Each NFC West Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC West:

  1. richard-shermanSeattle Seahawks- The Seahawks have been a powerhouse in the league pretty much since Russell Wilson became the quarterback in 2012, but this year they seemed to be missing a key piece and that is before Earl Thomas went down with an injury.  It just seemed like their offense could never get it going and that their defense wasn’t as much of a juggernaut it had been in years past.  The offense had lost Marshawn Lynch to retirement over the offseason and the defense lost Bruce Irvin to free agency and the Raiders so these can explain why they didn’t see the same.  Their defense was still top 5 so their defense’s demise may have been more due to them slightly underperforming from their 4 previous seasons of leading the NFL in points allowed per game.  Their offensive problems can partially be explained by Russell Wilson being hurt for the early part of the year, but even when he was back to full health the offense didn’t seem right.  Their offense was able to have a dominant ground game when Marshawn Lynch was on the team despite the team lacking a real offensive line.  They could try to get another Marshawn Lynch, but Lynch was more of a unicorn running back that only comes along once every few generations and Thomas Rawls isn’t a terrible running back, but he needs some help.  The Seahawks tried to start improving their offensive line last year when they selected Germain Ifedi in the first round, but Ifedi was incredibly raw and he graded out as one of the worst offensive linemen in the league.  The worst part about the Seahawks’ line this year was that Ifedi wasn’t even the worst lineman to play over 600 snaps.  The only consistently above average offensive lineman they had is their center Justin Britt.  The Seahawks need to build their offensive line up if they want to look like they did in 2013, because Marshawn Lynch isn’t going to be walking through that door anytime soon.
  2.  larry-fitzgeraldArizona Cardinals- If you look at the numbers, it is hard to see what happened to the Cardinals that led to their decline from 2015.  They had the 6th best scoring offense, the 2nd best yardage defense, and they were the league leaders in both sacks and forced fumbles.  They have one of the most electrifying talents in the league on offense with David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald led the league in receptions, and their offensive line held up adequately.  So what went wrong?  Mostly it seems like they let up too many big plays that led to scores.  They have one of the best corner backs in the league in Patrick Peterson, but across from him they didn’t really have much.  Teams were able to attack the #2 corner back with little resistance which was the Achilles heel of the defense.  If the Cardinals can get a little bit more luck next season as far as losing close games and if they get a proper #2 cornerback to compliment Peterson, they can be back to knocking on the door of the Superbowl by next season.
  3.  aaron-donaldLos Angeles Rams- In their first season back in Los Angeles since the early 1990s, some people expected the Rams to finally take a step forward into contending for a playoff spot since now they had a first overall pick quarterback on their team to go with a ferocious defensive line and one of the best young running backs in the league in Todd Gurley.  Then they started the season with their first overall pick as the third string qb and lost to the 49ers 27-0, starting of the trend for how bad the season was going to be.  The Rams were a mess all over the place, with no real offensive threat and their defense was not nearly good enough to carry them.  Now this season, they have a new young and innovative head coach in Sean McVay who brought in the legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to turn the defense into one of the top defenses in the league.  So, with Sean McVay’s recent history as an offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, you can assume that he’d want to model his offense after the one that he had there.  To do that they will need to build up their receiving corps.  They will need to retain the services of Kenny Britt to do this correctly, but when the Rams make their first pick in the 2nd round they should take a wide receiver who can be a deep threat a la Desean Jackson.  If the resign Britt then they’ll have their Garcon in him and their Jamison Crowder in Tavon Austin, but the ability to stretch the field is the real catalyst of the offense.  Then they would just be a Jordan Reed type and a complete offense away from having the same kind of offense that McVay had in Washington that got him the job.
  4.  carlos-hydeSan Francisco 49ers- Oh boy, where to begin here?  The 49ers went into this season with incredibly low expectations with needs all over the roster and a coach and gm that were paired up in a sort of shotgun wedding.  Their roster was depleted of talent from top to bottom, spare a few good pieces such as Carlos Hyde, Deforest Buckner and Navarro Bowman.  And possibly the worst thing that could have happened to the 49ers this season was how they started it off by blowing out the Rams in a week 1 shutout victory which made some people think that they really could be something.  That was the only win they would have until they played the Rams again in week 16.  The 49ers don’t even officially have a coach yet (though many speculate that the job will go to Kyle Shanahan once his current team has played in the Superbowl), so it is hard to even know which need they’ll need to deal with first in order to start succeeding.  I honestly feel like the 49ers are currently the least talented team in the NFL so I feel like if they added a young qb now that they would end up messing up his development so I believe they should go for defense above all else and grab an edge rusher who will be able to sack the opposing qb so the team will have a better shot at staying in games defensively while they build up the rest of their roster with enough talent to eventually compete.  They are in line for a long rebuild though.

