With training camp about to start in the NFL, let's take a look at the offseason for each and every team and their potential outlook for the upcoming NFL season.
The Cardinals made a big splash this offseason by trading for Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders. This will be a big upgrade from the spare junk quarterbacks they were putting on the field last year to throw to Larry Fitzgerald. New head coach Bruce Arians - coming over from the Colts in the offseason after turning the lowly Colts from the league worst record last year in 2011 to playoff contender in 2012 with head coach Chuck Pagano being out because of his cancer situation - will bring a methodical offense over to help out the Cards and let that incredibly underrated defense do it's thing.
The defense lost a couple key contributors in Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes, but traded for Javier Arenas from Kansas City, signed Antoine Cason away from San Diego, and signed Yeremiah Bell to help out their already solid defense. The return of Karlos Dansby to help anchor the linebackers, and a very underrated draft by the Cards will help them push the other teams in the NFC West. I believe they hit on every single one of their picks, grabbing Jonathan Cooper in the first to solidify their line, Kevin Minter in the second to add depth to linebacker, and Tyrann Mathieu - if he can keep his head on straight - will be a steal in the 3rd. Overall, look for Arizona to have a good year, around 6-8 wins can easily be done.
San Francisco 49ers
The NFC Champs from last year did nothing to make anyone doubt they will be making a repeat trip to the Super Bowl this year. The loss of Michael Crabtree to injury will definitely hurt the champs, but the addition of Anquan Boldin and A.J. Jenkins stepping up will be more then enough to make that not a factor. Another year of Colin Kaepernick maturing and playing the full year will help. Hopefully his running style will not lead him to get injured like RG3. The running back position for the 49ers will get a nice boost with Marcus Lattimore coming in from the draft leaving that position stocked to the max.
One of the best defenses in the league only got better this offseason. True, the loss of Dashon Goldson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is going to hurt. But replacing him with Eric Reid in the draft should lessen the hit. Also signing Nnamdi Asomugha away from the Eagles should help the secondary. I do believe he is much better then what he showed with Philly. The linebacking core is still intact and it's the strength of the team, with every starter being a Pro Bowl caliber player. The defensive line should be solid as long as Justin Smith can stay healthy. The additions of Glenn Dorsey from Kansas City, drafting Tank Carradine, and former track and field star Lawrence Okoye should help lessen the loss of Issac Sopoaga in free agency. I full expect the 49ers to be there at the end of the season, playing for the NFC Championship or even taking aim at the Super Bowl again.
Let me start out by saying I believe the Seahawks overpaid to get Percy Harvin, but man will he just make this offensive that much more explosive. So, in the end, it might be worth it especially if they go deep into playoffs. Other than that, the Seahawks offense remains pretty much intact from last year: Russell Wilson doing his thing, the offensive line being solid, and beast mode Marshawn Lynch running over people not smart enough to get out of the way. The Seahawks had a weak draft in my opinion, taking Christine Michael with their 2nd pick was drafting for luxury at a position where they're already stacked. The rest of their picks were more depth moves. No real splash players there.
The 'Hawks lost a couple big defensive linemen in the offseason in Alan Branch - who for being a mountain of a man is quite agile - to the Buffalo Bills, and Jason Jones, an extremely underrated piece of that defensive line to the Lions. They gained 2 good pass rushers in free agency in Cliff Avril from the Lions (making it pretty much a trade of Jones for Avril a deal I think Seattle won). Also Michael Bennett from the Buccaneers, who is solid against the run and a good pass rusher, gives them another 2 ends to go with their already solid combo of Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons. The secondary for the Seahawks remains the strength of the team, and signing aging wonder Antoine Winfield can only help. The linebackers are an underrated group, lead by Bobby Wagner. He and KJ Wright make a fantastic combo for the Seahawks. Like the 49ers, they could be the team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. I fully expect the Seahawks and Niners to be battling for that Super Bowl spot.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams have finally given Quarterback Sam Bradford some legit weapons on the outside in the form of West Virginia wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. These 2 quick-as-lightning versatile wide outs should help stretch defenses out and force the safeties to play deep to stop big plays. This will lead to big plays from free agent tight end acquisition Jared Cook, who himself is a big athletic threat to take it deep as well. Expect Bradford to get back to the numbers he put up in his rookie season. To keep the former number 1 overall pick upright, the Rams signed Jake Long to protect Bradford's blind side. This signing should solidify the o-line making them a solid overall. The drafting of Barrett Jones from Alabama should help as well. His versatility along the inside of the line will give them depth. The big question in the Lou will be at running back. Gone is Steven Jackson, who will be a Hall of Famer when he decides to hang the cleats up. Two 2nd year backs will carry the load for the Rams; Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson will be relied on to pick up the slack. Expect them both to split the carries pretty evenly. Don't expect their combined numbers to be anywhere near the numbers Steven Jackson did in his hey day.
St. Louis will have a solid defense this year. Their front 4 is as solid as any in the league. Chris Long and Robert Quinn will both have double digit sacks, in my opinion. The linebacking core got a big upgrade in the selection of Alex Ogletree with their second pick of the first round. He will pair up nicely with James Laurinaitis, especially in the nickel packages. Both are rangy and can play the run and the pass. The Rams are solid at corner with Finnegan and Jenkins starting, and have much more depth behind them. The worry is going to be at safety. Both 3rd round selection TJ Mcdonald and whoever wins the job out of camp are going to be exposed back there. Watch out for that Rams fans. In the tough NFC West the Rams are going to put up a heck of a fight up to get into the playoffs, but I see them coming up short this year. Look for 8-9 wins and just coming up short for a playoff spot.
That's it for my look at the NFC West stay tuned for my look at the NFC South next!
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