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NFC West Penalty Watch: Okung improves

Two NFC West left tackles are heading in opposite directions on the penalty front.

St. Louis' Rodger Saffold has seven of his nine penalties over the Rams' past three games. Seattle's Russell Okung has zero after drawing six over the first three games.

Injuries and difficult matchups can influence penalty counts for offensive linemen in particular. Left tackles need every edge they can get even when healthy. Injuries can lead to holding or moving before the snap to get a jump on opponents.

Saffold's run of penalties began with three during a difficult matchup against Brian Orakpo and the Washington Redskins in Week 4. Saffold incurred three more penalties against Green Bay in Week 6 before suffering a leg injury late in the game. He committed another penalty against Dallas last week.

The ankle injury Okung battled early in the season likely contributed to the six penalties he incurred in the first three weeks of the season. Okung has not always appeared full strength even since then, but the team's bye week had to help.

The chart shows the nine NFC West players with at least five assessed and declined penalties this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Saffold leads the NFL.

San Francisco's Anthony Davis shows up with six, but I think he has largely gotten his penalty problems under control recently.

Two of Davis' six penalties were for tripping violations against Philadelphia. Davis adjusted his technique on cut blocks, eliminating the rolling motion that invited the tripping calls. His most recent penalty, for illegal formation, was not his fault. Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. lined up off the line against Detroit.

Arizona's Patrick Peterson is trending with five penalties over the past thee games. He had three against Pittsburgh in Week 7, including one when he memorably jumped offsides, then tried to call timeout before incurring the penalty. Hey, it was worth a try.

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2011 NFC West Penalty Leaders