I wanted to take a closer look at the worst division in the NFL from last year and see if the teams improved enough to matter in the NFC. I'm going to start from the bottom and head up.
I don't know what concerns me more, the fact that Arizona gave up a solid cornerback AND a second round pick for an unproven QB with injury concerns or the fact that Arizona brass thinks this was the best choice for them and potentially paying Kolb some $63 million. If nothing else, it's a very bold move, but a move that HAD to be accompanied by other moves for it to make any sense... and to me it doesn't.
They did add a vet TE Todd Heap who I personally really like, but again injury prone. Their running game is non existant and for a QB Kolb who is trying to find himself a running game is a must have. Sending Tim Hightower to the Redskins (for Vonnie Holliday) means they are handing the reigns over to Beanie Wells (at least to begin the season) who has yet to live up to his potential. He is very fast but has not been able to put it all together in the NFL yet.
On defense, they lost all pro CB Rodgers-Cromartie in the Kolb deal... they added a CB in Richard Marshall, but certainly not the same skill sets. For a defence that gave up the 3rd most points in the league at 434 (Cowboys 436, Broncos 471), they didn't address it enough and could wind up giving up Bronco numbers this season. Add in the Adrian Wilson injury and you could be looking at a long season defensively. This in a divsion that had trouble putting up points, it wouldn't shock me if they gave up 500 points this season, due to the improvements the others in the west made offensively
The Cardinals have gotten worse. 3-13 record this year
San Franscisco 49ers
To start the offseason activities after the lockout, the 49ers were very quiet on the FA market. In fact the only noise they made was with Frank Gore holding out and Crabtree's injury which was not the great start to his first NFL season that Harbaugh wanted. Other issues have cropped up at well with the team wanting to send safety Taylor Mays packing.
On offense they ended up reeling in Braylon Edwards which is a good pick-up for Smith and gives them a good option opposite Crabtree (when healthy). Gore and Davis are also 2 weapons any QB would love to have on their field, the question has always been at QB and whether Smith can put it together with yet another OC and HC. I don't think so, at least not this year. I do have faith in Smith, but I'm seeing this as a rookie season. I can see Harbaugh staying a while so he will finally get some stability, this year is the growing pains. The offensive line is young and with a new C in the mix could be a sticking point and Smith might be eating a lot of turf at least to start the season.
On D, the best move was to get rid of Nate Clements. I was never a fan of Clements who doesn't have the right stuff to be a #2 CB, maybe as a nickel, but that's a stretch. Another loss to the D was that of Spikes, 2nd leading tackler on the team. This one hurts. Although Spikes is no spring chicken anymore, he's still a force on D and one you have an eye open for if you are an opposing RB. The addition that I do like is Carlos Rogers. An upgrade to Clements.
Overall the 49ers didn't address too much. I would have liked to see more revamping in the secondary and the loss of Spikes will be felt. The 49ers will struggle to start the season, but should give the 49 faithful reason to be optimistic in the later part of the season. Better on offense, worse on defense. will be 5-11
St Louis Rams
I really like the direction of this team. Steven Jackson has been the face of this team and stuck out some really horrible years and is finally starting to see some direction and there is reason to be optimistic in St Louis.
On offense their biggest impact signing was Sims-Walker, although if you look at his stats sheet from the Jags you will not be blown away, but I like this kid, I like his hands, I like his work ethic and I like Bradford being the guy throwing him the ball. Is he a true #1? We'll find out this year (I think yes). Another key addition was via the draft and TE Lance Kendricks who will add another weapon for Bradford. Amendola is a good receiver as well but in my opinion is not the #1 he was used as last year... I would have liked to see another WR added, Stokely would have been a great fit and they could still add another WR before the season starts, but they are definately a better offense. The addition of RB Williams as well will help reduce Jackson's work load but not his productivity.
Defensively they are not flashy. They helped themselves by grabbing Robert Quinn to help the pass rush and he should pay off immediately. Quinn with Long on the D-line and you cause offensive lines grief. Not to mention James Hall and his 11 sacks from last year adds to the depth on what is starting to shape up to a good front 4. That is where the excitement stops though... their LBs and DBs are the next areas they address in the draft next year. I do like Laurinaitis and his motor, he is all over the place making tackles and plays but where are the other 2 LBs? I will say this... there should be some shootout games in St Louis this year.
Overall a better team I think they'll flip their wins and losses this year and wind up at 9-7
I am a Seattle fan so I will try and be as unbias as I can here. I was extremely upset after the Seahawks draft. I listened too much to what the 'experts' said and not enough to what the Seahawks coaching staff was trying to accomplish. They accomplished what they wanted to with the first 2 picks in Carpenter and Moffitt and they are the right guys for the jobs they will handle.
Their offense has seen an overhaul. Gone is their best QB of all time and in at QB is a QB with a 'fresh start' in Jackson. The tools are there, but how much did his time in Minnesota's dog house get into his head. A boost of confidence should be there because Minnesota's OC came over to Seattle and sold the organization on him. Along with Jackson came Rice. I do think this pairing was key for Jackson. Let's not forget about Williams, Seattle's leading receiver last year and heading over to #2 receiver with Ben Obamanu or Golden Tate slipping into the slot adds speed. They also helped out Jackson by getting an all pro tight end in Zach Miller and pairing Carlson on the other side in a 2 TE set should prove formitable. The running game is the question here along with the line... can the line finally grasp the zone blocking scheme? Are the running backs the right guys for the job? I think yes... Cable brought in one of his own OL in Gallery and before Cable was punching his own coaches in Oakland he was an OL coach and a very good one. Cable will get the guys on board and with Unger healthy and manning the C we should be improved... but depth is a concern. The running game will be a tandum of mainly Lynch and Forsett and will go as the OL goes, it will be improved... although that wouldn't be tough to do.
Defensively they addressed their line with the addition of Alan Branch who adds depth. Mebane was a huge resigning and if Red Bryant can recover from his injury and have an impact, the line should be improved. The big question for me is at CB and SS. Jennings seems to be an afterthought after all of the big FA CBs were signed. Thomas will likely have to mop up Jenning's messes which leaves the secondary vulnerable. Thurmund and draftee Maxwell are not #2 corners (at least not yet), and a lack of depth at SS leaves the bulk of the work to unproven (but impressive so far) Kam Chancellor. Any injury to their secondary will be devistating. Lofa will be missed in the middle of the LB corps but Hawthorne is more than capable to handle the middle. Hill and Curry are above average outside LBs (although Curry's developement hasn't been as quick as some would like) and watch for rookie K.J. Wright... he'll impress you.
Seattle is very improved offensively but defensively didn't do enough to stop the passing teams in the league. I think Seattle will also flip their totals of last year and wind up 9-7. My heart tells me another title for the Seahawks, but the improvements to the Rams passing attack gives the Rams my unbias vote to take the west this year, when it comes down to tie breakers.