Behind Enemy Lines – "NFC West To Stand Pat"

The June 1st cuts will have little, if any, effect on acquisitions made by NFC West teams. Some changes have been made, but unless a real bargain is out there, don't expect any major moves within the division.

San Francisco: San Francisco defied everyone’s expectations and brought in some veteran help to their WR corps. 11-year veteran Curtis Conway, who was released at the start of free agency by the New York Jets, was brought in to add much needed experience to a unit that was expecting to start second-year man Brandon Lloyd at one spot and fourth-year wideout Cedrick Wilson at the other.

Conway still has good speed, but he is best working the middle of the field and using his athleticism to make plays. 2004 first-round choice Rashaun Woods did not look ready to see significant time at the team’s recent mini-camp and is most likely going to fill the fourth receiver spot.

The anticipated move of LB Jamie Winborn to safety was deemed over before it began. Winborn looked so good at LB at the recent mini-camp that head coach Dennis Erickson called the issue dead.

"We talked about it (the move to safety),” Erickson said. “He's such an impact player where he plays. We thought about it as an organization, because of the (neck) injury more than anything. Those linebackers get in there, but those safeties have to come up and tackle guys, too.”

Arizona: Third-round DT Darnell Dockett has impressed his coaches so much, that many insiders consider him a possibility to start at the “under” tackle ahead of DT Kenny King and former first-rounder Wendell Bryant. Dockett, who played the position in college, showed strength at the point of attack and amazing quickness at the team’s mini-camps and, at the very least, he should be able to push for playing time.

First-round WR Larry Fitzgerald, who is expected to come in and immediately start, has impressed as well. With his fluid route-running, he already looks like a veteran. If he can pick up the offense as quickly as anticipated, he should be able to contribute mightily to what was once a moribund Cardinals offense.

The Cardinals’ second-round selection, LB Karlos Dansby, has been hampered by a groin pull and thus has been able to show little of the ability he showcased in 2003 at the collegiate level. If healthy he will definitely upgrade the special teams units and could also see time as the nickel linebacker when teams go to three and four-receiver sets. Look for Dansby to be starting by week 10, barring injury.

St. Louis: Outwardly, Rams personnel people are still hopeful that DE Leonard Little will not face a suspension from the NFL for an alcohol related driving incident that occurred on April 24th. However, most observers close to the team think that a suspension is inevitable.

While a suspension is considered a virtual certainty, the general feeling is that there is a very good chance that Little would be able to play all or most of the 2004 season while waiting for his court case to go to trial. Stay tuned…

One very nice surprise for the Rams has been the offseason work of 2003 first-round DT Jimmy Kennedy. He has been hampered by tendonitis in his knee, but he has increased his strength and his footwork and quickness have improved as well. The team hopes it will have a solid rotation of number one DT’s in Kennedy, Ryan Pickett, and Damione Lewis. If the Rams can shore up the middle of their defensive front, they will be able to blitz LB’s to offset the loss of DE Grant Wistrom to free agency and the possible loss of Little to a suspension.

The third WR spot will be a big-time battle in fall camp. Dane Looker was the primary third receiver in 2003, but watch out for Kevin Curtis. Curtis, a third-round selection in 2003, has the deep speed and athletic ability to be another threat in the passing game. The Rams run a lot of single-back sets with a third WR and another playmaker with the abilities of Curtis would be a huge asset.

.NET Reporter Scott Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.

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