Around the NFC West: Best waiver claim?

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com expects Ahmad Brooks to earn a starting job this season. Maiocco: "Brooks, who recorded 11 sacks in the past two seasons combined, has been lining up on the left side with the first-team defense. With his job apparently secure, that leaves competition on the right side between incumbent Parys Haralson and rookie Aldon Smith, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft." Claiming Brooks off waivers from Cincinnati in 2008 stands as one of the better recent waiver claims I can recall in the NFC West. Reports at the time suggested Brooks might back up Patrick Willis at inside linebacker. Brooks has instead become an effective outside pass-rusher. The 49ers were strongly considering taking Brooks in the 2006 supplemental draft, but the Bengals beat them to it.

Also from Maiocco: a look at how the 49ers' quarterback situation has evolved.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee quotes 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh as pointing to the following players as having strong camps: Brooks, Willis, Justin Smith, Donte Whitner, Andy Lee, David Akers, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Joe Staley and Chilo Rachal.

Also from Barrows: Tramaine Brock has been the 49ers' most durable cornerback this summer.

Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat updates the rising and falling stock of various 49ers players.

Also from Cohn: The 49ers' starters will play about as much in the second week of preseason as they did in the first.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News updates Harbaugh's plans for the 49ers' wide receivers. Inman: "There remains an obvious emphasis on downfield blocks that could help spring mainstay running back Frank Gore. But the receivers are learning a new array of routes, including a bevy of slant patterns, once a trademark during the 49ers' days as a Super Bowl-winning dynasty."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the newly signed Josh McCown could get playing time for the 49ers against Oakland.

Also from Crumpacker: Rookie cornerback Chris Culliver has caught the 49ers' attention. Harbaugh: "He really showed good things right from the beginning. I thought he played well the first week [of training camp]. The third week, he has to push through some things to keep that upward trajectory going. The jumps don't get to be as big as they were the first week."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals first-round draft choice Patrick Peterson faces a tough transition to the NFL as a cornerback, noting that Charles Woodson is the only defensive rookie of the year from the secondary over the past 18 seasons. Boivin: "It's been difficult to evaluate Peterson in this limited time at training camp, but he's certainly caught the team's eye as a returner. He was a standout punt and kick returner in college and showed flashes in the Cardinals' preseason victory against the Oakland Raiders. He returned a kick 29 yards." I expected Peterson to stand out more as a cornerback early in camp.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic contrasts the Cardinals and Packers heading into their preseason game Friday night. Somers: "Unlike the Packers, the Cardinals' two-deep is really a flow chart of the unknown. Their starting two outside linebackers, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, are 34. Starting nose tackle Dan Williams reported to camp in poor condition. The two starting cornerbacks, A.J. Jefferson and Greg Toler, are young and unproven. There is no premier pass rusher and strong safety Adrian Wilson is out with a torn biceps tendon."

Also from Somers: Five things to watch when the Cardinals and Packers play.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com won't be surprised if Jeff King gets a few starts over Todd Heap in single tight end groupings thanks to King's superior blocking.

Also from Urban: advancing the Cardinals-Packers game.

Jim Trotter of SI.com offers thoughts from Cardinals training camp. He expects Larry Fitzgerald to sign a contract extension by Sept. 4

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the Seahawks' secondary came up big on the final day of training camp. Farnsworth: "Wednesday, the defensive line set the tempo in practice. Today, it was the defensive backs. They got their hands on dozen passes -- including interceptions by strong safety Kam Chancellor, rookie cornerback Byron Maxwell and rookie safety Jeron Johnson. But the defensive play of practice was turned in rookie linebacker Malcolm Smith, who bowled over fullback Dorson Boyce on his way to plowing into running back Justin Forsett behind the line of scrimmage."

Also from Farnsworth: The Seahawks felt rushed during camp thanks to the lockout.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Tyler Polumbus will start at left tackle for Seattle while Russell Okung continues to recover from an ankle injury.

Also from O'Neil: Zach Miller's prospects at tight end for the Seahawks. Miller has racked up receptions in recent seasons, but blocking duties prevent anyone from saying his hands are soft. Miller: "You have the lineman hands. "The swollen knuckles and the bloody fingers, peeled back nails."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers an injury update for Seattle: "Defensive back Walter Thurmond (ankle), defensive tackle Ryan Sims (knee), defensive end Chris Clemons (ankle), cornerback Kelly Jennings (head), defensive end Pierre Allen (unspecified) and tight end John Carlson (shoulder) did not practice Thursday and likely will not play."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Red Bryant excelled at practice Thursday.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with former Rams coach Dick Vermeil for thoughts on the team. Also: "After resting his sore hip for a couple of days, running back Steven Jackson returned to practice today, albeit on a somewhat limited basis."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Donnie Avery made the most of his recent return to practice, leading some teammates to joke that he was back from the dead. Thomas: "Hey, teammates will be teammates. But Avery turned the jeers into cheers later in Wednesday's practice at Rams Park. After diving to the turf to corral a low throw, several teammates shouted encouragement."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com passes along a few Rams-related injury updates. Mike Sims-Walker has a shot at playing Saturday.

Also from Wagoner: a look at increased expectations on defense for the Rams. Wagoner: "From the moment coach Steve Spagnuolo took over in 2009 and promptly named Ken Flajole defensive coordinator, the defense has enjoyed a stability that has included a grand total of zero coaching changes on that side of the staff and minimal turnover in terms of the starters. Now, entering the third year in the aggressive, attacking scheme that Flajole and Spagnuolo have cooked up, the sky would seem to be the limit for a group that made big strides in 2010 and is expecting even more in 2011."