Behind Enemy Lines – Coaching and player news

Even though it is the offseason, things are still happening inside the NFC West.

San Francisco – Head coach Mike Nolan finally hired his defensive coordinator on Super Bowl Sunday, tabbing former Giant linebackers coach Billy Davis to lead the defense.

Davis has spent his entire 13-year career as a position coach and the Niners job will be his first as a coordinator. Nolan offered Davis the job after a marathon six-hour interview earlier in the day.

"I've been with a lot of great coaches and learned from some of the best coordinators," the 39-year-old Davis said. "This has been an aspiration of mine my whole life. I grew up in the game. I know there's a learning curve that goes on. I'm anxious to attack that and work as hard as I can possibly work."

Davis' specialty is teaching the 3-4 defense that Nolan wants to employ. Davis had a great mentor, spending his first seven years under Houston head coach Dom Capers, the inventor of the zone-blitz scheme, while Capers was the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

"It was very important to find somebody that had experience in the 4-3 and the 3-4," Nolan said. "I didn't want to get someone just to come in with their own set of goods, whether it fit our players or not. ... Billy is a great teacher. I've watched Billy for a long time as a position coach. He's got great energy."

Former 49ers QB Jeff Garcia spoke with the San Jose Mercury News last week and had something surprising to say about his playing status in Cleveland.

"If (the Browns) decide to toss me aside, maybe I'll come ask (new) coach (Mike) Nolan if there's a position for me here," Garcia said. "Hell, I'll even play special teams."

He was unable to totally adapt to the Browns' offensive philosophy and his physical skills are not well suited to the down-the-field passing game that possible new head coach Romeo Crennel is expected to employ.

Garcia's $4 million base salary may make him a June 1st roster cut and he could be in a San Francisco uniform soon thereafter.

Player to watch: LT Kwame Harris may be making a move after two seasons on the left side. While it is too early to consider the third-year player a bust, he hasn't been able to make the move to protecting the quarterback's blindside.

Look for him to possibly make a move to his more natural right tackle spot during the summer. He spent his entire career in high school and college at the right tackle position.

Arizona – In a surprising move, the Cardinals have granted RT L.J. Shelton permission to seek a trade. Shelton, who is 28 and spent most of last season injured and out of shape, signed an expensive five-year contract extension only 15 months ago, but head coach Dennis Green has determined that Shelton is not the type of player he wants on his team.

"A number of teams have expressed interest," said agent Eric Metz. "We look forward to (having Shelton) starting anew someplace else.

"He just wants to play football. He's on the right side of 30 and he has proven that he can excel at this level."

Player to watch: RB Marcel Shipp has a lot to prove this summer. With the retirement of future Hall-of-Fame RB Emmitt Smith, Shipp is the veteran among a lot of youngsters in the Cardinals backfield.

2004 was a nightmare for Shipp.

Following the team's mini-camps, Green demoted Shipp and named Smith as his starter. During training camp, Shipp suffered a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle and ended up on the injured reserve list for the entire season. His rehab is progressing as expected and he should be ready to go full speed by the time training camp rolls around.

St. Louis – The Rams home field has received a dubious honor. The Edward Jones turf was dubbed by 1,500 players as the second worst in the entire NFL. "Leading" the Rams was the turf in the RCA Dome (Indianapolis Colts), but it is no coincidence that these are the last two turf fields that have not switched over from Astro Turf .

The low rankings for both surfaces is an acknowledgement by players that artificial turf technology has surpassed that of AstroTurf.

"It's like playing on concrete," said Clark Gaines, a senior regional director of the NFLPA.

Rookie RB Steven Jackson and head coach Mike Martz have both complained about the surface and it is expected that the Rams will be installing the newest version of Field Turf before the start of the regular season in September.

Player to watch: LB Brandon Chillar is expected to take over the starting strongside linebacker post that had previously been manned by Tommy Polley. Polley is expected to leave via free agency and Chillar has the chance to regain the spot he lost to Polley after the third week of the season.

Chillar is a good athlete who has excellent range and instincts. His problems stem from getting lost in traffic and not being able to disengage blockers at the point of attack.

The Rams may also look to the draft to pick up a playmaker for this position.

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


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