NFL Nation: Tyler Schmitt

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFL rookies rarely change the course of a season for their new teams.

The Dolphins' Jake Long and the Titans' Chris Johnson were the only 2008 draft choices named to the Pro Bowl last season.

With teams scrambling to sign their 2009 selections, I'll revisit the NFC West's 2008 class heading into its second season.

  Rodgers-Cromartie

Best choice

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Cardinals. Arizona found an impact player at a premium position. Rodgers-Cromartie, chosen 16th overall, started 11 games in the regular season and four more in the playoffs. Picked off six passes during a nine-game stretch beginning in Week 16.

Best immediate contributor

John Carlson, TE, Seahawks. Carlson was the Seahawks' top tight end from the beginning, setting a franchise record for receptions by a tight end (55). The position he plays isn't a premium one, explaining why Rodgers-Cromartie emerged as the best selection, albeit narrowly. Carlson also has star potential.

  Morgan

Best value

Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers. Cardinals fifth-rounder Tim Hightower had better production as a rookie, scoring 10 touchdowns, but Morgan's career might be on a higher trajectory after Arizona benched Hightower and used a 2009 first-round choice on running back Beanie Wells. Morgan looks like a potential long-term starter for the 49ers. On that basis, I'll tentatively give him the edge over Hightower. The Cardinals and 49ers both hope to better establish their ground games. That could ultimately favor Hightower, although it's tough to envision him starting for long with Wells on the roster.

Most to prove

Kentwan Balmer, DE, 49ers. Using a first-round choice on a 3-4 defensive end was hardly a flashy move. The position doesn't lend itself to obvious production. Balmer didn't seriously threaten for a starting job as a rookie. He has expressed determination to make the jump this season. The Seahawks' Lawrence Jackson was the other top candidate for this designation. While Jackson also has much to prove, he did start 14 games as a rookie.

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Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com says the Rams' 2009 draft could hinge on whether the team made the right move with linebacker James Laurinaitis in the second round. Klutsarits: "If I were Billy Devaney, I would have gone with [Rey] Maualuga or even done something more daring and selected Eben Britton the offensive tackle from Arizona or Ron Brace the defensive tackle from Boston College. I believe all three of those players might have made a bigger impact than Laurinaitis will make. Time will tell. I hope I am wrong but keep those three names in mind to see how things will shake out."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detects a defensive flavor to the Rams' first draft under coach Steve Spagnuolo. General manager Billy Devaney joked that Spagnuolo took over the draft. Said a grinning Devaney: "It was kind of a stealth [move]. [Spagnuolo] never said it, but then all of a sudden the draft's going on, and I said, 'This thing's starting to get away from us. We've got to get some offensive guys.'" That type of joking between coach and general manager suggests they have a good working relationship.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked staffers which NFC West team fared best in the draft. The 49ers' and Seahawks' ability to land 2010 first-round choices set them apart, although not decisively. Bill Coats: "I think it was Arizona, and mainly because it landed RB Beanie Wells with the 31st pick. For a team desperately in need of a quality ballcarrier, that was a real coup."

Lisa Goodwin of 49ers.com says the team honored Tony Wragge after the guard finished his college degree this offseason. Goodwin: "During this offseason, Wragge also participated in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurship Program at the Harvard Business School where he took classes on various topics including finance, real estate investments, tax law and overall personal finance analysis, among others. In July, Wragge is taking part in the NFL's Broadcast Boot Camp program that helps prepares players for the spot in front of the camera after their career."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are counting on Manny Lawson to improve as a pass rusher. Coach Mike Singletary: "It would be very easy just to go get a pass rusher or defensive end to appease someone, but I think it's very important for us to have someone who's going to actually upgrade what we already have. I feel very comfortable with Manny doing the things that he needs to do to get better. I think Manny is totally healed. I think he's been moving great. I think his confidence is going to be there."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says NCAA rules will prevent the Cardinals' first-round choice, Chris Wells, from participating in minicamps until June. Also, five players rehabbing from surgeries will miss the post-draft camp: Kurt Warner, Gabe Watson, Tim Castille, Matt Ware and Stephen Spach. The Cardinals' draft moves put Ware and the other backup safeties on alert.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind takes a closer look at the Cardinals' undrafted free-agent signings. On Memphis tackle Brandon Pearce: "Pearce is interesting only because he's an offensive tackle that played in a pass happy system and rarely gave up sacks. He's got good height but needs to add considerable bulk to his frame (6'6, 290), although some reports mentioned that he added 20 pounds of bulk before Memphis' pro day. Either way he'll have to get stronger as he's had very little experience as an in-line blocker."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Aaron Curry made a smashing first impression during his first news conference as a Seahawk.

