Sports media has essentially crowned the NFC West the toughest, most dominate division in the NFL this coming season, which is hard to argue against. The big cliche surrounding the teams’ offseasons has been the “NFC West Arms Race,” started by the Seattle trade for Percy Harvin and the 49ers’ trade for Anquan Boldin, then inflamed by the Seahawks signing of every “big name” defensive end available in free agency. The Rams’ added their two cents with the acquisitions of Jake Long and Jared Cook, and the Cardinals tagged in with Carson Palmer.
The fun didn’t stop there though, at least not for some teams, especially on offense. The Rams added the most explosive player in the 2013 NFL Draft class (Tavon Austin), then took the most productive receiver in college football last season (Stedman Bailey) a couple of rounds later. In less flashy fashion, the Cardinals took a chance on Ryan Swope late in the draft, soon after the 49ers’ stole Quinton Patton in the 4th round.
So, with all of these changes, what do the NFC West offenses look like right now? With a little help from our friends over at OurLads.com, here are the updated depth charts, with a couple of projected changes, via Ramblin’ Fan.
Note: CAPITALIZED name designate a new starter at that position from the team’s 2012 roster. This could be a new player or a returning player that either a) switched positions or b) moved up in the depth chart.
|Running Back||Marshawn Lunch|
|Wide Receiver (No.1)||Sydney Rice|
|Wide Receiver (No.2)||Golden Tate|
|Wide Receiver (No.3)||PERCY HARVIN|
|Tight End||Zach Miller|
|Right Tackle||Breno Giacomini|
|Right Guard||Paul McQuistan|
|Left Guard||JAMES CARPENTER|
|Left Tackle||Russell Okung|
For Seattle, the offensive roster is relatively unchanged, with the exception of Percy Harvin as their slot receiver and utility back. James Carpenter has had trouble staying healthy since being selected 25th overall by the ‘Hawks back in 2011. He could be the final piece of the Seattle offense line if he can stay on the field.
If there were any area of concern in their offense, it was likely the tight end spot, with Zach Miller failing to show the fluidity and pass catching ability he had in Oakland. Anthony McCoy was likely to have some chance at more reps this season, but was reported today to have torn his Achilles’ tendon.
St. Louis Rams
|Running Back||DARYL RICHARDSON|
|Wide Receiver (No.1)||BRIAN QUICK|
|Wide Receiver (No.2)||Chris Givens|
|Wide Receiver (No.3)||TAVON AUSTIN|
|Tight End||Lance Kendricks|
|Right Tackle||RODGER SAFFOLD|
|Right Guard||Harvey Dahl|
|Left Guard||BARRETT JONES|
|Left Tackle||JAKE LONG|
The Rams did an full make-over of the offensive roster this offseason, not only through free agency, but through the draft as well. The “starters” at both running back and wide receiver have yet to be determined, but we do know that it will not be Steven Jackson lining up in the backfield or Brandon Gibson lining up out wide. Daryl Richardon, Isaiah Pead, and 2013 draftee, Zac Stacy, should all have a legitimate shot at earning the lion’s share of reps, but that is anyone’s guess at this point. At receiver, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin are locks for a “starting role,” who will fill the slot left by the departing Gibson is still up in the air. Brian Quick is likely the favorite at this point in the offseason, but it would not be surprising to see Stedman Bailey penciled in at the No. 1 position come August.
The offense line will look completely different from last season. Scott Wells will hopefully be returning to the center of the line, sitting out most of last season with a combination of injuries. Rodger Saffold has been moved to the right side of the line, taking over Barry Richardon’s spot, while the blindside will be manned by Jake Long, the Rams’ biggest offseason acquition. The left guard spot is a bit of a mystery at this point. Rokevious Watkins was the assumed favorite for the spot, but was recently handed a 1-game suspension by the NFL for violating their drug policy. Now, the spot will likely be a battle between Chris Williams, a former 1st round tackle selection by Chicago, and Barrett Jones, St. Louis’ second 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft.
Every position that needed an upgrade in the offense, according to Snead and Fisher, got one. They prefer the running back-by-committee approach, and with three very young backs taking reps, they have to hope that some combination will step up to fill the massive shoes of Steven Jackson. The other needed upgrades were right tackle and receiver, and with Jake Long, Stedman Bailey, and Tavon Austin in tow, it is fair to say the Rams completed their offseason checklist.
San Francisco 49ers
|Running Back||Frank Gore|
|Wide Receiver (No.1)||ANQUAN BOLDIN|
|Wide Receiver (No.2)||Mario Manningham|
|Wide Receiver (No.3)||A.J. Jenkins|
|Tight End||Vernon Davis|
|Right Tackle||Anthony Davis|
|Right Guard||Alex Boone|
|Left Guard||Mike Iupati|
|Left Tackle||Joe Staley|
Until about three days ago, the San Francisco 49ers looked to have maintained their nearly perfected offensive roster from the season before, with the addition of the should-have-been Super Bowl MVP, Anquan Boldin. However, the injury to Michael Crabtree will send the receiving corps into a bit of a question mark headed into the opener. Boldin should be able to jump in and take the No. 1 reps, but that doesn’t mean he can produce in the same fashion as Crabtree, especially given Kaepernick’s favoritism of the young wide out.
However, consistency builds contenders, and the rest of the squad is back in full force. In fact, LaMichael James and Mario Manningham should be able to step this year, now fully healed during the offseason. The loss of Delanie Walker might have some effect, but they are certainly hoping that Vance McDonald, their 2nd rounder from the 2013 Draft, can fill the void and help in the passing game.
|Running Back||RASHARD MENDENHALL|
|Wide Receiver (No.1)||Larry Fitzgerald|
|Wide Receiver (No.2)||Andre Roberts|
|Wide Receiver (No.3)||Michael Floyd|
|Tight End||Jeff King|
|Right Tackle||Bobby Massie|
|Right Guard||EARL WATFORD|
|Left Guard||JONATHAN COOPER|
|Left Tackle||LEVI BROWN|
Much like the Rams, the Cardinals made some massive changes the to roster, including a new head coach and coaching staff. They have attempted to solve their “skill position” woes with Carson Palmer and Rashard Mendenhall, who are both massive upgrades over the quarterbacks and running backs of last season… yes, those are both plural. Ryan Swope will likely not see much time on the field, aside from four or five receiver sets, but could be a game changer with his impressive straight-line speed.
The big changes are on the offensive line. Levi Brown, who was injured last year, will return as the blindside protector and, hopefully, provide an upgrade to the worst line in the NFL last season. The Cardinals will be relying on two rookies to hold down the interior of the line, with Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford both projected to start at the guard spots this season.
The Cardinals likely would have preferred an upgrade at tight end and center, but there are only so many moves that can be made during the offseason. They are obviously a team in “rebuild mode.” There is no better way to start that process than with some young, dominate players on the offensive line, and some veteran talent at the skill positions.