NFL Nation: Steve Vallos
He has not practiced since.
The Broncos issued their first injury report of the week Wednesday and the only slight surprise was cornerback Champ Bailey's appearance with a shoulder injury. Bailey was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and expected to play Sunday against the Chargers, but he has been getting treatment this week for a left shoulder injury.
Safety Duke Ihenacho and center Steve Vallos, who suffered concussions in the final weeks of the regular season, were cleared to fully take part in Wednesday’s practice and both should be available for Sunday’s game.
Defensive end Shaun Phillips, who was sent home Monday because he had arrived to work feeling ill and with a fever, practiced fully on Wednesday as well.
With that in mind, some things to keep an eye on:
One of the most difficult spots for the Broncos to make cuts ahead of Saturday's deadline to pare the roster to 53 players -- the bulk of which will come Friday -- will be in the secondary.
The Broncos kept nine defensive backs on the opening-weekend roster in 2011 and 10 last season -- five cornerbacks and five safeties. The issue this year is that Denver has two young, homegrown cornerback prospects in Omar Bolden and rookie Kayvon Webster, who have shown themselves to be worthy of the roster and would raise the overall athleticism at the position.
With Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho, Chris Harris, David Bruton and Tony Carter having worked in the top seven slots all through the preseason, that doesn’t leave room for Webster, Bolden, Mike Adams and Quentin Jammer to all make it.
If the Broncos stick with nine players in the secondary, they are essentially choosing between youth and experience for those final two spots. If they keep an extra cornerback, however, it may be an indication they feel they need to open the season with some insurance for Bailey’s foot injury.
Unless Denver takes the uncharacteristic step and keeps 11 defensive backs, Bolden and Webster both figure to play plenty against the Cardinals to state their cases.
- Brock Osweiler is slated to get the start at quarterback behind what is largely a backup line. That has been a tough combination thus far in the preseason for Osweiler, who has been sacked eight times in the three previous games behind the reserves. It makes it difficult for the Broncos to work out of the three-wide look as much as they’d like given that they haven’t consistently protected the quarterback in it -- even when the starters have been in the game -- this preseason. If things get dicey they might have to go big again, as they did last weekend against the Rams. After opening the game with three wide receivers and allowing too many rushers to get too close to Peyton Manning, the Broncos went to a two-tight-end look. They lined up in a two-tight-end look on 29 of the next 35 plays after the opening three-and-out, including all 12 in a drive that ended with a blocked field goal. The Broncos might feel like they need to give Osweiler a little more beef up front.
- The last few rosters spots will be decided on special teams, and the Broncos could use a good showing there. In the past two games they have surrendered a 107-yard kickoff return for a score, a 33-yard punt return, an 81-yard punt return and seen a field goal blocked. Many of the Broncos' youngest players will have a chance to help their causes against Arizona, with Denver special-teams coach Jeff Rodgers looking for those who display speed and smarts.
- The Broncos have lost five fumbles in three preseason games -- two by Osweiler, two by Ronnie Hillman and one by Julius Thomas. Hillman is not expected to play Thursday, but things need to be cleaned up. Lance Ball and Jacob Hester figure to get some work as the Broncos face some tough decisions at running back as well. Hester has not had a carry in the preseason and is the only back that has lined up at fullback thus far.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Eric BakkeCornerback Kayvon Webster, a third-round pick, gets a last chance tonight to show he deserves a roster spot.
- The Broncos have to sort things out in the offensive line, where they kept nine players in both 2011 and last season. After the starting five -- Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin -- the Broncos need a swing tackle, likely Chris Clark, and a swing guard/center or two, with Ryan Lilja, Steve Vallos and Philip Blake in the mix. Blake, a fourth-round pick in 2012, has been headed the wrong way on the depth chart -- the Broncos didn’t even work him much at center in the preseason, a position he played in college and one they originally drafted him for. Blake is decidedly on the bubble -- a long way down for a player some believed was pushing to start before a thumb injury ended his rookie season. He has regressed since that point, so he's either not getting the message about the changes in the offense or is not reacting well to the coaching he's getting. Rookie tackle Vinston Painter has shown the kind of athleticism that deserves a roster spot, but the Broncos may be in a position where they have to hope he makes it through waivers so they can sign him to their practice squad. Lilja is a tough call, too. Denver certainly likes him in the offense, but he had microfracture surgery on his knee just a few months ago and has missed significant amount of practice time of late because of the knee.
