Preseason Takeaways: nfc West Week 1
By Scott Geelan
What stood out in Week 1 from the potentially fascinating NFC West
Preseason Week 1 is never quite what I hope it will be. Probably because I have completely unrealistic hopes of seeing starters playing more than 10 snaps after months without football. Nevertheless, there was plenty to sink our teeth into in the NFC West, a division with plenty to look forward to over the next few months.
1. Kyler Murray is going to be a DC's nightmare
Kyler Murray is going to be a unique challenge for opposition defensive co-ordinators. Injury permitting, he’ll meet his fellow NFC West teams on six occasions over the course of this season. In those meetings, Murray will be the critical component of the Cardinals’ offense.
We almost certainly saw a heavily simplified offensive scheme from the Cardinals against the Chargers, but we still got to see Murray’s live arm and mobility. That combination of traits is exactly what has driven Kingsbury’s desire to acquire Murray throughout his coaching career – a desire that was finally realised this season. Kingsbury’s ability to shift the pocket away from oppositions pass rushers, mitigating potential line of site issues Murray would have in the pocket as well as the Cardinals’ issues on the offensive line, creates dilemmas in itself. The easy reads created by Kingsbury’s designs, Murray’s accuracy on the move and his running ability will further stress what opposition teams are able to do to contain him. Throw in the tempo and defenses will not relish seeing a Murray-led Cardinals. Roll on more Kyler.
2. The Cardinals' defensive situation remains murky
Some of the new pieces on the Cardinals’ defense gave a good account of themselves. Linebacker Jordan Hicks showed his playmaking ability, forcing and recovering a fumble on the goal line. Deionte Thompson saw plenty of snaps. Defensive lineman Darius Philon also impressed, but the team has subsequently cut him after his arrest. Philon’s release certainly leaves the Cardinals shorthanded on the defensive interior.
At cornerback, things are even more murky. Byron Murphy missed the match as a precautionary measure after sustaining a foot injury. As a result, two former undrafted free agents took most of the snaps at outside corner in relief of Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford: Chris Jones and Nate Brooks. Both played reasonably well.
3. Some things just don't change...
In Seattle meanwhile, it seems that the more things change, the more things stay the same. The offensive line was strikingly porous, but both Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith were able to make some off schedule plays. Lynch particularly played well against his former employers.
The defense remains as aggressive as ever, albeit with a more man coverage, two high shells and blitzes thrown in. Shaquill Griffin and Akeem King both stood out at cornerback, whilst backup linebackers Austin Calitro and rookie Cody Barton played sideline to sideline in addition to making several stops. Jacob Martin came off the bench to provide some legitimate pass rush late in the game and is a player worth keeping an eye on.
Furthermore, whilst a big wide receiver did steal the show for the Seahawks, his name was not D.K. Metcalf. Metcalf did look threatening but it was fellow rookie Jazz Ferguson who turned heads vs the Broncos
4. 49ers' defensive backups show their quality
It’s often said that NFL referees could throw a flag on every play if they wanted. The 49ers ran into a refereeing crew who actually wanted to. Nevertheless, despite 18 penalties for 216 yards, the 49ers fought to a win against the Dallas Cowboys, courtesy of an impressive defensive effort.
Having rested most of their starters, the likes of AAF star defensive end Damontre Moore, rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw and second year tackle Jullian Taylor performed impressively for the 49ers. Even so, Moore and Taylor will face a real fight to make the 53 man roster, showing the potential strength along the 49ers defensive line.
On offense, UDFA running back Austin Walter stood out. Furthermore, rookie wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd showed plenty of promise as versatile weapons. Second year receiver Richie James also showed his playmaking ability.
5. The Rams look like the Rams
Blake Bortles, having finally found his rightful home as a high quality backup, got his first run out in the McVay offense. In his inimitable style, McVay ensured Bortles looked good throwing to a host of inexperienced receivers who McVay schemed open.
Young backs Darrell Henderson and John Kelly split time competing to be the primary back up to Todd Gurley. They showed their versatility, and will have left an impression.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kevin Peterson showed his playmaking ability once again at cornerback whilst the rest of the defense continued to look like one of the best coached units in the NFL. Exciting rookie Taylor Rapp started at strong safety and played well. Will we see more big dime or big nickel packages to cover the loss of Mark Barron?