The Seattle Seahawks had seven plays in the preseason of 40 yards or longer -- two rushing, one passing, two on special teams and two on defense.

Here’s the list:

Earl Thomas: 59-yard punt return against Chicago. Thomas got a hard time from his teammates about being tackled by the punter, Patrick O’Donnell, but he’s probably the fastest punter in the league.

DeShawn Shead: 54-yard pick-six at Oakland. Shead was in the right place to scoop up a pass that cornerback Phillip Adams deflected, making the catch and taking it to the house.

[+] EnlargeRobert Turbin
AP Photo/Stephen BrashearRobert Turbin's 47-yard run against San Diego was the longest play from scrimmage by the Seattle offense in the preseason.
Robert Turbin: 47-yard run against San Diego. On second-and-5 at the Seattle 7, Turbin took a handoff from Russell Wilson and saw open field off the right side, thanks to some solid blocking by right tackle Justin Britt and right guard J.R. Sweezy. It was off to the races before he finally was run down at the San Diego 46.

Percy Harvin: 46-yard return on the opening kickoff against Chicago. Harvin caught the kick seven yards deep in the end zone, but never considered downing it. He headed up the middle, saw an opening to his right and finally was stopped at the Seattle 39.

Terrelle Pryor: 44-yard touchdown run against San Diego. Pryor scrambled to his left, saw an opening, easily ran past a couple of defenders and showed off his speed to reach the end zone.

Jermaine Kearse: 44-yard reception at Oakland. On the first play from scrimmage in the game, Wilson dropped back and threw it deep for Kearse down the right sideline, who made a nice over-the-shoulder grab to the Oakland 36.

Jeremy Lane: 41-yard interception return against Chicago. The Bears had a second-and-goal at the Seattle 12 when Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler made a throw intended for Josh Morgan near the goal line, but Lane picked it off at the 2 and broke several tackles, returning it to the Seattle 43.

Seattle opponents had only two plays of 40 yards or longer, both on returns by Oakland on Thursday night. George Atkinson III had a 45-yard kickoff return and T.J. Carrie had a 45-yard punt return.
Most of the hand-wringing over the San Francisco 49ers this preseason has been about the feeble showing of the first-team offense, which did not score a touchdown in seven exhibition games.

But now with the nine-game suspension of All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith becoming reality, the Niners’ once-vaunted defense might be more suspect.

Because even while the 49ers knew all along some discipline was going to come Smith’s way, it is hard to replace a player with the talent of Smith, whose 42 sacks in his first three seasons are eclipsed only by Hall of Famers Reggie White (52) and Derrick Thomas (43.5) in that same time frame.

Beyond that, the Niners are breaking in a new nose tackle in Ian Williams after Glenn Dorsey suffered a torn left biceps early in camp.

All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is out at least six games, more likely half of the season, and on the physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from his grisly left knee injury suffered in last season's NFC Championship Game.

Plus, three-quarters of the Niners’ starting secondary are now playing elsewhere: strong safety Donte Whitner (Cleveland Browns), and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers (both with the Oakland Raiders).

There could be some growing pains.

But the 49ers have been planning for the Smith suspension all through camp.

“Actually, because you have a feeling that something may happen at this point in the season, everybody’s getting reps now,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said this week. “All the guys that may play for him -- Dan [Skuta], [Corey] Lemonier, Aaron [Lynch], Chase [Thomas] -- all those guys have been getting a lot of reps. They’re all ready to go.

“It’s more of an issue when it happens in the middle of the season, just thrown at you like it happened last year. Then there’s no time to adjust. You just go.”

Smith missed five games after entering a rehabilitation facility following a DUI arrest, after the Niners’ Week 3 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts last season. The Niners went 5-0 during his absence.

“Guys, Skuta and Corey, stepped up big time for us,” inside linebacker Patrick Willis said this week. “It’s going to have to be like that again if we’ve got a situation.

“Regardless whether a player is down with injuries or he’s sick or a family cause, someone else has to step in and play just as well. Aldon has some big shoes to fill, but that’s why we’ve got to play team defense.”

And not just cover for Smith’s absence.

