There was plenty of news around the NFC West over the weekend. The Monday morning glance around the division includes the quarterback controversy in Arizona heating up; recaps of the Hall of Fame Game; the Seahawks' interest in Terrell Owens; the Seahawks and Rams holding their annual intra-squad scrimmages; Brandon Gibson impressing in St. Louis; Jim Harbaugh not being worried about Michael Crabtreel and the Raiders and 49ers possibly sharing a stadium.
Hall of Fame Game
The 2012 NFL preseason kicked off Sunday night with the New Orleans Saints beating the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The Saints won the meaningless game, but what was not meaningless was the use of replacement officials as the NFL and the referees’ union continue to negotiate a new deal.
Once the game got into the second half, it was an opportunity for the younger players and rookies to make their mark.
The Cardinals will not return to Flagstaff until after Friday night’s game at Kansas City. The Cardinals and Chiefs will practice together this week at Missouri Western State University, the alma mater of Rams rookie placekicker Greg Zuerlein.
Zuerlein was impressive for the St. Louis Rams in their Fan Fest practice on Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome. The sixth-round pick booted field goals from 54 and 59 yards and just missed a 64-yarder.
Also impressive for the Rams were wide receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. As the Rams prepare for their preseason opener on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the priority must be on protecting Sam Bradford. The third-year quarterback admitted last week that his ankle still isn’t 100 percent.
While St. Louis’ offensive line still looked a bit shoddy on Saturday and is without center Scott Wells, the defensive line looked very good. The Rams could have a top-10 defense this season, and rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been as advertised on the field.
Another rookie who has been playing well during training camp is running back Isaiah Pead, one of the team’s three second-round picks.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has gone on the defensive about rookie wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who was benched during Sunday’s practice. Harbaugh also spoke about wideout Michael Crabtree, who is battling through a leg injury. The coach then finished Sunday’s practice by falling flat on his face while attempting to execute a fake punt. It was a moment of levity to wrap up the weekend.
The Niners will need both Jenkins and Crabtree to come up big this year if they are going to improve their red-zone offense.
One uplifting off-the-field note to come out of 49ers camp is this Alex Smith story from Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Defensively, San Francisco is one of the league’s best, but Vic Fangio’s defense will be tested right out of the gate in the regular-season opener at Green Bay.
San Francisco might have the league’s best group of linebackers with Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. The latter inked a six-year, $44.5 million contract in the offseason and is trying to earn every penny. With Smith recording 14 sacks as a rookie last year, some think Brooks could have his breakout season this year.
The Niners are building a new stadium near their practice facility in Santa Clara. There is talk that the Oakland Raiders, who play in the archaic (by NFL standards) Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, could share the stadium as the Giants and Jets do in New York.
The Seattle Seahawks are still sharing reps at quarterback between Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson.
One thing that will help either quarterback is a strong running game, and starter Marshawn Lynch dazzled at the team’s scrimmage. Some rookies, including Wilson, have been looking good so far and used that scrimmage as an early opportunity to showcase their skills in live-action situations. The next test comes Saturday when Seattle plays its first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.
The biggest news in Seattle over the weekend wasn’t Saturday’s mock game, it was the report Sunday night that Terrell Owens will work out for the team today. The Seahawks will kick the tires to see if the 38-year-old has anything left. Owens hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010 and was released by the Indoor Football League’s Allen Wranglers earlier this year.
The Seahawks have 12 receivers on the roster after releasing Antonio Bryant Sunday. That was just 10 days after the team signed him. The team brought back placekicker Carson Wiggs, who was released last Tuesday. Wiggs is just a camp leg with little chance of making the team. Coach Pete Carroll said Wiggs is there just to give incumbent kicker Steve Hauschka some rest.