And this is the end of my team draft needs series.  You can check out all of the other articles in the series by clicking on the corresponding links below.

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

NFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-norths-biggest-draft-need/

NFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/each-nfc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

Arizona Cardinals: “Ca$hing in”

Cardinals Cowboys Football

Sports Elite

By: Matthew McCaughan

This week the Cardinals have been quite busy. While camp has been under way for just over a week now, management has decided to reward some key players with new deals and extensions. It is good timing if you ask me because players getting new deals while in camp is a bit more motivation and comfort knowing these guys will be around a bit longer. As we know, sometimes people see contracts and say wow look at all that cash. Not understanding these guys only see a partial amount of that money. And usually on new deals the first 3 years are really all they get to see because of the turnaround in this league.

IMG_4539The first move was probably the smartest as earlier this week the Cardinals were able to ink Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu to a large extension worth $62.5 million dollars and $40 millions of that in guarantees. I talked last week about how Mathieu is currently working his way back from knee surgery but the club feels very good about his rehabilitation process and it showed with that big money deal. I don’t think anyone will argue against it because his play speaks for itself. It’s pretty amazing to me because before draft day there was quite a bit of critics concerned with behavioral issues with Tyrann, more towards smoking weed than anything else. While these guys get criticized quite a bit about this I think we need to give Tyrann quite a bit of credit. He not only earned his keep on the field but also stayed away from off the field chatter.

Another extension that was taken care of was for Carson Palmer. It’s smart that they are appearing to now take a year to year approach with Palmer since he cannot get any younger moving forward and has had his own injuries to deal with, but it’s good for Arizona because it gives Palmer reasoning to be better each year and protects against long term debt in case of injury or decline in play. His new extension is worth $23.45 million with a $6.75 million signing bonus. Not bad for both sides considering their current situation. You get an aging veteran quarterback, however last year Carson showed he can still sling it around and do it at a high level. And, as we know solid quarterbacks are not easy to find in this league, especially ones who you need to be there late in the year for playoff success. That is however, the one thing Carson will look to improve upon as he didn’t have a great exit last season vs Carolina.

The last extension of the week came for a guy who is the face of this organization. A guy who shows up every day, leaves everything on the field and continually leads his team game to game. Not to mention is also Palmers go to in clutch situations. That man is Larry Fitzgerald who also agreed to an $11-million-dollar extension. Whatever he was to get is well deserved as he has held his own in this league for years. The one thing that has me thinking with his and Palmers extension is I wonder if those two have spoken and decided to do this together and give Arizona a couple of last shots to go out on top.  I mean it does give us a story book ending if it were to happen right? Two aging veterans trying to bring a title to Arizona and then both retiring after. Sounds too good to be true but unfortunately we can’t just write the script it will have to be well earned as the rest of the league does not care for this story book ending.

Not a bad week for the Cardinals I guess huh? Solidify 3 positions on your team with 3 leaders who all look to be huge impacts on this team this coming year. It’s great for the new guys as well so they can see how to get it done and what’s expected day to day and game to game. You put that on top of having a coach in Arians who knows how to get it done and having these guys in the best place to succeed. The Arizona Cardinals may very well be able to get to the promise land this year. Their current s ruins certainly are telling that story.

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Arizona Cardinals: 2016 Training Camp is Underway

usa-today-8590744.0By: Matthew McCaughan

Well, ladies and gentleman the new season is upon us. The long wait is over as NFL camps get under way. For the Arizona Cardinals however a few players will have to wait a bit longer to get out on the practice field. As they open camp, Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethal, Robert Nkemdiche and Frostee Rucker all were sidelined with different injury situations.

Tyrann Mathieu is only 8 months removed from a right ACL tear he suffered last season.Head coach Bruce Arians has decided to be cautious for obvious reasons as Mathieu is a big piece of that secondary and is going to need to be 100% if the Cardinals expect to be a legitimate defense again. It’s expected that Mathieu will most likely get some jogging and conditioning work going forward.

Justin Bethal is dealing with a nagging foot injury that had a setback and will come down to pain tolerance going forward in camp. Nkemdiche is listed as day to day with an ankle injury and Rucker was put on PUP list to start camp. Not exactly the way you want to start camp but plenty of time to get healed up and get ready for some preseason games to work out any rust that comes with not being able to work out in camp.

