2009 NFC West Predictions
2009 NFC West preview from MadduxSports.com. After studying the NFL teams get signed up for our NFL Sports Picks for the top handicappers on the internet.
2009 NFC West Division Preview
By Adam Barone
The NFC West is certainly one of the weakest divisions in football, no matter how things turn out in 2009. Some of the weakest units in the game make their home here. That certainly doesn’t help the NFL’s popularity out west, as the division features only one even remotely long-standing rivalry—the 49ers and Rams. Both were in the old NFC West. Otherwise, the group is comprised of a former NFC East team, and a former AFC team. Try to stay awake for this one.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6): Seahawks’ head coach Mike Holmgren retired this offseason, and has been replaced by Jim Mora. Mora brought in Greg Knapp to run the offense, and he’ll employ a West Coast attack with a zone-blocking based running game. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is back after an injury plagued 2008 that saw backup Seneca Wallace drive the team directly into the ground. Wallace completed just 58.3 percent of his passes and led the ‘Hawks to a 4-12 record. Free agent receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was signed to give Hasselbeck a quality target to throw to, while the maturation of tight end John Carlson should give him another.
The defense was terrible last season, mostly because it couldn’t stop anyone through the air. It ranked 30th overall, and dead last against the pass. The team’s lousy record last season got them a high draft pick, which allowed them to select linebacker Aaron Curry—the consensus best overall talent in the draft. Mora plans to make the defense more aggressive, but he has a lot of work to do, especially after linebacker Julian Peterson was traded away.
Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Former offensive coordinator Todd Haley is gone, now the head coach of the Chiefs, and has been replaced by the weirdest coaching combination in the league. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was an offensive coordinator with the Steelers, and is still basically in control of the unit, but the subordinate job of “offensive coordinator” has been divided into a run game coordinator (Russ Grimm), and a passing game coordinator (Mike Miller). Former starting running back Edgerrin James is gone, and has been replaced by rookie Chris Wells, who’ll split time with second-year back Tim Hightower. Hightower was ineffective everywhere but at the goal line last season, averaging 2.8 yards per carry, but scoring 10 touchdowns.
Former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was fired because his defense was ineffective, not finishing higher than 22nd the past three seasons, and he’s been replaced by Billy Davis, who’ll run a more conventional 3-4 scheme. There’s some talent on defense, including middle linebacker Karlos Dansby and a star-studded secondary, so improvement as a unit is likely.
Francisco 49ers (7-9): Mike Singletary is now officially the
head coach in San Francisco, and Mike Martz is gone. The team will
run a Frank Gore-heavy attack, with Sean Hill likely to be under
center. It’ll be a conservative offense, with rookie Glen
Coffee spelling Gore. The team was able to draft receiver Michael
Crabtree 10th overall, giving them a reliable weapon on the outside.
Ultra-talented tight end Vernon Davis may be looking at his last
chance to produce after a disappointing start to his career, though
this new scheme may present his best chance.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky runs a 3-4, and elevated the defense last season from 25th overall in 2007 to 13th in 2008. The maturation of inside linebacker Patrick Willis alongside Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson, and Parys Haralson could vault San Francisco even farther up the list.
St. Louis Rams (3-13): Former Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is now the Rams’ head coach, and has a lot of work to do if he’s going to make the Rams respectable any time soon. Long-time Ram left tackle Orlando Pace was released and replaced with rookie tackle Jason Smith, the team’s first round pick. Receiver Torry Holt is now a Jaguar, leaving running back Steven Jackson as the obvious centerpiece of the offense. The starting receivers are now Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton, who had 53 and 13 receptions last season respectively, and will need to step up in order for this offense to find any kind of rhythm.
The defense, Spagnuolo’s bread and butter, actually has some attractive young talent. Rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis joins a group that already includes end Chris Long, tackle Adam Carriker, linebacker Will Witherspoon, and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe. With some work, this defense could be respectable. As a group they were 31st last season, so improvement won’t be difficult.