NFL Nation: rizona Cardinals

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat describes 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan as a competitor. Officials once ejected him from a college game after two penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. And when a friend beat him in tennis, O'Sullivan secretly took lessons to make sure he prevailed in the rematch.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com picks the Seahawks to hold off Arizona in the division, followed by the Rams and 49ers. Judge on the 49ers: "There's something wrong here, and Mike Nolan has one year to fix it. Frankly, I can't see it happening, partly because Seattle is better and mostly because Nolan hasn't done anything in three years. In fact, the 49ers last season looked worse than in 2006, and that's not a good sign. It's now or never."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks expect Matt Hasselbeck to start the opener after the quarterback returned to practice without further back spasms. Also, veteran kicker Olindo Mare gets the call in Week 1, but Brandon Coutu remains on the roster for now.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Hasselbeck consulted a chiropractor in dealing with his back issues. Also, the team hasn't settled on a punt returner for Week 1.

Also from Farnsworth: Mike Holmgren built his reputation as a pass-oriented coach, but the running game was the focus this offseason. Perhaps that is a good thing given all the injuries at receiver.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks think they'll be "fine" without suspended defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, even though it's unsettling to lose a starter.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Ricky Manning has lots to learn before helping the Rams' secondary.  What went wrong for the cornerback in Chicago? "I just had a bad season. It was a combination of me messing up. It was a combination of being put in uncomfortable situations, or playing uncomfortable techniques."

Cam Inman of the Contra Costa Times says the 49ers must improve their pass rush this season. That means the team must fully utilize free-agent addition Justin Smith.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News asked the 49ers about Ahmad Brooks' off-field issues. Brooks has failed drug tests. In April, a woman accused Brooks of punching her in the face. Coach Mike Nolan: "We have the structure and the manpower and the people in place that can allow us, I guess you can say if that's the right choice of words, to take on someone that we feel with some assistance that we can do the right thing with."

Also from Brown: Since 2004, the 49ers have won 28.1 percent of their games, better than only the Raiders. And no team has scored fewer points than San Francisco during that time. This being September, there's reason for optimism.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle made follow-up calls after the 49ers signed Brooks: "His agent, Greg Williams, couldn't be reached for comment, and the attorney for the woman did not return a phone call."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com wonders if the Cardinals will name disgruntled receiver Anquan Boldin as a team captain again. Coach Ken Whisenhunt says he sees no dropoff in leadership from Boldin. Also, Kurt Warner disputes the notion that he's injury prone.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals open their season on the road for the 19th time in the last 21 seasons. Hot weather at Sun Devil Stadium used to be an issue early in the season, but the Cardinals have an indoor stadium now.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says Matt Leinart is running out of chances in Arizona, and the quarterback must be ready when called upon. Leinart is right when he describes himself as a very young quarterback. I wouldn't give up on a first-round pick after 16 starts and a couple of poor exhibition games.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

'll be checking in with draft choices around the division as camps progress. All but one of the Cardinals' draft choices made an impact during Arizona's exhibition opener against the Saints on Thursday night. Here's a pick-by-pick look at Arizona's 2008 class:

  • (1) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee St.: "DRC" is serving as the third corner. His hit on Saints tight end Mark Campbell provided a signature moment for the Cardinals in their opener. Rod Hood remains ahead of Rodgers-Cromartie on the depth chart, but that could change this season. Rodgers-Cromartie appears well on his way to earning the job.
  • (2) Calais Campbell, DE, Miami: Campbell made two tackles at the line of scrimmage and another 15 yards downfield during the opener. He also recorded a quarterback hit. Campbell is backing up defensive end Darnell Dockett. The Cardinals expect him to become a regular part of their rotation up front.
  • (3) Early Doucet, WR, LSU: A hamstring injury has prevented Doucet from mounting a serious challenge to Steve Breaston for the No. 3 receiving spot. Doucet has impressed in camp.
  • (4) Kenny Iwebema, DE, Iowa: Iwebema sacked Saints backup quarterback Mark Brunell in the opener. His strength has impressed in camp. He is backing up defensive end Antonio Smith. The Cardinals expect him to become a regular part of the rotation.
  • (5) Tim Hightower, RB, Richmond: Hightower carried five times for 23 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. The Cardinals released veteran running back Marcel Shipp in part because they expect Hightower to contribute as a rookie. Hightower has shown he can run hard between the tackles. He has a chance to create a 1-2 punch with starter Edgerrin James.
  • (6) Chris Harrington, LB, Texas A&M: Harrington had three tackles, including one for a 2-yard loss, against the Saints.
  • (7) Brandon Keith, G, Northern Iowa: A tackle in college, Keith has played well enough at guard to earn a roster spot. The Cardinals lack depth on the offensive line, but Keith has shown signs he might be able to provide insurance.
We're still early enough in camp for promising rookies to "hit the wall" and fade into oblivion. When camp opened, Doucet was considered among those most likely to make an immediate impact. Two weeks in, the Cardinals are talking about Keith, their seventh-round choice.

SPONSORED HEADLINES