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NFC West Preview

The NFC West produced two playoffs teams last season and went pretty much as expected. We saw the St. Louis Rams bounced back from the previous miserable season and re-discovered their high power offense and the Seattle Seahawks made the progress and became a playoffs team. We also saw the San Francisco 49ers struggled all season to survive the .500 mark and the Arizona Cardinals being at the bottom of the basement as usual. This season, look for the Seahawks to continue to make progress and become one of the top tier teams in the league, the Rams to struggle to the make the playoffs, the Cardinals to flirt with the .500 mark, and the 49ers to be in the overall #1 draft pick sweepstake.

 

Arizona Cardinals (2003 Record: 4-12)

After replacing the starting QB, RB and both WRs from the previous season, the Cardinals struggled as expected and ended up with a 4-12 record. However, their poor season did produce some bright spots including the performance of the record breaking rookie of the year WR Anquan Boldin. Young QB Josh McDown also showed some flashes at the end of last season and is being penciled in as the number one QB for this upcoming season.

Added

FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo (Miami)

DE Bert Berry (Denver)

QB Shaun King (Tamp Bay)

DB David Macklin (Indianaplois)

WR Karl Williams (Tampa Bay)

Lost

DB David Barrett (NY Jets)

QB Jeff Blake (released)

Draft

1.03 WR Larry Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh)

2.01 OLB Karlos Dansby (Auburn)

3.01 DE Darnell Dockett (Floride State)

4.04 C Alex Stepanovich (Ohio State)

5.03 DE Antonio Smith (Oklahoma State)

6.03 C Nick Leckey (Kansas State)

7.01 QB John Navarre (Michigan)

Overall Outlook

New head coach Dennis Green comes in and his main objective is to build a high power offense. Their receving corp should be all set for years to come with Boldin and the number 1 pick from this and last year Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson. Coach Green named McCown the starting QB and surprisingly named 35 years old Emmitt Smith as the starting RB over young Marcel Shipp stating that Smith’s running style fits the system better. They drafted solid defensive players in OLB Karlos Dansby and DE Darnell Dockett to boost up their poor defense. Overall, the Cardinals are better offensively and defensively than last year and the .500 record should be within reach.

 

St. Louis Rams (2003 Record: 12-4, lost in division round 29-23)

After permanently replacing QB Kurt Warner with Marc Bulger, the Rams went on a winning way and finished the regular season with a 12-4 record. Although not quite as when they were “The Greatest Show on Turf” a few years back, their passing offense showed a lot of explosiveness. However, head coach Mike Martz showed lack of confidence in Bulger in the playoff loss to the Panthers by settling for a game tying field goal at the end of the game instead going for the win. That one conservative approach which is contrary to the fearless style the Rams had played all season and throughout Martz’ coaching career may have cost the Rams the playoff game last season.

Added

QB Chris Chandler (Chicago)

DE Sean Moran (San Francisco)

Lost

S Kim Herring (released)

OG David Loverne (Detroit)

OT John St. Clair (Miami)

DE Grant Wistrom (Seattle)

DT Brian Young (New Orleans)

Draft

1.24 RB Steven Jackson (Oregon State)

3.28 DE Tony Hargrove (Georgia Tech)

4.34 OLB Brandon Chillar (UCLA)

5.26 S Jason Shivers (Arizona State)

7.36 TE Eric Jensen (Iowa)

7.37 OG Larry Turner (Eastern Kentucky)

Overall Outlook

Marshall Faulk and Issac Bruce are getting older, and the decline in their productions are evident. They also lost DE Grant Wistrom and a couple of offense linemen. Plus the fact that they had not drafted well the past few years has left the Rams thin at many areas. They may still have enough talents to make the playoffs, but a 8-8 or 9-7 season is a strong possibility.

 

San Francisco 49ers (2003 Record: 7-9)

Last season was truely an up and down season for the 49ers. There were games in which they looked explosive (49-7 over the Bears and 50-14 over the Cardinals). And there were games they flat out looked awful (7-35 lost to the Viking and 6-44 lost to the Ravens). After the season, they released QB Jeff Garcia and RB Garrison Heart, traded star WR Terrell Owen away and did not bring back WR Tai Streets.

Added

OT Greg Randall (Houston)

DT Brandon Whiting (Philadelphia)

Lost

OT Derrick Deese (released)

QB Jeff Garcia (released)

RB Garrison Hearst (released)

DT Travis Kirschke (Pittsburgh)

DE Sean Moran (released)

WR Terrell Owens (Philadelphia)

WR Ron Stone (Oakland)

WR Tai Streets (Detroit)

TE Jed Weaver (Denver)

DB Jason Webster (Atlanta)

Draft

1.31 WR Rashaun Woods (Oklahoma State)

2.14 OG Justin Smiley (Alabama)

2.26 CB Shawntae Spencer (Pittsburgh)

3.14 WR Derrick Hamilton (Clemson)

4.08 DT Isaac Spoaga (Hawaii)

4.31 ILB Richard Seigler (Oregon State)

6.23 P Andy Lee (Pittsburgh)

6.33 S Keith Lewis (Oregon)

7.16 QB Cody Pickett (Washington)

7.25 DT Christian Ferrara (Syracue)

Overall Outlook

The 49ers are dedicating this season to rebuilding and developing the players. They are going with inexperienced QB Tim Rattay and WRs Brandon Lloyd, Rashaun Woods, Cedric Wilson and Derrick Hamilton. RB Kevan Barlow finally took over as the lone starting RB. But unless their young QB and WRs quickly develop, the running game is going to suffer from having an ineffective passing game. Look for a really down year from the 49ers.

 

Seattle Seahawks (2003 Record: 10-6, lost in wild card round 33-27)

After coming up short the past few seasons, the Seahawks finally made the leap and made the playoffs. And they showed a lot of hearts in the playoffs by taking the Packers into overtime before losing the game. The seahawks demonstrated a very well balance offense and were really benefitted from having the core of the skilled position players played together for a few seasons.

Added

QB Brock Huard (Indianapolis)

DB Bobby Taylor (Philadelphia)

DE Grant Wistrom (St. Louis)

Lost

DT Chad Eaton (released)

LB Randall Godfrey (San Diego)

DT Lamar King (Tampa Bay)

DT John Randall (retired)

DB Shawn Springs (Washington)

DB Reggie Tongue (NY Jets)

Draft

1.23 DT Marcus Tubbs (Texas)

2.21 OLB Michael Boulware (Florida State)

3.21 OG Sean Locklear (North Carolina State)

4.20 ILB Niko Koutouvides (Purdue)

5.25 WR D.J. Hackett (Colorado)

6.24 DT Craig Terrill (Purdue)

7.23 P Donald Jones (LSU)

Overall Outlook

With the core of their offensive players back together for another season, their offense should continue to progress. They lost some key players on defense but have, at least on paper, addressed those areas thru free agency and the draft. With that, the Seattle Seahawks should be a legitimate playoffs contender who could go very deep into the playoffs.

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