The Cardinals will be looking to build on last season, that resulted in a NFC West division title with a record of 13-3. They will also look to rebound from a tough playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers in 2015. They shouldn’t feel too concerned however because they pretty much cruised right into those 2015 Playoffs. I’m sure they will look to keep quarterback  Carson Palmer upright and healthy as he was a major contributor to the offensive success. They will also look to get the ball in the hands of young rookie phenome running back David Johnson who last year showed he can certainly carry the load.

One thing Arizona won’t be worried about is that dominant defense. They just added more depth to the defensive line with the rookie addition of Nkemdiche who I think will make an immediate impact especially with the current players surrounding him on that line. They will look to get a bit more pressure to make it even easier for the secondary who don’t need much introduction as it is. With Freeney leaving they will need to replace his 8 sacks which is very possible for Nkemdiche even though the past has shown rookie lineman don’t fair very well in their rookie year when it comes to sacks.

The Cardinals will have to deal with the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams most likely as their major competition heading into this season. The San Francisco 49ers look like a team that is in full rebuild mode and I expect them to stay at the bottom of the division.  Cardinals finished 4-2 in the division last year which nobody would complain about considering how good some of the defenses are in this division. They also were able to be very good on the road with a 7-1 record which they will look to repeat this year.
I’m sure Arians will have them back on top with the roster he currently has. With Larry Fitzgerald returning and Palmer at quarterback the  leadership circle between those 3 should be enough to carry the offensive side of things and get enough points on the board so the defense can contain these offenses in the west.

Each team did improve in the west however and it won’t be easy to follow up a 13-3 record. Getting everyone healthy and playing through preseason without major injuries, the Cardinals in my opinion should be the favorites to win the division yet again this year. Arians will most likely be involved in the coach of the year argument again as he has done a great job with this current unit. Palmer, Fitzgerald and David Johnson will look to continue dominance on the offensive side of the ball, while Peterson, Mathieu and Daryl Washington look to anchor that defense

Should be another fun ride in 2016 and I’m sure this roster can’t wait to get out there and follow up last year’s division win except this time taking it to the Super Bowl. But as we know it won’t be easy and nobody expects it to be. But this is where it starts! The blood, sweat and tears begin now as the Cardinals look to trim the roster and build a champion in 2016.

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NFC West: Niners and Cardinals Predictions

By Kim Dunning

As we roll into the 2016 NFL season, one of the fun things about being a blogger is the ability to either make a fool out of yourself or become a lucky genius. How is that possible? Well it’s quite simple really! Our predictions for the end of season records go on file for all the world to see.  So in this blog we are going to focus on two out of the four NFC West teams, the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers.

Focusing on the 49ers first because well there is a lot to talk about. So many off season changes.  Last season was unexpected for Niners fans as they finished last in the division with a 5-11 record. Expectations weren’t as high as former head coach, who led them to a Super Bowl in which they lost, Jim Harbaugh left and left a bad taste in a lot of fans mouths.  Fast forward to the off season and the Niners and Jim Tomasula parted ways.  In the shocker of the year they hired former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.

With all the changes going on in San Francisco they will finish no better than 3-13.  Now bare with me and let’s look at this. The Niners still don’t know which quarterback they are going to go with. Now I know that it’s still early but when your two choices are Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert it doesn’t bode well for a successful leader on your team.

Now to look a little further the Niners will have to learn a new system and that will be Chip Kelly’s system. Kelly’s system, as we all saw in Philadelphia is a fast paced system and San Francisco currently does not have the players on the roster to keep up with that kind of pace. The only exception would be the quarterbacks and that is simply because they are running quarterbacks.

The strength of schedule will also do a lot of harm to the Niners record. This year they play both the AFC East which will not be as smooth sailing for the New England Patriots as most people believe it will be and they also play a very tight NFC South as well as their division and the Cowboys and Bears.

Now if we look at the Arizona Cardinals, they are quite the opposite of the Niners. The Cardinals have been very consistent for the last few years and this schedule seems to favor the Cardinals just because they have a very good defense and especially a good secondary.  The Cardinals run a very good system that compliments it’s players. We see this example in quarterback Carson Palmer who everyone thought was in his NFL prime a few years ago in Cincinnati.  The Cardinals have had very little turnover during the off-season and that will help them as well. Plus, if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘s suspension holds, the Cardinals luck out and play a Brady-less Patriots in Week 1.  The Cardinals should finish 12-4 and win the NFC West division.

To find out about the Rams and the Seahawks, please look for Ralph Uriate’s blog at a later date.

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