Matt Williamson of Scout's Inc. says Seattle coach Pete Carroll's decision to name Russell Wilson his starting QB was a good one.
Williamson also likes the San Francisco 49ers' chances for repeating atop the division. He thought Seattle had pulled even, however, and decided to go against convention when breaking the tie (14 of 16 ESPN.com analysts picked the 49ers). Williamson expects both teams to be in the 9-7 range, battling til the very end.
Arizona did not factor into his thinking because "it's just too hard to win" with what Williamson considers to be the worst offensive line/quarterback combination in the NFL. Williamson is also among those with growing questions about Sam Bradford in St. Louis, where the Rams remain in the relatively early stages of a rebuild.
"I love San Francisco's defense, but I tend to think it's due to fall off a smidge," Williamson said. "I'd rank San Francisco first and Seattle second in defense across the NFL, so the difference is not massive."
Like some others, Williamson thinks the 49ers will not be quite as healthy or as dominant in turnover differential as they were when posting a 13-3 record last season. He thinks the 49ers have a tougher schedule. He worries about their depth on the defensive line, and questions the right side of the offensive line. Williamson isn't a huge fan of quarterback Alex Smith, either.
"I very much believe Russell Wilson will have the best year of any quarterback in the division," Williamson said. "Sam Bradford has a chance to be a very good one, but he looks terrible and his supporting cast is a mess. Arizona is a mess. I'm not a huge Smith believer."
In Wilson, Williamson see the potential for Cam Newton-type production. He thought Wilson, a third-round choice, should have gone a round earlier.
"One thing about him, his college history shows he doesn’t turn the ball over," Williamson said. "He'll do more at this level, but he is not going to hurt the team the way rookie quarterbacks usually do. He's very smart, really knows where to go with the ball."
Williamson said he didn't necessarily "trust" Smith. This seemed curious to me. Smith tossed only five picks all last season. He was about as trustworthy as a quarterback could be. And when the game was on the line against New Orleans in the playoffs, Smith made the plays to win the game. He'll presumably grow within the 49ers' offensive system now that he's had time to get more comfortable with it.
"I trust Wilson to make more plays," Williamson explained. "I think he's going to rush for 40 yards a game and he's not a runner first. That can extend drives. He scores touchdowns, where Alex Smith scores field goals. Wilson puts up a ton of points at every level -- N.C. State, Wisconsin, the preseason with Seattle. There is no down side to him, except he’s short. But he knows how to get around that."
Williamson went with Pete Carroll as his projected coach of the year.
"We'll look back in 16 games and say, 'Wow, naming Wilson the starter over Matt Flynn was a gutsy move by Coach Carroll and that is why they won the West,' " Williamson said.