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Ask the Expert: Alex Marvez


Reggie Roberts: Were you at all surprised with the head coaching debut of San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh in his club's opening day win over Seattle on Sunday?

Alex Marvez: No. The Seahawks experienced major offensive problems in the preseason while trying to jell in a new system with a new starting quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson). Plus, injuries forced Seattle to start the NFL's youngest offensive line since 1975 -- and on the road, no less. We'll get a better read of whether the 49ers are better than expected when they host Dallas on Sunday.

RR: Give us your take on the NFC South where all four teams lost on opening weekend. Is this a sign of things to come or just a bad opening weekend for Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers?

AM: The NFC's first winless opening week since the NFL switched to an eight-division format in 2002 was a major surprise, especially considering this is perceived as arguably the best division in football. I expect the Falcons, Saints and Bucs to ultimately rebound and regain their preseason standing as bona fide playoff contenders, but the losses exposed weaknesses that must be corrected. For New Orleans, it was shoddy man-to-man pass coverage against Green Bay. The Bucs also must play better pass coverage as well as find a way to compensate for a lack of team speed on offense after losing to Detroit. Finally, the Falcons need to shore up their pass protection and discover the big-play element of their offense that was lacking in 2010.

RR: Members of the national media have been really tough on Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton. All Newton did in Sunday's opening day loss to the Cardinals was throw for 422 yards. Does Newton have a chance to be a star in the NFL?

AM: Absolutely, but to borrow phraseology from Dennis Green, let's not crown Newton quite yet. I was impressed by his poise and performance, especially the ability to get Steve Smith (8 catches, 178 yards, 2 TDs) involved after struggling to connect with his wide receivers throughout the preseason. Newton, though, was facing a rebuilding Arizona defense with an injury plagued secondary. A much better read of how much Newton still needs to grow should come Sunday when he faces the Green Bay Packers.

RR: Give us your general thoughts about the level of play after NFL Week 1. Do you think the missed offseason negatively affected the level of play?

AM: NFL secondaries seem the most affected in the post-lockout NFL. As recently pointed out to me by ex-Denver Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist, coverage communication between cornerbacks and safeties was lacking during the preseason since these units didn't have much time to work together. That's one of the reasons 14 NFL quarterbacks passed for more than 300-plus yards on opening week.

RR: When we reach December and January, which team will be a major part of the postseason playoff discussion that no one is talking about right now?

AM: Beware of the Washington Redskins provided Rex Grossman's Week One performance against the New York Giants wasn't a fluke. This is a much improved team, especially defensively and in the running game, in Mike Shanahan's second season as head coach.

RR: I know it's only Week 1, but are the Green Bay Packers better than last year based on what you saw last Thursday night against New Orleans?

AM: Amazingly, the Packers actually have room for improvement. Only two offensive touchdowns were scored after Green Bay jumped to a 21-7 first-quarter lead. Being shutout in the fourth quarter gave New Orleans a chance to send the game into overtime if running back Mark Ingram weren't stuffed at the goal-line as time expired.

RR: The New York Jets made an impressive statement on Sunday night with their come-from-behind 27-24 win against the Dallas Cowboys. Can this be the year where Rex Ryan's team gets to the Super Bowl?

AM: It could be but the Jets still need major improvement in their passing game. That is what has held New York back the past two seasons as Mark Sanchez experienced his growing pains.

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