Four Downs: NFC West

by Vince Verhei

Arizona Cardinals

Draft Recap

Going into the draft, the Arizona Cardinals knew they needed help in the secondary. Their pass defense ranked 21st in 2007,and their 2008 schedule includes Matt Hasselbeck twice, plus Tony Romo, Tom Brady, and Donovan McNabb, not to mention Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. They responded by spending their first pick on a cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and their second-round pick on a defensive end, Calais Campbell out of Miami.

The pick of Rodgers-Cromartie will help the Cardinals shuffle up their secondary. Last year's free safety, Terrence Holt, moved on to Carolina. The plan is to fill Holt's spot with former cornerback Antrel Rolle, with Eric Green, Roderick Hood and Rodgers-Cromartie manning the corners. Green will be a free agent in 2009, so the team obviously plans to plug Rodgers-Cromartie into a starting role next season, if not sooner. His physical numbers indicate he'll do well; the former Tennessee State Tiger has the size (6-foot-2, 182 pounds) and speed (4.33 40-yard dash) that scouts are looking for. In the middle of all this, of course, will be FO binky Adrian Wilson, busting up runners and covering tight ends -- one of the few things the Cardinals were good at last season.

Campbell, a defensive end in a power forward's body (6-8, 282 pounds) will rotate with starters Bertrand Berry and Antonio Smith. There have also been suggestions that he'll line up at tackle in passing situations, as the Cardinals, like most NFL teams, search for their version of Justin Tuck.

In the third round, the Cards nabbed a wide receiver, Early Doucet out of LSU. Doucet's draft status was hurt by his injury-marred senior season; he missed four games and most of a fifth with a pulled groin muscle. If that injury doesn't recur, the Cardinals will have gotten a bargain at a valuable position, considering that Larry Fitzgerald's long-term status with the team is far from certain, and Anquan Boldin has made noise about wanting out too. On the other hand, Doucet lasted so long partly because teams deemed him to be an injury risk, so the Cardinals could see their third-round pick spending plenty of time on the sidelines.

In later rounds, the Cards went with two more pass-rushers: Kenny Iwebema of Iowa in the fourth and Chris Harrington of Texas A&M in the sixth. They also grabbed running back Tim Hightower of Richmond in the fifth. Their last pick was an offensive tackle, 6-5, 345-pound Brandon Keith out of Northern Iowa, who describes like so: "A very large guy."

Remaining needs

The Cardinals did little to shore up their porous run defense (20th overall against the run, dead last in power situations last season). They could have used a mammoth defensive tackle or dominant inside linebacker. They also failed to draft a replacement at outside linebacker for Calvin Pace, who moved on to the Jets. Finally, they still plan to start the aging Edgerrin James at running back. Their offensive line was surprisingly effective last season, ranking ninth in run blocking, but the team was dead last in yards gained on big plays.

Undrafted free agents

Looking for depth on the offensive line, Arizona grabbed guard Hercules Satele of Hawaii (6-2, 308). If that name sounds familiar, his cousin Samson is the center for the Dolphins. (Yes, the Satele family includes cousins named Hercules and Samson. The Verhei family, for comparison's sake, includes myself, plus Tony, Ricky, Mike and Joe. Advantage: Sateles.) The Cardinals signed several other big bodies: tackle Peter Clifford of Michigan State (6-7, 312); tackle Thaddeus Coleman of Mississippi Valley State (6-8, 308); and guard Carlton Medder of Florida (6-5, 319). Quarterback Anthony Morelli started 26 games and completed 58.2 percent of his passes at Penn State. The former Punt, Pass & Kick champion will compete with Brian St. Pierre for the third quarterback spot.

St. Louis Rams

Draft Recap

Everyone saw the Rams' first-round draft choice coming from a mile away. Their second pick, however, caught everybody off guard.

Word that the Rams were going to select defensive end Chris Long from Virginia with the second overall pick slipped out just before the draft started, but many speculators had matched that player with the team for months. The need was obvious; St. Louis defensive ends combined for only 5 1/2 sacks in 2007. (That does not count the two sacks of Clifton Ryan whose position, according to, is "DL.") Long had 14 sacks last season. He started 37 games at Virginia, and will likely be starting for the Rams by the end of the year, pairing with 2006's first-round pick, Adam Carriker, as the cornerstones of the St. Louis defensive line. BONUS TRIVIA FACT: He's Howie Long's kid.

