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Friday, July 12, 2013
Eight in the Box: Offseason regret

By Mike Sando

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the one offseason move each team in the NFC West needed to make, but didn't:

Arizona Cardinals: Pass-rushing outside linebacker is one position where the team could have upgraded more aggressively. Using a fourth-round pick for Alex Okafor addressed the position to some degree. Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield and Lorenzo Alexander are the other players expected to factor on the outside in 3-4 looks. The Cardinals haven't been hurting for sacks. Their defensive front could generate pressure more directly if the responsibilities for ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett evolve as expected. But with inside linebacker and leading 2012 sacker Daryl Washington serving a four-game suspension to open the season, Arizona might need more pass-rush presence from the perimeter.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams appear set on defense except at safety, where Darian Stewart and 2013 third-round choice T.J. McDonald are the projected starters after the team parted with 2012 starters Craig Dahl (signed by San Francisco) and Quintin Mikell (released for salary reasons). Stewart played 83 percent of the defensive snaps in 2011, but his playing time fell to 7 percent last season. McDonald is just getting started. Safety is one position the team could address by adding a veteran as the summer progresses. For now, it's a question mark. We should note, however, that rookie linebacker and first-round pick Alec Ogletree adds considerable range and coverage potential to the defense. He could wind up drawing some coverage responsibilities.

San Francisco 49ers: This roster doesn't have many holes, so we'll have to reach a little. Some thought the 49ers needed to upgrade more at cornerback, but the team thought restoring its front seven would plug some of the leaks that sprung in the secondary late last season. On offense, hindsight says the team could have moved even more aggressively at wide receiver, but there was no way to know Michael Crabtree would suffer a torn Achilles tendon during routine offseason workouts. Even then, San Francisco was proactive by acquiring Anquan Boldin before Crabtree's injury. Swing tackle was one position where the 49ers arguably needed another option. Re-signing Adam Snyder provided some insurance there.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks, like the 49ers, have a roster without many holes. They addressed key needs for a nickel corner (Antoine Winfield) and pass-rush help (Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett). The offensive line is one area where the team arguably could have moved more aggressively. An injury to one of the starting tackles could force guard Paul McQuistan to play out of position while taxing depth on the interior, particularly if 2011 first-round pick James Carpenter doesn't shake significant injury concerns. The Seahawks believe in line coach Tom Cable's ability to make just about any situation work. He's their insurance policy.