#NFLRank: No. 6 Robert Quinn

August, 29, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The annual #NFLRank project got underway last week as a panel of 85 NFL analysts across ESPN's many platforms went through the process of ranking the Top 100 players in the league on each side of the ball.

 Though Thursday, three St. Louis Rams -- linebacker James Laurinaitis (No. 93 defense), left tackle Jake Long (No. 63 offense) and defensive end Chris Long (No. 37 defense) -- had cracked the list. On Friday's final day, the list revealed the highest-ranked Ram, defensive end Robert Quinn.

Quinn made the biggest jump of any player in this year's rankings, moving from unranked last year to No. 6 on defense this year.

Defense, No. 6, Robert Quinn

Stats & Info: Quinn led the NFC with 19 sacks last season, the most by a Ram since sacks became official in 1982. Quinn's seven forced fumbles also led the NFC last season.

My take: Although Quinn made quite a leap in this year's rankings and being called the sixth best defensive player in the league is no slight, I can't help but feel like Quinn is too low on this list. I suppose you could make the argument that he needs a little more of a body of work before he can crack the top five, but these rankings are based on the here and now. I have the privilege of seeing Quinn every day so maybe that clouds my view, but I doubt there's a defensive player in the league that has the combination of production and upside that Quinn showed coming out of last season. I personally would have Quinn only behind Houston's J.J. Watt, who is at No. 1 on the list, and Seattle safety Earl Thomas, who is No. 3. I have little doubt that Quinn's trajectory will only continue to point him upwards as these rankings continue. What's scary for the rest of the NFL is he's only 24 and still scratching the surface of what he can do.
With cuts looming hours away, at least 22 players are wondering if they’ll have a job by time Saturday night rolls around.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been firm that five or six players were fighting for spots on the roster Thursday night.

Here are three Cardinals whose stock rose Thursday night:
  • Walt Powell, WR: With 140 return yards and a catch on third down in the fourth quarter that Powell turned into a first down, I think he landed himself a job on the roster. Arizona has been flirting with keeping five or six receivers, but always left the door open by saying that someone contributing on special teams would make the team. Powell is that guy.
  • Teddy Williams, CB: The last cornerback spot came down to Williams and Bryan McCann but Williams broke up a couple passes Thursday night and used his size – 6-foot-1, 207 pounds – to make his presence felt. He established last season he can play gunner and his transition from receiver to corner should help him make the roster.
  • Glenn Carson, LB: While a long shot to make the team, Carson had 10 tackles Thursday night – eight of which were solo – and he missed a huge interception by inches. He’s put enough on tape this preseason to get a good look from another team, but if he can slide through waivers, he might find himself on the Cardinals' practice squad.
If Patrick Willis has lost a step, it’s one that precious few other players in the NFL had anyway. The San Francisco 49ers' five-time All-Pro inside linebacker checks in at No. 7 among all defensive players in the ESPN.com Top 100 players project a year after being No. 3.

Willis
“Willis has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven seasons, becoming only the third defensive player since the merger to do so (Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas),” according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Willis, 29, has been slowed in the preseason with a stinger and missed two games last season. After playing in all 16 games in each of his first three years, Willis, the No. 11 overall selection of the 2007 draft, has had just one 16-game season since 2010.

Willis is the seventh and highest-rated player from the 49ers’ defense to be included in the #NFLRank project, the 15th 49er overall. As such, the 49ers had the most total players ranked, followed by the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who had 13. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots each had 10 players. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders had the fewest, with two each.

The following are the 49ers' ranked players, with their respective rankings:

OFFENSE

No. 81 – RT Anthony Davis

No. 54 – WR Anquan Boldin

No. 53 – LG Mike Iupati

No. 51 – WR Michael Crabtree

No. 42 – RB Frank Gore

No. 33 – QB Colin Kaepernick

No. 34 – LT Joe Staley

No. 18 – TE Vernon Davis

DEFENSE

No. 97 – SS Antoine Bethea

No. 74 – LB Ahmad Brooks

No. 71 – FS Eric Reid

No. 26 – DT Justin Smith

No. 15 – LB Aldon Smith

No. 12 – LB NaVorro Bowman

No. 7 – LB Patrick Willis
Even though Thursday night was the last time rookie quarterback Logan Thomas would be playing for a while this season -- pending any injuries to either Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton -- the expectations were still high.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had a laundry list of things he wanted to see out of his fourth-round pick. Efficiency. Checkdowns. Avoid forcing it. Don’t take sacks.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/Matt YorkRookie Logan Thomas was underwhelming in the Cardinals' final preseason game.
Thomas started out looking very good, hitting rookie tight end Troy Niklas for two straight completions to start the game. Then Thomas looked like a rookie, completing just seven more passes . He finished 9-of-21 for 73 yards as Arizona lost 12-9.