The Rams followed the script in Round One, then did some serious ad libbing in Round Two. When their pick at No. 33 came around, not a single wide receiver had been taken off the board. The team had their pick of every wideout available. Most draft boards had Texas' Limas Sweed as the top receiver, while a few liked Michigan State's Devin Thomas or Indiana's James Hardy. The Rams, on the other hand, didn't like any of those guys, and went with Houston's Donnie Avery, who blew them away with his speed. An injury hurt Avery's 40-yard time at the Combine, but he recovered by Houston's Pro Day and posted a 4.34. He's not particularly big (just 5-11, 186 pounds), but he is explosive. Just ask Rice: Avery burned them for 346 yards receiving last season. His 112 yards per game ranked fourth in the country. He's currently listed as a third-stringer in Rams' depth chart, but it will be a huge disappointment if he can't beat out Dane Looker (2007 DVOA: -57.6%) and Dante' Hall (2007 DVOA: -56.3%) for the third receiver spot behind Torry Holt and Drew Bennett.

The only other draft pick likely to see substantial playing time in 2008 is fourth-round cornerback Justin King out of Penn State. King was picked for his blazing speed; his 4.31 40-yard dash tied him with Connecticut's Tyvon Branch as the fastest among cornerbacks at the Combine. He's got a chance to play nickelback this season for the Rams.

No other player drafted by the Rams is likely to start this year. In the third round they picked an offensive tackle, John Greco of Toledo, who made a name for himself with a fine performance at the Senior Bowl. Fourth-rounder Kenny Burton from Kentucky will add depth to the wide receiving corps. He shined in several drills at the Combine, most notably the vertical jump, where his 38 1/2-inch leap paced the field. Oregon State guard Roy Schuening, taken in the fifth round, started 50 games in college despite a bout of pneumonia during his senior season. In the seventh-round, the Rams drafted Chris Chamberlain out of Tulsa. Chamberlain played at linebacker in college, but at just 226 pounds, he'll be limited to safety and special teams in the NFL. Idaho linebacker David Vobora is 10 pounds bigger and might be able to stick at linebacker, but like Chamberlain, his destiny likely lies in kick coverage.

Remaining needs

The Rams were drafting second overall for a good reason: They have holes all over their roster, starting at quarterback. Marc Bulger's best days are behind him, and top backup Gus Frerotte signed with the Vikings. Bulger has only started 16 games in a season once, so when the inevitable happens and he gets hurt, the Rams will trot out TRENT GREEN at quarterback. With his history of head injuries, the thought of Green playing behind the Rams offensive line would be funny if it weren't so sad. The line was a shambles last season. Orlando Pace missed eight games in 2006 and virtually all of 2007 with triceps injuries. While he's expected to be back for training camp, it's clearly time to find his replacement. Corey Chavous, the projected starter at strong safety, is 32 years old and draft analysis will soon be his full-time gig, not just a hobby.

Undrafted free agents

Running back Yvenson Bernard broke Stephen Jackson's rushing record at Oregon State, and now has followed him to the Rams. Between Jackson, Bernard and Schuening, the potential for Beaver jokes in St. Louis this season is high. And in case Avery and Burton don't work out at wide receiver, the Rams picked up two more: Matt Caddell out of Alabama and Joshua Hyman out of Virginia Tech. The Rams signed 13 undrafted free agents in all, and given the state of their roster, any one of them has a decent shot of making the club.

San Francisco 49ers

Draft Recap

The 49ers' five-win campaign in 2007, their fifth consecutive losing season, left them seventh in line in the 2008 draft, perfect position to pick a superstar player to change their fortune around -- if they hadn't traded the pick to New England a year prior. Oops. New England would go on to trade the pick to New Orleans, who would select USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, a player who surely would have improved a defense that ranked 26th defending runs up the middle in 2007.

That's bad on the surface, but there are two sides to every trade. In exchange for the pick that turned into Ellis, the 49ers got the Patriots' 2007 first-round choice, which was used to select tackle Joe Staley. (The 49ers also sent a 2007 fourth-round pick to the Pats, who later traded it to the Raiders, who spent it on John Bowie, a defensive back from Cincinnati who will spend the rest of his life not being Randy Moss.) Staley started every game at right tackle for the 49ers last season, and runs to right tackle improved from 23rd in 2006 to ninth in 2007. Considering the damage that Staley's predecessor Kwame Harris was doing to the psyche of the 49ers' fanbase (tragically, the Harris "highlight" video set to Simply Red's "Holding Back The Years" has been removed from YouTube), the trade seems like at least a wash for San Francisco. Of course, we'll be able to evaluate it better in a year's time when Ellis has actually played an NFL game.

The loss of the Ellis pick was mitigated somewhat by a trade with the Colts, who gave their first-round pick to San Francisco during the 2007 draft to select Tony Ugoh. That pick, the 29th overall, and the 49ers' own second-rounder, the 39th overall, were used to solidify the interior of the line on both sides of the ball. This is the same strategy the Kansas City Chiefs used to set everyone's hearts aflutter, but the 49ers received much less fanfare. They spent the 29th pick on Kentwan Balmer, a defensive lineman from North Carolina. Balmer played both end and tackle in college, but at 6-5, 298 pounds, he will likely play at end in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, replacing the retired Bryant Young. Some scouts were concerned about his lower-body strength, which will be crucial in the 3-4, but they also think his frame can hold another 20 pounds without sacrificing any quickness or explosiveness.

In the second round, the 49ers drafted Chilo Rachal, a guard with a high ceiling and a low floor. Rachal's coaches at USC urged him to return to school, but he shunned their advice and skipped his senior season to enter the draft. This is not the stereotypical case, however, of instant gratification and a young player's ego luring him into the big leagues before he's ready. Rachal's mother is suffering from stomach cancer, and an NFL benchwarmer will be able to pay a lot of medical bills that a college student could not. At 6-5, 315 pounds, Rachal obviously has NFL size, but he will likely spend at least a year on the sidelines before he's ready to start for San Francisco.

In the third round, the 49ers went with Reggie Smith, a versatile corner/safety out of Oklahoma. The 49ers would like to see him as the nickelback, and his experience at safety should serve him well there. They added Cody Wallace, who started 36 consecutive games at center for Texas A&M, in the fourth round. Wallace cleaned up at the Combine, leading all offensive linemen in vertical jump and broad jump. Jokes about the rarity of centers bouncing around a football field aside, that shows great explosive power in the legs; if he can launch his own body through the air, he should have no problem popping defenders backwards at the snap. The sixth round brought wide receiver Josh Morgan of Virginia Tech to the Bay Area.'s bio of Morgan is awfully frank, saying he has "a rare combination of size and speed," but "he's also plagued by rounded-off routes, weak effort as a blocker and ugly drops." In the seventh round, the 49ers chose linebacker Larry Grant of Ohio State. Grant is somewhat undersized at 235 pounds, but has great agility, placing third in the 3-cone drill and fourth in the 20-yard shuttle at the Combine. That athleticism should come in handy on passing downs and on special teams.

Remaining needs

The 49ers didn't do anything to upgrade the reeking hole at their quarterback position. How bad were things for San Francisco? Alex Smith was next to last in both DPAR and DVOA last season. The only player worse by either measure was his own teammate, Trent Dilfer. Things got so bad that Chris Weinke, who is 35 and has never been any good, threw 22 passes for San Francisco last season. Of course, it takes two players to complete a pass, and the receiving corps for the 49ers was just as dreadful. Their leading wide receiver in DPAR was Taylor Jacobs, with a whopping 0.0 DPAR and a catch percentage of 33 percent. Every other wide receiver came in below replacement level. The 49ers are hoping that Smith or Shaun Hill (who played well in the final three games of last season) can turn things around at the quarterback position, and that Isaac Bruce, who will turn 36 during the season, can save the receiving corps. This is madness. This is San Francisco.

Undrafted free agents

PFP 2008 contributor Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes that "At first blush, 11 rookie free agents signed by the 49ers might be more intriguing than the six-player draft class." Lynch is mostly intrigued by the local products, such as 162-pound Cal receiver Robert Jordan. Jordan is noted for his physical and mental toughness, but the durability of this thin frame must be questioned; he broke his ankle in high school, and his collarbone in college. Another interesting prospect is Louis Holmes out of Arizona, a monster of a man at 6-6, 270 pounds, who would play an enormous outside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4. He has also had "brushes with the law," so he may be terrorizing on and off the field.

Seattle Seahawks

Draft Recap

As Ben Riley noted in our Audibles at the Draft, Seahawks President of Football Operations Tim Ruskell is very consistent: "In the first round, he's taking a defensive player from a major program. It's just that simple." That's not 100 percent true -- the team picked center Chris Spencer out of Mississippi with their first pick in 2005 -- but the trend is certainly there. Since Ruskell took over in 2005, early draft picks have included USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu, Miami cornerback Kelly Jennings, Virginia Tech defensive end Darryl Tapp, Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson and California defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.

The latest big-school defender is end Lawrence Jackson of USC, picked 28th overall in the 2008 draft. Jackson has strength, explosion and agility; he was among the top linemen in bench press, vertical jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle at the Combine. He'll be ready to take over at defensive end when Patrick Kerney's Seahawks tenure comes to an end. Until then, he should see immediate playing time as a pass rusher; Coach Mike Holmgren has already suggested that Jackson will move inside to tackle on third downs a la Justin Tuck. (On a completely unrelated but irresistible note, Holmgren has also discussed the new hobby he and wife Kathy have found: Guitar Hero. Holmgren says his high score is 88, while Kathy has reached 94.)

At the time the Seahawks picked Jackson, the Seahawks had the option of any tight end or any wide receiver in the draft, two definite spots of need. They admitted as much when they traded their second- and third-round picks to move up in the second for Notre Dame tight end John Carlson. The selection came as something of a surprise with USC tight end Fred Davis still available, but the Seahawks apparently think Carlson's blocking makes him a more complete player. He should be in the starting lineup when the Seahawks kick off their season in Buffalo on Sept. 7.

The Seahawks went for a wide-body in Round Four, tabbing 6-5, 328-pound defensive tackle Red Bryant out of Texas A&M. The pick filled a definite need, as Chartric Darby left for Detroit and Rocky Bernard's arrest on domestic violence charges leave his availability questionable.

West Virginia's Owen Schmitt, a fullback selected in Round Five, also has a chance to start for Seattle. Mack Strong retired in the middle of last season after injuring his neck against Pittsburgh, and Leonard Weaver was an inconsistent replacement. The media is pulling for Schmitt; between his mohawk, his coaster-eating record, and his nickname ("The Runaway Beer Truck," already one of the league's best), and his appearance at an EA Sports predraft party (where Outsider Bill Barnwell says Schmitt was "double-fisting Coronas literally all night"), he's a walking, breathing headline.

The Seahawks' 2008 draft was full of Schmitt. They took long-snapper Tyler Schmitt of San Diego State in Round Six. Yes, they grabbed a long snapper. In the Draft. In the sixth round. If you're wondering why, you weren't watching the Seahawks in 2007, when the team tried Derek Rackley, Boone Stutz, and Jeff Robinson at the position, with disastrous results; the Seahawks' horrible punt numbers said more about the snappers than about Ryan Plackemeier. Although Schmitt fills a definite need, the pick still left onlookers scratching their heads. Was Seattle worried that another team would snag Schmitt before Round Seven? Was there no other option at long snapper coming into the league?

California running back Justin Forsett, taken by Seattle in Round Six, has a Warrick Dunn-like physique at 5-8, 190 pounds. Seattle has a crowded backfield with Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Maurice Morris, but Forsett may stick if he can prove to be an effective receiver out of the backfield, something the Seahawks have lacked since John L. Williams left town.

Seattle closed their draft with another special teamer, kicker Brandon Coutu out of Georgia. The pick filled the hole left when Josh Brown moved to St. Louis, and the sixth and seventh rounds are the right time to draft specialists.

Remaining needs

Wide receiver, wide receiver, wide receiver. With Deion Branch likely to miss the start of the season after ACL surgery, the Seahawks' top three receivers are 35-year-old Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson and second-year pro Courtney Taylor. Their top two offensive players, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and tackle Walter Jones, are 32 and 34, respectively, but the Seahawks have no apparent heirs to those thrones, unless they have faith in Seneca Wallace to develop into an NFL passer.

Undrafted free agents

One of the more intriguing prospects in Seahawks camp will be North Dakota corner Donovan Alexander, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In an interview with the Winnipeg Sun, he admitted that he is very raw: "A scout from the Green Bay Packers watched me backpedal for two seconds before he told me to stop. He said that is not how you backpedal in the NFL." The Seahawks also looked close to home for receiving depth, signing Washington wideout Anthony Russo.


52 comments, Last at 12 May 2008, 5:01pm

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

DRC went to Tennessee St, not Tennessee, so he's not technically a former volunteer.

