NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC West Teams

Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter

Scouts size up the NFL's toughest division

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About the NFC West Teams

Home to the defending Super Bowl champions and the only division that featured three 10-win teams last season; there is little debate that the NFC West is the NFL’s toughest division entering the 2014 season. So how is Seattle shaping up as the Seahawks prepare their title defense and what about the three other chasing them out west?

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of the four NFC West teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 

 

Arizona Cardinals

 

“The Cardinals have as much front-line talent as any NFL team. The problem is that they reside in the toughest division in the league and there is no guarantee to even make the playoffs.” …

 

“Bruce Arians has had quite a run since taking over as interim coach of the Colts in 2012 and then leading Arizona to a 10-6 mark last year. The players love Arians’ approach and really believe they can go win the Super Bowl in 2014, and they might be right.” …

 

“As Carson Palmer heads into the twilight of his career, he is surrounded by elite-level ability. Larry Fitzgerald has enjoyed a remarkable career despite being, at times, hamstrung by inept QB play, and Michael Floyd is poised to advance his game in his third season.” …

 

“Arians has raved about Andre Ellington, but he had major durability concerns coming out of Clemson, and it would be difficult to think of him as a workhorse over the course of 16 games and the playoffs. For that reason, Jonathan Dwyer was signed from Pittsburgh and Stepfan Taylor could be a stopgap option.” …

 

“With Jonathan Cooper returning from a leg fracture and Jared Veldheer being signed during free agency, this line should be much improved. John Carlson gives them a better-than-average answer at tight end and some inside the organization still think Rob Housler has more to offer from a physical standpoint.” …

 

“Arizona’s front seven has a mixture of experience and youth, but all of them can play. John Abraham can still rush the passer, Darnell Dockett has matured into a consistent Pro Bowler, and Calais Campbell is a force due to his height and athleticism.” …

 

“The Cardinals signed Antonio Cromartie to pair off with Patrick Peterson, and with Tyrann Mathieu expected to successfully return from knee surgery, they can be multiple in their coverage packages. They addressed their need at safety with Washington State’s Deone Bucannon in the first round ” …

 

“The backup-caliber players need to understand that special teams could be the difference between them and the Seahawks and 49ers.” …

 

“If Palmer stays healthy and upright, this team is highly motivated and stronger than people realize.” …

 

St. Louis Rams

 

“Head Coach Jeff Fisher is widely respected and well thought of in league circles because of his work on the Competition Committee and overall presence as a leader of the coaches. However, some are beginning to question his won-loss record and lack of success in St. Louis.” …

 

The Rams appear content to go forward with QB Sam Bradford, but there is no denying the risk involved because of his past injury history. Offensively, the line has been bad for two years running and their best ball-carrier emerged in the form of [2013] fifth-round pick, Zac Stacy from Vanderbilt. They addressed both of those areas in the draft with a pair of Auburn Tigers, OT Greg Robinson and RB Tre Mason.”…

 

“TE Jared Cook has very good skill and should thrive more with a healthy Bradford, but the wide receivers have been a major work in progress over the past two campaigns. It took nearly ten weeks to get rookie Tavon Austin cranked up, so the assumption will be that he picks up where 2013 ended. STL has gotten little out of former second-round pick Chris Givens, so this will be a make-or-break year for him.”…

 

“They were lucky that Rodger Saffold returned to them after the physical fiasco in Oakland and the plan might be to play him at RG with Joe Barksdale at RT and Robinson aligning as a LG.” …

 

“The Rams now have the best defensive front four in the game after selecting Pittsburgh All-American Aaron Donald with their second first-round pick. The linebacking corps isn’t bad, either, with James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree.” …

 

“The Achilles’ heel has been the secondary and that is where they added Florida State’s super-competitive Lamarcus Joyner who can play safety, corner or nickel. And with even more pressure coming from Robert Quinn and Chris Long, this secondary should be improved.”…

 

“The Michael Sam story will get some play upon his arrival and maybe during training camp, but his shot to make the team will be as a situational pass rusher and special teams contributor, period.”…

 

“GM Les Snead and Fisher appear to work well together, but their time in the Gateway of the West will begin to run down without significant progress in football’s most difficult division.”

