NFC West Stock Watch

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
1:00
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. San Francisco 49ers secondary. Three spots weren't enough to process all the falling stock within the division this week. I have requested and received special permission to expand the "falling" section. Nothing in the division failed quite so spectacularly as the 49ers' pass defense against Dallas. Blaming individuals in the secondary can be tricky without knowing specifics about coverages. I'll point to the secondary in general for allowing three touchdowns to Miles Austin and a backbreaking 77-yard reception to the little-known Jesse Holley in overtime. Tough way to lose.

2. Ray Horton, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator. The Cardinals have allowed more yards through two games than any team in franchise history since at least 1940. Sure, they're learning a new system and breaking in young cornerbacks, but that was the plan. Horton expected significant improvement this season. He put it this way back in July: "The things we need to work on are very correctable. If we're not markedly improved, I'd be shocked. Not surprised, but shocked if we're not one of the better defenses in the league."

3. St. Louis Rams backups: Cadillac Williams, subbing for the injured Steven Jackson, dropped an ill-fated screen pass from Sam Bradford against the Giants, then mistakenly thought the play was dead. The Giants' Michael Boley returned the loose ball for a touchdown. Bradford took responsibility for getting pressured into throwing the ball backward, but Williams should have been aware the play was live. Williams, whose stock rose with a strong rushing performance in Week 1, gained 36 yards on 13 carries Monday. Another Rams backup, rookie receiver Greg Salas, muffed a punt against the Giants and could not handle a third-down pass. He required X-rays after the game for an unspecified injury.

[+] EnlargeTarvaris Jackson
AP Photo/Don WrightTarvaris Jackson has been more effective in his career when he's a threat to run the ball.
3a. NFC West self-esteem: All four division teams lost in embarrassing fashion. The Cardinals allowed 455 yards to Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins. The 49ers blew a 24-14 fourth-quarter lead. The Seattle Seahawks were shut out at Pittsburgh. The Rams slopped their way through the team's first Monday night appearance since 2006, falling to the New York Giants. At least one NFC West team will likely win in Week 3. Arizona visits Seattle.

3b. Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks quarterback. Coach Pete Carroll was right when he said the Seahawks' problems against Pittsburgh went far beyond the quarterback position. It's also reasonable to expect a quarterback to spark his team from time to time. Jackson, once a threat as a scrambler, has so far abandoned that aspect of his game. He needs to show more against Arizona in Week 3.

3c. Chansi Stuckey, Cardinals receiver. Stuckey lost a fumble when the Cardinals were trying to mount one final drive with a chance to get into field goal range during a one-point game at Washington. Last season, when Stuckey was with Cleveland, he lost an overtime fumble while the Browns were driving toward a potential winning field goal.

3d. Brandon Browner, Seahawks cornerback. Browner had problems in coverage against the Steelers' Mike Wallace and will need to bounce back against Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals in Week 3.

RISING

1. Danario Alexander, Rams receiver: Three catches for 122 yards and a touchdown against the Giants validated the highest expectations for Alexander. He was the only Rams player on offense to show game-changing ability as a playmaker.

2. Beanie Wells, Cardinals running back. The Cardinals got their ground game going in the second half against Washington, with Wells leading the way. This was as physical as Wells has run in some time and exactly what Arizona needs from him. Wells had 93 yards rushing on only 14 carries and was in position for much bigger numbers if Arizona's defense could have gotten off the field more readily.

3. Robert Quinn, Rams defensive end. The Rams' first-round draft choice made his regular-season debut against the Giants and played more extensively than I had anticipated. Quinn had one sack and gained valuable experience.

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