Around the NFC West: Alex Smith's ceiling

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says former 49ers quarterback Steve Young has harsh words for current starter Alex Smith. Young on KNBR radio: "I think Alex is a competent quarterback. I think Alex understands the game, and I'm telling you there's a reaction -- similar to Matt Leinart. He can't get out of third gear. He throws the nice ball, he can drop back. But when things get fast -- fast, fast -- you can tell, he just can't quite keep up. You really can't win jobs when you can't keep up." The question for the 49ers is whether they can win games -- enough games to qualify for postseason -- with a competent quarterback. The next question becomes to what degree the 49ers will want to upgrade once Smith's contract runs out following the 2010 season.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com checks in with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, who says he loves Michael Crabtree "like a brother" and their Wednesday dustup was a case of Davis merely keeping the second-year pro in check after some of Crabtree's unspecified antics got under his skin over time. Also, Nate Davis' job security is far from assured.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers gave their first-team defense one final test run before the regular season.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Bruce Davis and Tramaine Brock made positive impressions in the 49ers' final exhibition game.

Also from Barrows: a look at which 49ers players are eligible for the practice squad.

More from Barrows: an unidentified 49ers player says the team has no beefs with Crabtree.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers a transcript from his interview with former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan. McCloughan on the 49ers team he largely assembled: "It’s a talented squad. I know in Seattle, we’re going to have our hands full playing them twice a year. It’ll be interesting with Alex, last year of his deal, I think he’s primed to have a breakout year. With the talent he has around him, it should happen. On the defense, as you’re well aware, the last two years they’ve been really solid. It hasn’t changed at all, the personality of the defense … they’re going to be a tough foe, there’s no doubt."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com singles out Deon Butler as the Seahawks' most impressive player Thursday night. For at least the second time, coach Pete Carroll calls Butler the most improved player on the team this offseason.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times noticed that Quinton Ganther started at fullback ahead of Owen Schmitt. I've questioned whether the Seahawks would have a spot for a true fullback without high value as a special-teams player or as a runner (or even as a true fullback, in this case).

Also from O'Neil: T.J. Houshmandzadeh indirectly confirms that the Seahawks have put him on the trading block. Houshmandzadeh: "It doesn't bother me. I knew before y'all knew. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't." Good luck unloading that $7 million guaranteed salary.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Houshmandzadeh appeared unhappy about the trade rumors. Houshmandzadeh: "If I leave here, that means I’m not wanted. Everybody wants to feel wanted. It’s doesn’t matter, but it’s like, 'Wow.' But that’s just how it goes. I’ve never been in a situation like this. I’ve never been a guy that wasn’t wanted. I was always wanted. So we’ll see."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have big decisions to make at quarterback. Somers: "(Matt) Leinart played two series, then was replaced by rookie Max Hall, who continued to show why he might be the team's quarterback of the not-so-distant future. (Ken) Whisenhunt acknowledged he has a tough decision to make at quarterback. Do the Cardinals keep Leinart if they can't trade him? Or do they release Leinart and go with Hall and fellow rookie John Skelton as the backups?"

Also from Somers: a 53-man roster projection that includes Herman Johnson and Cody Brown, but not Leinart or Reggie Wells.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Kurt Warner can relate to what Leinart is going through. Warner: "The one thing I hope Matt takes from my situation, if we talk through this, is that, 'Hey, it happened to me, and it happened more than once.' The only thing I knew how to do was to fight, prepare and work. And every time, I came out on top."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com passes along comments from Whisenhunt that painted a contrast between Hall and Leinart. Whisenhunt on Hall: "You have to understand this was preseason, and they weren’t doing a lot defensively. Sometimes you get a little too excited about those situations. But I like the way he handled himself and I like the way he handled our team."

Also from Urban: a closer look at Hall's performance.

More from Urban: LaRod Stephens-Howling is battling another concussion.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Sam Bradford is making this NFL stuff look easy, at least in preseason. Said Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome: "It looks like you guys have found yourselves a quarterback." Burwell: "I know it's early. I know he did this Thursday night against a Ravens defense that was loaded with second-teamers. I know that there is no way this kid will continue to look this darned good once the games start to count. Once the games start counting, a lot of things change. The intensity of the game will rise and the opposing defenses will be throwing things at him he's never seen before. I know, I know, I know, I know. But geez, every time I see him play, I can't help but think that he sure is making it look awfully easy."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Rams players on the roster bubble.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger did not always play well, but he did care.

Also from Thomas: Bradford looked very good, albeit against the Ravens' second-team defense in a game that meant nothing in the standings.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says it seems like "a foregone conclusion" that Bradford will be named the Rams' starting quarterback for Week 1.