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

A WR who runs bad routes is like a power forward who won't rebound. Exactly what does he think his job entails? Does route running require much skill? It seems like it's mostly a matter of practice and desire.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

2: Fixed. Also corrected "EA Sports," which originally read "EA Spores," which sounds like the most boring video game company on earth.

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Hey, I noticed that one... Anyways, only one other mistake, the Seahawks lost Chartric Darby, not Craig Darby. Craig was a bust of a pick in the NHL in the early 90s.

Other than those two typo's, great article. The parts on undrafted free agents is always helpful to see who the next Jake Delhomme is going to be.

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Interesting. With Branch out, Seattle's best wide receiver is listed as a quarterback on their depth chart. I wonder if that says more about Seneca Wallace or Bobby Engram... Julius Jones is a good receiver out of the backfield, and deserves a shot at a full time gig, though.

If Arizona would start Kurt Warner, they'd be a playoff team. Of course, they'd also lose heartbreaking games because of fumbled snaps and -insane- interceptions, but they'd score enough to be a playoff quality team.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

4: Fixed. I think I was thinking of Craig Terrill, the other Seahawks tackle.

5: Warner started 11 games last year; the Cards went 5-6 in those games.

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Yes, the Satele family includes cousins named Hercules and Samson. The Verhei family, for comparison’s sake, includes myself, plus Tony, Ricky, Mike and Joe. Advantage: Sateles.

Top job Mr Verhei, in fact I laughed out loud on several occasions.

I had no idea that Schmitt (the FB) was such a bad-ass, or that Weaver was doing an iffy job (well, the drafting of Schmitt I suppose gave me a clue about that one). Should be fun times in Seattle. Of course, as a suffering 49er fan, I hope they somehow botch the choice of starter in such a pivotal job badly enough to destroy the chemistry of the whole team.

8 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I was a little disappointed Seattle didn't take an OT or QB, but Seattle is pretty screwed if Jones or Hasselbeck goes down anyways. Jones has only missed 2 games in his career, so hopefully he keeps that trend up. Plus Seattle could probably survive with Locklear at LT and Ray Willis at RT.

I'm not to worried about the WR situation. Holmgren's offenses have a history of seeing average/random WR's putting up solid numbers. I remember Sean Dawkins having a solid year for Seattle along with James Williams (WHO?)

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Weaver is a good runner/pass catcher, but he seemed to struggle a bit in run blocking.

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Schmitt is overrated, Mike Cox for example is probably a better blocker, but dude got a mohawk, ran for a long TD(Ran, didn't block) and is a badass beer drinker. Don't expect old school Neal/Richardson/Strong level from him anytime soon.

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Weaver's been improving. (But Chris Gray is old and Rob Sims, wow, sometimes I don't think he should be in the NFL there's only so much one guy can do.) I think one of the other factors in favor of Schmitt (the greater?) is he's enthusiastic about running into people at full speed, which seems like a guy you can expect to start and excell on special teams. The Seahawks like to carry 2 FBs, so it's probably bad news for Kirtman more than anything it might say about Weaver.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

"(Yes, the Satele family includes cousins named Hercules and Samson. The Verhei family, for comparison’s sake, includes myself, plus Tony, Ricky, Mike and Joe. Advantage: Sateles.)"


13 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

And I love that Chilo Racal was drafted high. I hope his mother makes it.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Leonard Weaver probably dodged a bullet or two to make the team out of training camp in 2007, but he was much improved in all phases of his game by season's end. I think the Seahawks still see a lot to like there, both realized and upside.

David Kirtman, on the other hand, hasn't distinguished himself in any way in his two-year tenure. He's as good as gone if Weaver and Schmitt can stay out of the training room.

As for wide receiver, it's apparent the Seahawks like the young guys they have (Logan Payne, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent). Or at least like them better than anything they saw on day two. I can't find much fault in not spending more late round picks to replace one-year-old late-round picks. Wide receiver is a tough gig in Holmgren's offense, it just takes a while to see what you've got.

On the offensive line, there again they have some mid-round young guys they aren't ready to flush yet. My guess is the thinking runs that Mike Solari will uncover the truth about Ray Willis, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Mansfield Wrotto, and the rest of that bunch--then they can make the right calls next winter and in April.

By the way, minor nit--Forsett was the first seventh-rounder for the Seahawks--two picks before the kicker.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Great column.

Thanks a lot, though, for the mental image of Mike Holmgren getting up early to practice Guitar Hero. In his underwear.

I do not know why my mind does that.

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

(On a completely unrelated but irresistible note, Holmgren has also discussed the new hobby he and wife Kathy have found: Guitar Hero. Holmgren says his high score is 88, while Kathy has reached 94.)

Do you mean 88,000 and 94,000? It's impossible to score 88 or 94 - each single note is 50 points, and chords are 50 points x the number of notes in the chord. (Yeah, I'm a Guitar Hero nut too, and I can't comment about football here, considering the Titans rarely play against NFC West teams.)

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I just heard the soundbite on the radio. Those were Holmgren's exact words. Maybe that's percentage?

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

And what did the Steelers do? They took Dennis Dixon 7 spots before Schmitt.
As a Steelers fan I don't like this draft at all.

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

3: EA Spores is...kind of a game.;title;1

spore is a game, and it is made by EA.

and yeah, he has to be thinking of percentages.

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I don't have any problems at all with the Seahawks taking a long snapper in round 6. Especially in light of the problems they had last year. Assuming they got a good one, this is a guy that's certain to be on their roster this year and likely to be on the team for a decade. If you can get long term security at this spot for a sixth round pick, why risk letting someone else draft the guy? It's not like you're going to get a sure thing with a position player drafted in round 6.

In 2003 Butch Davis drafted long snapper Ryan Pontbriand in the 5th round. Most draftnics panned that pick too. He's one of the few Butch draft picks still with the team. He got a nice contract extension a few years ago and made the Pro Bowl last year.

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Schmitt has a great nickname. Too bad Larry Kinnebrew had it first.

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Bah, he can't be that tough. He drinks Corona.

The human interest story about him was interesting, especially how he contrasts with Mack Strong. A guy like Mack Strong never needed a nickname.

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

6: But not because they couldn't score, Vince! 27 TD in what amounts to twelve or thirteen games of playing time is really nonshabby. And a lot better than Matt Leinart.

I think the Seahawks are very much a rebuilding team, and that Holmgren's retirement should probably go ahead and begin so that the new staff can make their decisions. Also, I think the offensive line is a bigger need than WR or TE, especially given that Branch's contract is still around...

24 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I predict a PFP mean-win projection of 3.5 for the Rams this year. I also predict that I will NOT spend too much time arguing that the PFP is selling the Rams short.

I will however always sing high praises for the Greatest Show on Turf and talk much trash on NE this year when NE fails to score 500 points.

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

5: Warner started 11 games last year; the Cards went 5-6 in those games.

Yeah, but they went 1-2 in games where Leinart had more passes than Warner. And Warner had a much higher DVOA/DPAR than Leinart.

In the first three games, they had two three point losses. One was against SF, when Leinart went 14-28 for 102 yards (3.6 Y/A), with 1 TD and 2 INTs. The other was against the Ravens, when Leinart 9-20 for 53 yards (2.7 Y/A), no TDs or INTs. In the game against the Ravens, Warner went 15-20 for 258 yards (12.9 Y/A), with 2 TDs and no picks.

So, if Warner had started those two games, they probably would have won at least one of them, if not both. That would've left them at 9-7 or 10-6, which would put them in the running for a wildcard, or even a division title.

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Re: 24

I actually think the Rams could be much better this year. The injuries last year were pretty rough. If they have average or better injury luck this year I would expect them to be competitive.

I agree with the idea that Bulger probably won't stay healthy all year but disagree that his best days are behind him. He's only 31 (same age as Brady and a year younger than Peyton), and if he can get decent protection should be able to play as well as ever. Steven Jackson is still very good too.

They've got some considerable issues on defense but Long should help. Plus I was reasonably impressed with Linehan as head coach, given how disasterous their year was.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC West


I took those numbers to mean their percentage of notes hit.

28 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Re: 25

You shockingly forget to mention the Week 2 WIN for the Cardinals against the Seahawks where Shaun fumbled a handoff at the end when the Hawks were already in field goal range, ready to win the game.

Actually, Leinart played pretty well in that game. If anything, he's the main reason, outside of Shaun being horrible, that the Cards won that game.

Point being: Kurt Warner would not equal playoffs for the Cards, and definitely not equal division title last year.