John Morgan of Field Gulls reads between the lines in matching the Seahawks' pre-draft comments to their draft-day actions.

William P. Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts offers first impressions on Curry, Max Unger and the Seahawks' draft class. Tomisser: "Except for [general manager Tim] Ruskell's first year here when he only had a month to prepare for his first draft and to set up his draft board, every player from every draft made the team or practice squad in his rookie year (or was put on IR like longsnapper T. Schmitt). I think that once again, there's a very good chance of every pick being on the team come opening day."

Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts passes along a Detroit News tidbit about Michigan long-snapper Sean Griffin possibly signing with Seattle. Good eye, Mr. Steffes.

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Darren Urban of azcardinals.com describes Larry Fitzgerald as "totally recharged" following his adventure through Africa and the Middle East. Fitzgerald: "Best trip ever. I am totally recharged. It feels so good to get back in here. I'm so happy to see a good turnout and getting ready to get it again. I was itching to get back in the gym. It's home away from home." Fitzgerald has lots more planned for his offseason, starting with a trip to Minnesota for the annual golf tournament honoring his late mother, Carol.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says Karlos Dansby's unsettled contract situation could affect the Cardinals' draft plans. I think the team needed to address linebacker anyway. The need certainly grows if getting a deal with Dansby isn't likely.

Dave Mahler of Seattle's KJR radio checks in with Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones. This link goes directly to an audio file. Jones sounds relaxed and upbeat in discussing the change from Mike Holmgren to Jim Mora. Jones says he feels good, still loves competition and feels invigorated learning a new offense. Jones on the Cardinals: "They are a team that won the conference, they won the division, so they are the team to beat. That is your motivation."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com found a grateful prospective Seahawk in former Western Washington linebacker Shane Simmons. Simmons has worked construction and as a personal trainer since the Raiders released him after the 2008 preseason. Simmons is participating in the Seahawks' minicamp on a tryout basis.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Jim Mora appears comfortable in his new role as the Seahawks' head coach in the post-Mike Holmgren era. Boling: "Here's a difference that's fair to mention, although probably meaningless: Mora has a whistle. Holmgren let others blow the whistle. Draw your own conclusions."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Jones and Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari. Solari says the Seahawks installed zone concepts last season in anticipation of using them in 2009. The team did not use them in 2008.

Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts isn't buying talk that the Seahawks are seriously considering Matthew Stafford with the fourth overall choice. Steffes: "[Matt] Stafford maybe, but choosing Mark Sanchez would be counter to everything this team has done since 2005. Hopefully there is enough hype that someone wants to move up, but I wouldn't count on it."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck expressed frustration over how his injury situation was handled last season. Hasselbeck put it this way: "Knowing that there's a high likelihood that I'm not going to play and not necessarily being able to come out and say."

Also from O'Neil: Seahawks long-snapper Tyler Schmitt says he's 100 percent after undergoing back surgery last season.

Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune says Holmgren watched practice at the University of Washington. Holmgren and new Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian have strong ties to USC.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times says Holmgren watched practice Wednesday at the University of Washington. Holmgren's son-in-law coordinates recruiting for the Huskies. Sarkisian: "It's an honor and hopefully our kids recognized that and hopefully he can continue to come out. It's fun. ... Hopefully we play a little better as a team the next time he comes out." 

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat leans on draft analyst Rob Rang in assessing which running backs the 49ers might consider in the draft. Iowa's Shonn Greene is one candidate. Rang also thinks Chris Wells could go in the top 10. Rang: "I have a hard time thinking they would do that because I think they have too much respect for what Frank Gore brings. They don't want to [upset him]. But Beanie Wells is a spectacular talent. He's a Larry Johnson -- almost an Adrian Peterson -- kind of talent. But he needs to be coddled, and Mike Singletary's strength probably is not in coddling players."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are sprucing up their facilities while expanding square footage from 45,000 to 54,000. 

Florida Danny of Niners Nation unveils a roughly 4,500-word dissertation on the 49ers' draft history since 1994. Lots of information in here. I checked some of it against my own information and it matched up. For example, the 49ers have indeed drafted 20 players from Pac-10 schools and 19 from SEC schools since 1994, more than they have drafted from other conferences.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Norfolk State cornerback Don Carey is visiting the 49ers and Seahawks, among other teams. Purdue running back Kory Sheets is also visiting the 49ers.

VanRam of Turf Show Times wonders how the Rams can upgrade at receiver, noting that Football Outsiders has suggested Eagles restricted free agent Hank Baskett. VanRam: "That seems unlikely until you consider that the Eagles are interested in some big names like [Chad] Ocho Cinco and earlier talk about being a player for Anquan Boldin. If that happens, they might be willing to let Baskett walk since they also have Kevin Curtis, DeSean Jackson and Reggie Brown on the roster, unless they see his productivity from last season as a sign of things to come."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says holding training camp away from their facility wasn
't practical for the Rams this year, in part because changes to the coaching staff and front office left little time to formulate plans.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

  Hodel

Longtime Cardinals snapper Nathan Hodel has landed with the Patriots not long after Arizona released him. New England announced the signing Tuesday.

We've seen veteran snappers hit the market regularly this offseason. The Broncos released Mike Leach and signed the Patriots' snapper, Lonie Paxton, as an unrestricted free agent. The Texans' Bryan Pittman also hit the unrestricted market.

The Seahawks and Cardinals remain in the market for veteran snappers, although Tyler Schmitt hopes to get another chance with Seattle, Danny O'Neil notes.

Snappers are expendable until you can't replace one. The Seahawks have employed Thomas Gafford, Jared Retkofsky, Derek Rackley, Boone Stutz, Tim Lindsey, Jeff Robinson, Ryan Senser and Schmitt since watching J.P. Darche leave after the 2006 season. They have also brought in Pittman, Mike Schneck, Matt Overton and Joe Maese for tryouts.

Releasing Hodel spared the Cardinals from paying a $200,000 roster bonus this offseason. Hodel has snapped in every game for Arizona since 2002.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Former Broncos snapper Mike Leach, profiled here on SI.com, is on his way to Arizona for a visit with the Cardinals, his agent confirmed. Leach also expects to visit the Seahawks.

The Cardinals are looking for a snapper after releasing Nathan Hodel, who was scheduled to earn a $200,000 bonus and an $800,000 salary in 2009.

The Seahawks are looking for a snapper after losing Tyler Schmitt to a back injury last season. Jeff Robinson, 39, took over and handled the job ably, but Seattle would like to find a younger candidate.

TeamNFC West player on injured reservePos.Starter
ARIAl JohnsonOLYes
ARIScott PetersOLNo
SEARob SimsOLYes
SEANate Burleson
WR
Yes
SEAChris Gray
OL
No
SEABen ObomanuWRNo
SEATyler SchmittLSNo
SEAWilliam RobinsonOLNo
SEAWesly MallardLBNo
SEADeMichael DizerCBNo
SFAlex SmithQBNo
SFJay MooreLBNo
SFDamane DuckettOLNo
STLJustin KingDBNo
STLMark SetterstromOLNo
STLBrandon GorinOLNo
STLRob PetittiOLNo

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFC West teams are carrying 17 players on injured reserve lists. That ranks tied for second with the AFC South by my count, trailing only the AFC North (23).