- Rookie quarterback Zac Dysert will likely get his most significant work of the preseason. Dysert has shown some quality scrambling skills in practice, so he could have an entertaining down or two if he gets loose. He projects to the practice squad, but the Broncos would like to see some better accuracy from the pocket, especially in the shorter and intermediate routes.
- Linebacker Lerentee McCray and wide receiver Lamaar Thomas are the undrafted rookies with the best chance to make the final 53 -- especially McCray. If the Broncos don’t keep McCray, there are at least two other teams that would consider signing him. He’s a big-bodied linebacker who, while not always showing good instincts, has the ability to disrupt an offense and closes to the ball with speed and intent.
And it’s fairly clear where first-year offensive coordinator Adam Gase comes down on the issue.
“What happened the other day? Unacceptable,’’ Gase said. “ ... We’re not going to put the ball on the ground or else they’re not going to carry it.’’
It has also been on the Broncos front burner all through the preseason, especially in drills with the running backs given it was such a glaring a problem when they opened 3-3 in 2012. Over those first six games the Broncos lost nine of the 14 fumbles they lost all season, including three lost fumbles in a loss to New England and two lost fumbles in a win over San Diego, a game the Broncos trailed 24-0 at halftime.
“(Fumbles) have been a huge point of emphasis for us this offseason,’’ Gase said. “Because the fumbles we had early in the season last year -- that was one of the main factors why we started off as slowly as we did.’’
The turnovers clouded the fact the Broncos put up 209 yards worth of offense on the Seahawks defensive starters in the first half Saturday and they ran 40 plays from scrimmage in the half to do it, yet by halftime the game had fully blossomed into a blowout with Seattle holding a 33-7 lead at the end of the second quarter.
“But the statistics always show, with every turnover your chances of winning go down big," Broncos coach John Fox said. “And three turnovers? That’s about a 10 percent chance of winning."
- Left tackle Ryan Clady continues to increase his practice workload and is still on track to start the regular-season opener. Clady, who had offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, worked some with the starting offense in Wednesday’s practice. Clady went in for a selection of plays in team drills before giving way to Chris Clark for the remainder of those practice periods. Clark has filled in at left tackle all through the offseason workouts, training camp and in the first two preseason games. “(Clady) was doing as couple reps a period here and there,’’ Gase said. “But just to know that he’s out there ... it’s really good to see him out there.’’
- With Elvis Dumervil having left in free agency and Von Miller suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, Shaun Phillips will be the team’s most accomplished pass-rusher in uniform against the Ravens. Phillips, who had 9.5 sacks for the 7-9 Chargers last season and has 69.5 career sacks, will have to find the groove quickly if the Broncos are going to generate a consistent pass rush. Phillips will line up at defensive end plenty in rush situation much like Miller does for the team. “We’ve got guys who can get after it a little bit,’’ Phillips said. “Unfortunately we lose our best pass-rusher for a couple of games, but it is what it is. You have hiccups in life ... we’ll be OK.’’ Malik Jackson, a Broncos fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, will also have plenty of opportunities in pass rush situations in the season’s early going. Jackson, who plays inside at defensive tackle in some of the specialty packages, took some snaps Wednesday at right defensive end because Robert Ayers was held out with a foot injury.
- Guard/center John Moffitt, who was acquired by the Broncos Tuesday in a trade with Seattle, was on the practice field Wednesday. But after the Broncos went through some early individual work, Moffitt went inside the team’s complex to go through the playbook with center J.D. Walton. Walton is currently on the team’s physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he recovers from offseason ankle surgery.
- With Ryan Lilja still out with a knee issue (he offseason knee and toe surgeries) Steve Vallos has steadily moved up the depth chart center. Vallos was signed by the Broncos just after Dan Koppen suffered a season-ending knee injury and before Lilja was then signed as well. Wednesday Vallos, a sixth-year veteran, was snapping with the second-team offense.
- There was a moment in Wednesday’s practice that showed why Wesley Woodyard has risen so far with the Broncos since making the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2008. Woodyard, a special teams captain for most of his career and now a starting linebacker, was playing on field-goal defense, when just before the snap he noticed the kicking team had switched holders from the No. 1 holder -- punter Britton Colquitt -- to the backup holder tight end Jacob Tamme. Before the ball was snapped, Woodyard shouted “new holder,’’ which brought some kudos from Fox following the kick.
- Cornerback Champ Bailey is still wearing a walking boot on his injured left foot and using crutches to get around. The Broncos remain hopeful he can play at least some to open regular season, but it is still a question mark at this point.
- Linebacker Stewart Bradley has had the surgery on his left wrist and the Broncos will now monitor his recovery as they make their roster decisions over the next two weeks. Bradley’s injury and Miller’s suspension will certainly affect how the initial roster looks at the position and could give undrafted rookie Lerentee McCray. Miller will start the regular season on reserve/suspended and the Broncos would have to make a roster move when he returns in Week 7.
- Gase on the Broncos’ running backs responsibilities in pass protection: “Their job is to make sure 18 doesn’t get touched."
Namely the guy he snaps the ball to every day in practice.
Good thing Manning feels that way because since Koppen is already on injured reserve and Lilja is now dealing with a knee issue -- he had knee and toe surgery early in the offseason -- Ramirez has continued to be option No. 1 at the position. He has never started a regular-season game at center since being moved into the middle of the offensive line from guard during the Broncos’ offseason program, but he's fairly locked in at this point, having started the first two preseason games.
Ramirez figures to play into the third quarter Saturday night against the Rams. Broncos coach John Fox said Tuesday he plans to take all of the regulars, on both sides of the ball, into the third quarter.
“We like getting them used to coming out after halftime,’’ Fox said. “Halftime is an event in itself. So this will be the first time they have to come out and play after the halftime routine.’’
The Broncos did add another potential center Tuesday when they traded defensive tackle Sealver Siliga to the Seahawks in exchange for guard/center John Moffitt. Moffitt, a third-round pick by the Seahawks in 2011, has started games at both guard spots in Seattle.
He also started 15 games at center in his career at Wisconsin, 13 of those as a sophomore. Moffitt did miss time as a rookie in Seattle with a knee injury, but entered training camp in a battle to be the starter at one of the guard spots.
But like Lilja and Vallos, Moffitt now moves into the depth chart behind Ramirez in the middle of the offensive line. And Ramirez is still the guy snapping to Manning.
"I call him a baby Patrick Willis because I hadn't seen a linebacker move like that since Pat," said Robinson, who played with Willis, a perennial Pro Bowl selection, on the San Francisco 49ers.
Wagner, a rookie second-round draft choice, did not stand out to me during the Seahawks' exhibition opener Saturday night, but perhaps a certain fullback inflated my expectations beyond reason.
Dave Wyman of 710ESPN Seattle gave high marks for Wagner's performance. Wyman played the position in the NFL for nine seasons. He certainly knows what to look for in one. Wyman: "I'm always impressed when I see a rookie have poise and look like he's in control. It's almost like he's back in college. I don't know what's going through his mind, so maybe there were some things out there that kind of threw him off, but it certainly didn't look like it. Bobby Wagner looked like he fit right in with that defense. Really fast, he had a really nice tackle, took on some blocks really well, made some little mistakes that you see rookies do, but other than that, I thought he showed really well." Noted: This assessment should be very encouraging for Seahawks fans.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune runs through the Seahawks' roster by position. He has a hard time envisioning Tarvaris Jackson figuring into the team's plans.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com recaps the exhibition opener, raising a question: Why not start Russell Wilson against Denver in Seattle's next game?
