With the regular season quickly approaching, here are the biggest question marks for the teams in the NFC West.
San Francisco 49ers
How will the newly added pieces gel on defense? The team addressed this side of the ball this past off-season. They added former Kansas City Chief Dee Ford and New England Patriot Malcolm Brown. And with the No. 2 pick in the draft, they picked Ohio State defensive end, Nick Bosa. If his transition from college to the NFL is similar to that of his brother, Los Angeles Charger defensive end Joey Bosa, this defense can — without a doubt — affect the outcome of some tight games.
Will opposing defenses slow down Kittle? Tight end George Kittle was the most positive thing in the Bay Area last season, football-wise. Every big play, while there weren’t many to remember, seemed to have the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Kittle in it, whether it was running in the open field or trucking through would-be tacklers. We can expect more of the same this season.
Brady two-point-oh or two-point-oh-no? Jimmy Garappolo, a few short seasons ago after filling in for Tom Brady in New England, performed Brady-like, which, leading up to last season after some Jimmy G magic for the Niners the end of the year before, led 49ers to anticipate big things. That was short-lived after Garappolo tore his left ACL. And after seeing him play in the preseason so far this season, fans might not be very optimistic. But at the same time, he won’t have to do much if the defense does perform well.
How much will Earl Thomas be missed? A staple of this defense is no longer here. Prior to his injury last season, he seemed to have already checked out of Seattle. But this defense should be just fine with the likes of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and the Griffin brothers.
A better protected Wilson? One of the weaknesses for this team last year was providing Russell Wilson time to throw. The team did some tweaking to their offensive line this off-season which should provide him with time to get the ball out.
Did they draft the next big-time receiver? DK Metcalf may have it all. Size, speed, and hands: the three best attributes a wide receiver can have. How he slipped to the 32nd pick of the second round is shocking. Add that chip to his intangibles, and he can be a dangerous weapon in this league. Head coach Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson are glad he’s their weapon.
Los Angeles Rams
Can this D be one of the best in the league again? The Rams will miss Ndamukong Suh playing alongside Aaron Donald, but the addition of veterans Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle will surely solidify this already-stellar defense, making it one of the top two or three in the league once again.
Will the receiving core light it up again? Despite a season-ending ACL injury to receiver Cooper Kupp, the aerial attack continued. Now with Kupp back alongside Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, emerging receiver Josh Reynolds, this team has a four-headed monster to wreak havoc on opposing secondaries.
Will Gurley continue to run amuck? The always dangerous double threat that is Todd Gurley was one of those backs who seemed to eat up yardage at will a year ago. Teams know he’s going to get his share of the load, but still can’t stop him. That trend should continue for Gurley this season as well.
Is Kyler Murray their QB? After a dismal season in Arizona last year, this team put all their eggs in Murray’s basket. He was the only real dual threat at quarterback in this year’s draft. With receivers like the reliable Larry Fitzgerald and sophomore Christian Kirk, Murray’s ability to run should keep defenses honest. And the improved offensive line, with former Giant Justin Pugh and Seahawk J.R. Sweezy, should serve as protection for the rookie in the pocket.
Which Johnson will they get? Prior to getting injured, David Johnson was the best back in football. Since, he’s been a fraction of himself. Nagging injuries behind a line that’s not very good hopefully was the major factor. For this team to have success, they need to run the ball. Johnson is the key to that, which will in turn help Murray.
Veteran defensive leadership? Former Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs signed with the Cardinals this offseason. The fire that he brings could change the who complexion of this defense. More than twice, Suggs has come back from what were deemed potentially career-ending injuries. He’s also never been shy about calling out teammates. Even if he’s lost a step or two, this defense will be leaps and bounds better because he’s on it.
While you can never count Pete Carroll and the Seahawks out, the Rams will be just as good if not better than a year ago. But the Cardinals and even the 49ers vastly improve from their disappointing 2018 seasons.