Seattle has eight players on IR, most in the league. This includes two players I had listed as starters, tied with Jacksonville for most in the league. The Jaguars lost both starting guards.

These figures count only players currently on IR lists. Teams have placed other players on IR, only to waive them once the players became healthy. Some teams have reached injury settlements with players, sparing those players from IR.

Arizona and San Francisco have remained quite healthy so far. The Rams lost key depth at cornerback and along the offensive line. The Seahawks have lost key depth at receiver and on the offensive line.

NFC West teams have no players on their physically unable to perform (PUP) lists. I'm counting 16 players on PUP across the league, including six in the AFC South.

Players on IR get paid. In most cases, they cannot return until the following season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the Rams' depth at receiver, noting that Marques Hagans, Brandon Williams, Derek Stanley and Reche Caldwell might not earn spots on the 53-man roster. Thomas sees veteran Dane Looker as the likely sixth receiver.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch assesses Adam Goldberg's value to the Rams as an offensive lineman with experience at all five spots. Goldberg has started at left tackle recently, giving Orlando Pace a rest. The photo accompanying this story doesn't inspire confidence, but coach Scott Linehan says Goldberg has played well this summer.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat checks in with backup Rams quarterback Trent Green, who will start the final exhibition game -- against the Chiefs, one of his former teams. Green needs the work after attempting only eight passes during the first three exhibition games.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News quotes Jerry Rice as "expecting [49ers rookie receiver Josh Morgan] to do some great things this year."

Also from Brown: Ashley Lelie's uncertain future heading toward the 53-man cutdown. Lelie has 21 career receptions of at least 40 yards. Can he be a deep threat in Mike Martz's offense?

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers haven't seen enough from their receivers to know how they'll react during the regular season. Injuries and even illness have kept players off the field. Morgan will miss the final exhibition game.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle describes 49ers guard Tony Wragge as an inspiration to players fighting for roster spots. The Cardinals cut him three times. Wragge played in the Arena League and even took a job at Home Depot before finally earning a spot with the 49ers.

Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider expects Justin Forsett to get plenty of work in the final exhibition game. Forsett might need an impressive performance to earn a roster spot. The practice squad could be the most likely option.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with new Seahawks long snapper Jeff Robinson, who isn't very new at all. The way Boling breaks it down, Robinson could earn more than $5,000 per snap this season. Boling: "The fact that his wife is a physical therapist and dietician is a key to his readiness, he said. While she's busy running their business, a wellness center named '5focus' on South Lake Union, Robinson has been staying nimble by chasing down their 16-month-old daughter, Mae Louise. It should enhance his coverage skills."

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune saw Seahawks center Chris Spencer fall down twice while making routine blocks in his first practice back from injury. Spencer expects to make his preseason debut Friday night against Oakland.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks signed Robinson to snap after Tim Lindsey suffered a back injury against the Chargers on Monday night. Lindsey had replaced Tyler Schmitt, who also suffered a back injury.

Also from Farnsworth: highlights from practice, including two touchdown catches by John Carlson. The rookie tight end could have a big season.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune breaks down the Cardinals' position battles at receiver and linebacker. Sean Morey, Jamaica Rector and Lance Long could be fighting for the sixth receiving spot. Ali Highsmith, Brandon Moore, Matt Stewart and Monty Beisel could be fighting for two spots at linebacker.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals feel good about third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre, who learned the offense with Pittsburgh and has completed 76.7 percent of his passes during the exhibition season.

Also from Somers: Kurt Warner gets the start in the final exhibition game. Still no announcement on who starts the regular-season opener, but giving Warner time with the first-team offense puts him in a favorable position.

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