By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
While we all look forward to the Pro Football Hall of Fame game as the official start to the preseason, in the back of our minds, we all know that it is those first preseason games the week after that really kick things off. Let’s take a peek at the NFC West and what we should be looking for during week one.
The 2018 season for the NFC West had some fantastic matchups, a Super Bowl contender, and a team in turmoil. The Los Angeles Rams won the division at 13-3, with the Seattle Seahawks (10-6), San Francisco 49’ers (4-2), and the Arizona Cardinals (3-13) rounding it out. The Rams ran through the playoffs but were defeated in the Super Bowl by the New England Patriots.
This season is expected to be more competitive between the teams in the division. Seattle has signed their two most important players, quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, to long term contracts, stabilizing the team. San Francisco is hoping to avoid the dreaded injury bug that plagued their team last year so they can finally be able to see what they have in their QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
Coach Kingsbury provides an injury update, the excitement level for Thursday’s preseason opener and expectations for Kyler Murray. pic.twitter.com/fROWAKOLEv
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 6, 2019
The Cardinals have a new head coach, a new, rookie QB, and a whole slew of new players. If there is any team that is completely unknown this season, it is Arizona, and that could make things a lot of fun. And then there are the Rams, who don’t look to be slowing down in any way.
So what should we be looking for in these first preseason games? What is the one thing fans should be paying attention to?
Los Angeles Rams:
The Rams start their preseason schedule against the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, Aug 10, at 8p ET. No one expects the starters to play, and with Raiders “Golden Egg” free agent signing, wide receiver Antonio Brown, out with frostbite (how weird is that?), all eyes should be on the rookies. Running back Darrell Henderson may get most of the spotlight due to the questions surrounding star RB Todd Gurley. Can Henderson be a Gurley replacement? We should know more after this game, but it will take all of the preseason to have a full grasp of what Henderson can bring.
The Seahawk’s first preseason game will be in Seattle on Thursday, Aug 8th against the Denver Broncos. Now, it is no secret that Broncos have a lot more questions surrounding their team than Seattle does, but for Seahawks fans, all eyes will be on rookie WR D.K. Metcalf. Had first-round pick defensive end L.J. Collier not gotten hurt (expected to be back by week 1), then I believe both rookies would have been the focus, especially since the pass rush has been a major concern for Seattle this offseason. Metcalf, who has also been struggling with a small injury, will have a chance to prove to his doubters wrong and show he deserved the hype he had gotten pre-draft.
San Francisco 49’ers:
The 9’ers are healthy! I repeat… the 9’ers are healthy! I think fans will watch every snap of the ball just simply hoping NO ONE GETS HURT! They will be playing the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night, however, they will be without Garoppolo. It has been reported he will play in the 2nd and 3rd preseason games. Despite what cornerback Richard Sherman has to say about the secondary, San Francisco needs to see a few players become standouts in this preseason. Both safety and cornerback positions have a lot of question marks around them, and a strong first preseason game could go a long way to ease fans minds.
The Cardinals play the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night, and fans are chomping at the bit simply to see what they’ve got. With so many changes, new QB, new coach, new…well just about everything, fans truly just don’t know what they have or what to expect. There is no question that all eyes will be on QB Kyler Murray and what he can bring to the table. Mark my words, if Murray has a good first preseason game, Cardinals fans will be crowing. Wrong bird, I know… However other fans may also tune in to see veteran linebacker, and long-time Baltimore Raven, Terrell Suggs in a different uniform. Not going to lie, it’s going to be weird.
Over-reaction Monday is going to be in full swing after these first games. Fans will have to try to remember that it is just practice and to not put too much into it.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG