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Ricky Schmitt and Jeff Ulbrich).

St. Louis (.773): It's a little surprising, on the surface, to see the rebuilding Rams rank second only to the 49ers in retention rate within the division. The Rams made massive overhauls last offseason, however, so there were fewer moves to make in recent months. Only the Lions and Baltimore Ravens brought back more players from IR, a total that could grow if Oshiomogho Atogwe re-signs. How well some of those players recover and hold up will be important for the Rams.

Arizona (.702): The turnover in Arizona has been documented thoroughly. Only Seattle has fewer players back from Week 17.

Seattle (.661): New coach plus new general manager plus a mandate for change leaves the Seahawks with only 39 players on their roster from Week 17 (counting those listed on IR). Every other team in the league has more. The league average is 49.4 players back.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 3, 2010
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Arizona Cardinals

Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.

Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, TE Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.

Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.

Franchise player: K Olindo Mare

What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.

Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.

Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin

What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.

Taking questions for Graves, Whisenhunt

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Cardinals general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt are scheduled to address reporters as part of the NFL combine media schedule Saturday.

Both signed contract extensions recently. Both will try to keep the Cardinals atop the NFC West despite several significant threats to the roster, including Kurt Warner's retirement and the potential loss of defensive starters Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle.

I'll have access to Graves and Whisenhunt during their news conference. If you have questions for them, please share. I'll put together an item Saturday based at least in part on their responses.

Among the challenges facing this team during the offseason:

  • Developing Matt Leinart as Warner's replacement
  • Finding a long-term successor for nose tackle Bryan Robinson
  • Developing Will Davis and Cody Brown into starting-caliber outside linebackers
  • Deciding how to handle Anquan Boldin as the receiver heads into the final year of his contract
  • Possibly replacing Rolle, who could hit the market soon without a reworked deal
  • Deciding for sure what to do at tackle if Mike Gandy departs as expected
  • Replacing Dansby if and when the linebacker leaves in free agency

Those are some of the main ones. I'm sure you'll think of others.

Cards at risk as free agency nears

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
12:35
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The NFL-provided list of projected unrestricted free agents included a column showing how many games each player started last season.

Getting the information into a spreadsheet allowed me to break down those figures by team, position and starts.

The chart shows projected UFAs with at least nine starts last season, by position.

The Cardinals are tied for the league lead with five: nose tackle Bryan Robinson, linebacker Chike Okeafor, linebacker Karlos Dansby, left tackle Mike Gandy and tight end Anthony Becht.

Take away 15-game starter Kurt Warner, who retired, and it's clear this offseason could be very disruptive for the Cardinals. The team could also lose free safety Antrel Rolle, whose contract includes a $4 million roster bonus and $8.1 million salary.

Another key role player, Bertrand Berry, is retiring.

The Rams had four players make the list, but all four are older players nearing the ends of their careers (Leonard Little, James Hall, Paris Lenon and Randy McMichael).

Free agency: NFC West

February, 16, 2010
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AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Arizona Cardinals

[+] EnlargeKarlos Dansby
Tony Medina/Icon SMIKarlos Dansby has led the Cardinals in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
Unrestricted free agents: LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, OLB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, WR Sean Morey, TE Anthony Becht, DE Bertrand Berry, LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, LB Monty Beisel.

Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.

Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.

Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.

NFC West Team Wrap-ups

January, 6, 2010
1/06/10
2:30
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NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South
Clayton: Video | AFC grades ... NFC More: Fantasy MVPs | FB Outsiders | Awards

A team-by-team analysis of the division. The arrow indicates which direction each team is trending.

Arizona Cardinals

Final Power Ranking: 8

Biggest surprise: Arizona posted a 6-2 road record, allowing the Cardinals to win the division comfortably even though they lost both games to the 49ers. Coach Ken Whisenhunt spent his first two seasons building a strong home-field advantage at University of Phoenix Stadium. It would have been shocking to think the Cardinals would finish the 2009 regular season with a better record on the road than at home.

Biggest disappointment: Getting three key players injured during a meaningless game against the Packers in Week 17 could threaten the Cardinals' postseason staying power. Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee), receiver Anquan Boldin (ankle) and defensive end Calais Campbell (thumb) could be at less than full strength. It's possible one or more could miss the wild-card game. That's disappointing for a team that made staying healthy such a priority.

