Around the NFC West: 49ers' new-look defense

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Gary Plummer of 49ers.com explains why he thinks the 49ers' defense is performing better lately. Plummer: "I think guys are being more aggressive. The players are flying around to the football and you're seeing more movement upfront. The 49ers are playing much more of the 3-4 than they were earlier in the season. There are more stunts and slants. Guys are getting into gaps. That wasn't what the scheme was earlier in the year, but it has become the scheme now, and it's become effective."

Nate Clements, writing for 49ers.com, says his thumb felt a little weird but did not hurt after having a pin removed this week.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are about to find out whether the $2 million they invested in DeShaun Foster was money well spent.

Also from Crumpacker: Michael Robinson and Delanie Walker will return kicks Sunday even though Allen Rossum is back from injury. Expect Rossum to return punts. Kick returns are generally more violent.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider quotes Mike Singletary as saying Frank Gore has a better chance than Arnaz Battle at playing for the 49ers in Week 15. Also, former 49ers coach Mike Nolan used to play NFL Films music during warmups at training camp. Singletary takes another approach.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with Foster, who feels fresh after playing only sparingly in the first 13 games.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the even-keeled Foster is showing no additional excitement despite a likely increased role.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Vernon Davis has promised Singletary he'll keep his cool despite opponents' ramped-up attempts to rile him.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' Antrel Rolle has made a successful transition from cornerback to free safety. The team had trouble finding a viable free safety before Rolle made the switch.

Also from Somers: Levi Brown hopes to enjoy a Hall of Fame career amid chatter that the Cardinals should have drafted Adrian Peterson instead.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals' secondary is more of a finished product with Rolle at free safety and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback.

Also from Urban: Aaron Francisco is coming off a six-tackle game on special teams.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune takes a look at the Cardinals' draft class from 2007. Picking up Steven Breaston in the fifth round worked out great, but has anyone seen Buster Davis?

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Mike Holmgren finally has the tight end he has coveted. Holmgren wishes he had John Carlson a decade ago.

Also from Farnsworth: Offensive coordinator Gil Haskell says Walter Jones was enjoying a far better season than in 2007 before a knee injury intervened.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Rams and Seahawks have suffered from turnovers on their offensive lines.

Also from O'Neil, with Jose Romero: Any second thoughts Holmgren had about retiring became irrelevant when the organization committed to Jim Mora.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune asks whether the Seahawks should select Jones' replacement in the first round of the 2009 draft.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests a bad economy and a bad record have conspired for a local TV blackout Sunday.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Holmgren, whose NFL career began when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in 1970.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat addresses the blackout before noting that former 49ers linebacker Larry Grant would play Sunday if injury prevents special-teams leader Gary Still from playing. Also, cornerback Jason Craft left practice after his back tightened up.