“Just very, very average,” Arians said. “You can’t take a sack there on the 1-yard-line patting the ball. It was a good learning experience for him.”

The sack Arians was referring to was in the first quarter when Chas Alecxih shed guard Jonathan Cooper at the line of scrimmage and then chased down Thomas for almost 15 yards before getting the sack. It was a situation like that one that Arians wanted to see Thomas, who was sacked three times Thursday night, throw the ball away or scramble out of it.

“We gave up some big hits on the quarterback,” Arians said.

Thomas said the offense couldn’t get clicking. The Cardinals finished with 98 yards compared to San Diego’s 347. They averaged 2.3 yards per play. They were 1-for-12 on third down.

“They played great defense and there were some things here and there that I could’ve have done better personally, but I’ve just got to watch the game and learn from it,” Thomas said.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher often talks about his preferred preseason method of bringing his starters along with a gradual build of snaps during the exhibition season.

In the past, Fisher sometimes has even opted to play his starters for a chunk of the fourth and final preseason game, a contest most teams usually hand over to the junior varsity in its entirety.

Fisher
But Fisher did things a little different Thursday night in Miami when he sat his starters. All of them. For the whole game. Miami coach Joe Philbin took a similar approach.

After what happened to Fisher's starters in Cleveland last Saturday, who could blame him?

"I think both coach (Philbin) and I were kind of on the same page as far as not playing players," Fisher said. "They had a lot of players out. We did so, too, not typically something that we do, but again, after what we experienced last weekend, we thought it was what’s best for our team. We gave a lot of younger players an opportunity to play."

Fisher hasn't always used the gradual build. In 2013, he sat most of the starters in the fourth preseason game, but he had hinted all this preseason that he was going to play them against the Dolphins. Then he watched helplessly in Cleveland as quarterback Sam Bradford was lost for the season to an ACL tear, cornerback Trumaine Johnson suffered a sprained MCL that will keep him out four to six weeks and three other starters -- defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford and offensive lineman Rodger Saffold -- left the game with ankle injuries.

When things clearly are going against you, it made sense for Fisher not to tempt fate by forcing the issue in Miami. There were a few Rams who probably could have used the work, including linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle) and defensive lineman William Hayes (offseason surgeries), after sitting out the other preseason games. Laurinaitis even lobbied to play.

Weighing the benefit of a few snaps against Miami backups against the possibility of further injury or re-injury really made it an easy decision.

By the time the Rams' 14-13 loss to the Dolphins was complete, Fisher saw the result he wanted, even if the scoreboard might have indicated otherwise.

"There were some good things in there; there were some frustrating things," Fisher said. "You get frustrated with some of the young mistakes our players make. Overall, our training room is empty right now, so that’s good news."

St. Louis Rams' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
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Examining the St. Louis Rams' roster:

(Note: WR Stedman Bailey is expected to make the team but is suspended for the first four games of the season and will not count on the initial 53-man roster.)

QUARTERBACKS (3)
The devastating loss of quarterback Sam Bradford leaves the Rams with just the three players mentioned above on the roster. Davis is the No. 2 for now but the Rams will keep their eyes open for a veteran to add experience. These three could make the initial cut but the most likely scenario is they keep Hill and Davis and Gilbert goes to the practice squad after they locate a veteran.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Chase Reynolds is difficult to leave off because of his value on special teams, but Watts has just offered too much upside for the offense and willingness on special teams to be left off. It wouldn't surprise if the Rams kept both but it's hard to do this without at least including Watts.

