NFL Predictions: NFC West's 4 Skill Players Who Will Struggle in 2012
Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE
The NFC West is an entirely different division than it has been in years past.
It no longer harbors the bottom-feeders of the NFL, though some might make a case against that. Each roster actually features an abundance of quality skill players.
That also doesn’t mean that these professionals—rookies especially—can avoid the struggles of fierce NFL competition.
Scheme changes, unforeseen circumstances, tougher schedules, injuries and a lack of comprehensive talent, among other factors, can cause even the best players to fall short of expectations.
Let's pinpoint four skill players—one per team—that will struggle in the NFC West in 2012.
Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams
Did I do something wrong?
Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Brian Quick is a fine physical specimen that will eventually thrive as a go-to, jump-ball-type wideout.
Unfortunately for Mr. Quick, it won’t happen in his first year on the job.
Sam Bradford’s injury history, a suspect offensive line and Quick’s lack of experience at the highest level will effectively derail his rookie year. His physical stature will initially make him a daunting presence on the field; but it won’t amount to box score production.
The defensive backs in this division are absolutely topnotch. Adrian Wilson in Arizona; Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown in San Francisco; Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman in Seattle—these guys will not be intimidated in the least by Quick’s 6’4’’ frame.
It’s also possible that he’ll defy conservative projections (and deem myself as one who reneges on his initial evaluations). It’s certainly easier to believe in Quick’s capabilities than trusting in the Rams team as a whole.
With that in mind, though, Quick’s production will not be commensurate with his early second-round draft status due to his team’s inability to deliver him the ball.
He has a big-time future; it’s just a future that won’t transpire until after 2012.
John Skelton, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Skelton throwing through traffic.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
One could attribute John Skelton’s regression in 2012 to a matter of sheer instability.
There’s no denying that the Cardinals responded better to Skelton last season. His personal stat sheet did not reflect as much, but the team record of 6-2 in his eight starts clearly reveals that there was a connection between him and his offensive compatriots.
Kevin Kolb and his 2-6 mark could not say the same.
Much to the chagrin of Cardinals fans, Skelton will experience a season much like Kolb’s of 2011. He’ll open the season with a victory over a more talented Seahawks team. Then things will spiral downward.
Skelton will suffer an acceptable defeat at the hands of the Patriots in Foxborough, followed by a close loss to a rising Eagles squad at home. Even though things are fairly copacetic at 1-2, an extraction of confidence occurs in the Fordham graduate.
Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill will come to Arizona and defeat the third-year veteran. The coaching staff shows its frustration, and teammates begin to waver. The defense itself will have severely underperformed up to this point.
The Cardinals will then travel to St. Louis—a presumably inferior team—and lose once again. Skelton throws an interception at a critical juncture. He’s just lost to Sam Bradford, the man selected No. 1 overall in the same draft as himself. Rookie receiver Michael Floyd refuses to line up alongside Skelton (to a certain extent at least).
At this point, head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his ulcerated stomach lining have no choice but to put the man with the big contract back in merely to save face, perhaps even to salvage a 1-4 campaign if he’s lucky.
Anecdotal narrations aside, Skelton will lose four out of the first five games due to a combination of a difficult schedule, divided locker room and sheer loss of confidence.
Kolb will come in and take a few winnable games. At the end of the day, however, 2012 will amount to a lost season—one that concludes with the record of 6-10.
What began with such promise was tainted by conflict within the most important position on the field.
As the old saying goes, when you have two quarterbacks, your really have none.
Bruce Irvin, DE, Seattle Seahawks
Bruce Irvin's none too happy with these projections.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Pete Carroll sent a shock wave through the draft room when Commissioner Goodell announced that the Seahawks had selected Bruce Irvin with the 15th overall pick.
Irvin is absolutely relentless when in pursuit of the opposing quarterback. He utilizes a unique set of maneuvers that frees him up from offensive tackles and puts him in position for a lightning-quick sack.
But Irvin’s skill set is not what created fervor among those observing the draft. Rather, Irvin could have been had late in the second round. He is not a capable of being a three-down backer or a run defender.
Despite possessing extreme athleticism, he is not fluid in coverage or otherwise reliable in assignments outside of the pass rush.
Then again, it’s Pete Carroll; his sole reason for drafting Irvin was to unleash him on the right side against enemy quarterbacks.
So, why will he struggle in 2012 if his sole purpose is to rush the quarterback on passing downs?
Because for every rare Aldon Smith-esque player, there are countless busts.
The NFL is an incredibly complex game that routinely weeds out the problematic, the undisciplined and singularly skilled players. Irvin is an example of a developmental project with great value for the future.
In his first year, however, veteran left tackles will neutralize his effectiveness with savvy counter moves.
Irvin will put a few notches on the stat sheet and even shine in occasional moments.
Those instances will prove fleeting, and the NFL will not experience Irvin’s complete impact until his feel for the game matches his incredible raw abilities.
Dashon Goldson, S, San Francisco 49ers
Exceptional tackler when he wants to be.
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
The 2011 Pro Bowl free safety will take a slight step back from his award-winning production last season.
Despite earning a trip to Hawaii, Goldson’s six interceptions and 10 deflected passes were not entirely worthy of that honor.
There isn’t any denying his knack for the ball; the problem is the high-risk, high-reward nature in which he plays. A 67.4 completion percentage, four touchdowns allowed and QB rating of 94.1 on passes thrown into Goldson’s coverage is rather unsettling.
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft Lead Writer, encapsulated his dichotomous performance in coverage rather eloquently.
“Goldson gives up a fair number of completions when he’s not intercepting the ball.”
In other words, Goldson makes the play or he doesn’t. This conflicting style of play was no more evident than in the fourth quarter of the divisional round against the Saints on a touchdown pass to Darren Sproles. His mistake overshadowed his earlier interception and nearly proved disastrous.
Goldson is entirely deserving of the starting free safety position for the San Francisco 49ers—defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will continue to push him towards a smarter approach to the game.
Yet, his gambling tendencies—despite his tremendous range and ball-hawking ability—will at times overshadow the good he accomplishes on the football field.
Fans of these NFC West teams, I welcome your derision, anger and disappointment. My apologies to those I have offended; I hope we can still be friends.
Follow me on Twitter?