Behind Enemy Lines – Regular Season Week #1

With games beginning this week (Thursday) teams around the NFC West finalized their rosters and depth charts and some important players reported for duty.

St. Louis – Franchise LT Orlando Pace agreed to report to the Rams on Labor Day by signing a $7.02 million offer that was tendered in March. Pace's presence is important in so many ways that it should automatically increase the effectiveness in QB Marc Bulger who has had to run for his life during the preseason.

"We're always glad to have Orlando back," head coach Mike Martz said. "He came in to camp 16 pounds underneath what he did last year. He has obviously trained very well and prepared himself to come to camp. Watching him out here in practice he was a little rusty with some things, but he looks pretty good."

Complicating matters has been the troublesome back of RT Kyle Turley who was placed on Injured Reserve and thus will be lost for the season. In Turley's place will be veteran Grant Williams who has slimmed down from the 330 pounds he played at last season. The added weight took a toll on Williams' back and limited his range in getting out on speed rushers.

In a surprising development rookie OLB Brandon Chillar, a fourth rounder, is the likely starter at strongside linebacker in place of three-year veteran Tommy Polley. Polley is excellent in pass-coverage but he has struggled in run-support and that is Chillar's strongsuit. Chillar has made plenty of plays this preseason and coaches feel comfortable letting him learn "on the job" early in the season.

S Zack Bronson signed on Sunday (September 5th) and will challenge for playing time early. Bronson was released by the San Francisco 49ers in a salary cap move in June and the Rams were happy to be able to acquire his services this late in the game.

"Last year, I think he had three injuries and kind of struggled," Martz said. "Up to that point, he had played at a very high level. I'm very pleased to have him."

Next Game: vs. Arizona, September 12th

Arizona – The coaches believe that LT Leonard Davis can be one of the best tackles in the league. He is a massive player (6'7", 370 lbs) and he has the athleticism to keep rushers at bay. However, he hasn't played tackle in three years and it remains to be seen whether or not he has the skills to play at a high level. So far during the preseason Davis has struggled adjusting to stunts and twists.

The Cardinals have resembled a M*A*S*H unit this preseason rather than a professional football team and that was never more evident than when they place four players who were expected to see significant time this season.

They placed RB Marcel Shipp (ankle), FB James Hodgins (shoulder), DT Kenny King (wrist) and S Dexter Jackson (back) on injured reserve thus ending their seasons.

Green had hoped to get Shipp and Jackson back before the end of the season but both have not shown the improvement necessary to hold a roster spot for them.

"We've been here for a while and Dexter's back just has not cleared up sufficient for him to play football," said Green.

Last week the Cardinals acquired RB Troy Hambrick and DE Peppi Zellner from the Oakland Raiders for a conditional draft choice in 2005 and Hambrick could not be happier.

"They traded for me, so they needed me," Hambrick said after his first workout with his new team. "I come in a little out of shape, but I'm pressing along trying to fit into this offense some kind of way. If my role is limited, I'll take it. If it's full of excitement, I'll take that."

The acquisition of Zellner allows second-round DT Darnell Dockett to move back inside where he fits best into the Cardinals' scheme.

Next Game: at St. Louis, September 12th

San Francisco – In a preseason that has been full of injuries and question marks second-year wideout Brandon Lloyd has distinguished himself as the Niners' go-to receiver. What he lacks in speed and size (6'0", 184 lbs) he makes up for with athleticism and the knack for making tough catches. In the preseason he made several spectacular grabs earning first downs and at least one touchdown.

Rookie S Keith Lewis may have played his way into the safety rotation. With starting SS Tony Parrish missing a lot of time during the preseason due to a strained calf and lack of experience at free safety Lewis could see a lot of time. Coaches have been impressed with his intensity during practices and his willingness to take on larger opponents.

More good news came down the 49ers wire when DE Brandon Whiting made his practice debut on Monday. Whiting, who came over in the controversial trade that sent WR Terrell Owens to Philadelphia, was expected to help hold up the defensive line in the new 3-4 scheme the Niners are looking to employ, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for much of the offseason.

"Now, it's just getting my feet back under me, getting my wind and getting the rust knocked off," Whiting said. "As soon as that comes, I'll be ready, no matter how long it takes. I don't think it'll be long."

Head coach Dennis Erickson said he expects Whiting to be a part of the defensive line rotation sooner rather than later, but he won't push him until he is ready.

Next Game: vs. Atlanta, September 12th

.NET Reporter Scott Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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