How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Boller 1. Kyle Boller, QB, Rams. The pass he threw across his body and across the field in Week 4 produced a pick-six for the 49ers, while pretty much ending any quarterback controversy in St. Louis. It's not that Marc Bulger stands out as a clearly superior option. The reality for the Rams is that even a good quarterback might not overcome the limitations inherent in this offense. The team lacks sufficient options at receiver. The offensive line isn't playing very well as a whole. Boller has completed 21 of 42 passes for 172 yards and two interceptions in his last six quarters. The corresponding passer rating is 41.0 rounded up.

2. 49ers guards. Consider it a bad sign for David Baas and Chilo Rachal when the head coach expressed serious concerns about the offensive line, all while praising both tackles and the center. Lineup changes could be a possibility. The remedial nature of the 49ers' offense has too often been used to suggest the team lacks confidence in quarterback Shaun Hill. It's clear offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye lacks confidence in the offensive line's ability to pass protect. The thought of Hill dropping back in a spread passing attack might not appeal to Raye under any circumstances. It certainly doesn't appeal under the current ones.

Kerney 3. Patrick Kerney, DE, Seahawks. Seattle hasn't led frequently enough to put Kerney in favorable pass-rushing situations, but neither has Kerney recaptured the form he showed during the 2007 season. He has two sacks through four games after collecting 14.5 in 2007 and 5.0 through seven games last season. A groin injury suffered against the Colts in Week 4 will send Kerney to the sideline for a week and possibly longer, renewing concerns about his durability at age 32. Seahawks coach Jim Mora didn't sound too concerned, though, because the team has better depth at defensive end, particularly with Lawrence Jackson playing well. That means Kerney has become less important to the defense overall.


Willis 1. Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers. Willis became the third player to finish a game with at least 2.5 sacks and one interception return for a touchdown since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982. The Giants' George Martin had three sacks and one interception return for a score in 1985. The Lions' Shaun Rogers matched Willis' feat in 2007. Already a two-time Pro Bowl choice in his first two NFL seasons, Willis appears on his way to becoming a great player. He's a punishing tackler, a big-play threat, a respected leader, the best linebacker in the division and only 24 years old.

Singletary 2. Mike Singletary, head coach, 49ers. The 49ers have outperformed reasonable preseason expectations by one game in the standings and more if one acknowledges the team's near-victory against the unbeaten Vikings in Minnesota. Underachieving does not appear to be an option for the 49ers under Singletary. Teams with considerably more talent have lesser records. In a short time, Singletary has turned the 49ers into a smart team that avoids mistakes and plays good enough defense to stay close against good teams or possibly blow out bad ones. The 49ers were not good on offense in Week 4. That they won by a 35-0 count anyway reflects well on the head coach.

Jackson 3. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. The Rams did not force the NFL's fourth-leading rusher to stay in the game for the painful final minutes of their blowout defeat in San Francisco. No one would have faulted Jackson for taking a spot on the sideline. Instead, Jackson stayed in the game until the end and punished defenders as much as they punished him. The way Jackson ran under the circumstances qualified as inspiring. Despite playing in a horrible offense without established receiving threats, Jackson is somehow on pace to finish the season with 1,468 yards rushing, a total that would have ranked in the top five last season.