NFL Nation: nfc west injury situations that matter

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 15, 2010
Arizona: The Cardinals are depleted at receiver with Early Doucet potentially having a sports hernia. The Week 1 success Arizona enjoyed with four-receiver personnel minus Doucet was misleading because the Rams were without their third and fourth corners. Future opponents won't have such limitations. The Cardinals could use more from rookie receiver Andre Roberts, who suffered a shoulder injury during preseason and was inactive for the opener. The options on offense are already limited to a degree by the injury that sent fullback Nehemiah Broughton onto injured reserve. I'm expecting the Cardinals to use two tight ends more frequently. Beanie Wells has had success running with one back and two tight ends, but a bruised knee could keep Wells from playing again this week. I wouldn't bank on him getting extensive carries unless he practices fully Thursday and Friday.

St. Louis: The Rams lack sufficient depth to weather injuries and they're hurting pretty badly for having played only one game. Chris Chamberlain's absence with a toe injury hurts the special-teams units. Expect quarterback Sam Bradford to continue feeding the ball to Mark Clayton now that two other potential targets -- tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and receiver Laurent Robinson -- are hurting. Hoomanawanui will not play. Robinson missed practice Wednesday after suffering an ankle injury Sunday. The Rams are hurting in the secondary, threatening their ability to defend three or more wide receivers at a time. That could affect their blitzing. It's not good for the Rams to see running back Steven Jackson on the injury report this early in the season. Jackson's knee swelled after the game Sunday and he did not practice Wednesday, though MRI results were normal. He's played through injuries in the past, but he was sometimes less effective.

San Francisco: Dominique Zeigler becomes the 49ers' third receiver now that Ted Ginn Jr. will miss time with a sprained knee. San Francisco hasn't been much of a three-receiver team outside two-minute situations and third down (by two-minute situations, I'm also talking about times when the 49ers are in catchup mode). Ginn had fared well enough during camp to make me think the 49ers might use those three-receiving groupings on early downs and early in games, but that did not happen against the Seahawks and it's probably not going to suddenly start happening now. Zeigler has shown good hands. He's known for running precise routes. He has taken advantage of opportunities recently. Right guard Chilo Rachal (stinger) and outside linebacker Manny Lawson (ribs) were hurting Sunday. The 49ers still have pretty good depth on their offensive line, but losing Lawson or having him at diminished capacity would hurt the defense.

Seattle: Another week, another new starting offensive lineman. Losing right guard Max Unger to a season-ending toe injury shouldn't hurt the Seahawks too much because his replacement, veteran Stacy Andrews, has experience. Andrews is best suited at right tackle and that's where he might end up eventually, but the team needs him at guard for now and that is where Andrews will play Sunday. It's not like the running game is suddenly going to lose momentum. Seattle hasn't gotten much push to this point. Perhaps Andrews can help in that area. Tyler Polumbus remains the starting left tackle while Russell Okung recovers from an ankle injury. Okung has been running on a treadmill without putting all his weight on the ankle, but the joint isn't strong enough for him to play.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 8, 2010
Arizona: Inside linebacker Gerald Hayes enters the season on the physically unable to perform list. The Cardinals will need rookie Daryl Washington and St. Louis Rams castoff Paris Lenon to hold up against Steven Jackson. On offense, the Cardinals might need their depth at running back. A knee injury kept Beanie Wells from practicing Wednesday. Wells plans to play. Missed practice time can be important for a young running back, especially when that running back is trying to win the coaches' trust across situations. Whether Wells practices Thursday could be important. The Cardinals can count on Tim Hightower in protection. Hightower is going to start whether or not Wells is available. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald participated fully in practice Wednesday, as promised, after using most of the exhibition season to recover from a knee injury. The Cardinals gave linebacker Joey Porter the day off, but he's expected to start.

St. Louis: A knee injury has sidelined veteran safety James Butler, who was limited in practice Wednesday, but the Rams have pretty good depth at the position as long as Craig Dahl and Oshiomogho Atogwe remain available. Jackson's surgically repaired back hasn't been an issue through training camp. He's added upper-body muscle and weighed 244 pounds. The Rams look healthy on paper, but eight of their current players finished last season on injured reserve (receiver Laurent Robinson, Atogwe, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, snapper Chris Massey, tight end Daniel Fells, guard Jacob Bell, defensive tackle Gary Gibson and defensive end C.J. Ah You). How well will those players hold up in their first regular-season games back?

San Francisco: Ahmad Brooks, arguably the 49ers' best situation pass-rush threat, is still recovering from a lacerated kidney. He will not play against Seattle. Receiver Michael Crabtree (neck) missed every exhibition game, but rust wasn't a problem for him when reporting deep into the season a year ago. This game also marks tight end Vernon Davis' return to live action following the knee injury he suffered during the first exhibition game. Continuity was a point of emphasis on offense for the 49ers this offseason, but quarterback Alex Smith hasn't enjoyed much game action with Frank Gore, Crabtree and Davis this summer. Throw in a hostile environment with two rookie offensive linemen and the 49ers face some challenges.

Seattle: The Seahawks will play their first regular-season game under Pete Carroll without the first player Carroll drafted. Russell Okung would have been the starting left tackle. Expect the Seahawks to help Okung's replacement in pass protection. They might need to help both tackles at times. That could affect tight end John Carlson's opportunities as a receiver. Seattle was probably going to use two tight ends more frequently anyway. That makes more sense with Okung sidelined. Chester Pitts could start at left tackle, but he's better suited to guard and hasn't played since suffering a knee injury in Week 2 last season. Pitts was limited in practice Wednesday. Tyler Polumbus could start at left tackle Sunday.