RECEIVERS (5)

With Bailey suspended the first four weeks, the Rams could take a longer look at another wideout for the first quarter of the season but there isn't one who has really emerged as worthy. Givens reminded many why he deserves to stick against the Browns but Pettis has been nearly invisible. Without Bailey, it stands to reason Pettis would stay but upon Bailey's return, that could change.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

The first three are probably pretty safe, but the Rams could have an intriguing competition for a potential fourth tight end if they opt to keep four. Cunningham versus Alex Bayer continues to be one of the more interesting battles on the roster. Cunningham is the better blocker, while Bayer has shown more as a pass-catcher. It's really difficult to determine which flavor the Rams prefer but I'm going back to Cunningham because of his value as a blocker on special teams.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

The Rams have serious questions about their depth on the offensive line. Barrett Jones' situation remains in flux and few of the backups have stood out. It's hard to project the depth beyond Joseph and Barnes but the guess here is the Rams do something to stash Jones and save the roster spot then opt for Person and Bond in a tight race over Brandon Washington and Sean Hooey.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

This is the toughest decision on the roster right now. Westbrooks and Michael Sam have both done enough in camp and the preseason to stake a claim to a spot. At this point, it would be a surprise if Westbrooks didn't make it. Jeff Fisher has hinted at a different look in terms of roster composition this year and it's not out of the realm of possibility they could keep both. It's hard to project where they could chop elsewhere to create space, though. The other X factor here is the health of Hayes and Sims. Neither played against Miami and Hayes has yet to appear in a preseason game. Perhaps that could open the door for both Sam and Westbrooks to stay.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Barring injury, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the first five don't make it. But the sixth spot is more of a question mark. That spot is anybody's guess. Steward stays there for now but Lawrence Wilson and Aaron Hill could surprise. And the Rams will definitely scour the waiver wire for others.

CORNERBACKS (6)

With Johnson out four to six weeks, this looks like the spot that could keep Sam from making the roster. The Rams will have to carry Johnson on the roster but will probably need to keep another body for depth in the meantime. It's not easy to choose one from the group of Roberson, Greg Reid and Darren Woodard. Roberson has flashed the most in coverage, Reid is the best tackler and Woodard is sort of the happy medium between the two. We'll go with Roberson because he's gotten the most opportunities, an indication the coaching staff likes his potential.

SAFETIES (4)

Put simply, the Rams don't have anyone else who has showed enough to earn a spot and Joyner could play safety in a pinch. Alexander and Davis are core special-teams players.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These three are set in stone.

Seattle Seahawks' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
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Examining the Seattle Seahawks' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Whether or not to keep Pryor may be the most difficult decision the Seahawks have because keeping a third QB means they will have to cut someone else at another spot they would have kept. But Pryor may have done enough in his return to Oakland Friday night to earn the spot. He was 11 of 17 passing for 134 yards overall, including a 33-yard TD pass to cap an 87-yard drive at the end of the first half. B.J. Daniels also played well, leading the team on a 91-yard drive late in the fourth quarter and throwing a 7-yard TD pass to Bryan Walters.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

Michael didn't play Friday night because of a hamstring injury, but Turbin has done enough to earn the first backup spot behind Lynch. I don't think Spencer Ware has done enough to earn a spot at RB or FB. Rookie Demitrius Bronson ran well again Friday night and could end up on the practice squad.

FULLBACKS (1)

Coleman has played well as the starting FB and continues to improve his blocking skills. The other fullback is rookie Kiero Small (5-foot-8, 250 pounds), who could end up on the practice squad. Turbin can line up at FB if needed.

RECEIVERS (6)

Four of these spots are set -- Harvin, Baldwin, Kearse and Richardson, the rookie speedster from Colorado. But eight players are vying for the final two spots, or maybe just one. Kevin Norwood, a rookie from Alabama, had foot surgery and may be headed to a redshirt season on IR. Lockette and Walters are the likely candidates for the last two spots. Walters fumbled a kickoff return Friday, but he also had the TD catch from Daniels, along with a great catch on a 33-yard throw from Pryor. And Walters had five kickoff returns for 137 yards. He also returns punts. Lockette's 4.3 speed helps make him a excellent coverage guy on punts and kickoffs. Phil Bates looked good in training camp and helped himself with the 33-yard TD catch Friday, but it may not be enough.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

