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Final Piece to the Puzzle? NFC West
By Garth Pearce
Special to gzl-football.com

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Small Pieces The Cardinals are piecing together a respectable season against all odds, but are just shy of taking a firm grasp on the division. To help them get there I feel they need to consider revamping the left side of line to Center as they lack quality talent and skill in the starting 3 of Marcus Gilbert, Adam Howell and Eric Andrews. With all the experience and talent on the right side there is a profound weakness guarding the blind side and the middle, so either a veteran or a stud in at least, preferably 2 of these positions would be of benefit. Whilst their secondary shows talent and experience, they do lack so true speed across the board, so a fast corner or safety would help in chasing down those long balls or breakaways, helping Christian Ponder and the offense manage the score line easier.

Final Piece The offense has been pretty consistent in its ability to score, however this could become even better with a healthy collection of receivers. Injuries to Mario Manningham and Joshua Cribbs has brought the best out in Ponder so far, but it may prove too much for him to handle over the long term. Quality receivers can only help a quarter back to his best and with the above guys healthy all year they'll have a strong chance of being a better unit.


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Small Pieces At the end of 2012 this team had its core ripped out for a bevy of draft picks which resulted in a score of youngster taking to the field. This reflected in their poor outing for 2013 and has only slightly improved since the addition of Geno Smith. In saying this there is now a decent core of youngster to build around, but it'll take time for them to progress into quality players. As it stands there are troubles everywhere on this team and I'll start by highlighting the defense relying on the overly young secondary to do all the work. The offense has doubled their scoring output already from last season, so there are enough pieces there to work with and time can help on the front. The defense is mediocre across the board and Chase Minnifield needs some help at corner as he grows. The lack of awareness all round through the secondary is a concern but time to progress a few of these players will elevate them into quality starters.

Final Piece It's never a good sign when your leading tacklers are both in the secondary, highlighting the need for some quality linebackers who can tackle across the board. All rated below 80 OVR and both middle linebackers are sub 80 speed and the best awareness is 73 on Michael Williams. Sio Moore and Sean Porter have some skill for rookies but shouldn't be thought of as long term solutions


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Small Pieces Seattle is a hard team to decipher as Nic is making full use of veteran contracts, only some of which result in starting jobs. The resent amnesty of Brandon Mebane has left a big hole at DT to fill, and whilst Cameron Reed is a big strong body he isn't overly mobile and not ideally your #1. The vets here are filling a roster gap and should be replaced with a quality full-time DT.

Final Piece Cameron Newton is still growing as a passer, and as a scrambler he needs all the help he can get. Whilst Chaz Schilens and Chris Matthews are big targets they lack the combination of top end awareness and hands that would be of benefit to give the passing game a true edge.


ST LOUIS Rams

Small Pieces On paper the Rams have got a good spread of talented players across the board. They have a balance of experienced and new players which should be melding together as a nice unit. After recent moves they are left with a glaring hole at left guard which could easily be patched in the short term with a veteran contract to improve over the possibility of going with Theo Goins or King Dunlap.

Final Piece With this balance of talent it would appear that the biggest problem lies with the game plans. Finding consistent game plans, something that will score you points on offense and then keep the opponent struggling on defense and doesn't over burden the secondary is what the Rams need. So far the defense is allowing way too many catches and need to do something to tighten the pass defense and also get some more pressure on the opponent's quarterback and get the sack numbers up. They have lost some high scoring contests because of this free flowing scoring ability and their last 3 contests have shown that they are capable of achieving this, even though it's still hit and miss.
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