NFC West Camp Preview: 49ers and Rams Rebuild O-Lines
NFL Offseason - Allen Robinson. Marquise Brown. Drew Lock (stifles a giggle). There are plenty of new faces in the NFC West this year. There are also plenty of summer storylines: the Rise of Trey Lance, offensive line battles for the 49ers and Rams, some new defensive wrinkles for the Seahawks. Walkthrough's 2022 NFC West Training Camp Preview will get you ready for all of the preseason action, from camp battles to joint practices to preseason games that might actually be worth watching.
Arizona Cardinals 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading Into Camp: Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury achieved all of their offseason objectives. 1) They earned lavish contract extensions despite having not accomplished very much for three years; 2) They successfully friend-zoned Kyler Murray; 3) They tossed more cookies and ice cream (Marquise Brown, rookie tight end Trey McBride) into their offensive shopping cart, even though they were sent to the grocery store for vegetables like reinforcements at cornerback, on the offensive line, and just about everywhere else.
Now it's time for Kingsbury to toss the roster into a blender and create another smoothie. This time, he needs to make sure that it's not cool and refreshing in the early autumn but lumpy and rancid come December.
Camp Battles to Watch: The Cardinals will try to replace Chandler Jones with some combination of Devon Kennard and rookies Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati) and Cameron Thomas (San Diego State). Kennard is a high-effort journeyman who has recorded just three sacks in the last two seasons. Sanders and Thomas are both big and toolsy as heck, but the Cardinals have a rotten track record with toolsy young linebacker/edge prospects (see Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons, Haason Reddick). J.J. Watt and Markus Golden are still around, but they are more like second and third pass-rush options these days than double-digit sack guys, and the Cardinals secondary is going to need a lot of help.
Fantasy gamers should keep an eye on the tight end battle, where Zach Ertz will start but McBride will battle Maxx Williams eat up some share of the targets. Williams is expected to start camp on the PUP list, which will open up opportunities for McBride, a smooth short-to-intermediate route-runner and pass-catcher in the mold of the young Ertz.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: Marquise Brown is an upgrade over Christian Kirk in the slot and should be a viable WR1 during DeAndre Hopkins' six-game suspension. Rondale Moore is also still in the picture, but there's plenty of room in Kingsbury's gadgety offense for two slippery slot guys, and Brown is a much better deep option. Brown will make the Cardinals even more fun to watch during the regular season. But then, fun has never been the Cardinals' problem in the Murray-Kingsbury era.
Training Camp Circle-It Date: The exact dates weren't official at press time, but the Cardinals and Titans will practice together ahead of their preseason finale in Nashville on August 20. The joint practices will provide many more opportunities for both press pools (and their social followers) to watch Murray throw to his battalion of playmakers than any preseason game.
San Francisco 49ers 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading Into Camp: If "I Wrote 3,500 Words Breaking Down Each of Trey Lance's Nine Pass Attempts Versus Packers Backups and Discovered Some Good, Some Bad," is your kind of content, then this is the training camp for you!
Camp Battles to Watch: Jake Brendel, who has been knocking around the bottoms of depth charts since 2016, is expected to replace retired Alex Mack at center. But incumbent right guard Daniel Brunskill, coming off a shaky season, also has experience at center, and 49ers rumormongers think that JC Tretter could be signed if Kyle Shanahan doesn't like what he sees early in camp. Both guard positions are also in flux, though Aaron Banks, a second-round pick last year, is penciled in to replace Laken Tomlinson on the left side.
In summary, the 49ers are experiencing a lot of transition on the offensive line for a team that's also trying to remain in the playoff chase while handing the reins to a novice quarterback.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: Who needs newcomers when you have a Lance-is-the-next-Patrick Mahomes narrative AND a Deebo Samuel contract kerfuffle to hold your attention? But cornerback Charvarius Ward will both put Lance to the test in practice every day and low-key clown anyone who leans too hard into the Lance-Mahomes comparisons.
