Division Preview: NFC West

848573286.0

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03: Defensive end Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts after a tackle during the second half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

With the NFL preseason officially having commenced, this means only one thing: football is back!  However, before we get into the real games, there’s still tons of division previewing to be done. Today, I will be talking about the highly anticipated NFC West division. Dominated by the Los Angeles Rams a year ago, the NFC West added a plethora of talent throughout the offseason making it a division that could make or break the NFC.

 

However, the best thing about the NFC West might just be its quarterbacks. For at least the next decade or so, we’ll get to see young guys like Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Josh Rosen all battle against each other. There’s talent all across the division, but the talent at the quarterback position could end up making this one of the best divisions in football in a few years. 

 

Nov 9, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson following the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-358976 ORIG FILE ID: 20171109_mjr_su5_295.JPG

 

  1. Seattle Seahawks 9-7

Best/Worst potential Record: 11-5/ 5-11

Playoff prediction: Divisional round

Team MVP: Russell Wilson

Best Free Agent Acquisition: WR Brandon Marshall

Biggest loss: CB Richard Sherman

Draft Grade: C

Best Draft Pick: RB Rashaad Penny

 

The winds of change swept through the Pacific Northwest this offseason, with The Legion Of Boom coming to an end.

 

After releasing Richard Sherman, the three-time All-Pro signed with the San Francisco 49ers for a three-year $39 million dollars. Earl Thomas continues to holdout, while Kam Chancellor is now retired. Defensive Lineman Michael Bennett was traded this offseason as well.  Now, it seems as if the only guy on the Seahawks defense is linebacker Bobby Wagner. Seattle’s defense is depleted for the 2018 season and it’s difficult to see them making an impact in 2018. While teams may have feared the Seahawks defense in the past, it’s not really that dangerous of a unit anymore.

 

Wide receiver Paul Richardson signed with the Washington Redskins, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall was signed to a one-year deal. The last time Marshall produced any real elite stats in 2015 with the Jets where he had 1502 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Richardson was the Seahawks third option on offense behind Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. But as long as you have an MVP contender at quarterback, there’s always hope in a league like the NFL. In 2017, Russell Wilson passed for 3,983 yards, 34 touchdowns, and just 11 interceptions. Although his completion rate was a little low at 61.3 percent, he’s still one of the few elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

In the draft, the Seahawks also finally found a hopeful replacement of Marshawn Lynch in Rashaad Penny, one of the fastest and most agile running backs in the whole draft. In 2017 for San Diego State Aztecs. Penny rushed for 2248 yards, averaged 7.8 yards per carry, and had 23 rushing touchdowns. Sounds like this offense going to light up the scoreboard. In the later rounds, Seattle drafted one-armed phenom Shaquem Griffin, who led the team in tackles in the first preseason game. Seattle may not have had the strongest draft, but they might have a few guys who could potentially be future starters down the road.
Larry Fitzgerald

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Best/Worst Potential record: 10-6/ 8-8

Playoff Prediction: Divisional Round

Team MVP: QB Josh Rosen

Best Free Agent Acquisition: CB Tre Boston

Biggest Loss: S Tyrann Mathieu

Draft Grade: A+

Best Draft Pick: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA

 

Chosen Rosen at 10th overall. What an insane start for a team that’s stuck between rebuilding and retooling. Rosen was one of the best pocket passers in all of 2017 for the UCLA Bruins. He racked up up 3756 yards in 2017, with a stellar completion percentage of 62.6 percent, along with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. If the Cardinals believe in Rosen and start him in 2018, he could emerge as the best quarterback from the 2018 NFL Draft as he will have a nice offensive core around him. David Johnson is set to return, as is the ageless Larry Fitzgerald. In 2016, Johnson broke out for 1239 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. But he also impacted the passing game, with 80 receptions for 879 yards and four touchdowns. In the second round, general manager Steve Keim added Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk who’ll take over slot duties immediately. Over a three-year span at Texas A&M, Kirk averaged 952 receiving yards and almost nine touchdowns each year. Then there’s the future first-ballot Hall of Fame wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, who even at the age of 34, managed to post 1156 receiving yards in 2017.

 

As good as the Cardinals defense was under Bruce Arians, it’s primed for a down year in 2018. As the team continues to go through personnel changes, the defense will go through ups and downs in 2018. However, let’s talk about Chandler Jones, the NFL’s leader in sacks in 2017.  Jones had 17 sacks last year, added 51 tackles, and also forced two fumbles. the man went on a tear last year and will not be forgotten come Sundays. Overall, this is a unit that still has guys like Patrick Peterson, Benson Mayowa, and Markus Golden. It’ll be interesting to watch in 2018.

In the 2018 draft, the Cardinals mainly focused on offense, as five of their six picks were offensive players. The front office moved up five spots to trade for Josh Rosen, who’ll be tasked with taking this team to the Super Bowl. Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk could emerge as starters down the road and in 2019, if this team is picking in the top ten, then odds are that they’ll add an impact player.