Biggest need: The Cardinals need to shore up their situation at tackle as they move closer to life without Kurt Warner. Left tackle Mike Gandy is in the final year of his contract. He seemingly hasn't played well enough to command a lucrative extension. The team invested a high first-round pick in right tackle Levi Brown, with underwhelming results. Warner's ability to get rid of the ball quickly allows the Arizona passing game to function even without solid pass protection from the tackles. That arrangement will not last.

Team MVP: Warner makes the offense work. The team appeared lost when he wasn't in games this season. Backup Matt Leinart was shaky in the second half at St. Louis and during extended playing time against the Packers in Week 17. The team had to put Warner back in the game after building a big lead at Chicago. Leinart put together an impressive drive at Tennessee, but that was about it. Appreciating Warner's value became easier every time Leinart went into games.

Future watch: Significant decisions await the Cardinals this offseason. Franchise player Karlos Dansby can become a free agent. Free safety Antrel Rolle's salary is scheduled to swell, likely forcing a renegotiation. Receiver Anquan Boldin will be entering the final year of his deal. Is it time to trade him? Those are just a few of the issues facing Arizona in the coming months.


San Francisco 49ers

Final Power Ranking: 19

Biggest surprise: Old-school coach Mike Singletary and older-school offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye ditched the team's power offense for a shotgun passing attack that diminished Frank Gore's role. The team gradually found ways to reincorporate Gore, but the offense remained quite a bit different. That was understandable once Alex Smith took over at quarterback and Michael Crabtree joined the team, but it went against everything Singletary and Raye preached all offseason.

Biggest disappointment: Failing to beat the struggling Seahawks in Seattle, when the 49ers absolutely had to win, stood out as the most disappointing defeat, just ahead of the loss at Minnesota on Brett Favre's heave in the final seconds. More broadly, the offensive line wasn't as good as the team anticipated, preventing Raye from establishing consistency in the ground game. Both starting guards struggled for the first half of the season. The line seemed to play better late in the year, but by then a knee injury had sidelined left tackle Joe Staley. The line never really jelled to the degree San Francisco could have anticipated.

Biggest need: Ahmad Brooks' emergence might diminish the team's need for a pass-rusher, although that remains a subject for debate. If Brooks is the real deal, the 49ers' biggest need might be for another top-tier offensive lineman. Finding a right tackle to serve as a bookend with Staley would certainly help.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker Patrick Willis is a dominant player in his prime. He helped the 49ers field the best defense in the division. Willis met or exceeded career highs with four sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also had eight passes defensed. Willis scored a touchdown on an interception return for the second consecutive season.

Future watch: Smith's partial emergence at quarterback left the 49ers hopeful but ultimately unsure of his prospects. The team will have to take a wait-and-see approach with him. It's possible the 49ers will draft a quarterback or sign a veteran in free agency, but Smith will likely enter the 2010 season as the starter.


Seattle Seahawks

Final Power Ranking: 27

Biggest surprise: Third-string running back Justin Forsett emerged as a more capable runner than the Seahawks ever could have imagined. He was outstanding in pass protection and showed he could sometimes produce as an every-down back. Forsett probably isn't the answer as a starter, but he stepped up when called upon.

Biggest disappointment: Having general manager Tim Ruskell resign during the season stood out as a low point in a winter filled with them. Ruskell had been riding high after a seemingly productive draft. But with the team slumping and the pressure mounting, Ruskell forced the organization's hand by asking whether his contract would be renewed. The team would not commit to him. Ruskell's resignation left coach Jim Mora as the next biggest target for criticism. It was a bad situation all the way around.

Biggest need: Upgrading the offensive line has to stand as a top priority for the Seahawks. They were down to their fourth-string left tackle at one point, making success impossible for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck during a make-or-break game against Arizona in Week 6. Seattle needs to restore some toughness up front through the draft and possibly through free agency. The status quo simply isn't acceptable.

Team MVP: Hasselbeck was the clear choice even though he tossed nine interceptions over the final three games. The veteran quarterback's toughness and resolve stood out all season. He played through injuries. He symbolized the fight Seattle needed to show during one of its darkest seasons. The production often wasn't there, but that could be said for the whole team.

Future watch: The organization finds itself at a critical point four years after appearing in Super Bowl XL. Ownership must make the right choice in its search for a general manager. Its new leadership must make wise use of two first-round draft choices. Tough decisions must be made throughout the roster and on the coaching staff. The margin for error is gone.


St. Louis Rams

Final Power Ranking: 32

Biggest surprise: Unknown receiver Danny Amendola provided instant life to the Rams' return game while also making contributions as a wide receiver. The Rams signed Amendola from the Eagles' practice squad in September. Amendola averaged 11.6 yards on 31 punts returns, 3.1 yards better than the league average, with five returns of 20 yards or longer. He also averaged 24.5 yards per kickoff return. The Rams ranked eighth in punt return average and 11th in kickoff return average. Amendola had a lot to do with that.

Biggest disappointment: Injuries prevented several key young players from developing during a lost season. First-round draft choice Jason Smith had trouble shaking the effects of a concussion. He lost valuable experience and never got a chance to play left tackle for an extended period. Smith, receiver Keenan Burton, defensive tackle Adam Carriker, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, receiver Brooks Foster and receiver Laurent Robinson all needed to play more this season. Each wound up on injured reserve.

Biggest need: The Rams lack playmakers on both sides of the ball. They badly need more firepower in the passing game. Finding a quarterback probably stands as the most important priority. Marc Bulger's $8.5 million salary next season appears prohibitive. Receiver is another position of need.

Team MVP: Steven Jackson showed toughness and leadership while producing at a high level all season even though teams were loading up against him every week. The maturity Jackson showed even when frustrated made life easier for first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo. Had Jackson spoken out -- as he had done previously -- a tough season could have become tougher.

Future watch: The Rams have options in the draft because they hold the No. 1 overall choice. They'll have to decide whether they can afford to pass up a quarterback. The 2009 season was harder than the Rams ever expected. They have nowhere to go but up.

Final Word: NFC West

December, 25, 2009
12/25/09
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Nick Laham/Getty Images A poor game against the Lions will not help Alex Smith's cause as the 49ers quarterback of the future.
Closing the deal. The stakes are lower for the 49ers now that the playoffs are out, but the pressure to succeed only increases for their potential quarterback of the future. Playing poorly against the Lions would damage Alex Smith's stock more than his three-interception performance against a much tougher team, Philadelphia, when the 49ers still had something to gain last week. Coach Mike Singletary stood behind Smith following that game. Smith needs to reward him. Advice for Smith: Beware Lions safety Louis Delmas. He's a playmaker.

All bark, no bite? Aaron Rodgers' bizarre accusations against Darryl Tapp add at least some intrigue to the Seahawks-Packers game. The way Rodgers tells things, Tapp bit him during a 2008 game. Replays show Rodgers checking his upper arm as if it might be hurting. But Tapp appeared to be wearing a helmet and mouthguard at the time. The Seahawks haven't recorded a sack in their past two games. Tapp left no known bite marks on the Bucs in Week 15, despite finishing with two quarterback hits.

Seeking that 10th victory. The Cardinals haven't enjoyed a 10-win season since Don Coryell was head coach in 1976. They should have little trouble breaking through against the Rams at home, but there's a chance Arizona will have to work for it. The Cardinals needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Lions last week. The Rams nearly beat the Texans. A disinterested performance from the Cardinals isn't out of the question, particularly now that the NFC West title has been clinched.

Divisional futility. Both 2008 victories for the Rams came against teams from the NFC East. The Rams haven't won an NFC West game since posting a 13-9 victory over the 49ers in Week 11 of the 2007 season, a streak of 12 consecutive division games. They haven't beaten the Cardinals since Kurt Warner tossed three interceptions for Arizona in Week 3 of the 2006 season. I thought the Rams would win at least one division game this season. They are running out of chances.

Bridges in focus. Losing a starting left tackle to a season-ending injury in December generally creates cause for concern. The Cardinals placed Mike Gandy on injured reserve this week without much worry. Backup Jeremy Bridges played well in relief against Minnesota a few weeks ago, but the Cardinals had some issues with protection at Detroit. They need Bridges to get comfortable and play well over the final two regular-season games. Warner's health could depend on it.

Cardinals lose left tackle Gandy

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
1:48
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Mike Gandy's short-term and long-term future with the Cardinals appears murky after the starting left tackle underwent surgery for a sports hernia.

Gandy
The team expects Gandy to miss three to six weeks.

Jeremy Bridges will remain the starter while Gandy recovers. Gandy is in the final year of his contract with the Cardinals. His salary is $5 million.

Gandy was struggling through the injury when he was able to play. Bridges played very well against the Vikings in Week 13.

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