Monday, April 30, 2012
Around the NFC West: Offense or defense?
By Mike Sando
The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers used early draft choices for players they hope will make big plays on offense.
Both teams have offensive-minded head coaches.
The Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams used early draft choices for players they hope will fortify their defenses.
Both teams have defensive-minded head coaches.
Coincidence? Perhaps, but whatever the reason for the differing approaches, the tack these teams took continues to generate discussion.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' emphasis on defense comes as teams with the best offenses win games. Kelley: "The Green Bay Packers had the worst defense in the league. They lost once. The New England Patriots were the second-worst defense. They went to the Super Bowl. With the exception of the Baltimore Ravens, who have decided they don't need wide receivers to win division titles, the teams with the most productive, most dynamic, most dizzying offenses won the most games." Noted: Seattle has made offense more of a focus in free agency. The team signed quarterback Matt Flynn from Green Bay. A year earlier, the Seahawks signed receiver Sidney Rice and tight end Zach Miller to lucrative contracts. The year before that, Seattle acquired running back Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo. Also, the Seahawks used an NFL-high 80 percent of their first-, second- and third-round draft choices for offensive players over the 2010 and 2011 drafts, the first two under coach Pete Carroll.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals went with a wide receiver in the first round largely because they wanted more game-changing plays on offense. Somers: "The Cardinals' selections also reflected their views on how the NFL game has changed. They selected Floyd in the first round because they think he has the ability to make big plays. That's more important in today's game, coach Ken Whisenhunt said, because moving the kickoff up last year resulted in more touchbacks. Being able to quickly flip field position is important. Floyd is expected to help do that." Noted: The Cardinals, like the Seahawks, will be relying heavily on a veteran quarterback acquired from another team. Kevin Kolb showed a few signs of promise early in the season, including when he took a huge hit at Washington while delivering a deep pass to Larry Fitzgerald. As far as the draft, Arizona had used three of its previous four first-round choices for defense, selecting Patrick Peterson (2011), Dan Williams (2010) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2008).
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took note of the trend in St. Louis, where the Rams used early picks for a defensive lineman (Michael Brockers) and a cornerback (Janoris Jenkins). Miklasz: "On the surface, [GM Les] Snead and [coach Jeff] Fisher have done little so far to secure immediate, impact help for quarterback Sam Bradford. With five of the first 65 selections overall, the Rams addressed the offense by drafting a small-college wide receiver (Brian Quick) from Appalachian State and a third-down back (Isaiah Pead) from Cincinnati. That's it. Only one probable but relatively unpolished offensive starter (Quick), and no offensive linemen to protect the quarterback. Of their five selections in the first three rounds, three were spent on defense. The Rams took a less urgent approach in attaching an IV to a sickly offense that's averaged an embarrassing 14.4 points over the past five seasons in going 15-65. Wow."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' decision to draft a receiver (A.J. Jenkins) and running back (LaMichael James) in the first two rounds shows the team wants to close some of the gap between its so-so offense and dominating defense. Cohn: "In free agency, the Niners got two speedy receivers to stretch the field -- Randy (Is He in the Mood to Play?) Moss and Mario Manningham. They already had two swift, strong intermediate route runners -- Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. And they drafted two players to go underneath the coverage. They would be wideout A.J. Jenkins, a strange first-round choice until you realize the Niners brought him in to give Smith an option on third down. Jenkins loves the underneath crossing route, and he presumably can stretch the field, too. In the second round, they took fast, elusive, Oregon running back LaMichael James, who may be better at catching passes coming out of the backfield than actually running -- he’s small for the NFL. And they already have Frank Gore and they got free-agent Brandon Jacobs as a big short-yardage back. In the third round, they even took Joe Looney, a guard, to upgrade Smith’s protection."