• Around the NFC West: The new Alex Smith

  • By Mike Sando | May 17, 2012 9:16:21 AM PDT

Alex Smith's commitment to improving his throwing mechanics promises to turn analysts into amateur position coaches during the upcoming NFL season.

Every touchdown pass or interception will invite questions about whether Smith's shoulders were square or whether his front knee was bent sufficiently at delivery.

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Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains the changes Smith has made to his mechanics by incorporating more of his body into the throw. Maiocco: "The most noticeable difference is that Smith also has greater flex in his left knee. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, speaking in December, repeated what he has said since 2007: Smith's knee lock was a major issue."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Smith's work with pitching coach Tom House also addressed the psychological aspect of the game. Branch: "Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who recommended the pitching coach to Smith, credits his meeting with House after the 2003 season for transforming his previous nice-guy style of leadership."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Dashon Goldson played well last season with minimal offseason preparation, something to keep in mind as Goldson remains unsigned this year. Barrows: "Furthermore, Goldson's absence gives the younger players more exposure. As of now, C.J. Spillman is filling in at free safety when the first-team defense takes the field. The 49ers signed Spillman to a three-year extension this offseason. Spillman may be the most physically gifted of all of the team's safeties -- he's certainly one of the more aggressive -- but he lacks experience. Newcomers Mark LeGree and Trenton Robinson, a sixth-round draft pick, also get a bit more action with Goldson's absence."

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Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team's emphasis on speed in the draft should help the special teams, which were already pretty good. Farnsworth: "Red Bryant set franchise records by blocking two field goals in a game and four kicks during the season. Jon Ryan led the NFL and tied a club record with 34 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, broke his club single-season records for average (46.6 yards) and net average (39.3) and also got off the longest punt (77 yards) in franchise history. Steven Hauschka tied club records by kicking five field goals in the upset victory over the Ravens and converting at least one three-pointer in 12 consecutive games. Doug Baldwin blocked a punt that Michael Robinson returned for a touchdown, while Farwell also had a blocked punt to set up a TD."

Also from Farnsworth: Why Jeremy Lane appealed to Seattle in the draft.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks owner Paul Allen has denied rumors his sports empire could be for sale.

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says no one is quite sure why Marshawn Lynch calls teammate Matt Flynn by the name "Antonio" -- that's just Lynch.

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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Landon Cohen's addition to the Cardinals' roster gives the team 90 players. Somers: "The Cardinals had one spot open on the roster and obviously needed some depth at defensive end. Signing Cohen doesn't preclude them from reaching agreement with defensive end Vonnie Holliday or outside linebacker Clark Haggans. Whenever that happens, the club will make a corresponding roster move."

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Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis offers thoughts on the Rams' proposed stadium upgrades. Softli: "While there may seem to be a short-term downside, there is also a huge potential for economic growth that all Missourians can be very proud of once a top-flight facility is built. The bottom line is that this current stadium needs a major facelift, or else another one needs to be built, because this community can’t afford to lose another NFL team and millions of dollars in future revenue."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with new Rams linebacker Mario Haggan, the oldest player on the team at 32. Haggan: "Fresh start for me. Fresh opportunity. This is a young team with an established quarterback. I've heard so many good things about Coach [Jeff] Fisher; you talk to guys across the league and they all wish they could play for him. And it's close to home. Maybe my family can come see me play more in St. Louis."

Also from Thomas: a report from Fisher's first full-squad practice as Rams coach. Fisher: "We added a bunch of things today. We've got a lot of 'base' in, we've got third down, and red zone. Friday, we'll probably do some 2-minute. So we're throwing a lot at 'em. But they've responded very well and they're practicing well together."


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