Ten NFC West assistants in the spotlight

February, 13, 2009
2/13/09
11:48
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The NFC West will break in seven new coordinators for the 2009 season. Five of them joined incumbent 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on my list of 10 NFC West assistants in the spotlight this season:

1. Jimmy Raye, offensive coordinator, 49ers. No head coach in the division has less administrative experience than the 49ers' Mike Singletary. He was going to need a strong, experienced offensive coordinator to handle the side of the ball with which Singletary was least familiar. Raye gets the call.

2. Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator, Rams. The Rams have a first-time head coach with a defensive background. Shurmur, formerly the Eagles' quarterbacks coach for seven seasons, is a first-time NFL coordinator. He has less experience than his predecessor, Scott Linehan. The Rams' recent failures seemed to leave some key offensive players jaded. Shurmur must win them over decisively.

3. Greg Knapp, offensive coordinator, Seahawks. Knapp is installing a new offense and taking the lead with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

4. Unnamed, defensive coordinator, Cardinals. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt figures to take over play-calling duties on offense. The defensive coordinator he hires must carry a full load on that side of the ball.

5. Steve Loney, offensive line, Rams. Loney is the only Rams position coach to keep his job from last season. The Rams figure to make the position a top priority in the draft and possibly free agency. Loney must coach 'em up.

6. Zerick Rollins, linebackers, Seahawks. Rollins is the only Seahawks position coach on defense to keep his job from last season. He must get more from Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson and possibly Leroy Hill after all three failed to meet expectations in 2008.

7. Ken Flajole, defensive coordinator, Rams. The defensive coordinator under a defensive-minded head coach can sometimes become a figurehead. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo indicated otherwise during his most recent media session. Flajole is a first-time NFL coordinator. He must step up if Spagnuolo spends less time focusing on the defense.

8. Bruce DeHaven, special teams, Seahawks. The Seahawks retained DeHaven even though their special teams haven't been as strong as expected. Former Mora assistant Joe DeCamillis was available, but the Cowboys snapped him up.

9. Greg Manusky, defensive coordinator, 49ers. The 49ers' defense improved once head coach Mike Nolan departed and Manusky took over the defense in full. The schedule played into that, but Manusky can define himself as a coordinator on the rise if the defense continues to improve.

10. Unnamed, quarterbacks coach, Cardinals. Former offensive coordinator Todd Haley was the point man with quarterback Kurt Warner. Now that Haley is gone, the Cardinals will need more from their quarterbacks coach.

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