Training Camp Circle-It Date: Walkthrough may joke about obsessive preseason quarterback arm-angle coverage, but we'll be watching every move Lance makes too. The first half of the Packers-49ers preseason game on August 12 should be a blast. Of all the quarterbacks we want to see this offseason, Lance is the least likely one to be mothballed for the preseason, because he has barely played any football at all since 2019.
Los Angeles Rams 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading Into Camp: Rams training camp is like a cross between America's Got Talent and a month of Shrine Game practices. It's a chance to watch people only draftnik completists have ever heard of compete to earn a recurring role with the top-heavy, cap-strapped, draft-denialist Super Bowl Champions.
Camp Battles to Watch: Third-round pick Logan Bruss (Wisconsin) is the favorite to replace Austin Corbett at right guard, but he has lots of competition. We would list all their names, but we have never heard of any of these guys and neither have you.
David Long is the likely starter at cornerback across from Jalen Ramsey with Troy Hill returning from the Browns to play in the slot. But keep an eye on rookies Decobie Durant (fourth round, South Carolina State) and Derion Kendrick (sixth round, Georgia). Durant is a bundle of raw speed and attitude. Kendrick is a step-and-a-half slow yet found a way to start for both Clemson and Georgia National Champions. The Rams have a knack for finding roles for sleepers and square pegs willing to work for tips.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: Allen Robinson will take over the old Robert Woods role after eight seasons in the "my quarterbacks stink so don't expect too much from me" role with the Jaguars and Bears. Robinson made soothing sounds on the Jim Rome Show in June about how well he will mesh with Cooper Kupp. After years of wilting on the vine as a WR1, Robinson is probably more eager than most big-name wideouts to step into a secondary role.
Training Camp Circle-It Date: None. Rams preseason games are dull by even preseason game standards, and there are no joint practices on the schedule. Rams camp is best admired from afar.
Seattle Seahawks 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading into Camp: Oh, what to make of this soft Seahawks reboot? Perhaps the Seahawks are tanking in plain sight, with Pete Carroll providing cover from criticism. Maybe they really think they can turn things around quickly in the aftermath of the Russell Wilson trade. Maybe, just maybe, Carroll and Jon Schneider enjoyed some outrageous fortune in the 2010-to-2012 drafts, have been coasting on those bumper harvests for a decade, and have finally rolled to a stop. Whatever the case, the Drew Lock/Geno Smith quarterback controversy is just one of many rubbernecker's delights in store for Seahawks fans this summer.
Camp Battle to Watch: Lock versus Smith may be the weakest quarterback competition any NFL team has foisted on its fans since Mike Shanahan gave us Rex Grossman versus John Beck in Washington in 2011. Lock still looks like a mid-round rookie after three NFL seasons and 21 starts. Seven years on the bench have turned Smith into a typical journeyman dink-and-dunker who runs almost as well as he wishes he did. The Seahawks will surround both quarterbacks with just enough talent to really highlight their limitations: not enough playmakers to allow anyone to dink-and-dunk to glory, but too many to use as an excuse for failure.
With Chris Carson's future in doubt, rookie Kenneth Walker (Michigan State), Rashaad Penny, Deejay Dallas, Travis Homer, and possibly Shaun Alexander, Derrick Fenner, and Jim Jodat will compete for roles in the running back committee. The Seahawks will probably keep (and use) four running backs, but a chunky depth chart can make for some entertaining preseason viewing and fantasy football hand-wringing.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: New defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt has been a Seahawks assistant for years, but former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai was brought aboard as "associate head coach." Hurtt and Desai both coached for Vic Fangio in the past, and it sounds like Carroll has given them his blessing to Fangio-up the stale Seahawks defense with more blitzes and different looks in the secondary. These changes might have really helped the Seahawks defense over the last two or three seasons, when they still had enough Legion of Boom leftovers to scare opponents and the offense could contribute more than 20 points per game. This year, "blitz more" will probably mean "keep sending Jamal Adams after the quarterback, because if we drop him into deep coverage we might as well get the kickoff return unit ready."
