Wednesday, May 2, 2012
After focusing on run, division looks to air
By Mike Sando
Every team in the NFC West had a 1,000-yard rusher last season.
Coaches in Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis have promoted run-first philosophies. Arizona has invested first- and second-round picks in running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, respectively.
Run, run, run.
And yet the division focused on the passing game quite a bit during the 2012 NFL draft -- on both sides of the ball. NFC West teams drafted a league-high three wide receivers in the first two rounds. Teams from the division drafted three cornerbacks in the first three rounds, tied with the NFC North for most in the league.
The charts show how many receivers and corners each division added through the first three rounds. The combined total for the NFC West (six) was the most for any division, one more than the NFC North.
St. Louis drafted cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins (second round) and Trumaine Johnson (third round). Arizona used a third-round choice for cornerback Jamell Fleming. Arizona (Michael Floyd) and San Francisco (A.J. Jenkins) used first-round picks for receivers. St. Louis added receiver Brian Quick in the second round (and another receiver, Chris Givens, in the fourth).
NFC West pass defenses could face additional pressure given the scheduling rotation in 2012.
Every NFC West team faces New England with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker.
The division also faces Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson), Detroit (Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew) and Chicago (Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall).
San Francisco draws New Orleans (Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston) and the New York Giants (Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz). Arizona faces Philadelphia (Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) and Atlanta (Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones). Seattle faces Dallas (Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant) and Carolina (Cam Newton, Steve Smith).
The top five teams in 2011 passing yardage -- New Orleans, New England, Green Bay, Detroit and the Giants -- show up on NFC West schedules. Green Bay, New England, the Giants and Saints comprised the top four in yards per passing attempt. The top seven teams in passing touchdowns -- Green Bay, New Orleans, Detroit, New England, Dallas, Atlanta and the Giants -- play a combined 16 games against the NFC West.
And, of course, NFC West teams must face each other, which means games against Larry Fitzgerald, Vernon Davis, Randy Moss, Sidney Rice and others.