Behind Enemy Lines – News from the NFC West

Teams continue to make adjustments and personnel moves as the season heads toward the midway point.

Arizona – With an ineffective offense being the focal point of improvement over the bye week, head coach Dennis Green has made it known that the defensive line is the least of his worries.

The additions of DE Bertrand Berry (via Free-agency) and rookie DT Darnell Dockett has allowed first-year defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to be imaginative in his blitz and coverage packages.

The defense, even though it is ranked 27th in the league and is surrendering over 367 yards per game, has been able to generate some excitement with their athleticism and their playmaking abilities.

Dockett, who has impressed since he stepped on the field for the Cardinals, still makes some youthful mistakes, as evidenced by his crucial roughing-the-passer penalty in a last minute loss to the 49ers. But Dockett says he only knows one way to play.

"I was just giving my 110 percent, man, and you know what happened," he said. "I don't have nothin' against the rules. The rules are what they are. Our defensive coordinator tells us to play aggressive. Don't slow down on nobody. You play football, and that's what happened."

The Cardinals have remained steadfast in their belief that Dockett, a third-round pick, was a first-round talent, and he has wasted no time proving the team right, even though Green temporarily tinkered with him at left end. Dockett already is attracting a steady diet of double-teams — a major reason DE Calvin Pace, a first-round disappointment last season, leads the team in sacks (four) while appearing in well-timed spot duty.

On the offensive side of the ball WR Anquan Boldin has continued to progress from a knee injury suffered during the preseason and is still on schedule to return to the field on October 31st versus the Buffalo Bills.

Next Game: vs. Seattle, October 24th

San Francisco – It seems every time the 49ers take one step forward they seem to take two steps back. After two solid offensive performances against the Cardinals and the New York Jets, the Niners are not happy with the sulking of starting RB Kevan Barlow and are nonplused by his dancing behind the line of scrimmage.

Barlow is a big-back who is known for hitting holes hard but with inexperience along the line and the lack of a credible passing-game, he just doesn't have the holes he has been used to since he came into the league.

QB Tim Rattay seems to be settling in as the leader of the offense even though the team has struggled to generate any consistent offense. So far on the season, behind a porous line and with no real running threat, he has completed 64.4% of his passes for 1,177 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

Against the Jets, Rattay operated a lot in the hurry-up, no-huddle offense and he was effective throwing downfield, hitting WR Brandon Lloyd on a 33-yard touchdown and averaging 10.2 yards per attempt. Even though his skills seem perfect for the hurry-up offense head coach Dennis Erickson seems reluctant to use it on a regular basis as it might open Rattay up for more hits than his body can take.

The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the 49ers as they have several players who are dinged up, including Rattay.

"We need to rest. We're mentally beat up a little bit. They just need to go refresh themselves and come back on Monday ready to go. Now, we'll practice and look at film tomorrow, then we'll give them Wednesday through Sunday off. Some will be around. Some we'll hang around, some guys that live here. Most of them will probably be gone. If I was them, I would."

Next Game: at Chicago, October 31st

St. Louis – The emergence of second-year wideouts Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald just makes the "Greatest Show on Turf" that much more dangerous. A perfect example is the 17-point comeback versus the Seattle Seahawks as Curtis and McDonald caught the final two touchdowns, with McDonald's coming in overtime to win the game.

QB Marc Bulger was still shaking off the bruised shoulder he suffered in the win versus the Seahawks.

"He needed to throw yesterday and he said he felt great today," Martz said. "He's back to normal. I was very concerned originally but there's no effect at all -- he had all the zip."

The Rams face a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense tonight and it is imperative that the offensive line keeps the aggressive front-seven of the Bucs off of Bulger.

On the defensive side of the ball DE Leonard Little is beginning to make his presence felt. In the first two games, Little recorded just one tackle and no sacks, but in the last three games he has recorded a sack in each game and has been a disrupter in the opposition's backfield. One way that defensive coordinator Larry Marmie has helped to combat the double-teams that offenses are throwing at Little is to line him up two or three yards off the line.

On the injury front, DE Tyoka Jackson is doubtful for the Buccaneer game and thus rookie Anthony Hargrove is expected to see more time…something Ram coaches are anxious to see.

Next Game: at Miami, October 24th

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


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