Scouts Inc. founder Gary Horton has passed along observations for NFC West teams.
I’ll share them on a team-by-team basis and offer a few thoughts to get the conversation going.
Horton's notes: This passing game could be underrated with wide receivers Mike Williams and Sidney Rice and tight end Zach Miller if they can find a quarterback to get the ball to them! The coaches are not happy with the pass protection by the OL and it is something they are really addressing. Offensive line coach Tom Cable will work to make this a more physical run game with zone blocking schemes with a lot of short and precise passes in a classic West Coast offense.
This 43 defense looks more like a 34 at times with three big linemen and the fourth at the "Leo" position as an edge pass rusher. This is the worst team in the NFL when they try to rush to the outside and they just don’t block well on the edges. They also struggle in their vertical passing game. Are they looking for H-back type guys to help in their run-game blocking? The coaches like their secondary depth now and they have concentrated on getting bigger and more physical at corner, but time will tell if they have really improved.
My thoughts: The personnel on the offensive line will be different, but Horton makes a fair point about concerns in the running game. Injuries to left guard Robert Gallery and left tackle Russell Okung reinforce those concerns, particularly with two tough run defenses on the schedule to open the season (49ers, Steelers). Outside expectations for Tarvaris Jackson are unimaginably low. It was interesting to me when teammates voted him a team captain. They're at least pulling for Jackson. Any quarterback would face challenges stepping behind a young offensive line with injury concerns, however. Jackson, below average as a starter by the usual measures, figures to have a harder time than some.
It's easy to look at the 2011 schedule and envision 1-4 or 2-3 heading into the bye. Seattle plays the 49ers, Steelers and Giants on the road during the first five weeks, with Arizona and Atlanta at home. Then again, the Seahawks blew out of the water my expectations for them a year ago when they went 4-2 to open the season. Better-than-expected play from the quarterback position is key.