Preseason Takeaways: NFC West Week 2
By Scott Geelan
Four games, three defeats for NFC West sides, and even the win wasn’t very pretty. After Week 2 of the preseason, there can be little doubt that the NFC West teams need to improve.
1. Raiders show Cardinals they have a long way to go
The scoreline may not show it, but the Cardinals were much worse than the Oakland Raiders in their clash.
The gap looked particularly stark between the starters, most notably in the trenches. The Raiders dominated this area, running more or less at will up the middle on the one hand before overwhelming the Cardinals’ offensive line on the other. Furthermore, Kyler Murray looked flustered in the pocket.
Important secondary presence D.J. Swearinger looked terrible in coverage though was better against the run. Sticking in the defensive backfield, rookie Byron Murphy also really struggled. He blew a coverage on the Raiders’ first touchdown and give up a holding penalty.
Furthermore, there was an obvious gap between the coaches on the night. John Gruden schemed a few things up against Vance Joseph, notably the long touchdown pass. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, Paul Guenther called blitzes and stunts that the Cardinals offensive line could not pick up. He also made sure his backside DEs took Murray on bootlegs, limiting a dangerous part of his repertoire.
2. The Rams continue to keep much under wraps
As they have done in previous seasons, the Rams continue to keep their likely starters off the field. Resultantly, we mainly get a chance to see what how the rotational pieces and backups look in game action.
One spot that will continue to be of interest is running back, given Todd Gurley’s health issues. John Kelly looked the best back against Dallas. He demonstrated his patient, squared up running style and balance to good effect behind an offensive line that struggled to open rushing lanes. He also looked good out of the backfield as a receiver.
Undrafted free agent wide receiver Nsimba Webster continued to demonstrate his multi-faceted receiving ability as well as getting work on special teams.
On defense, rookie safety Taylor Rapp was once again an active contributor around the line of scrimmage, though the Rams did themselves look a little soft in the middle. That will certainly change when they unleash Aaron Donald of course. Cornerback Dont’e Deayon recorded an interception and made an impressive tackle vs a screen pass with things looking fairly wide open behind the starters at corner.
More pressingly however, more Sean McVay on analysis in game would be superb.
3. A Tale of Two Teams
The 49ers’ clash saw a sharp dichotomy between the performance of the 49ers’ defense and that of their offense.
Garoppolo’s return to game action was concerning, but the offensive line performance was equally liable for his struggles. He threw a risky 50-50 ball for an interception on his second throw and almost had another shortly afterwards. His day was mercifully ended after going one of six, for zero yards and an interception. Beathard was little better. Mullens was reassuringly composed however in very limited action. Raheem Mostert and Deebo Samuel also stood out.
There were several positives on the defensive side of the ball however. With DeForest Buckner and the inside linebackers all healthy scratches, safety Jaquiski Tartt stood up as a leader on the 49ers’ defense. He recorded two TFLs, a PBU and another tackle for no gain in a superb half of action.
Solomon Thomas, Kevin Givens and Kentavius Street also impressed along the defensive line. Thomas looked extremely explosive, powerful and technically sound on his way to an excellent effort at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Givens and Street looked explosive and powerful, with Givens proving a particularly difficult man to knock off course.
4. The Seahawks Struggle
It does not matter how well coached you are on defense. If you cannot get to the quarterback consistently you will be made to pay. So far in preseason, the Seahawks have looked toothless rushing the passer. As someone who has experienced Cassius Marsh being one of their team’s most effective pass rushers, it’s not a desirable outcome. The team does still look like a solid run defending outfit, even if there have been some missed assignments.
On offense, Russell Wilson frequently had all day to throw behind the starting offensive line. The left side was particularly stout with Ethan Pocic and Duane Brown playing well against a dangerous Vikings front. This is a welcome development given Wilson’s deep accuracy. Unfortunately, few of his receivers got much separation, though Tyler Lockett in particular continues to look effective. The Seahawks will hope D.K. Metcalf can return quickly from his knee surgery to offer another burner opposite Lockett, allowing the likes of David Moore and Jaron Brown to work the intermediate areas.