Where each NFC West team should expect improvement following preseason openers:
Area of focus: The secondary is still taking shape. Adrian Wilson's injury creates an opening for Rashad Johnson and Matt Ware. Johnson broke down in coverage against Oakland, allowing a long pass completion. At cornerback, the Cardinals are pleased with A.J. Jefferson on the left side, but first-round draft choice Patrick Peterson is going to get more playing time as the regular season approaches. The Cardinals are taking things slowly with Peterson.
Reasonable expectation next week: Improved play from Wilson's replacement(s) and increased playing time for Peterson.
Upcoming opponent note: The Cardinals travel to face a Green Bay team that has occasionally hammered opponents during preseason. The Packers memorably put up 48 points against Seattle in 2007 and 44 against Arizona last summer.
Area of focus: The pass protection against New Orleans was worse than anticipated even though the 49ers faced well-known challenges breaking in a new offense. This was a painful reminder that San Francisco remains in the very early stages of its offensive overhaul. In retrospect, the 49ers could have used a tamer opponent for their first game under Jim Harbaugh. The Saints exploited the 49ers' early shortcomings to maximum effect.
Reasonable expectation next week: Better coordination between offensive linemen, tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks against pressure.
Upcoming opponent note: The 49ers play at home against the Oakland Raiders. Alex Smith completed 9 of 15 passes for 113 yards and one touchdown against the Raiders last summer. The 49ers did not allow a sack in that game. Oakland has a new defensive coordinator this year. The Raiders did occasionally bring pressure against Arizona in their preseason opener.
Area of focus: The first-team offense lacked rhythm against San Diego. Tarvaris Jackson was without his top three wide receivers. Seattle lost its left tackle to injury early in the game. Jackson faced too much pressure and relied on his mobility to buy time. Jackson enters his second week of practices with the team seeking to build a rapport with his top targets. He completed 3 of 5 passes for 13 yards against the Chargers.
Upcoming opponent note: The Seahawks are home against Minnesota. The game carries added interest for Jackson, Rice and former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. The Vikings scored three points, collected only one sack and allowed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Tennessee Titans rookie Jake Locker during their opener.
Area of focus: The Rams were easily the most efficient NFC West team during their preseason opener. They committed only one penalty, picked off three passes, held Indianapolis to a 42.8 passer rating, got encouraging contributions from rookie tight end Lance Kendricks and generally impressed. But they didn't get much from their wide receivers beyond a couple contributions and near-contributions from Danario Alexander. Injuries kept Mike Sims-Walker from playing much. Other receivers, including Donnie Avery, did not play at all.
Reasonable expectation for next week: A few more connections between Sam Bradford and his wide receivers would help the Rams make better sense of the position as the regular season approaches. The receiver position has yet to define itself clearly.
Upcoming opponent note: The Rams are home against the Titans in their next preseason game. Rams fans might recall Tennessee rushing for 340 yards against a bare-bones St. Louis defense during the 2008 preseason. They do not have to fear a repeat.