 

Jimmy Garoppolo

  1. San Francisco 49ers

Best/ Worst potential record: 10-6/6-10

Playoff prediction: Divisional round

Team MVP: QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Best Free Agent Acquisition: RB Jerick McKinnon

Biggest Loss: RB Carlos Hyde

Draft Grade: B

Best Draft Pick: WR Dante Pettis

 

As soon as John Lynch acquired Jimmy Garoppolo during the 2017 trade deadline, the 49ers rebuild sped up and the season instantly changed. After sitting on the bench for a few games, San Francisco’s golden boy started and led the team to five straight wins and then was signed to a lucrative five-year deal worth $137.5 million dollars. During the five-game stretch that he started, Garoppolo had seven touchdowns, 1560 passing yards and a high completion rate of 67.4 percent. After Carlos Hyde signed with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco signed former Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon, one of the best receiving backs in the league. In 2017, caught 51 passes and had 421 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. McKinnon will team up with Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garcon, Dante Pettis, and George Kittle to form what could be a dangerous offense.

 

On defense, the 49ers definitely got stronger. They added Richard Sherman who will bring leadership and veteran experience to a unit that needs it more than ever. However, the 49ers biggest strength on defense in 2018 might just be the front seven. Led by Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner, the defensive line flashed potential in 2017. Thomas had 34 tackles and three sacks, while Buckner had 45 tackles and five passes defended. Another player to watch out for in the front seven is linebacker Reuben Foster. Although Foster has been criticized for off-field issues this offseason, he still flashed potential as a rookie. Once he returns from suspension in week three, he’ll be able to build on 59 tackles he had a year ago. The future is brighter than the California sun in San Francisco. Many of the pieces seem to be in place, now all that needs to happen is for players to gel and then begin winning games.

 

It’s no secret that the NFL Draft was interesting for the 49ers. With the ninth overall pick, the organization drafted offensive tackle, Mike McGlinchey. In what was seen as a confusing move to some, the 49ers saw it as a necessary investment as protecting Jimmy Garoppolo is their number one priority. The team then invested in finding another pass catcher and added Washington Huskies wide receiver Dante Pettis, a player who averaged 12.1 yards per reception in 2017. Six of the 49ers nine draft picks were defensive players, meaning the organization feels as if its offensive core is set for the future and the defense just needs a little bit more attention.

 

jared-goff-090317-getty-ftrjpg_v6js9czcxcgi1axskf6kpm2ie

  1. Los Angeles Rams 11-5

Best/Worst Record: 14-2/11-5

Playoff prediction: Super Bowl appearance

Team MVP: RB Todd Gurley

Best Free Agent Acquisition: WR Brandin Cooks

Biggest Loss: WR Sammy Watkins

Draft Grade: B

Best Draft Pick: LB Micah Kiser

 

It’s Super Bowl or bust for this Rams team. General Manager Les Snead has been nothing but aggressive this offseason. Sean McVay has really changed the culture in just one season.

 

McVay turned the Rams into an offensive juggernaut last season. In 2017, Jared Goff tossed 3804 yards, had 28 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. In 2016, he completed just 54.6 percent of his passes, whereas in 2017, he completed 62.1 percent of his passes. Running Back Todd Gurley had an MVP-caliber season in 2017 and will come back in 2018 and look to do nothing but feast. Gurley ran for 1305 yards, rushed for 13 touchdowns, and also cemented his status as a dual-threat weapon by impacting the Rams passing game. The former Georgia Bulldog caught 64 passes for 788 yards and six touchdowns. Prior to the preseason beginning last year, the Rams traded for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. And for one season, while Watkins was a nice addition for the Rams, the team managed to get Brandin Cooks, who’s a significant upgrade over Watkins. Since 2015, Cooks has managed to get 1000 yards receiving each year and has seen his yards per reception increase every year. With Gurley and Cooks signing contract extensions this offseason, it’s clear that this team is here to compete for a long time.

As good as the Rams got on offense this offseason, you could say the same for the defense. Even with Aaron Donald holding out, the team still has a Super Bowl caliber defense. Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh signed a one- year $14 million dollar deal. He’ll join Michael Brockers and Dominique Easley and hope to terrorize quarterbacks. The secondary includes Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Lamarcus Joyner. Talib has had success playing in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in the past, while Marcus Peters has 19 interceptions over a three-year span. Lamarcus Joyner too enjoyed a breakout campaign last year with three interceptions.

 

In the draft, the Rams did not make their first selection until the third round. With no first or second round picks, Les Snead focused mainly on adding depth to a roster who’s starters are pretty much locked up. The Rams best pick may have been their first fifth-round selection, Micah Kiser. Kiser is an interesting player as he could develop into a three-down starter sometime in the future. However, for now, he’ll likely be used in situations where stopping the run is required. Seven of the Rams eleven draft picks were defensive players. It’s clear the front office realizes how important depth is on defense. And the draft is the perfect place to address any depth issues that may exist for an NFL franchise.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *