Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Training Camp Battles: NFC West

Out on the "left" coast, one of the NFL's weaker divisions has been the sole property of the Seattle Seahawks; winning the division title the past four years in a row. Entering the 2008 season, they will be the favorites again, but look to have a tighter competition with young improving teams like Arizona and San Francisco. Can HC Mike Holmgren finish on top again during his last year as head coach or will 'hot seat' coaches like Mike Nolan (49ers) or Scott Linehan (Rams) turn things around?

What are the key training camp battles to look out for entering this season?

Running Back- Julius Jones vs. TJ Duckett vs. Maurice Morris

Seattle will be without former MVP RB Shaun Alexander for the first time in eight seasons. Both Jones and Duckett were brought in via free agency to challenge the incumbent Morris for playing time. The team never recovered from the loss of Pro Bowl OG Steve Hutchinson (Vikings) and hope the signing of OG Mike Wahle (Panthers) will improve the O-line. Look for Holmgren to run the ball more this season, with Duckett using his big body in short yardage situations.

Projected Winner: Maurice Morris

49ers: Quarterback- Alex Smith vs. Shaun Hill

Smith is a former #1 overall draft pick in 2005 and commands a whopping $49 million contract. After suffering a serious shoulder injury in Week 3 of last season, Smith could not get back to form. Six year backup QB Shaun Hill stepped in towards the end of the season and played well enough to warrant starting consideration. Enter new OC Mike Martz to take control of the league worst offense. Smith has the better tools, the experience, and smarts to take hold of this position, and been getting most of the reps this off season.

Projected Winner: Alex Smith

Rams: Center- Andy McCollum vs. Brett Romberg

QB Marc Bulger
is back under center after an injury filled 2007, but who will be snapping him the ball? Starter McCollum had a tough year blocking for St Louis and suffered a season ending knee injury with three games to go last year. Backup Romberg came in and did well filling in for the injured center. Most players don't lose jobs due to injury, but look for the younger Romberg (28) to up seat McCollum (38) to help improve a questionable offensive line.

Projected Winner: Brett Romberg

Cardinals: Quarterback- Matt Leinart vs. Kurt Warner

While head coach Ken Wisenhunt has stated that Leinart is the Arizona starting QB, don't count out the former 2-time MVP Warner just yet. After only playing five games before suffering a season ending collarbone injury, Warner came in and threw for 3,417 yards and 27 touchdowns; 14 more TD's than Leinart has thrown in his entire career. Even before he got hurt, both QB's were rotating in and out of the offense. Look for Leinart to start the season, but be kept on a very short leash.

Projected Winner: Matt Leinart

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