29 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Ah, sorry, you're right, it could be percentage. It just seems so weird because I've never seen anyone keep score that way before, but it does make sense when talking about skill considering scores are variable by song (My highest score on Guitar Hero 2 is X-Stream on Expert, 414,000+, but my high score on Psychobilly Freakout is about 70,000, in comparison), but without a difficulty level given by Holmgren and his wife, it doesn't really tell how good they are. I'd guess they're on Medium or therabouts, considering it takes a little bit of investment to get to Hard/Expert.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

" the team obviously plans to plug Rodgers-Cromartie into a starting role next season, if not sooner."

Like when, training camp?

Sorry, I kid. Great piece. This is how you get people to read articles that don't relate to their own team.

31 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I like Kurt Warner and hope that he is able to contribute for a couple more years. However, at this stage (or almost any point for the pessimistic) he probably cannot be expected to perform above average. If you protect him and allow him to be comfortable then he can be fine. If he feels he needs to win games rather than manage them...

I really want Arizona to do well. I don't know why, but I do. I keep rooting for them to be getting ready to turn the corner. I never expected "Edge" to be part of that (aging RB that was not deemed necessary by a team competing for a championship), but I figured he (like Emmitt) might have been a way to get more fans in the seats. Hey! Edge was probably less expensive than Michael Vick... Arizona just does not seem to be able to get the Patriots mentality: "Take a B-caliber player and coach them up to B+/A- level of play, while paying them C or C+ dollars."

I like Seattle's picks in the 6th and 7th rounds. These seem like reasonable places to pickup special teams players. Coutu should be a decent kicker and 6th round (maybe 50K-100K signing bonus?) seems like a decent price for a good long-snapper who might also be a backup snapper or H-Back. It sounds like less of an investment then spending a 1st round pick on a kicker.

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC West


Putting aside whether it's even possible to "coach up" a B caliber player to a B+/A- level of play, the only free agents Arizona's going to sign are the ones they outbid everybody else for, meaning that they're unlikely to sign B caliber players for less than B+ dollars, let alone C+ dollars.

Now, if you'd said they should copy the Patriots' (and others) strategy of "finding exceptional value in the draft by being better at talent evaluation than everybody else," you might be on to a strategy that would work for the Cardinals

33 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

This from link in my name:

Veteran offensive tackle Kwame Harris is the leading candidate to replace departed veteran Barry Sims on the left side. Harris was replaced at right tackle by rookie Joe Staley with the 49ers last season and didn't start any games. However, the Raiders view Harris as a nice fit in offensive line coach Tom Cable's zone-blocking scheme.

Harris' strength is run blocking, something that appeals to a Raiders offense geared toward the run. He often struggles in pass protection, but the Raiders are working on his footwork, the way he uses his hands, and his recognition of defenders' moves.

49ers fans could always do with some cheering up these days, so check this out. I guess it shouldn't be too much of a surprise, given what they paid him and the retirement of Simms, but even then I had trouble believing that another team would start him. And at LT! Poor, poor Jamarcus, at least he'll have his millions to console him.

I love the bit where they say what they're working on with him. As in, they're teaching him how to be an NFL tackle all over again. The guy can't take 3 steps sideways without falling on his ass. Good luck, and godspeed, Mr Harris.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Ok, so what if I am too dumb to put a link in my name first time around?

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

You shockingly forget to mention the Week 2 WIN for the Cardinals against the Seahawks where Shaun fumbled a handoff at the end when the Hawks were already in field goal range, ready to win the game.

I didn't "forget" anything. It wasn't relevant to my statement. The Seahawks were at the 36 yard line, so it would've been a 53 yard field goal. Not impossible, but hardly a gimme. And I don't see how Shaun Alexander's poor performance has any effect at all on whether the Cardinals would've been better off with Warner or Leinart. Had Warner been playing, the Cardinals might have had a substantial lead by that point, and Shaun's fumble wouldn't have mattered.

But fine, I see your point. Leinart did play very well in that game, so maybe they would've lost it had Warner been starting. But maybe they would have won the other two games, in which Leinart was quite bad. And in that case, they would've been 9-7, and that might or might not have been enough for a wildcard.

Either way, I don't think it would've made a huge difference. Getting to the playoffs and losing a wildcard game might be better than going 8-8 and missing the playoffs entirely, but it's not terribly important when compared to developing and evaluating your QB of the future.

So, no, I don't think the Cardinals should start Kurt Warner this year. Nor do I think they should've started him last year, when Leinart was still healthy. But I do think they probably would've won 1 or 2 more games last year had they done so.

