NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC West Teams

Scouts analyze the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks.

The NFC West is poised for another great year, as the Seahawks will once again begin as the presumed favorites. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and the Rams appear to be capable of contending, while there are plenty of unknowns when it comes to the 49ers. The Cardinals might have the best chance to take down the Seahawks, especially if Carson Palmer can play a full season. However, the Rams seem to be headed towards a great season with such a strong defense. The 49ers disappointed last season and had a tumultuous offseason, but they're only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The biggest question seems to be, can the Seahawks make it back to a third straight Super Bowl?

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of the four NFC West teams heading into 2015, 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 opened 9-1 a year ago, but lost QB Carson Palmer after six games, could not compensate at the position, and lost five of their last seven including a wild card exit against Carolina."…

 

"Bruce Arians has an ability to tap into the mentality of pro players and they have responded to his approach in a big way."…

"If Palmer can come back healthy, their passing game should pick up where it left off before his injury."…

"Larry Fitzgerald is on the back-nine of his career, but between him, Michael Floyd and John Brown, the rookie sensation from Pitt State (Kan.), they have an excellent combination of styles and ability."…

 

"TE John Carlson chipped in 33 receptions a year ago, but because of their past RT problems, the tight ends are often kept in to help with pass protection."…

 

"With that said, they drafted Florida OT D.J. Humphries in the first round and plan to insert him into the lineup right away."…

 

"Arians is very high on RB Andre Ellington, but there were lots of doubts he could be the lead pony and it proved to be true when he ran for only 660 yards (3.3 ypc) and only three touchdowns. He did catch 46 passes, but Northern Iowa RB David Johnson (6-1, 224), the team's third-round pick, has been added to the mix."…

 

"LT Jared Veldheer was a solid addition in free agency last year and the Cardinals hope LG Mike Iupati (49ers) can do the same this year. Iupati is a power player all the way and can help them improve their run game, which ranked 31st in the league (81.8 ypg)."…

"Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles parlayed their defensive success into the head coaching job with the Jets, so James Bettcher takes over the role."…

 

"Arizona is based in a 3-4, but they love to play their ‘big’ nickel/three-safety package. Deone Bucannon was a surprise first-round selection in 2014, but he found a contributing role and registered 86 total tackles."…

 

"Rashad Johnson led the team with 101 total stops and four interceptions."…

"CB Patrick Peterson is an elite player and Jerraud Powers is expected to take over the other side with the departure of Antonio Cromartie back to the Jets."…

"The front seven is going through some changes with the loss of Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams, Larry Foote and Tommy Kelly, however, they still have Calais Campbell with Cory Redding and Corey Peters both being signed as free agents."…

"Other than Alex Okafor who had eight sacks in 2014, this linebacker group needed a boost, so Missouri's Markus Golden was their choice in the second round. He is extremely tough and was discounted by the media because of all the attention on Shane Ray."…

"The window for winning is closing with an aging and vulnerable Palmer, so there is palpable urgency inside the Cardinals' building to make a huge push in 2015.”

 

St. Louis Rams

 

“Not sure how a possible move to LA affects the players and coaches in 2014, but the Rams certainly look like an organization on the move based upon owner Stan Kroenke’s activities in Southern California."…

 

"Head Coach Jeff Fisher goes into his fourth season with a record of 20-27-1, so this is a huge year for his future."…

 

"Having grown weary of all the injuries to QB Sam Bradford and his unwillingness to re-structure the contract, they dealt him and a fifth-round pick to the Eagles for Nick Foles and a pair of draft choices (including a 2016 second-round choice). They are hoping Foles’ availability will win the day as compared to the oft-injured Bradford."…

 

"Brian Schottenheimer left for Georgia as offensive coordinator, so Frank Cignetti takes over and he will need better play from a substandard offensive line."…

"Last year’s first-round selection Greg Robinson will likely go back to LT after starting 12 games at guard."…

"At pick No. 10, they opted for talent over need as Georgia RB Todd Gurley was the choice. He is coming off a November ACL, but they saw him as the best player in the entire 2015 class."…

 

"This is a defensive-centric team, but after a slow start in 2014, they only finished tied for 16th in scoring and 17th in total yards."…

 

"Their front line has phenomenal talent in DEs Robert Quinn and Chris Long, plus DTs Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and new addition Nick Fairley."…

 

"Akeem Ayers was signed in free agency from New England as a Sam linebacker, while James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree are very active defenders."…

"In the back end, the Rams traded for Bucs’ safety Mark Barron in October and they are hoping that he, T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod can give them the ability to put three safeties on the field together to contend with the taller wide receivers and bigger tight ends of the league."…

"The corners are good enough with pressure up front as Janoris Jenkins has always been athletic and E.J. Gaines was an impressive sixth-round find in last year’s draft."…

 

"With San Francisco losing so many starting caliber players in the offseason, maybe the door is open for the Rams to get out of the NFC West cellar."…

 

"How Foles plays behind a shaky OL will determine much of what happens both on and off the field in 2015.”

