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OTA News: Cardinals and the Rest of the NFC West

 

OTAs kicked off all around the yesterday so if you've been craving any form of football news, you're in luck today. All the news is of course nothing more than premature speculation since it is based on practices that prohibit contact but it is still football talk (and I've been dying for some of that). We mentioned yesterday the Q and Dockett were no shows yesterday and a handful of players were present but couldn't practice. If Boldin and DD weren't veterans who've been with the team for a number of seasons, I'd think this was a bigger deal, but the way it's working out right now is that younger guys are getting more reps. In practices like these I'd rather see youngsters like Doucet, Lance Long, Ahmad Merritt, Jerheme Urban, Jamaica Rector and all of the young defensive ends get as many snaps as possible. Merritt practiced for the first time since breaking his leg and ankle in the third pre-season game last year and according to Coach Whisenhunt was "rusty." So until they start missing mandatory meetings or practices, I'm not pushing any panic buttons.

Here are some quick hits from the Cardinals OTAs, as well as the other NFC West teams.

Cardinals

The word on Cardinals rookie DE Kenny Iwebema at the team’s early-May minicamp was that the fourth-round pick looked deceptively strong. Team insiders are already speculating that the presence of both Iwebema, who was coached by Cardinals D-line coach Ron Aiken at the University of Iowa, and fellow rookie DE Calais Campbell, who is also capable of moving inside, has increased the likelihood that Antonio Smith, who’ll be a free agent at the end of the 2008 season, could be playing elsewhere in ’09.

Dolphins RB Ricky WilliamsIt appears that Tim Castille, who has put on 20 pounds and is a big favorite of Cardinals RB coach Maurice Carthon, could be positioned to take over the starting FB job from veteran Terrelle Smith. It wouldn’t be a shock to team insiders if Smith, who hasn’t been a regular at the Cardinals’ offseason conditioning workouts, were released — a move that would save the team a cool $1 million.

Rams

 

There are plenty of interesting rumblings regarding the Rams’ offensive line, which was a mess much of the time last season. Team insiders tell us that both rookies John Greco (third round) and Roy Schuening (fifth round) are considered future starters and could respectively push ORT Alex Barron and ORG Richie Incognito for playing time sooner than later. Speaking of Incognito, we hear he’s not being ruled out of the battle for the starting center job. Incognito played the position at Nebraska, and the only problem sources envision with him in that role is his shotgun snaps, which might need some work.

Regular Rams observers seem to unanimously agree that Scott Linehan has never looked more relaxed in his role as head coach. And word is the presence of new executive V.P. of player personnel Billy Devaney, who has removed the burden of worrying about personnel matters, and new offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who has an ironclad grip on the offense, has a lot to do with it.

Niners

 

Our Niners sources tell us that OLB Tully Banta-Cain appears to be in much better shape than he was a year ago, when he reported to the first minicamp tipping the scales at 290 pounds.

Niners minicamp observers say veteran Jeff Ulbrich appears to have the early edge on Brandon Moore and newcomer Dontarrious Thomas for the starting “Ted” LB role, based on the fact he was getting the majority of reps.

Seahawks

 

We hear Seahawks top draft pick Lawrence Jackson looked instantly comfortable at the team’s early-May minicamp, filling a number of roles on the defensive line (right end, left end, tackle in the nickel) with equal effectiveness.

Word is Seahawks sixth-round rookie LS Tyler Schmitt was right on the money with all his snaps in the team’s early-May minicamp. At 231 pounds, Schmitt is 15 pounds lighter than former LS J.P. Darche, who was let go, we hear, because he was too small. The upside, however, is that the lighter Schmitt might be more of a factor getting downfield to cover punts.