 

San Francisco 49ers

 

“The 49ers may have the most physically imposing and best-looking team in the entire league. They are big and strong along both lines and have tough, athletic skill players on offense and defense.”…

 

“Despite some of the communication issues between head coach Jim Harbaugh, GM Trent Baalke and football administration director Paraag Maranthe, this is an organization that has built a quality team. “ …

 

“Many inside the NFL think 2014 could likely be Harbaugh’s last season in SF, so it has been interesting to monitor the upward movement of former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini. He is currently the TEs coach, but made his name in New York and New England on the defensive side of the football. There is no question that he is reinventing himself for another run at a head job and would love the opportunity to take over a roster that is absolutely loaded, although DL coach Jim Tomsula would be the in-house favorite.” …

 

“The 49ers have hitched their wagon to QB Colin Kaepernick’s unique combination of rare size and speed at the position. If there is a criticism, it is his penchant to throw almost every pass on a line with no touch whatsoever. On play-actions and bootlegs, he can rifle a flat ball in between defenders, but in the drop-back game, he tends to try and throw it through rather than around people.” …

 

“Expect SF to have more of a backfield-by-committee in place for ’14 as RB Frank Gore still has some in-between-the-tackles ability and they picked Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde in the second round.” …

 

“Defensively, it’s all about what happens with NaVorro Bowman’s return from the brutal knee injury suffered in the playoffs and the off-field problems experienced by Aldon Smith.” …

 

“Look for second-year player Tank Carradine to make a splash after ‘redshirting’ last season. “ …

 

“They are so strong up the middle and that is where Patrick Willis has become this generation’s ‘Ray Lewis.’”…

 

“If they are light anywhere, it would be on the corner where Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers left for Oakland and the remaining group is headlined by Eric Wright [Editor’s note: he retired in June] and Chris Culliver with the anticipation that first-round choice Jimmie Ward will likely be the nickel in 2014. FS Eric Reid is a Pro Bowl talent and they signed Antoine Bethea to replace Donte Whitner.” …

 

“The ‘body’ of this team is ready to return to the Super Bowl, the ‘head’ of this team is what will determine their fate.” …

 

Seattle Seahawks

 

“Pete Carroll became only the third coach in football history to win both a college national championship and Super Bowl joining Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer in that elite club. He was rewarded with an extension during the offseason and between the leadership combination of himself, GM John Schneider and Russell Wilson, this team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.” …

 

“Offensively, Wilson should be able to expand his game to provide more balance to their attack (4th in rushing, 26th in passing) and Percy Harvin is obviously a difference-maker for them when he is healthy and on the field. Golden Tate moved on to the Lions, so Harvin and Doug Baldwin will need to step up in 2014.” …

 

“The offensive line lost Breno Giacomini, but the other four starters return and RT Michael Bowie gained valuable experience as a rookie when he started 8 games during the regular season.” …

 

“Marshawn Lynch has prospered since arriving from Buffalo and his Beast Mode style matches the toughness of their defense.” …

 

“They traded for Terrelle Pryor prior to the draft, so that is a situation to monitor in regards to their backup QB situation.” …

 

“Defensively, the Legion of Boom will continue uninterrupted after Earl Thomas received a new contract in April and Richard Sherman did the same a few weeks later.” …

 

“Up front, the Seahawks lost Clinton McDonald, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to free agency, but they did retain Michael Bennett and still have Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin on the outside. Jordan Hill should figure more prominently on the inside as a second-year player to rotate with Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel.” …

 

“Bobby Wagner, T.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith are ideal fits for this scheme because of their versatility against the run and pass.” …

 

“Byron Maxwell’s emergence opposite Sherman allowed them to let Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner to walk, so expect to see more of Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon this year. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form the league’s best safety duo where they complement each other’s skill set unbelievably well.” …

 

“Seattle is built to last because of the QB, a solid OL and the quality of their overall defense. They preach competition and that’s exactly what they will get from their division rivals in 2014.” …

NFL Conferences: 
NFL Divisions: 
Exclude From Games: 
Include In Games
Previous Article: 
Q&A with Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman

Home Page Infinite Scroll Left