Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2011 NFC West Preview

Finally, we've ended up in the NFC West, arguably the worst division in the NFL heading into the season, but they do have a few teams who could surprise.

St. Louis Rams, 1st Place


QB: Sam Bradford
RB: Steven Jackson
WR: Danny Amendola, Mike Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson
TE: Lance Kendricks
OL: Roger Saffold, Jason Brown, Jacob Bell


DL: DE Chris Long, DT Fred Robbins, DE James Hall
LB: James Laurinatis, Ben Leber
CB: Bradly Fletcher, Ron Bartell
S: Quintin Mikkel, Craig Dahl

As long as St. Louis' defense holds up and their offense keeps growing, it's going to be tough for any NFC West team to handle them. They have an underrated receiving group and a hungry Steven Jackson running behind an improved line. Their success will ultimately rely on Bradford's growth. If he becomes the Matt Ryan/Joe Flacco type, like I think he can, the Rams have themselves a QB for the next decade, and a good one. Defense is a little thin, but everyone else in this division has major holes bigger than the Rams' defense.
Record: 10-6


San Francisco 49ers, 2nd Place

QB: Alex Smith
RB: Frank Gore
WR: Michael Crabtree, Braylon Edwards, Josh Morgan
TE: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
OL: Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Joe Staley

DL: Justin Smith, Issac Sopogoa
LB: Patrick Willis, LB Ahmad Brooks, LB Aldon Smith
CB: Carlos Rogers, Shawtae Spencer
S: Donte Whittner, Dashon Goldson, Madeiu Williams

The 49ers would be such a better team if they had a full training camp to work with, and a chance to evaluate outside quarterbacks. I still think you put Donovan McNabb or even Vinny Young behind center with this team, and you have the division favorite. Smith has looked horrid this preseason, but I expect better in-season, and I expect Gore to turn it on and the Wideouts to perform. Their defense is a top-5 NFL defense but doesn't get noticed because their offense isn't up to par. If Smith shows up on fire though, this could be their division for the taking! They'd help themselves out by grabbing either David Garrard or Trent Edwards (both just cut) as Smith's backup, or replacement if he proves this preseason hasn't been another "learning period". (More in-depth Niners Preview to come Saturday)
Record: 8-8

Arizona Cardinals, 3rd Place

QB: Kevin Kolb
RB: Beanie Wells
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet
TE: Todd Heap
OL: Levi Brown, Rex Handlot

DL: Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell,
LB: Parris Lennon, Joey Porter
CB: Patrick Peterson (R)
S: Adrian Wilson

The only thing keeping the Cardinals out of the cellar is the excellent connection I'm expecting out of Fitz and Kolb. It should be like another Warner back there in AZ, but their running back depth is thin after losing rookie Ryan Williams, that was a huge hit for this offense. Defensively, they're one of the weaker teams in the league and will ultimately keep them from competing or even being .500. I'm also not at all sold on Beanie Wells as a featured back!
Record: 7-9
Seattle Seahawks, 4th Place

QB: Tavaris Jackson
RB: Marshawn Lynch
WR: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams
TE: Zach Miller
OL: Russell Okung, Robert Gallary

DL: Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch
LB: Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne
CB: Marcus Trufant
S: Earl Thomas

The Seahawks have the makings of a ridiculously dynamic offensive attach. They have a power/agile back in Lynch, a nifty 3rd down guy in Forsett, and a bunch of big, fast receiving targets, including newcomers Rice and Miller. It's just too bad they didn't pick a better quarterback. You would have put Kevin Kolb or Orton or even kept Hasselbeck here, this team would be playoff contenders, immediately. Look what they did last season. This division is that sorry!
Record: 5-11_________________________________

New QB on Market? The 49ers could have another option for their lack of quarterback depth, as the Jaguars released their starter David Garrard (career 86 QB rate; 90.2 in '10). Now, Garrard has his limitation, but there isn't an NFL person around that would say he'd rather have Alex Smith leading his team than Garrard. If I were Baalke, I would thank my lucky stars someone of this quality became available and swoop him up before anyone else does. If Alex stinks it up to start the year, boom, you have your answer without having to rush Kaepernick into the mix. Again, I haven never been a huge Garrard fan, but his 2010 numbers show he certainly still has something left in those legs and arm. He or Trent Edwards, who played well despite being surrounded by a horrible team in Buffalo, then never really has gotten another opportunity, in my mind, would be superior to Alex Smith. I have a hard time understanding why the 49ers' brass doesn't see it that way.

1 comment:

Bonshu said...

The most unpredictable division in football.