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' approach to late-round draft choices -- going after players making position changes, in some cases -- has paid off under the team's current leadership, as the selection of J.R. Sweezy this year indicates. Noted: Former Seahawks president Tim Ruskell fared pretty well in seventh rounds especially. Doug Nienhuis, Ben Obomanu, Ryan Plackemeier, Steve Vallos, Justin Forsett, Courtney Greene and Cameron Morrah were among Seattle's seventh-rounders from 2005 through 2009. All played in the NFL. Obomanu, Vallos, Forsett, Greene and Morrah remain active.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals tight end Jeff King never missed a practice -- not even in junior high -- until sitting out with a quadriceps injury this offseason.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com saw a more spirited practice Monday as coach Ken Whisenhunt ramped up the intensity following two disappointing exhibition games. Also, the team is giving D'Anthony Batiste a shot at right tackle.
Also from Urban: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton thinks his players might be suffering from overconfidence.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Jeff Fisher found some positives in the team's 35-3 defeat to open the exhibition season. Also: "On the 63-yard screen pass for a touchdown to Donald Brown, television replays showed a Colts blocker clearly grabbing the jersey of Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis to keep him from tackling Brown near the line of scrimmage. It also showed Michael Brockers being held by another blocker a few yards down the line of scrimmage. After the game Sunday, Fisher pointed out the missed calls but didn't dwell on them. On Monday, he made it clear he wasn't piling on the replacement officials."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com lists Fisher's disappointments from the first game, and also this: "Fisher said his team was extremely vanilla while the Colts did quite a bit of scheming. That doesn’t mean there’s a right or wrong way to do but just different philosophies. Fisher said the Rams will steadily add more and more to the pregame schemes in each game though the final preseason contest will likely be fairly plain as well."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com saw good things from Mario Manningham in the 49ers' practice Monday.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee quotes 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the team's defensive effort against Minnesota in the exhibition opener. Fangio: "I just think we got a little full of ourselves."
Taylor Price of 49ers.com saw good things from quarterback Alex Smith in practice. Price: "Smith displayed excellent downfield accuracy while completing three deep sideline throws in the same midfield team period. First, Smith found a familiar target, locating tight end Vernon Davis 30 yards down the field on a deep wheel route against the coverage of linebacker Michael Wilhoite. On the very next play, Smith attacked the left sideline again, this time on a 30-yard deep throw to veteran wideout Randy Moss. Smith completed his third deep sideline pass of the period to running back Kendall Hunter."
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.
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.
New York Jets
- Quarterback Jake Delhomme
- Quarterback Brett Ratliff (third QB)
- Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell
- Wide receiver Demetrius Williams
- Tight end Alex Smith
- Center Steve Vallos
- Defensive lineman Bryan Sanford
- Defensive lineman Jayme Mitchell
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
SEATTLE -- Thoughts and observations at halftime of the Seahawks' exhibition game against the Broncos on Saturday night:
- Matt Hasselbeck survived his first hit. And a few more after that. Seattle's quarterback hadn't taken punishment since suffering back trouble last season. The Broncos hit him in the back more than once. Hasselbeck appeared to be OK and he finished the half with a 120.0 rating despite three sacks.
- Walter Jones is badly missed. The Broncos aren't the most dynamic pass rushing team around, but they're getting to Hasselbeck. Left tackle Sean Locklear, subbing for the injured Jones, has had significant problems so far. Kenny Peterson drove Locklear into Hasselbeck for one sack. Locklear has a penalty for a false start. He got away with holding on a screen pass. Elvis Dumervil also got pressure on Hasselbeck through Locklear.
- Deon Butler looks good. There has never been doubt about the rookie's status as one of the Seahawks' top four receivers this season. The team thinks the third-round choice from Penn State can provide a speed element that has been lacking on the outside. Butler showed that speed on the Seahawks' first drive, catching a 34-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck. Butler made another catch over the middle to convert on third down.
- Hasselbeck, 'Housh' warming up: Hasselbeck just missed connecting with T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the end zone on a long pass. He found Houshmandzadeh for a short touchdown pass right before halftime. Houshmandzadeh averaged only 8.2 yards per catch in the half, but his catches were important ones.
- Screen game revived. The Seahawks' long-lost screen game is showing signs of life. Hasselbeck found running back Justin Forsett for a 30-yard gain on a screen.