The question here is whether the Seahawks want to keep three tight ends. You would think on a team that relies on its power running game, that would be a given. However, the Seahawks often used OT Alvin Bailey as a tight end (or extra tackle) on running plays toward the end of last season. It looked like Helfet had the third TE spot locked down, but he injured his shoulder last week and didn't play Friday night. Undrafted rookie Rashaun Allen or rookie Morrell Presley could end up in the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

All the decisions here are about which men will be the four backups. Any doubts about whether Britt could step in and start at RT as a rookie have been put to rest. Bailey and Jeanpierre probably are locked in so that leaves two available spots. One could go to the veteran Winston, who will cost the Seahawks $1 million, but he can give them quality snaps at either tackle spot. The other backup has to be a guard so it could come down to Stephen Schilling or Caylin Hauptmann. Last week I had Schilling, but now I think Hauptmann may get that backup guard spot. Schilling grew up in the Seattle area and was signed in the offseason. He has shown he also can play center. Hauptmann has a bit of a mean streak that offensive line coach Tom Cable loves. The coaches are high of rookie tackle Garry Gilliam, a quality athlete who also played tight end at Penn State. He may be headed to the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Really tough cut coming here. After outstanding play all preseason, Schofield has earned his spot as a nickel-package pass rusher. DE Benson Mayowa is on the bubble. Scruggs’ return after missing last season will help the depth because he can play defensive end or defensive tackle. The Seahawks are high on rookie defensive end Marsh, who will factor in in nickel packages. Rookie Jimmy Staten probably goes to the practice squad. Hill has his best preseason game Friday night, as did DT D'Anthony Smith, but someone has to go.

LINEBACKERS (7)

This comes done to what happens with Irvin, who hasn't been on the field yet this summer after undergoing hip surgery, but he is expected back next week. It's bad news for Korey Toomer if Irvin is ready to play. Coyle has been the biggest surprise at camp. He has started at MLB while Wagner was out with a hamstring injury and played pretty well. Backup MLB Heath Farwell is having groin surgery and is on IR, but his career may be over. Pierre-Louis is a super fast rookie who will contribute a lot on special teams this season if he's healthy. He injured his hamstring again Friday night.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It's probably down to Adams or Akeem Auguste for the fifth CB spot. Adams had good and bad moments Friday night, getting beat of a long TD pass. But he also deflecting a pass that DeShawn Shead returned fro a 54-yard pick six. Lane had a great game two weeks ago but has a groin injury. He'll start as the nickelback if he's healthy. Simon, who missed his rookie year last season with injuries, has impressed everyone with his athleticism.

SAFETIES (4)

Johnson has been solid all preseason and is the first backup at both safety spots. Shead is listed as a cornerback and played that spot Friday night at Oakland, but the team needs him more at the safety spots. Chancellor is back after offseason hip surgery. Thomas likely has won the job to also return punts. Terrance Parks could slide in here if the teams keeps another DB.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These spots are set unless an injury occurs.
Examining the Arizona Cardinals' roster.

QUARTERBACK (3)

Arizona will carry two active quarterbacks -- Palmer and Stanton -- again this season. Thomas was given the third job earlier in the week when Arizona released Ryan Lindley.

RUNNING BACK (4)

Dwyer continued to establish himself as the Cardinals' second back behind Ellington. He has the speed and power to be a third-down back that can catch a pass out of the flat. Taylor has been solid but has fallen behind Dwyer. Hughes' spot on the roster continues to be safe because of his ability to be a fullback.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

It's safe to say the top four spots have been locked up, especially after how John Brown has been playing. Jaron Brown earned his spot with an impressive training camp and preseason while Walt Powell solidified his job as a special-teams addition during the final preseason game.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Larsen appears to be the answer for now at left guard while Cooper continues to work on regaining the form he displayed before his injury last August. Bradley Sowell has played his way back into contention for a position on the roster, especially with how other areas on the team will shake out because of injuries.

