NFC West preview

Ethan Sample

Sport’s Blogger


Carson Palmer and the Cardinals plan to stay on top of a challenging NFC West this season. (Kevin Piatt, Flickr)
Carson Palmer and the Cardinals plan to stay on top of a challenging NFC West this season.
(Kevin Piatt, Flickr)

Arizona Cardinals

After a record setting regular season for the Cardinals at 13-3, Arizona ended its playoff run in the NFC championship. Arizona will look to improve on building what they accomplished last year. Offensively, the Cardinals will look to quarterback Carson Palmer to lead them down the field. For the Cardinals to be successful, the offensive line will have to protect Palmer and keep him healthy. Palmer threw for 4,671 yards with a completion rate of 63.7 percent last season, making him a valuable asset to the team this season. In the backfield, the Cardinals will look to running back David Johnson as a starter. Johnson split carries with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington last season before they were injured. Johnson’s versatility catching the ball will also add to the team, considering he hauled in four touchdowns through the air and eight on the ground, making him crucial to the offensive production. Expect a great air threat with the return of receivers Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd in the lineup. In total, those receivers raked in 3,067 yards, which makes them an indispensable asset to the team. On defense, success will depend on how well safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Patrick Peterson play together in the secondary. After a trade with the Patriots for linebacker Chandler Jones, the secondary can be relieved with an excellent pass rusher. The Cardinals defense is expected to remain one of the top in the league. Overall, the Arizona is going to be a solid team.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks’  10-6 record is a rather disappointing one for them. Offensively, the Seahawks will look to improve their offensive line, a line that allowed 46 sacks last season. Quarterback Russell Wilson can only do so much. Throwing for 4,024 yards with barely any protection was impressive. It seems as if the offensive line is taking a step backward after releasing former OSU offensive lineman Russell Okung, who was the Seahawks’ best offensive lineman. Running back Thomas Rawls is expected to replace unofficially retired Marshawn Lynch. Drafting running back Zac Brooks is expected to make the run game interesting, as long as the offensive line can provide productivity up front. Receivers Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse will be leading the passing game. Baldwin, with only 78 receptions, tallied 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns. He will be Wilson’s deep threat this season. Keep an eye out for the return of injured tight end Jimmy Graham. With Graham’s return, expect the Seahawks to be a threat through the air. Seattle’s defense will be great once again with the return of players such as linebacker K.J. Wright, and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks will be a solid team this season.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams finished 7-9 last year, and it’s quite clear that they want to change that. Rookie quarterback Jared Goff will be their offense’s new hope. Goff may prove to be great, but it’s still uncertain. The Rams’ main point of attack this season will be on the ground with running back Todd Gurley, who found the end zone 10 times. Receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt will be Goff’s main targets this season. Defensively, the Rams were ranked 23rd overall in the NFL. With the loss of defensive backs Rodney McLeod and Janoris Jenkins, the secondary may struggle, but the pass rush is there. The defense recorded 41 sacks last season. Returning defensive tackle Aaron Donald had 11 by himself. The Rams lost quite a few close games, and if they look back, the reason they were in those games was because of their defense. It’s unclear yet how the offense will perform under Goff, but the defense will continue to rally to the ball hard this season.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers defense was in the top 5 of the worst defenses in the league last season. Offensively, the 49ers couldn’t get the ball rolling, and the offensive line allowed 53 sacks, stalling several drives. So where do the 49ers look to begin? It seems as if the only good move made this year for the 49ers was hiring coach Chip Kelley. Kelley is coming off a disastrous season in Philadelphia that ended with a 7-9 record. The 49ers have had a depleted roster after Jim Harbaugh and the organization agreed to part ways. Blaine Gabbert appears to be starting over Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. With the loss of Anquan Boldin, the quarterback in at the time will now target receivers Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton, if they can get the ball off. The run game is expected to struggle after only averaging four yards per carry last season. The 49ers did next to nothing to remedy the problem in the offseason. Expect the 49ers to continue to struggle, unless Kelley can pull this team together and get things done.

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