- Chris Spencer still is not durable. The Seahawks' center left the game after suffering an injury to his left quadriceps. No word yet on severity, but Spencer's health remains a big question mark. With Max Unger and Steve Vallos around, the Seahawks have other options at the position.
- Pass rush non-existent. Denver's Kyle Orton dropped back 23 times without taking a sack against the Seahawks' first-team defense. Patrick Kerney had no tackles and his name did not appear on the defensive stat sheet.
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
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams will show interest in free agents Leonard Weaver and Jason Brown. Both would upgrade the Rams. Brown would dramatically upgrade the situation at center. He also thinks the Rams like Eugene Monroe over Jason Smith among the offensive tackles in the draft. Thomas: "The Rams have so many serious needs on both sides of the ball, they could truly go in several directions with that first-round pick, really anywhere other than QB, RB, punter, kicker."
Niners scout Todd Brunner liked what Connecticut cornerback Darius Walker showed during the final day of the combine. He also liked what quarterback Pat White showed.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat thinks the 49ers might focus more on signing their own players to extensions as free agency approaches.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks the 49ers might take Andre Smith at No. 10 if the massive tackle were available in that spot.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic thinks the Cardinals' stalemate with Anquan Boldin could "come to a head" before the draft in April. Somers: "Still, his influence in the locker room and on the practice field is hard to overestimate. If this soap opera ends with Boldin leaving the show, no one is going to feel good about it."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team plans to stick with its basic defensive philosophy even after Clancy Pendergast's firing. That means a continuation of the hybrid looks.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind details which of the Cardinals' free agents should be re-signed. He thinks defensive end Antonio Smith will command something along the lines of a five-year, $27.5 million deal from the Cowboys, Broncos or Packers. That would probably push Calais Campbell into the lineup for the Cardinals.
Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer thinks the Seahawks should draft a left tackle in the fourth overall spot even if they can't find anyone as good as Walter Jones.
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts is soliciting questions for an interview with Seahawks center Steve Vallos.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says NFL rules would prevent the 49ers from removing the "interim" label during the season. The 49ers would hold exclusive negotiating writes for an unspecified period of time. I see no advantage in making a hasty decision.
Also from Maiocco: The 49ers signed rookie free agent Carl Stewart, a running back, to their practice squad after losing defensive lineman Attiyah Ellison to the Jaguars.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the short term prognosis for Frank Gore might not be good. The 49ers aren't sure if their running back will be able to play on a bad ankle.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Leroy Hill has a chance to play against the Rams, a departure from previous reports suggesting Hill wasn't recovering quickly. Also, Holmgren singled out Floyd Womack for having the best game of his career against the Patriots. Holmgren also thought Steve Vallos played well despite a late miscue. Finally, Maurice Morris will start at running back once again.
Also from Hughes: Patrick Kerney has again torn the labrum in his left shoulder. This is a huge setback for Kerney.
Dave Mahler of KJR Radio in Seattle interviews Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson, who says he's ahead of schedule in returning from knee surgery. Office warning: This is an audio file, which is why the link is way down here.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks have signed center Donovan Railoa to their practice squad after losing guard Pat Murray to the Broncos.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will be questionable against the Rams.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have signed linebacker Kelly Poppinga to their practice squad after losing linebacker Chris Harrington to the Bengals.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has the latest on Alan Branch. An infected cheek kept the 2007 second-round choice from buckling his chinstrap, preventing Branch from practicing.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune thinks the Cardinals would have been a Super Bowl contender had they drafted Adrian Peterson instead of Levi Brown.
Note: Nothing from the Rams so far.
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will place cornerback Tye Hill on injured reserve. Also, Todd Johnson will replace Corey Chavous at strong safety.
Also from Thomas: A chat transcript leading off with a question about Jim Haslett's job prospects. Thomas thinks the Rams will open the search if Haslett fails to win two of the final three games. Haslett could still be a candidate at that point.
Jeff Roman of ramsgab.com looks at potential candidates for the Rams' head coaching job.
VanRam of Turf Show Times is putting his money on Haslett to keep the job.
Joe Staley of the 49ers updates his blog with an item about his first NFL touchdown. Also, Staley has become a San Jose Sharks fan despite growing up in Michigan.
Also from Staley: A look back at the victory over the Jets, with an emphasis on the 49ers' strong third-down play.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com checks in with 49ers receiver Jason Hill, who is making strides in his second season from Washington State.
Emily Gersema of the Arizona Republic was there when Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald accompanied an 8-year-old to school as part of a contest promotion.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals general manager Rod Graves for a look at the team's offseason priorities. Graves remains optimistic about mending the team's relationship with receiver Anquan Boldin.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Early Doucet is the odd man out thanks in part to Steve Breaston's emergence as a productive receiver.
John Morgan of Field Gulls breaks down the Seahawks' offensive linemen, making the case that Steve Vallos isn't the answer at center. He also recognizes Brandon Mebane as one of the best things the Seahawks have going. He sees Sean Locklear as the future left tackle. An aside: Locklear's contract does include escalators in case he plays at least half the snaps at left tackle. The escalators reflect potential expectations for Locklear once Walter Jones retires.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks could be shut out from the Pro Bowl. Lofa Tatupu says he hasn't played well enough to make a fourth consecutive trip.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald sees draft positioning on the line when the Seahawks visit the Rams.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Holmgren as saying football isn't a sport where teams intentionally lose games to improve playoff positioning.
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Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is drawing on lessons he learned as a Steelers assistant coach. Whisenhunt: "I learned so much from the Rooneys and coach [Bill] Cowher, the biggest thing probably being that honesty and fairness are what players respect the most. I also learned you have to stay true to your plan. You have to get your players to believe that your plan can work. We're getting there."
Jarrett Bell of USA Today takes an in-depth look at Kurt Warner's MVP-caliber season. Rich Gannon is among those appreciating Warner's attention to detail on fundamentals. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley: "Play in and play out, situationally he's making better decisions, choosing when's the time to take a chance. That's hard, because he's aggressive. And you don't ever want to take that stinger away from him."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals want competence in the running game. They aren't as concerned about balance. This is a passing team.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals took a sneak peek at the Eagles well in advance, an effort to offset the short work week.
The Washington Times says Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the fifth consecutive year Grimm has reached that level. Grimm is a member of the NFL's all-decade team for the 1980s.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic reveals embarrassing details from Rams guard Richie Incognito's past, countering assurances that Incognito's behavior will change following a pep talk from coach Jim Haslett.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Cardinals defensive end Bert Berry sympathizes with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. The two are friends, and Berry knows what it's like to have his role reduced.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals aren't worried about their ground game as long as the team can move the ball.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams had a mid-round draft grade on linebacker Larry Grant, who the team signed from the 49ers' practice squad. The team also signed veteran center Cory Withrow after placing Nick Leckey on injured reserve.
Also from Thomas: Rams defensive end Leonard Little is playing with a torn hamstring.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Rams quarterback Marc Bulger must pass a neuropsych test before the team clears him to play in Week 13.
Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers great Roger Craig is a Hall of Fame semifinalist for the first time.
Also from Gay: The role of interim coach can be a thankless one.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Grant was the only 49ers draft choice from 2008 who didn't earn a spot on the 53-man roster. The team hasn't replaced Grant on the practice squad after the Rams signed the linebacker for insurance.
Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News criticizes 49ers coach Mike Singletary for suggesting the team's defeat at Dallas wasn't a lopsided one. The Cowboys held a 32-9 lead at one point.
John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News says Singletary once revealed details of a coach's halftime motivational tactics.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson as saying Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will suffer turnovers if a defense can fluster him. The Seahawks are facing Romo for the first time since the memorable playoff game between the teams after the 2006 season.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Julius Jones is fired up about facing his former team in Dallas on Thanksgiving. That's one reason the Seahawks named him a starter for the game, coach Mike Holmgren said.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks are rushing through their work week to get ready for Thursday.Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says second-year center Steve Vallos will start for the Seahawks against Dallas. A back injury will sideline Chris Spencer. The matchup is a tough one for Vallos, but the Seahawks will get a chance to see him in a regular-season game. They liked what Vallos showed during the exhibition season.