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NFL Weekend: Defense In The NFC West

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Once again, the NFC West looks like the division outside teams will dread facing. Swarming, aggressive, and damn near unrelenting, defense is the key in the West....

Off season headlines paint to a potential fall from past defensive prominence for the San Francisco 49ers, but I'm not buying it. I think there could be a drop off in play at the linebacker position to a point. You can't lose a player like Patrick Willis, and not see a slide. Navarro Bowman will be key here, and his recovery from a severe knee injury will be closely watched. The loss of Justin Smith means defensive end Aldon Smith will have to earn his paycheck, or at least tell Smith's replacement how to bind a tackle and guard in a choke hold while he runs by... All in all, while the 49ers' defense may not reside in the Top 10 in the NFL, - as they have for quite a long time - they'll be fine.

Where it gets interesting, is with St. Louis, Arizona  and Seattle. All three of these defenses are set to roll, and roll BIG! Arizona has - what I think is - the best "swarm to the ball" defense in the NFL. Over the last few seasons, you don't see many "single guy" tackles. Whoever has the ball gets hit by multiple tacklers. If the Eagles' Chip Kelly is known for his fast-paced offenses, the Cardinals hold the same thesis point for their defense. Energizer® should shift from a bunny to a red desert bird, because they just don't stop on every play - EVER!

Seattle has a loaded defense, and great coaching which sets them apart from other NFL teams. Now the defensive coordinator, Kris Richard is a secondary coaching whisperer. Seriously, if he gets a head coaching gig - and he may very well be a top candidate in 2016 - the Seahawks will feel it in a very big way. With the best defensive back crew in the NFL, they make their defensive line look better. Buying time to collapse a pocket is a great hole card to have for a defensive line that's struggled in the quarterback sack category. What this defense has in spades though, is a cohesive nature that's almost impossible to break. They bend here and there, then come back at just the right time. They crush running backs on a regular basis too.

The defense that's going to get the most attention by the NFL Media going into the start of the 2015 season has to be St. Louis. Piled with high draft picks, this unit is head coach Jeff Fisher's baby. Slow defensive starts have marred the Rams for the last couple years. Not getting to the quarterback until around the middle of the 2014 season was down right bizarre to watch. The Rams face Seattle in the opener in St. Louis. Both teams struggled to light the fires at the beginning of 2014, but Seattle got their act together, while the Rams road their slow start into the ground. This has to change for the Rams. If St. Louis' defense can't limit scoring by opponents, their offense - filled with question marks - just isn't set up to win a high scoring battle. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams will have every eye on him this season. His bag-o-tricks better be ready, and his players need to have their ears pinned back Day 1 in 2015...