TIGHT END (4)

Fells has earned a spot as the fourth tight end because of his upside, although his job isn't 100 percent locked down. He'll still have to look over his shoulder the day after final cuts though when other tight ends are on the market.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7)

With Darnell Dockett out for the season with a torn ACL, the rotation shrunk by one but with Alameda Ta'amu’s return from injury and the addition of Tommy Kelly, the line’s depth grew to a good size for the regular season.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5)

With Abraham back, outside linebacker becomes a focal point again. His starting job was promised to him but Shaughnessy, Acho and Okafor have all been playing above expectations in camp and the preseason. This unit is versatile enough to combat any offensive scheme it faces especially with Alexander playing more outside linebacker than inside.

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4)

With Alexander playing more outside linebacker, Desmond Bishop has been getting more reps and improving on a weekly basis. Arizona has time to see if Bishop can continue his comeback.

CORNERBACK (5)

Peterson and Cromartie are the starters. Powers is the nickel cornerback. Bethel will be in on dime situations. Williams won the fifth job with his performance Thursday and will find a role on special teams.

SAFETY (4)

Mathieu has returned to practice but has yet to play. Johnson and Jefferson continue to be steady at safety but Bucannon is learning the position and may become a starter before long.

PUNTER (1)

Zastudil has been steady and strong the past few seasons, and this year shouldn’t be any different.

KICKER (1)

Catanzaro won the job as Arizona’s kicker earlier this week and he looked good Thursday night.

LONG-SNAPPER (1)

Leach, who is as consistent as they come in the Cardinals’ locker room, will be their long-snapper until he either says it’s time to retire or he can’t walk anymore. Whichever comes first.

 
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Did Josh Johnson give the 49ers something to think about, especially with another uneven performance by Gabbert, who also took a hard hit Thursday night?

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Rumblings abound that the Niners could go with just four backs, but Smith's versatility and work on special teams should give him the nod.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

While Patton appears to have locked up the the No. 3 wideout spot ... for now, Osgood and his special teams play seemingly put an end to Brandon Lloyd's comeback.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
Asante Cleveland could make a push if Carrier's hamstring is an issue.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

This, of course, is assuming Alex Boone's holdout continues and Marcus Martin is shut down for the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

This is made with the thought that Dorsey goes on Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list on Tuesday.

LINEBACKERS (8)

Another projection with a caveat: Aldon Smith's suspension coming down before the season begins and he's not on the roster to begin the year.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Cook is a gamble, given he is a veteran and does not add much to special teams. But his two preseason interceptions might be enough to stabilize a rebuilt secondary.

SAFETIES (4)

Tempted to put Craig Dahl or Bubba Ventrone over Spillman.

SPECIALISTS (3):

Done. Done. And done.
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In the most meaningless of four meaningless games, the Seattle Seahawks gave up five touchdowns in an ugly first half, including four TD passes, to end the preseason with a 41-31 loss to the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum.

Mental mistakes and sloppy play characterized a game where many of the players on the field won’t be in a NFL uniform next week. The Seahawks played better in the second half, but it’s still not the way they wanted to head into the regular season against Green Bay on Sept. 4.

Here are some other thoughts on the Seahawks' final preseason game of the year.

Wilson a preseason wizard: Russell Wilson was the clear bright spot on a rough night for Seattle. He was 3-for-3 on the opening drive, including a 44-yard deep sideline completion to Jermaine Kearse and a 25-yard TD throw to tight end Luke Willson over the middle. In the first half of the final three preseason games, Wilson completed 27 of 33 passes for 372 yards and three TDs, along with three rushing TDs.

Pryor and Daniels state their case: Picking a possible third quarterback didn’t get any easier with Terrelle Pryor and B.J. Daniels both having a decent showing. Pryor led the team on an 87-yard, 10-play drive in the final two minutes of the first half, including a perfectly thrown 33-yard pass to Phil Bates in the end zone for the TD. It also was a meaningful play for Bates, who is trying to earn one of the final spots at wide receiver. Pryor also led the offense on a 10-play, 57-yard drive for a field goal in the second half. He was 11-of-17 passing for 134 yards and a 108.5 passer rating. But Daniels also shined, leading the team on a 91-yard, 8-play drive in the fourth quarter, including a 28-yard run and a 7-yard TD pass. He was 5-of-9 passing for 71 yards and a 118.3 QB rating. The only QB who didn’t play well was backup Tarvaris Jackson, who was 2-for-4 for 19 yards and was sacked once.