Training Camp Circle-It Date: The Seahawks face the Steelers on August 13 and the Bears on August 18: two opportunities to watch both teams try to make sense of their quarterback issues.
27 comments, Last at 20 Jul 2022, 11:17pm
#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 18, 2022 - 9:57am
The Seahawks face the Steelers on August 13 and the Bears on August 18: two opportunities to watch both teams try to make sense of their quarterback issues.
I wish this were still the wild-west old days of the NFL, and there was a possibility both coaches would just swap QB units at half-time and see if they were any better under the opponent's offensive play calls.
#5 by theslothook // Jul 18, 2022 - 11:51am
The Seahawks serve as useful thought experiment for how long a loaded core realistically lasts. They basically hit an all time draft gin; turning around their fortunes after the team had entered the post contention collapse phase of team building.
By 2012, they had probably the most talented roster in the NFL and almost all of that talent was young. By 2016, it was effectively over.
#17 by serutan // Jul 18, 2022 - 7:21pm
In this case the money squabble is indirect (i.e. not a direct contract squabble) in that Deebo wants to be a pure WR so his career will last longer (longer career = more $) and WR is a better paid position (more $).
#8 by Sixknots // Jul 18, 2022 - 12:44pm
There are also plenty of summer storylines: ...... offensive line battles for the 49ers and Rams
The Seahawks are also re-doing the O-line. Both tackles (probably rookies), a new center and maybe a new guard. What could go wrong for LockSmith!
#24 by Pen // Jul 20, 2022 - 5:20pm
compared to Mayfield and Jimmy G. Geno did better vs common opponents, which gave me some hope for a decent season. Then I considered the nearly all rookie offensive line they're going to be trotting onto the field this season and now I just feel bad for Geno.
#9 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 18, 2022 - 1:00pm
When Lock/Smith mess around and accidently win a few games to knock Seattle out of a good QB but obviously no where near actually competing. Then DK asks for more. Lockett gets older. Pete keeps thinking running the ball is the way.
#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 18, 2022 - 3:09pm
Then DK asks for more. Pete keeps thinking running the ball is the way.
Given QB/WR salary inflation, the idea to lean into a rotating set of fungible RBs isn't the worst idea. Given the salary depression of RBs, it may be becoming efficient.
Granted, you really need to work on your OL to do it right.
#14 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 18, 2022 - 4:45pm
Idk what would be then.
If cheap Jonathan Taylor can't drag a team, in a division w/2 bottom 3 teams, into the expanded playoffs...we might just need to wait for rule changes.
No one thinks Seattle is constructed well for a reason.
#15 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 18, 2022 - 5:42pm
The counter-vailing strategy has had a fair amount of success -- half of the 8 teams with the fewest pass attempts last year made the playoffs, including a #1 seed.
Baltimore, Tennessee, Indy, post-Brady NE, Seattle, and SF are run-heavy. The Goff Rams and the Hurts Eagles were/are, too. Minnesota wants to be, but Cousins is more resilient than Cook is.
If you don't have a Canton-caliber QB with gas in the tank, it's the best of the available strategies.
#18 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 18, 2022 - 8:19pm
You think the only way to win is HOF QB (who Seattle literally gave up) or pound the rock? You really think that's the best way to go in todays passing league that slants all the rules towards the QBs?
Baltimore and their unanimous MVP...QB. TN and their PB...QB (no one cared about Henry until Tannehill escaped Miami). Indy and their PB...QBs? NE who missed the playoffs half those years and made it with a...good cheap QB (and massive spending spree). Seattle who turned it around when they got a...HOF QB. SF (who fell short) just spent 3 1sts on...a QB. The Goff Rams (that fell short) who also spent multiple 1sts to upgraded at...QB (and lost that MVP RB! RIP in piece Gurley). The Eagles and a...even cheaper, good QB! MN paying market value, for a less mobile, checkdown Russ, struggles like Seattle paying Geno will.
