Friday, May 10, 2013
Eight in the Box: Key offseasons
By Mike Sando
A look at a key player from each NFC West team who needs to show something in offseason sessions:
Arizona Cardinals: Inside linebacker Daryl Washington is an easy choice. The Cardinals expected to build around Washington, Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson on defense. Washington has become the weak link in that chain after incurring a four-game suspension for substance abuse and assault charges stemming from an incident that allegedly left the mother of his child with a broken clavicle. Washington cannot undo what has been done. All he can do is work hard, stay out of trouble and begin to repair his reputation inside and outside the organization.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers' first-round pick from 2012, receiver A.J. Jenkins, has reportedly focused on gaining needed strength after making zero impact in games last season. The next step is making a positive statement through his play at organized team activities, minicamps and training camp. Here is what 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said about Jenkins when the team drafted him: "I defy anybody to look at that tape and tell me that there's something wrong with it, that there's something that he doesn't do well." Here is what Harbaugh said when asked about Jenkins at the team's 2012 rookie camp a few weeks later: "I think that whole group of receivers really looked good. Out of shape, that's the bad news. Good news is that it's a very talented group of those young receivers. You could tell that right away. But the bad news is we've got to get them in shape. I don't know exactly what all these guys have been doing in the last six months." By June, Harbaugh was lauding Jenkins' conditioning, speed and route running. Compliments are nice. The proof this offseason will be in whether Jenkins earns a meaningful spot in the receiving rotation.
St. Louis Rams: Brian Quick, like Jenkins, is a highly drafted second-year receiver looking to make a greater impact in 2013. Jenkins was the 30th overall pick and a player the Rams also liked very much. Quick was the 33rd overall pick and a player the Rams compared to Terrell Owens from a physical standpoint. Scouting reports suggested Quick might need a season to absorb the NFL game as a relatively raw talent from Appalachian State. Quick finished his rookie season with 11 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Fifteen drafted rookie wide receivers had more receptions. Fourteen had more receiving yards. Eight had more receiving touchdowns. Seventeen played more offensive snaps. Quick should be ready to take a big step forward now that he has as much or more experience in the offense than any wideout on the roster. That should become apparent through various offseason camps.
Seattle Seahawks: Veteran defensive end Red Bryant is already a proven force on the Seahawks' defensive line. Re-establishing himself from health and physical conditioning standpoints should be a priority this offseason. We should get a feel for where Bryant stands on these fronts by watching him move at offseason practices. Bryant played through a foot injury last season. He had trouble moving laterally and his game obviously suffered. Last offseason, the Seahawks gave Bryant a contract worth $7 million per season. This offseason, they need to know Bryant is doing everything he can to bounce back in 2013. They need to know he's in good shape for a huge man.