Around the NFC West: 49ers' moves positive

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' recent moves suggest the team is heading in the right direction. Crumpacker: "Signing tackle Joe Staley to a six-year extension, to go with earlier contract extensions for center Eric Heitmann, outside linebacker Parys Haralson and running back Michael Robinson, sends a message to the rest of the team that hard work and production on the field will be rewarded."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says new 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye plans to use tight end Vernon Davis as a receiver more frequently than the 49ers did last season. That's what happens when a team requires its coaches to use its personnel as intended. The 49ers did not draft Davis near the top of the first round to block defensive ends.

Also from Maiocco: It'll be tough for Alex Smith to beat out Shaun Hill this season. Maiocco: "He not only has to outplay Hill in practice, he has to outplay him by a considerable margin. And, even then, it might not be enough for Singletary to go with him over Hill."

More from Maiocco: Patrick Willis predicts a top 10-finish for the 49ers' defense in 2009. That would require an improvement of three places from last season.

Still more from Maiocco: Details on Staley's contract and Staley's contention that the 49ers' new offense should help them cut down on sacks. I think Staley is being genuine -- he knows no other way, it seems -- but players usually say they prefer new systems over previous ones. Here's what another 49ers lineman said about the Martz system last offseason: "Everything about our offense makes sense. With some I've had in the past, we had seven or eight adjustments on a play depending on a defense. Right now I feel everything is very precise, very defined. We have rules we stick to. It should be easier for the long term."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Isaac Bruce thinks parity in the NFL can help the 49ers contend for the Super Bowl. Also, tight ends coach Pete Hoener is pushing rookie Bear Pascoe, a player the 49ers expect to help in the run game.

Also from Barrows: Hill struggles throwing in windy conditions. That's tough for him because winds tend to become a factor during afternoon sessions at team headquarters. Not that the wind ever swirls at Candlestick.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com cites a Forbes magazine piece noting that the Cardinals' brand has enjoyed strong gains over the last year. Urban: "Forbes says the Cards' 'brand value' has increased a 'staggering 143 percent' over the past three years, up to $68 million. They also note the $155 million, 20-year naming rights deal with the University of Phoenix at the stadium is the third-largest in the NFL. These days, with the economy being what it is, it's also tough to come by such a naming rights deal anywhere close. In the NFL, the Giants are the second 'hottest brand,' with the Cowboys third, the Jets fourth and the Colts fifth."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Seahawks coach Jim Mora and CEO Tod Leiweke will climb Mt. Rainier with famed climber Ed Viesturs on July 5. Viesturs has visited the Seahawks regularly over the years. He has summited Everest six times. He was the first American and fifth person overall to scale the 14 highest peaks without supplemental oxygen.

Dean J. Koepfler of the Tacoma News Tribune provides a slideshow from the Seahawks' recent visit to an Army obstacle course.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rams running back Steven Jackson as saying he's getting more detail-oriented coaching this season.

Also from Coats: a look at the Rams' safeties. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "If those two are on the same page, that'll permeate to the rest of the defense. If they're not on the same page, then everything goes south."

More from Coats: "Chris Draft, who had been working exclusively in the middle , took some reps at strongside linebacker on Saturday. That could be a prelude to second-round draftee James Laurinaitis moving up to the first team at or near the start of training camp."

VanRam of Turf Show Times thinks Rams backup running back Kenneth Darby can be effective in pass protection. He suggests the team could use two halfbacks at the same time. That wouldn't facilitate a power running game, however.

Chris Lee of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides a photo slideshow from Rams minicamp.