 

San Francisco 49ers

 

“As many in the league anticipated, the 49ers’ brass got what they wanted at the end of 2014, head coach Jim Harbaugh departing for another job. In what was discussed and speculated on for almost two years, the divorce finally happened when the parties mutually agreed to part ways and Harbaugh left for Michigan."…

 

"DL coach Jim Tomsula takes over and he was rumored to be the internal favorite all along."…

"He will have his hands full trying to make QB Colin Kaepernick into a bona fide starter and figuring out how to replace five notable players that retired or left in free agency on the defensive side of the football."…

"Kaepernick spent the offseason in Arizona re-tooling his mechanics and it will be interesting to see if that training can translate to the real season."…

"RB Frank Gore hit free agency and ended up with Indianapolis, so Carlos Hyde, who only had 333 yards rushing last year, will become the feature back."…
 

"The offensive line is still in the top third, if everyone is healthy, and should bounce back from a subpar showing in 2014."…

 

"Mike Iupati opted for the Cardinals, which opens his LG spot for Brandon Thomas who essentially ‘redshirted’ last season with an ACL tear."…

 

"WR Anquan Boldin had his seventh 1,000-yard plus season despite the 49ers ranking 30th in passing at 191.4 yards per game…

 

"Torrey Smith was brought in from the Ravens to replace Michael Crabtree, who went across the Bay to Oakland."…

 

"Maybe the biggest key for Kaepernick will be getting TE Vernon Davis back into the offense, he only caught 26 balls for a 9.4 average and two touchdowns last season."…

 

"On defense, DE Darnell Dockett decided to stay within the division and he will bolster the front in the absence of Ray McDonald and the retired Justin Smith."…

"They also drafted Oregon DE Arik Armstead to help put the unit back together again."…

 

"The linebacker position was jolted when  All-Pro Patrick Willis, their spiritual leader, retired from the game at age 30, only to have rookie Chris Borland walk away from the sport less than a week later."…

 

"NaVorro Bowman missed the entire season, but is expected to be 100 percent healthy for the 2015 campaign."…

 

"With Aldon Smith only playing seven games, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch combined for 12 sacks, so this might be their deepest position."… [Editor's note: Aldon Smith was released by the 49ers on Aug. 7 shortly after he was arrested on DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism charges.]

"Former Chargers’ CB Shareece Wright was signed as a starter with Tramaine Brock, Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson battling at the other post."…

"It appeared San Francisco was set at safety with Antoine Bethea and maybe the best young centerfielder in the game in Eric Reid, but they made a surprise pick in the second round by choosing Samford FS Jaquiski Tartt."…

"Expect Jimmie Ward, who was plagued by a foot problem all year, to play a more prominent role in 2015."…

"On paper, the 49ers have definitely taken a step back from a personnel perspective, now we will see if the same is true in coaching as well.”

 

Seattle Seahawks

 

“Don’t expect a case of the Super Bowl ‘blues’ with this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider really operate from the same sheet of music in terms of communicating their philosophy of competition and high energy for the entire organization."…

 

"Russell Wilson is exceptionally instinctive as a player and with the trade for TE Jimmy Graham, he will have another option down the seam and on scrambles."…

 

"Because of Graham’s capacity to detach and play from the slot, his presence should create even more air inside the box for RB Marshawn Lynch. ‘Beast Mode’ re-upped after his feelings were hurt and he left the country for a few weeks post-Super Bowl, but he should be able to play out the deal for the next three seasons."…


"Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn departed for the Falcons’ head coaching position, but Seattle still has talent at every level of the D."…

 

"They have more of a ‘rotational’ front four now, but the linebackers complement each other well and play outstanding football. Bobby Wagner still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, yet people around the league know exactly what he represents as a player."…

"Three-quarters of the secondary starters return with Cary Williams replacing Byron Maxwell opposite of Richard Sherman and he should be an adequate fit in this scheme."…

"Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form the best safety tandem in the entire NFL, they are spectacular together, but of course, Thomas is coming off shoulder surgery and may not be available until October."…

"The Seahawks have mastered the art of bringing in players that ‘have something to prove’ and built a roster of hungry individuals that should keep them right at the top of the NFC.”

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