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#33-34 - Oh my god... Kwame Harris & Robert Gallery on the left side? I think JaMarcus' insurance premiums just doubled.

37 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

If my Eagles don't get three wins from the West teams this year, we'll be in big trouble. Andy Ried sends cudoes to Holmgren for not drafting a WR when it's such an obvious need - the doughnut doesn't fall far from the tree.

Word of warning to Seahawks fans - Owen Schmitt is from the same school that gave you Pacman Jones. If your local strip clubs start doubling their Corona oreders, stay away!

38 Re: Four Downs: NFC West


difference is: Jones was a number 1 pick. Schmitt isn't and the cost to cut him if you start to run into trouble is tiny. ALSO: if you hate this part of the offseason and want to try and entertain yourself for awhile click on my name and check it out. It's an RPG for football fans and is actually quite entertaining!

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Kevin from Philly,

You might be interested to know that the Seattle area probably has less strip clubs per capita than anywhere. I believe there are 4 serving around 4 million people. In some ways Seattle is extremely conservative. He'll have to get into fights with thugs in Pioneer square like everyone else.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I think Pacman has more problems than having a few too many corona's at a strip club.

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I think the Seahawks' top three receivers are Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, and Ben Obumanu, not Courntey Taylor (at least not yet).

By law, Seattle strip clubs can't serve alcohol.

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Courtney Taylor, thy time is nigh!

I dont know why the Seahawks didn't try harder to hang on to Hackett. Well, I guess I do actually - he's injury prone.

Isn't taking a guy like Schmitt a little out of character for Tim Ruskell?

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#39 - but that just means opening a new one represents a 25% increase in the size of the market!

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

My condolences to Seattlers (Seattelites?) on their strip club situation - they are fun as long as no one gets shot. No wonder you guys drink so much coffee!

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

"Seattle has a crowded backfield with Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Maurice Morris, but Forsett may stick if he can prove to be an effective receiver out of the backfield, something the Seahawks have lacked since John L. Williams left town."

Just so you know, Duckett with a screen pass in hand and a head of steam is a pretty cool thing to see. As a Lions and Michigan State fan, sometimes Duckett running down a DB was the only cool thing to see in a season. Why the Lions let him leave when they were planning to cut KJ is beyond my understanding, unless it's Rogers/Harrington/Williams/Rogers related cap problems.

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

When looking at Seattle's vairly easy schedule, I had recently been entertaining thoughts of targeting Matt Hasslebeck in my fantasy draft in 3 months.

But should the WR/TE situation make me step back from that plan? I mean, Branch can't stay healthy, Engram is 35 and wants more $$, and who the heck is the TE?

Side note: no alcohol in strip joints? How do they stay in biz? Does everybody in Seattle just drink fair-trade coffee while getting lap dances? Inquiring minds wanna know.

47 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Re #43: To my knowledge, there's a city ordinance against opening any new strip clubs. In fact, I vaguely recall a scandal a couple years back involving a strip club owner giving money to a city councilman to 'lobby' for him so he could get a waiver to open another.

48 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Re #46: They stay in business by *charging* the dancers to work there. Not sure if that's normal for other states or not...

I just did some quick research. Apparently, someone sued the city of Seattle in 2006 about the strip club ban. He won $500,000 (which he will use to build the strip club!), and the city revised the ordinance to limit the distance from schools and whatnot instead.

But still no alcohol, and I believe there is still a 4 ft rule.

For anyone interested, our current strip club tally is at:
Traditional Strip Clubs: 2
Peep Show Clubs (y'know, where the women are in a glass box): 2
Male Strip Clubs: 1

I know *far* too much about this for someone that's never set foot in a strip club. I just like to date the non-junkie dancers.

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Eh. I should rephrase. I *used* to like to date the non-junkie dancers. I'm too a little too old to keep up now, and a little too wise. It seems 30 isn't just the wall for football players.

50 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Okay, triple post, sorry:
Just wanted to add that the scandal I referred to above was apparently over something as simple as... expanding the parking lot. Of course, I'm not sure why they would want to expand the lot, since I used to drive by the joint in question everyday for 4 years, and it never had more than a dozen cars in the lot at any given time, and room for several dozen.

51 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

BTW Arizona also added Ali Highsmith the LB from LSU as an UFA which i think is an interesting prospect gotten after the draft that you didn't comment on

52 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

And what is that linebacker going to say when Schmitt breaks through the line......