Behind Enemy Lines – Offseason moves begin

The Rams are the only team still playing but that doesn't mean that the other teams within the NFC West haven't been busy.

Arizona – Don't tell head coach Dennis Green that it is the offseason. The second-year man has been busy firing his offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach the week after the regular season had ended.

An old acquaintance of Green's, Kansas City TE coach Keith Rowen was tabbed as the Cardinals' fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons.

Players became increasingly annoyed with the conservative play-calling and felt restricted in former offensive coordinator Alex Wood's system.

Rowen was Green's offensive line coach in Minnesota for three seasons and would have become the offensive line coach in Arizona had the Chiefs allowed him to leave after the 2003 season. Rowen has only called plays for two seasons, with the Boston and New Orleans Breakers of the USFL in the mid-1980s.

With Rowen, tight ends coach Carl Hargrave and offensive line coach Everett Lindsey, Green now has three confidants in place who understand what he wants and can help the rest of the offense get on the same page.

Free Agency: As free agency nears it will be interesting to see which direction the Cardinals head with players on the open market.

Normally Green is reluctant to drop big dollars on one player, but that didn't stop the team from inking DE Bertrand Berry in free agency last season and that gamble really paid off.

The team is in need of a right tackle, running back, cornerback, safety and linebacker help.

Rumors have flown around that Green is interested in trading for Minnesota RB Michael Bennett, but it is unlikely the team will part with the draft choices necessary to acquire him. On tack the team might take is to sign a mid-level running back, say Indianapolis RB Dominick Rhodes and then look to the draft to see if a good one falls to them late on day one.

In the draft, the team could look for a gamebreaker to hand the ball of to, someone like Auburn's Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams or Florida's Ciatric Fason.

Another area to keep an eye on is the quarterback position. Minicamps will tell the tale whether or not Green is satisfied with incumbent QB Josh McCown under center or whether he will address it during free agency or the draft.

San Francisco – Only three days after one of the worst seasons in franchise history, 49ers Co-owner John York fired head coach Dennis Erickson and GM Terry Donahue. Now he claims his first order of business is to hire a proven winner to take over this once proud franchise.

Two big names that popped up right away are current USC head coach Pete Carroll and current Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren still has two seasons left on his contract with the Seahawks so the only way he becomes a candidate is if the Hawks fire him or if he forces the issue. There is no indication of that happening.

Carroll is a different story. Immediately following the announcement Erickson's firing, Carroll went to the press and said he had no interest in leaving the Trojans.

"I have not been contacted, I don't expect to be contacted and I'm not interested," Carroll said.

Former USC and 49er safeties Ronnie Lott and Tim McDonald have acted as go-betweens between Carroll and the franchise in the hopes of luring the Bay area native and former 49er defensive coordinator back.

York has already been in contact with New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Another candidate to keep an eye on is former Giants head coach Jim Fassel.

This situation will be interesting to say the least.

Free Agency: This team needs an infusion of talent and quickly. Last year's salary/roster purge also took away a lot of veteran leadership…something that was sorely missing as the team spun its wheels and eventually out of control ending up with the worst record in the league.

Veteran FB Fred Beasley and LB Derek Smith stood up during the season lamenting the loss of veteran leaders like former QB Jeff Garcia and offensive linemen Ron Stone and Derrick Deese. They also feel the young players, especially wideouts Brandon Lloyd and Rashaun Woods along with RB Kevan Barlow need more veteran guidance on as well as off the field.

With that being said, don't look for the Niners to be big players in the free agent market.

With Tim Rattay's injuries and backup Ken Dorsey showing little if any playmaking ability it would seem the Niners may be in the market for a signal caller, but there will be few on the market worth looking at. San Francisco also holds the number one spot in the draft and with Cal's Aaron Rogers, Utah's Alex Smith and possibly USC's Matt Leinart available they will have their choice of athletic and gifted young signal callers.

Don't look for much in the way of an impact player to be picked up, but the team could be looking at a defensive lineman or a couple of second-tier offensive lineman to help the young offense along.

St. Louis – Even with their impressive win over the Seahawks on the road in the first round of the playoffs the Rams still have some work to do this offseason.

LT Orlando Pace fired his agent Carl Poston last week and he will begin the search for a replacement following the season. It seems almost a given that he will not be re-signed before free agency starts and that the team will, for the third consecutive season, slap the franchise tag on him.

The Rams will be heading to Atlanta to face the Falcons in the Georgia Dome this weekend and it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to the crowd noise. Last week against the Seahawks, Rams QB Marc Bulger used three timeouts because he couldn't hear the plays being called.

Atlanta has become a noisy venue to venture into now that the Falcons have produced a winner and the Rams felt the effects of the home field advantage in week two losing to the Falcons 34-17.

The Rams were never in that game, but their team is playing much better than they did early in the season.

The defense, which spent most of the season in the bottom third of the league's rankings, has edged its way up to 17th overall and they showed some playmaking skills last week, holding the potent, if inconsistent Seahawks offense to just 20 points.

Key Matchup: Michael Vick is the most dynamic and exciting player in the league right now and he is picking up the offense more and more. Look for the Rams to "spy" the third-year quarterback with linebackers Pisa Tinoisamoa and Robert Thomas. SS Adam Archuleta may also creep up into the box hoping to contain Vick. Vick's legs are deadly and if they don't stop him they can count on a long plane trip from Atlanta to St. Louis following the game.

Next Game: @ Atlanta, January 15th Top Stories