Head West: A Glance Around the Day's News in the NFC West (8/2)
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Today’s whip around the NFC West includes praise for Seattle’s first-round pass rusher, a feature on Matt Flynn, why the 49ers like tough practices, Kyle Williams impressing teammates in San Francisco, the Niners make third-down proficiency a point of emphasis, why NaVorro Bowman could only get better, a secret special teams weapon in St. Louis, a look at the Rams left guard situation, rookie Chris Givens could have an impact, the Cardinals make some roster moves, why Arizona’s defense will lead them and a starter named for Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game.
Beginning in Arizona, where the Cardinals are coming off a defensively dominated night practice, coach Ken Whisenhunt has named Kevin Kolb as the starter for Sunday’s preseason opener against New Orleans.
Despite missing time this week, Kolb will trot out there with the first-team offense at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. This doesn’t mean the job is his, just that Kolb is getting the first crack. John Skelton is still very much in the mix as the quarterback competition remains the biggest question in Cardinals camp.
It doesn’t help either quarterback that the Cardinals are essentially without their top two running backs, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Both are coming off injuries and have been limited thus far in camp. The Cardinals did sign two players on Tuesday, including one running back.
If the Cardinals are going to compete for a division title this year, they will be led by their defense. Arizona’s defensive players realize this and second-year cornerback Patrick Peterson is putting a lot of pressure on himself to be the best corner in the NFL.
The Seattle Seahawks also have a big quarterback competition. Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and rookie Russell Wilson have all been splitting time with the first-team offense.
The expectation is that Flynn, a free-agent signing from Green Bay, will win the job. Flynn came to Seattle with a lot of fan fare, despite just two NFL starts. Those two starts were better than any Jackson had, which is why many want to anoint him as Seattle’s next offensive field general.
If any of the quarterbacks are going to succeed, they need a healthy Sidney Rice catching the ball. Rice is the team’s best receiver, but suffered multiple injuries last season. Seattle also needs improved play from receivers like Golden Tate, Ben Obomanu and Ricardo Lockette.
The Seahawks signed veteran wideout Braylon Edwards to compete for a job, but that’s the only real big move Seattle has made this summer. It’s been an unusually quiet camp for coach Pete Carroll, writes Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times.
There was some excitement on Tuesday, when first-round pick Bruce Irvin turned heads with his athleticism.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman made people take notice last season with a breakout year. He led the team in tackles and was named an All-Pro.
Bowman is an incredible athlete, but thinks he can improve as a player by better understanding the mental aspect of the game. Bowman improving is a scary thought for the rest of the NFC West teams, considering that the 24-year-old is San Francisco’s youngest starter.
Bowman and Patrick Willis lead a defensive unit that might be the best in the league. Coach Jim Harbaugh has been pretty tough on the team this summer, but it’s not anything that bothers the 49ers cornerbacks.
Across from those defenders have been some new faces at receiver. Among that group is a relatively unknown receiver whose name was learned by a national audience in the playoffs. Kyle Williams played fairly well for the Niners last year, but fans really took notice when he botched a pair of punts that led to 10 points for the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game.
Williams received death threats following the loss, but he’s entered this season with extra motivation to win back the trust of fans. He’s impressed so far during camp, according to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
Williams’ mistakes contributed to the loss, but didn’t exactly lose the game for the Niners. It was San Francisco’s dismal performance on third down that really did it. That’s been a point of emphasis for the 49ers this summer and will be all season.
San Francisco’s poor execution on third down was outdone only by the St. Louis Rams, whose pathetic offense led to a complete overhaul of the roster.
The Rams have new, speedy receivers like rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens and brought in veteran free agent Steve Smith to help lead the young group. Several returning veterans have also been impressive thus far in the first week of camp.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was hampered by an ankle injury for the latter half of the season and missed six games. Bradford said that the injury is behind him and the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is ready to turn things around.
For Bradford to do so, the offensive line must be better. The Rams allowed a league-worst 55 sacks last season. Part of that was because of season-ending injuries to both starting tackles, Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, and starting left guard, Jacob Bell. That forced a constant reshuffling of the line. Saffold and Smith are back, as is right guard Harvey Dahl. The Rams also brought in Pro Bowl center Scott Wells from Green Bay.
Bell is gone and his left guard spot is an open competition, mainly between Quinn Ojinnaka and Bryan Mattison.
The Rams held their first padded practice on Wednesday, but it was only a special teams run-through. Linebacker Josh Hull is the backup middle linebacker, but will contribute on special teams. The Rams might have even found a “secret weapon” in rookie punter Johnny Hekker, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
They need all the weapons the can find.
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