NFC West Tandems That Could Give the San Francisco 49ers Problems in 2012
In an attempt to get better in 2012, the 49ers added some new weapons with the hopes that they will be the last remaining pieces to the puzzle. And while San Francisco made good with this year's offseason, so did three other teams in the NFC West.
The St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks all strengthened positions that needed to be tended to. In their mission to construct a complete team that's capable of competing for divisional supremacy with the 49ers, the other teams in the West came out with strong tandems at particular positions.
In the next three slides, we will breakdown one new tandem from each of the 49ers' divisional opponents and predict the kind of impact they may have this coming season.
Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, CB: St. Louis Rams
The first tandem on our list comes from the NFC West's worst team last year: the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams were in for a total organizational overhaul this past offseason, firing Steve Spagnoulo and landing an in-demand and very polished head coach in Jeff Fisher. Fisher is a very competent coach, and he alone improves the Rams' chances going forward.
Having played on that side of the ball, Fisher has always been able to harvest good defenses. And Fisher brought with him his best defensive player from Tennessee in Pro Bowl cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan is not only a problem because he's physically talented, but because he has a tendency to get in a wide receiver's head.
Finnegan is a true No. 1 cornerback. And if that was not enough to upgrade the St. Louis secondary, the Rams landed an absolute steal in the second round of the NFL Draft in cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The prolific cornerback -- formerly of the University of Florida and Northern Alabama -- was an undisputed top-10 talent but fell out of the first round because of repeated off-the-field incidents.
Whatever Jenkins' issues were off the field, on the field he was an absolute freak playing the cornerback position. And arguably talent-wise, he was the first or second-best cornerback in the entire 2012 draft class.
The Rams have two No. 1 corners; both guys are capable of shutting receivers out of games. And even though the 49ers added significant wide receiver help, it will be challenged by this new tandem in St. Louis.
Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, WR: Arizona Cardinals
Of course there is the always dangerous Larry Fitzgerald.
The heart and soul of the Arizona Cardinals comes as one of the league's best receivers, who's capable of just about anything as a wide out. Fitzgerald has been terrorizing teams for years because for lack of a better description, he's just unstoppable at times.
Even without good consistent quarterbacking -- not even great quarterbacking -- Fitzgerald has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Cardinal's offense. His best year's came when he had his partner in crime, Anquan Boldin; one of the league's fiercest receiver tandems for a number of years.
Boldin left for the Ravens and the Cardinals have since had a hole at the No. 2 wide receiver position. The Arizona staff has tried to make it work with shifty slot receivers but the formula never worked out. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals used their first round pick on Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd.
Floyd is dynamic and downright nasty. He was a wide receiver that could've gone to over 60% of the league's teams and been the No. 1 receiver they needed. But instead, he will be paired with a man who is solidified in the discussion for top-3 receivers in the league today.
It seems to me that if the Cardinals had a more solid fix at the quarterback position, 49ers fans would be hitting the panic button. Whether it's Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, the Arizona quarterback will have some big targets to throw to in 2012.
Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow, TE: Seattle Seahawks
It's been said that the offensive landscape in the NFL has been changing and more and more teams are looking to emphasize the tight end. In this new wave of development, the Seattle Seahawks have acquired two former Pro Bowl tight ends to pair up in 2012.
Over the past two seasons the Seahawks acquired former Oakland Raider Zach Miller and more recently, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Kellen Winslow via trade. With these two players, Seattle could be coming out of the singleback formation a lot more often. Having weapons like these guys at both ends of the line when you're unaware if their receiving or blocking is challenging as well.
This could be a very threatening pass catching tandem. And with Seattle settling their quarterback situation, good tight ends are a QB's best friend.
While some may say that Winslow lost a step, it looks like he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder in 2012. He wasn't pleased with how the Tampa organization treated him, and he believes he is still a very good football player.
What alleviates some of the concern from our third and final tandem is that the 49ers' linebackers and safeties are so good. Neither player is freakishly gifted like a Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, but together Miller and Winslow could be a solid pairing.
The combination of these two could also do wonders for Marshawn Lynch and the ground attack, as well as open up things for the receivers outside. The pairing of Miller and Winslow should prove to be a good move by the Seahawks; one that could produce immediate results in 2012.
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