"We don't have a HOF QB. Well we did but we HAD to ignore, alienate and trade him (and a 4th!) for...something he wanted....and other scraps. Ignoring all of that...what do we do now? Well since we don't have a HOF QB (anymore) we should...spend premium capital on a RB and pound the ball to glory like SF! Oh they haven't actually won a SB in 30 years (and that was with an elite QB)? Whatever, we're gonna diversify our RB stable and run through the 'offs like Baltimore! Oh, they struggle in the playoffs despite the diversified backfield? Pffft. What are we supposed to do then? Draft a QB? HA! Waste of TIME! We're spinning the tires on Drew Lock! Ignore Denver dumping him for a 33 y.o.! If that doesn't work we'll spin the tires on 32 y.o. Geno Smith (again)! Or Jacob Eason! Indy didn't give him a REAL shot to beat out the GREAT Same Ehlinger to...back up...Carson Wentz...umm...let us pound the ball for 5 YPC because RBs are cheap! We're gonna zig while others zag. Muhahahaha, foolproof! Imagine if we had someone as good as Jonathan Taylor! SB bound baaaabbbbyyyy."
IDK what else to tell you other than good luck finding others that agree with that. Sure was fun to write though lol
#25 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 20, 2022 - 10:04pm
Enough to keep their job but not enough to get 28-3 ridicule?
All three of Carroll's losing seasons w/Seattle are years Russ doesn't start every game. The other 9 years, winners straight up. I'll be giving Russ more credit than Pete
#10 by JoelBarlow // Jul 18, 2022 - 2:54pm
"Carroll and Jon Schneider enjoyed some outrageous fortune in the 2010-to-2012 drafts"
It seems like every team that has a nice 3-5 year run, makes multiple super bowls has two or three drafts where they have a ridiculous hit rate, and then we read a zillion stories about their process/how smart they are, and then it ends.
#11 by theslothook // Jul 18, 2022 - 2:58pm
There are exceptions. And even rarer still are those exceptions that are not eventually powered by a quarterback. With that further limitation, we are left with:
Baltimore has sustained a consistent formula for a very long time. That formula was essentially based on defense, special teams, and a good offensive line play. However, not that Ozzie is retired, it will be interesting to see if that continues.
#13 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 18, 2022 - 3:13pm
Minnesota is this, too. They've had a couple of failed years where the basic team structure decayed too far, but they've pulled off of the average-to-very good window with aplomb despite typically only mediocre or worse QBing.
#23 by Pen // Jul 20, 2022 - 5:16pm
We're talking historically exceptional. go back and look at the great drafts, you're not going to find any team that compares until you get to the early 70's Pittsburgh Steelers. For a three year span, the nod for greatest goes to Seattle, for a four years span, it goes to the 70's Steelers.
#20 by TomC // Jul 19, 2022 - 2:38pm
I appreciate all the work you do to get us through the silly season, Mike, so comments like this are very minor and friendly quibbles. That said:
Marquise Brown is an upgrade over Christian Kirk in the slot and should be a viable WR1 during DeAndre Hopkins' six-game suspension.
Curious what you base that on. Brown has had negative DVOA two of three years and has never topped +4.2%. He's never been higher than 41st in DYAR. You could argue "but Lamar," but you don't let Allen Robinson get away with that, so why Brown? (And Kirk was similarly mediocre---but certainly not worse---until last year, when he shot into the top 10 in both DYAR and DVOA.)
#21 by KnowGuruz // Jul 19, 2022 - 3:19pm
The 49ers will keep Lance close to the vest; I imagine he wont play very much during the pre-season. Despite some who try to paint a different picture--Theres not a QB controversy or competition out there regardless of where JG is.