Go West Young Man! How Good Is The Rest Of The NFC West?

john renshawContributor IMay 12, 2009

1 Feb 2002:   Helmets for the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots sit on either side of the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The two teams will play for the trophy in the Super Bowl on Sunday.  DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Since 2000, only one Super Bowl runner-up has made the playoffs the following season.

That burden now falls on the Arizona Cardinals

Yes, those Arizona Cardinals that could have been, and many think should have been, the Super Bowl champs. 

Does that, by definition, make the West the toughest division in the NFC?

The answer is no.

One team does not make a division, but it does mean the St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have to deal with the NFC Champs twice this year. 

Did I just write the Cardinals getting in the way of another teams chance of success?  If I were to make that statement two years ago, I would be laid off, even if my employer was rolling around in Jason Smith's signing bonus money.
You remember the Cards, that team that used to play in St. Louis, right? 

Well they aren’t bullet proof, or is that Boldin proof? 

The San Francisco 49ers have gone from being an automatic win on any team’s schedule to a team that nobody wanted to see and everyone feared at the end of last year.  The Seattle Seahawks have gone from the team to beat, the kings of the division, to a team looking for an identity.
So Ram’s fans, lets take an early peek at how the rest of the NFC west should stack up this year.

Arizona Cardinals

It’s all about Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Adrian Wilson.

For the first time in history, the Cardinals are willing to spend the money to keep their stars. But do these stars want to cash in on their Super Bowl success elsewhere?

Obviously Darnell Dockett does—he asked to be traded yet again this week.

There is also no need to peek at free agent nestlings and migrations—the Cardinals front office hands are full with the big birds mentioned above.

The draft, however, was a different story.  Arizona, always known as protective bean counters, is now counting on Chris “Beanie” Wells to replace Edgerrin James at running back.  The former Buckeye still has some “I’s” to dot after receiving mixed reviews at mini camp.  He hits the hole like a champ, but has no idea what he’s doing in the passing game.

Seattle Seahawks

Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was a huge get for the Seahawks.  Rumors and scouts say that he and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck are already on the same page. Speaking of the same page, Hasselbeck is learning new offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp’s, playbook.

Former Rutgers Scarlet Knight quarterback, Mike Teel, could be a late round steal. But many scouts think that the Seahawks got THE steal of the draft in Penn State wide receiver Deon Butler.

However, The Hawks are still looking for a fullback, linebacker and a corner.

Also, Seattle might be in the market for a new offensive tackle, as Walter Jones does not appear to be healthy.  This means former Bengal, Levi, could be the new “Jones” in town.

For Seattle to improve on last year’s 4-12 record, the 14 players that ended up on injured reserve must stay healthy.

San Francisco 49ers

San Fran fired ex-Rams coach, Mike Martz, and hired Jimmy Raye to run the offense.  The pass happy offense is gone, as Raye loves the run gun. Expect running back Frank Gore to reach the 1,000-yard mark earlier than the final game of the season, which was when he hit it last year.

The question for this team is who is the quarterback?  Shaun Hill or Alex Smith.  Hill was 7-3 last year as a starter, but Smith’s shoulder is finally healthy—so the competition is going to be one of the most heated in the NFL.

The best wide receiver in the draft, Michael Crabtree, should help either QB.  However, Crabtree, chosen with the 10th pick, needs the stress fracture in his left foot to heal by training camp.

Other nuggets to keep an eye on:  a new starter at right tackle in Marvel Smith; a boom-or-bust rookie tight end, Bear Pascoe; and the ultimate safety blanket, Damon Huard, at quarterback.

The most fascinating training camp battle, however, could be the battle for the backup running back position.  Glen Coffee, Thomas Clayton and Kory Sheets will all duke it out to be Frank Gore’s backup and compliment.

Whether it will be the wild, wild West or the mild, mild West—no one knows.  But I can tell you this, if Arizona isn’t too content and keeps their flock in fold, they could be impossible to stop. 

T.J. was the ultimate free agency hook and if Deon Butler is as good as advertised so Seattle could light up anyone’s scoreboard.  And San Francisco could have the ultimate one-two punch with Gore and Crabtree, but do they have a quarterback?

Okay Rams fans, now you know the best and the rest of the NFC West, now let’s see who can pass the test.