Big night for Walters: It started horribly for receiver Bryan Walters, who fumbled on a kickoff return. But he more than made up for it the rest of the night. Walters, who is on the bubble for making the team, had a nifty run for a 7-yard TD on a bubble screen. He had five kickoff returns for 137 yards and a great catch on a 33-yard pass from Pryor to keep a drive alive.

Mixed bag for Adams: Veteran cornerback Phillip Adams, playing against his former Oakland teammates, gave up two touchdown passes in the first quarter, but Adams also had six tackles and a pass deflection in the second quarter that DeShawn Shead intercepted and turned into a 54-yard pick-six.

Sloppy play: It’s typical for a final preseason game with so many backups on the field, but still disappointing for the Seahawks, who had 12 penalties for 95 yards. Many were careless mistakes, like being offsides on back-to-back kickoff attempts and having 12 men on the field on defense in the second quarter. Cornerback Akeem Auguste was flagged for unnecessary roughness with a late hit in the end zone after a TD catch. Rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson frustrated Jackson when Richardson didn’t know where to line up on one play.
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Thursday night was Logan Thomas' chance to show Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians the progress he's made during his first training camp. But Thomas struggled to get the Cardinals' offense going, missing receivers short and high. The Cardinals' 12-9 loss to San Diego wasn't all on Thomas' shoulders, but his 73 passing yards on 9-for-21 passing didn't help. Arizona's offensive line didn't keep Thomas clean, but it was a chance for Thomas to find out what running for his life was about.

Here are some other thoughts on the Cardinals' final preseason game of the year:
  • Rookie wide receiver Walt Powell looked to have earned a spot on the 53-man roster with his special teams play Thursday. He returned five kicks for 140 yards and made a nifty move after his only reception. Before the game, Arians said three receivers are playing for one spot and Powell had the best showing Thursday night. The only major flaw he showed against the Chargers was how he carried the football during his returns, away from his body and reckless.
  • By the way he was trying to tackle, it doesn't look like linebacker Kevin Minter is back to 100 percent. He was wearing a black sleeve on his left arm, which could've limited him somewhat but his ability to grab and drag down didn't look like typical Minter.
  • In his first game since becoming the Cardinals kicker, rookie Chandler Catanzaro picked up where he left off, hitting all three of his field goals and scoring all of Arizona's points. He also fared well in kickoffs, including one that led to the Cardinals forcing a fumble.
  • Guard Jonathan Cooper played much of the first half and needed it. He looked adequate for the majority of his time on the field but there were a few instances where Cooper looked rusty. He was beat on a rush in the second half that led to Thomas getting hit.
  • Neither tackle trying to make the team looked impressive. Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter both got beat throughout the game, which led to Thomas having to scramble.
  • Arizona did a good job of protecting the end zone, deflecting potential touchdowns by the Chargers four times in the first half before Jimmy Legree came down with an interception.
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The San Diego Chargers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 12-9 Thursday evening at Qualcomm Stadium in the team’s final preseason game, finishing the exhibition season at 2-2. The two teams will meet again in 10 days in the regular-season opener at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sept. 8.

