Players You Should Watch In 2009; The NFC West

Matt ShervingtonCorrespondent IIAugust 6, 2009

RENTON, WA - JULY 31:  Defensive tackle Cory Redding #94 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on during training camp at the Seahawks training facility on July 31, 2009 in Renton, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Corey Redding is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. The Seahawks plan on having him play defensive end on first and second down opposite of Patrick Kerney to form one of the top pass rushing duos in the league.

On third downs they plan to kick him inside to play the under tackle next to Brandon Mebane, forming what I would consider to be the third best defensive tackle combination in the league. Corey Redding could have an Albert Haynesworth or Kevin Williams type season if the coaching staff can utilize him like this correctly. So look out for him next year if they do, in fact, do this.

Brandon Mebane, Seattle Seahawks

In the same way Broderick Bunkley made huge steps last season towards becoming an elite defensive tackle, I feel it is Mebane’s turn this year. Seahawks fans feel as if he’s already there, but I can’t agree with it, but with all the ranting and raving something about it has to be true.

When you look at Mebane play and compare it to Bunkley you see a lot of similarities between the two with the difference being that Mebane can play both the NT and UT effectively due to his ability to pass rush as well. If you get the chance to watch the Seahawks play this year, watch their front seven and watch Mebane.

Aaron Curry, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks traded away a player that many feel has a legitimate shot at being considered for the All-Decade team because they knew they were going to get Curry. They even temporarily released Leroy Hill in understanding that even if Hill didn’t agree to the restructured contract that Curry could play both strongside and weakside linebacker at an effective level, probably.

Look to see Curry who is easily the favorite for defensive rookie of the year, to run away with the voting if he produced a solid season. Especially playing on what is now one of the elite front seven units in the NFL.

Patrick Willis, San Fransisco 49ers

This is the season. This is the season that Patrick Willis becomes NFL royalty by becoming the best player at his position. In 2007 Willis burst onto the scene as a tackling machine and established himself as the best tackler in the league as a rookie, but his coverage and playmaking – as in forcing turnovers - abilities left much to be desired.

So what did he do in the off-season between his rookie and sophomore years? Only improved severely in coverage. Unfortunately he didn’t improve in the forcing turnover category, but I feel that in this upcoming season Willis will improve even more in coverage as well as will finally be a playmaker. When he puts it all together he will end up being the best Linebacker in the NFL. No downfall at all to look for here, just positive.

Michael Crabtree, San Fransisco 49ers

Crabtree seems special to me. He had an NFL level abilities as a collegiate player. He could run every route in the tree perfectly, had an excellent vertical leap, solid hands and had just everything you could want in a wideout. While he might not have had the measurable of Calvin Johnson, he was “complete” enough before entering the league unlike “Megatron”.

However, Crabtree has begun holding out for earlier pick money and is hurting his development – what little he needs – by doing so. Can Crabtree live up to the elite billing placed on him, especially with the QB carousel out there in San Francisco? Or how about this? Can he become a grown man and just freakin' sign a contract?!

Oshiogma Atogwe, St. Louis Rams

People are heralding him as an elite safety, but this is one of those cases in which statistics lie. Atogwe is a good player, but far from a great or elite one that some people make him out to be. He’s more of a “be in the right place at the right time” kind of player. While four of his five interceptions last season were from undercutting decent passes, the same cannot be said for his 2007 campaign in which seven of the eight interceptions were on overthrown, underthrown or widely thrown passes.

Another example of Atogwe “being in the right palce at the right time” was last season in which Pete Kendall – a left guard – caught a pass and fumbled it right into Atogwe’s hands and he ran untouched for a TD. I think OJ’s a good player, but if you think he’s a top 10 safety than you need to sit down and watch him play next season. Then again, he could prove me wrong and finally become elite.

Ronald Bartell, St. Louis Rams

This off-season the Rams signed Ron Bartell to a large contract after Bartell posted good metrics according to K.C. Joyner, Tony Pisano and a few other metrics sources. He was considered by many to be one of the two lone bright spots on the Rams defense with the other being Atogwe.

However, there is something one has to consider when reading up on Bartell’s 2008 metrics. It was just one season before that in 2007 that Bartell had bottom 10 metrics in the entire league. So the question to be begged here is “which is the real Bartell; 2007 or 2008?” More specifically, which one will show up in 2009?

Chris Long, St. Louis Rams

Long held his own against the run last season, but let’s be honest… the Rams drafted him to be a premier pass rusher kind of like his father. I think that he’ll never be an elite pass rusher, but that he can be a guy who gives you 8 or 9 sacks a season couple with 5 or 6 run stuffs a season and I think next year is the year he starts to show those sack totals. I don’t know why, but I just have this feeling. So watch Long next year to see if he can start to bill up to that first rounder – second overall – billing.

Bryant McFadden/Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona Cardinals

While I don’t like the hype about Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and feel he could just as easily fall on his face this season, one has to acknowledge the potential for an elite season this year. Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t give up a single touchdown over the last eight games of the regular season and did alright in the post-season as well.

He is now coupled with former Steeler Bryant McFadden who has been impressive since making two consecutive big stops on Reggie Wayne in that infamous 2005 post-season game. Over the past two years McFadden has been loved by metrics experts and is a nice strong physical corner that should immediately start for the Cardinals. If McFadden can stay healthy and put it all together for 16 games and if DRC can put it together for 16 games you might be looking at he best cornerback duo of 2009.

Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald is all that was talked about in the months of January and February but few forget that it was Boldin – nicknamed “Q” – that was considered the better of the two wideouts before Todd Haley had Fitzgerald lose weight and completely revamp his game in the off-season last year. Now Boldin is being slighted by millions of fans as nowhere near as good, and is looking for a big pay day. In doing so he is being slighted by even more fans.

Boldin is a loyal guy, but the Cardinals aren’t giving him the respect he deserves which is why I foresee a contract year from Q to the tune of outproducing Larry Fitzgerald in almost every statistic. Boldin wants to get paid, whether it’s by the Cardinals or another organization and he deserves it… the man’s face got broken and he came back out of loyalty to the team.