I remember WAY back in the day how horrific the NFC West was. Remember that? That was back when Eli Manning only had 1 Super Bowl ring, the games in the NHL were being played on the ice not in the media and board room, Tebow was a starting QB and the NFL had actual refs. Oh yes, those were crazy times…
Now here we are in September 2012 and while defense is basically no exsistent in the NFL, it is alive and well in the NFC West! Back in the 80’s it was NFC East that had crazy defense. Dallas had the “Doomsday” defense, then the Giants had their amazing defense led by the best linebacking core in league history (Taylor, Carson and Banks), not far behind them were the Eagles who under Buddy Ryan had some of the best defenses in league history, then the Redskins always had good defenses throughout the decade from 82 on, and I’m sure the Cardinals had a good defense 1 or 2 years in there (well, they probably didn’t, but they were in the NFC East so….good for them!)
Back then nobody ever would have believed that the 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams would be among the league’s elite in defense. Hell, 2 years ago nobody would have believed it! But yet here we are, 3 weeks in and the NFC West is the new black and blue division in the NFL. Obviously we all knew coming into the season that the 49ers established themselves last season as one of the top defensive units in the league. Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Carlos Rogers, they don’t have a weakness anywhere on that side of the ball and it won them the large majority of their games and will do so again this season although the really scary thing is that Alex Smith is finally looking like a formidable QB that can lead them to Super Bowl.
Up the coast Pete Carroll was always known as a great defensive coach, so its not a huge shock that he has the Seahawks coached up on D. But what is impressive is that they’ve become a bit of a gong show of an organization under Carroll. Yet the D hasn’t been affected by that BS and what they do as good as anyone is get after the QB. Nobody on that d-line is elite, but everyone is very good. Their secondary gets a ton of recognition as maybe the best in football, but as they showed last night the d-line is scary good as a unit.
If we are talking about the NFC West, we probably should talk about the division leading Cardinals. That unit has been scary good, especially in their last 2 games. They completely dominated the Pats in New England and as the Giants have proved in 2 different Super Bowls, when you get to Tom Brady he gets rattled. And like the Seahawks while they have a great secondary, the key is they get to the QB up front. Sunday they punished Michael Vick. Calias Campbell is nearly impossible to block at 6’8, Darnell Dockett has as good of a motor as any d-lineman in the league, and 2010 1st round pick Dan Williams is becoming the NT they were hoping to get after a subpar start to his career. Ken Wishenhunt comes from the Pittsburgh Steelers and while the team that went to the Super Bowl was a lot of fun to watch, this is more his kind of team.
And finally lets not forget about the kids of this group, the St. Louis Rams. A good effort yesterday in a losing cause (the offense did them no favors), and I know they gave up 27 to RGIII and the skins, but trust me this D could be elite soon. I don’t think anyone would disagree that they have the best young d-line in football. Chris Long and Robert Quinn are beasts, and in the draft they added DT Michael Brockers who has loads of potential. Scary, scary potential there. Then while the d-line has scary potential, the secondary is already elite thanks in large part to signing Cortland Finnegan in the offseason. Finnegan has been picking every ball in sight, and driving the wide out’s he has been matched up with nuts as usual. In the draft they added Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson who everyone agreed had 1st round talent just had off field issues. Finnegan is the perfect guy to mentor these 2. Then you have the linebackers who are the weak link. Some weak link, one of the best MLB’s in football in James Laurinaitis and now Jo-Lonn Dunbar is emerging as a great WLB. And if all this wasn’t enough Jeff Fisher has a reputation for getting the most out of his players.
If you love high scoring shootout’s and excitement….then don’t watch these teams! This all of a sudden has become a TOUGH division seemingly over night. None of these teams have great offenses, but all of them will be tough to beat and nightmares for teams to play as all of them will leave their opponents worse for wear.
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups