Chat wrap: Which team's defense better?

2011 NFC West Defensive Rankings

A simmering debate over NFC West defenses led me to republish the season-ending chart explored in greater detail a couple months ago.

The question is whether the Seattle Seahawks or Arizona Cardinals own the second-best defense in the division following the one in San Francisco.

One Facebook friend, Shaun, put together a detailed chart comparing performance late last season.

The subject came up again during the most recent NFC West chat.

I went with Seattle's defense over Arizona's based on performance over the full season. The Seahawks joined the 49ers in the top 10 for yards allowed, yards allowed per rushing attempt, NFL passer rating allowed, Total QBR allowed, takeaways and points allowed.

Full chat transcript here. Highlights below:

Zach from Tempe asks why so many seem to think the Cardinals will "fall flat" in 2012 after lacking aggression in free agency. He says the Cardinals went 7-2 to finish last season and should feel OK about returning essentially the same team.

Mike Sando: Negative perceptions about quarterback come into play. I agree with you about not needing to be active in free agency. The Cardinals were quite active last offseason and it did not translate immediately. But they probably would have been worse without some of those signings (Richard Marshall, Daryn Colledge, even Jeff King). Overall, I think perceived QB issues make it tougher to back the Cardinals.

Superman_1134 asks whether the Seahawks' significant investments in their offensive line have answered questions there.

Mike Sando: Yeah, they've put a lot into the line, but I'm not convince they'll get the desired results. James Carpenter is looking more like a guard, and he's coming off a horrific injury. John Moffitt is coming off injury. Russell Okung is coming off injury and has been injury prone to this point in his career. It's almost like they could stand to use another relatively early choice for the line. On the positive side from Seattle's standpoint, it looks like Tom Cable can coach up a line.

Anthem from San Francisco asks how secure Alex Smith's job appears at this stage.

Mike Sando: The contract Smith signed tells us how secure Smith is as the starter. The deal allows the 49ers to move on after one, two or three seasons. Smith is year to year with the team, and there is an expectation that Colin Kaepernick will take over in the next couple years. How quickly that happens depends in part on whether the team keeps winning with Smith. Injuries could facilitate the transition. Smith started every game last season. He appeared sturdier than in the past. Still, injuries routinely sideline quarterbacks. Smith will probably miss a couple games at some point, and that could give Kaepernick his chance.

Jacob from St. Louis questions whether Justin Blackmon will be an option for the St. Louis Rams with the sixth overall choice. How about moving up into the first round for another receiver, Stephen Hill? "Love his size and speed," Jacob writes.

Mike Sando: Yes, I could absolutely see that happening. I do not know if the Rams like Hill specifically, but that general thinking makes sense. The Rams have the 33rd and 39th overall choices. That gives them good flexibility for moving into the late first round to take a receiver, if they like one enough. This seems somewhat likely. Very plausible, especially since analysts think some promising receivers will be available later in the round.

I'm working on a mock draft and hope to publish the results next week. At least one or two of them should match up with what eventually happens.