NFC West tour: Camp battles and rookie watch

We take our weekly spin through the NFC West to catch up on what's happening with San Francisco's three divisional rivals, examining this week's featured positional battles in the training camps of the Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks, along with examining the impact of each team's rookie class through one preseason game.


Arizona Cardinals


BATTLE OF THE WEEK: ILB Paris Lenon vs. Stewart Bradley. Lenon was productive as the starter last year, leading the team in tackles with 127. But Bradley is bigger and more athletic.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Rookie Anthony Sherman is pushing Reagan Maui'a for the starting fullback job. A.J. Jefferson and Patrick Peterson continue to compete for the left corner's job. Rashad Johnson is replacing injured SS Adrian Wilson but Matt Ware and Hamza Abdulla are pushing for time.

ROOKIE REPORT: DE Sam Acho, the fourth-round pick, is being used on the left side behind Clark Haggans. TE Rob Housler, the third-round selection, has shown he can run and catch. But he has a long way to go as a blocker. WR DeMarco Sampson, a seventh-round pick, runs polished routes and has good hands. He's been impressive in the first week. FB Anthony Sherman, a fifth-round pick, has shown some solid blocking skills and played well on special teams in the opener. RB Ryan Williams, a second-round pick, looks quick and powerful. His playing time could depend upon how well he can pass block.

St. Louis Rams


BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Cadillac Williams, Jerious Norwood and Keith Toston for RB jobs behind Steven Jackson. Williams started Saturday night against Indianapolis and showed quickness through the line, totaling 40 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. Norwood also ran with a jump in his step, and gained 37 yards on eight attempts. Toston, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last season, had 64 rushing yards on 11 carries in the second half. On the opening drive of the third quarter, Toston rushed five times for 35 yards with a 1-yard touchdown and caught a pass for eight yards.

OTHER BATTLEFRONTS: The linebacker corps got deeper with the addition of Ben Leber, although it resulted in the release of David Vobora. James Laurinaitis is entrenched in the middle, but the starting outside spots appear open, with Brady Poppinga and Na'il Diggs on the strong side, and Leber, Zac Diles, Chris Chamberlain and Bryan Kehl on the weak side. Josh Hull appears to have the inside track as the backup to Laurinaitis. Rookie Jabara Williams has shown potential, but looks like he's probably headed to the practice squad.

ROOKIE REPORT: Coach Steve Spagnuolo was eager to see defensive end Robert Quinn play Saturday night. "I'm anxious to see him play," Spagnuolo said. "It's taking Robert a little bit. He started off on that NFI (non-football injury) and then he kind of went in and it was all new to him. I'm not so sure he knew the tempo of practice in this league and he still hasn't gotten there yet, but hopefully when the lights go on and we're playing a game we'll see some of the things we saw in college." Asked what excites him about Quinn, the head coach said, "He's got some natural talent. He doesn't do everything right. He makes mistakes here and there like every rookie does, but when it's time to plant and go, you can see he's got that so that's encouraging." Against Indianapolis, he got pressure on former 49ers quarterback Nate Davis that nearly led to a safety, then beat Colts first-round pick Anthony Castonzo to register a tackle for loss on a running play. Wide receiver Austin Pettis was targeted twice against Indianapolis, but didn't have a reception. Safety Jermale Hines is looking a comfortable in a backup. Safety Jonathan Hudson had a big hit on special teams.

Seattle Seahawks


EXPECTED BATTLE OF THE WEEK: The Seahawks like their depth at tight end after signing Zach Miller to a lucrative, five-year deal, along with three-year starter John Carlson still on the roster. However, there will be a pretty good battle between USC products Anthony McCoy and Dominique Byrd for the third spot. At 6-5, 259 pounds, McCoy has the prototypical size for the position, but lacks consistency, while Byrd has been one of the best pass catchers in camp so far.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: The battle for who will start at cornerback opposite Marcus Trufant continues. Last year's starter Kelly Jennings gave up a deep ball to Vincent Jackson against San Diego, while Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner both had solid defensive plays in deep coverage.

ROOKIE REPORT: Stanford product Doug Baldwin continues to earn praise from both players and coaches for his play offensively. The team likes his ability to get open in the slot.


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