Behind Enemy Lines – NFC West Rival News

June and July are a time of relative inactivity around the NFL. Teams are preparing for their upcoming training camps, coaches and players are taking vacations, and some contract negotiations are taking place. The NFC West is no different, but .Net reporter Scott Eklund found a few tidbits about the Seahawks' divisional opponents.

St. Louis:
S Aeneas Williams is very encouraged by what he has seen in the team's offseason workouts and mini-camps.

"I am very pleased," said Williams after the final practice of mini-camp. "I believe that with each practice we have gotten better, execution has been very good."

The additions of rookies S Jason Shivers, DE Anthony Hargrove, and LB Brandon Chillar have added speed and athleticism to the depth chart and promise to help on special teams as well.

The biggest news of the offseason concerning the defense was the loss of defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, who left to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears. In his place, head coach Mike Martz hired longtime defensive coach Larry Marmie to head up the defense.

Marmie believes in stopping the run and blitzing on defense, and he has a lot of work ahead of him since the Rams were poor against the run in 2003. The Rams tied for 20th in the NFL allowing 123.8 yards per game last season, but Williams believes the Rams will be better against the run.

"It was an area that teams exploited, certainly late in the season," Williams said. "It will be a point of emphasis this year, but I believe that we have the guys to stop the run. It's just a matter of honing in on it and solidifying those technical errors as oppose to physical dominance in the running game."

Look for Williams to build on his stellar performance last season, when he was voted to his eighth Pro Bowl, by recording 113 tackles, 11 passes defensed, one sack, four INT's, and four fumble recoveries. At 36 he still has gas left in the tank.

Arizona:
There is an air of change taking place in the desert. No longer are the Arizona Cardinals the butt of jokes in the Phoenix metro area. New head coach Dennis Green has given the franchise a new outlook and fans are scrambling to catch some of the action.

It didn't take long for him to put his stamp onto this stagnant franchise. First he release five veteran players who where taking snaps away from younger players; he then benched starting LT L.J. Shelton even though he has three years of starting experience there and he just received a $5 million signing bonus seven months earlier, when he restructured his contract; and Green's hands were all over the draft, selecting players who he thinks can contribute right away.

The franchise, players and upper management included, is still getting used to Green's no-nonsense attitude. A good example is the Shelton situation. Many close to the franchise felt that his mid-week demotion was meant to send a message to all the veterans, but Green doesn't send messages. He tells it like it is and the players are learning that what Green says is what he means.

"He's not a guy who blows smoke," said starting quarterback Josh McCown. "There is no hidden agenda. I think part of the reason he has been so quickly respected, beyond the fact he's been there and done it in the past, is that he shoots straight with you."

San Francisco:
E Even with projected starting QB Tim Rattay out until at least mid-August, while he recovers from a groin injury, the cap strapped Niners aren't expected to acquire a veteran signal caller.

Head coach Dennis Erickson has stated that he is fine with second-year QB Ken Dorsey as the starter until Rattay is back to 100%. According to inside sources Dorsey has matured physically and his command over the offense is equal to Rattay's.

LB Jamie Winborn signed a contract extension as the 49ers continue to make themselves "cap solvent" for the foreseeable future. Winborn's extension is for 5 years but is essentially a one year add-on.

After 2005, the annual compensation for Winborn can jump to about $6 million, and that would not be conducive to the 49ers cap restructuring mode. Winborn gets a $550,000 base salary for 2005 and a roster bonus of $500,000. The catch is if he plays in 10 games either this year or next, he will get a bonus of $1.2 million. That's a payday of about $3.25 million for '05 if Winborn can stay healthy. Not bad for a playing with a history of being hurt.


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