Chargers head coach Mike McCoy sat the starters on both sides of the ball, giving players fighting for roster spots plenty of opportunities to make their case for earning a roster spot. Here are some players who flashed on Thursday.
  • Outside linebacker Cordarro Law showed his 14 sacks in the CFL last season were not a fluke. He finished with a sack, forced fumble, a batted down pass and three total tackles against the Cardinals. Law leads the Chargers in tackles during the preseason, and also could be a productive special teams player. With San Diego in need of pass-rushers, Law is making his case for being on San Diego’s the 53-man roster.
  • Sixth-round draft choice Marion Grice once again showed a deft ability to find the right hole in San Diego’s running game, and appears to have nudged ahead of Branden Oliver in the battle for the fourth running back spot, should San Diego keep four running backs. Grice finished with 79 yards rushing. Oliver also had a solid evening, finishing with 71 yards rushing.
  • Undrafted rookie free agent defensive end Chas Alecxih notched a sack and finished with a combined four tackles (two for a loss). His performance comes at the right time, as the Chargers are thin at defensive line and looking to bolster depth at the position.
  • University of Washington product Greg Ducre made two tackles on special teams and six tackles overall on the perimeter defensively. The undrafted rookie free agent also showed speed as a gunner on the punt unit. He should stick around on the practice squad.
  • Seventh-round pick receiver Tevin Reese had at least three drops and a fumble. However, Reese could still be a practice squad candidate, with an ability to give San Diego’s defense a good look because of his speed.
  • Ex-CFL standout Dontrelle Inman solidified a spot on the final roster with another good performance, finishing with three receptions for 54 yards, including a long of 21 yards.
  • Nick Novak finished 4-of-4 on field goals, including a career-long 55 yarder.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Only time and, eventually, the St. Louis Rams will tell how many defensive linemen they keep on their initial 53-man roster.

Those answers probably won't come in any sort of official capacity until Saturday, when the league mandates every team trim their roster from 75 to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET. In the meantime, the Rams are facing a difficult decision on what to do at the most-watched battle among fifth defensive ends in league history.

On one hand there's Ethan Westbrooks, the versatile, undrafted rookie out of West Texas A&M who has done nothing but make plays since the preseason began. On the other there's Michael Sam, the seventh-round draft choice out of Missouri who has done nothing but make plays since the preseason began. Both have done enough to show that they belong on an NFL roster.

If the Rams were hoping Thursday night would offer some final clarity, they didn't get their wish. Per usual, both players were up to the task of providing further food for thought. Westbrooks had four tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits. Sam showed he can do more than just rush the passer by offering production against the run with a team-high six tackles.

[+] EnlargeMichael Sam
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesMichael Sam had a solid training camp, but there are many factors at play that will determine whether or not he makes the St. Louis Rams roster.
It has long been expected that the Rams would keep nine defensive linemen, and eight spots essentially were locked up before camp even began. If that's the case, then the Rams must now finally choose between Westbrooks and Sam.

"This is the hard part about the National Football League in the next couple of days, reducing the roster to 53," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We’ll have some discussions tomorrow and we’ll go from there."

Those discussions will bring into play many factors beyond what can be seen in a stat book. If there's an advantage to be found in this conversation, it's easily seen in Westbrooks' versatility.

Westbrooks has impressed the Rams' coaches and personnel department with his ability to play multiple positions, and his pass-rushing ability from the interior of the line has been even better than they thought.

"If you are versatile, I feel like some teams can look at you like an end, some can look at you like a tackle and if you can do both equally well and teams like that, I feel like that’s a good value to have," Westbrooks said.

At this point, it would be a surprise if Westbrooks isn't on the roster, at least in this corner of cyberspace. But because both players have made strong cases to stick, there still remains the possibility the Rams could keep both players.

Earlier this week, Fisher said he could keep as many as 12 defensive linemen. He was joking (I think), but the possibility of keeping 10 can't be discounted. The question then becomes how they get to that number.

As with any roster decisions, the numbers game always comes into play. And there are factors that could be working against Sam, including injuries to players such as cornerback Trumaine Johnson and Barrett Jones that aren't serious enough to land them on injured reserve, but might effectively double their roster spots as the Rams carry them and an additional player at the position.

"Those are things that all fall into play with these decisions," Fisher said.

Conversely, the Rams also might have something of a need for bodies at defensive end. They played with just three down linemen against Miami because of injuries to backups William Hayes and Eugene Sims. Hayes did not play in a preseason game as he recovers from a trio of offseason surgeries and Sims watched practice this week with his leg in a brace.

The status of that duo moving forward could also be an X factor in the discussion.

Regardless of the Rams' decision, Sam has no plans to sit around and nervously wait, as he did during the draft. He'll head to his alma mater on Saturday to watch Missouri open the season against South Dakota State secure in the belief he did all he could to win a job somewhere in the NFL.

"I’m very confident I will be playing on an NFL roster this fall," Sam said. "I made some big plays in games and in practice I improved every week and I know I can play in this league."

Now we wait to find out where he'll do it.

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