Sunday, August 14, 2022

Three questions each NFC West team must answer before 2022 season: Rams’ quest to repeat, 49ers’ QB changes

The NFC West is looking a bit different this season, with the biggest change being quarterback Russell Wilson leaving the Seattle Seahawks and heading to the Denver Broncos. This is also the division of the defending Super Bowl champions, but can they repeat?

Last season, two teams from this division made the playoffs, with two vastly different outcomes. As stated, the Rams went on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and the Arizona Cardinals suffered a blowout loss to the Rams.

The 49ers will have a new quarterback leading the way and uncertainties about where Jimmy Garoppolo will land are still lingering. 

With training camp coming up and the season quickly approaching, there are still many questions about the NFC West. Let’s dive into a few of the unknowns of the division. 

Los Angeles Rams

1. Will they make it back to the Super Bowl? One of the biggest questions for the Rams is whether they can repeat as champions, something that does not occur often in the NFL. There is no reason the team should not be able to be in the same position as last year, bringing back key players and signing other stars. While the Rams should be able to at least make it to the big game, no team has repeated as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots did it in the 2003-2004 seasons.

2. What will happen with Odell Beckham Jr? OBJ is a free agent coming off the Super Bowl win with the team. Beckham suffered an injury during the Super Bowl that required ACL surgery, which has held up the free agency process. Last month, it was reported that he will not be ready to report for Week 1 and will be fully able to play beginning in October. As of now, the team’s COO Kevin Demoff said he is optimistic that a deal can get done with the 29-year-old. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp has pushed for Beckham to return to the team. 

3. How much will the defense miss Von Miller and Darious Williams? While the team did not lose many pieces during the offseason, they will be without LB Von Miller, who is now with the Buffalo Bills and CB Darious Williams. Miller, a future Hall of Famer, was a veteran who was good for the team both on the field production-wise and off the field as a leader. Williams was the No. 2 cornerback behind Jalen Ramsey and his absence means another CB will need to step up.

Arizona Cardinals

1. Will Kyler Murray deliver on big-money expectations? The QB finally got the big deal he’d been craving this week, but now the question is whether he’s prepared, both individually and thanks to his setup, to prove he’s worth the lucrative deal. Staying healthy through an entire season would be one step forward. Elevating, rather than sinking with, the team late in the year is another checkbox to fill. No matter what, the pressure is on No. 1 to emerge as a legitimate franchise leader.

2. How will the offense fare without DeAndre Hopkins to start the season? Hopkins was suspended for violating the league’s policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs and will be out for the first six games of the regular season. Kyler Murray relies heavily on Hopkins and with a tough start to the schedule, the offense could struggle without him. The Cardinals’ first six games include matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs, away vs. the Las Vegas Raiders and against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Last time the team was without Hopkins, which was due to injury, it went 3-4. Players like Marquise Brown, Zach Ertz and James Conner will need to step up in Hopkins’ absence.

3. Will they become a third team in a row to play a home Super Bowl? OK, this one seems unlikely, but there are always surprises in the NFL. No team had ever played in a home Super Bowl until the 2020 season, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted at Raymond James Stadium. They ended up winning the big game, making history. Certainly that was a rarity, but in 2021 the Los Angeles Rams did the same thing, winning at SoFi Stadium. It does not seem like Murray will lead a team to the Super Bowl, but the odds could be worse. According to Caesar’s Sportsbook, they are +3500 to win the Super Bowl and +1500 to win the NFC.

San Francisco 49ers

1. Where will Jimmy Garoppolo end up? Quarterback Jimmy G is one of the biggest questions for the team and which city he will be suiting up in next year. Many believed he would already be on another team by now, including head coach Kyle Shanahan, who said he expects him to be traded, but knows nothing is a guarantee. This month, the 49ers gave Garoppolo to seek a trade. Teams are reportedly not interested in signing the 30-year-old until his shoulder injury is fully healed. The Cleveland Browns were one of the teams that seemed like they would be in the running for Garoppolo, with quarterback Deshaun Watson likely to be suspended, but they are not expected to pursue a trade and are signing veteran Josh Rosen as insurance. The 49ers report to training camp soon and Jimmy G is cleared to play, according to ESPN.

2. Will Deebo Samuel remain with the 49ers? Wide receiver Deebo Samuel demanded a trade from the team and has yet to rescind the request. He is clearly not happy with the team and the issues reportedly stem from what his role with the offense was. It seemed like a trade would occur, but Samuel is still currently in San Fran. Samuel did not attend OTAs, but was at mandatory minicamp. Samuel is aiming to be one of the highest-paid receivers in the league.

3. How will Trey Lance look in his second year? Unless something really surprising takes place, Trey Lance will be the 49ers starting quarterback. Lance played in two games last season when Garoppolo was injured and went 1-1 in the two starts. His first start in his NFL career was a loss to the Cardinals, where he completed 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards and threw an interceptions on the team’s opening drive. He also rushed for 89 yards. His second start, against the Houston Texans, went a lot better, with 249 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in the 23-7 Week 17 win.

Seattle Seahawks

1. What will the team do without Russell Wilson? The elephant in the Seahawks room is that their veteran quarterback Russell Wilson has moved on to play for the Denver Broncos. Wilson has been with the team since 2012 and his absence leaves the team with quarterback questions for the first time in almost a decade. Seattle has Drew Lock, Geno Smith and Jacob Eason, none of whom are obvious stars or answers to their problems on offense. There will no doubt be growing pains without Wilson and this is a time of rebuilding for the Seahawks.

2. Will DK Metcalf get paid? Wide receiver DK Metcalf and the Seahawks are trying to work out a contract extension, though nothing has been finalized yet. Metcalf is now one of the faces of the franchise and wants to get paid like one. Both sides seem like they want to get a deal done and head coach Pete Carroll has expressed that he wants the WR to “be here.” Carroll also said that Metcalf wants to be with the team and that it will take time, but they will figure it out. Metcalf has also said he wants to be in Seattle for the next couple of years. 

3. How will the running back room shape out? The team does not have the most solid of quarterbacks, so the running game will likely be highlighted to help make out for a QB without as strong of an arm as Wilson had. The team re-signed Rashaad Penny, which Carroll called “one of the highlights of the offseason.” Chris Carson has been the starter, but an injury leaves questions about when he will be at full capacity. The team took Kenneth Walker III in the second round of the draft and have DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer as well. 

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