Behind Enemy Lines – NFC West Players To Watch For

.NET reporter Scott Eklund continues his training camp previews of the Seahawks' NFC West division rivals. This week, he focuses on players to keep an eye on.

Arizona - Seems redundant to tell people to keep an eye on a starting QB, but when you have only started three games in two seasons people have little to go on. Josh McCown is the starter behind center for the Cards and he has the full backing of head coach Dennis Green.

A third-year player out of tiny Sam Houston State, McCown saw action in 10 games last year, starting the final three. He showed enough ability on film to have Green throw is total support behind him. He may be best known for his final pass of 2003, a 28-yard “Hail-Mary” TD pass to WR Nathan Poole against the Minnesota Vikings. That pass knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs and propelled the Cardinals into the offseason with hope and confidence.

McCown likes his new head coach and the two have already hit it off well.

"He shoots straight and he's going to command the type of discipline our team needs," McCown said. "I could see he had a passion to turn guys around. I also saw that he enjoyed working with quarterbacks, so that definitely excites me."

Green likes McCown’s size (6’4” frame). McCown’s speed, footwork, mobility, arm strength and competitiveness remind Green of Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper who he had in Minnesota for two seasons.

St. Louis – Rookie RB Steven Jackson will not be the projected starter in 2004, but he will see significant time. Starting RB Marshall Faulk has not played a full season in three years and with Jackson pushing for playing time, Faulk can be spelled and kept fresh for late in the games.

Jackson is a power-back who has enough speed to get outside the tackles, but will do most of his damage on the inside. He is already an adept blocker, something that is rare for a rookie RB when they come into the league.

How he catches the ball out of the backfield will be the telling factor in the amount of playing time he sees. If he shows good hands in camp, look for Jackson to see about 20 snaps during the early part of the season, and look for him to see more as the season progresses.

Another player to keep an eye on is second-year WR Kevin Curtis who will be battling fellow second-year player Shaun McDonald and veteran Dane Looker for the third WR spot.

Curtis was injured for the entire 2003 season and his lack of reps may hurt. According to inside sources he has been running full speed and has shown the abilities that made him a third round draft choice in 2003.

Curtis has the speed to get deep while also showing the shiftiness to run routes from the slot. How he is able to handle his releases, getting off the line of scrimmage, will determine whether he is the third wideout or the fifth. Keep an eye on Curtis during camp.

San FranciscoKen Dorsey is another starting QB that fans of the NFC West should keep an eye on. Most predictions have the 49ers struggling to compete this season and losing starting QB Tim Rattay to a torn groin in May didn’t help.

Enter Dorsey, who led the Miami Hurricanes to one national title as a junior and a second place finish during his senior season. The knock on Dorsey has always been his size and strength. He is still rather lean, with a 6’5” 215 lb frame that will take a pounding early as he fills in while Rattay rehabs. If Dorsey gets off to a good start, head coach Dennis Erickson may have a QB controversy on his hands.

Dorsey is a born leader, is well-liked by his teammates and has a great knowledge of the offense. He makes quick reads and word has it his arm strength has improved. He has a young and talented WR corps to throw to and an underrated RB in Kevan Barlow to take the pressure off.

Rattay is still the odds-on-favorite to be the starter when he is fully recovered from his injury, but Dorsey lessens the effects Rattay’s absence will have.

On defense, a player that must step up (and this journalist thinks he will) is DE Andre Carter. Carter is cat-quick and his first step allowed him to finish second on the Niners with 6.5 sacks. He can still be overpowered when teams run directly at him, but San Francisco coaches expect him to revert to his pass-rushing form of 2002 when he registered 12.5 sacks.

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


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