NFL training camp 2018: NFC West preview
One of the great NFL rivalries appears to be resurfacing in the NFC West.
The Los Angeles Rams were the kings of the West in 2017 and, while they have added significantly to their ranks in the offseason, they appear to have a worthy challenger in the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite a challenging offseason, the Seattle Seahawks, along with the Arizona Cardinals, will attempt to dispel the notion that they are the also-rans in the division.
Here's the outlook for the NFC West:
Team on the rise
The Rams are the most talented team in the division, but it's difficult not to buy into the hype of a 49ers team that finished the season 5-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback and has since improved the offensive line and the backfield with players more suited to coach Kyle Shanahan's system.
Richard Sherman joins a young and improving defense, the main weakness of which is talent at edge rusher. This team appears perfectly set up in other areas to overcome that and start a West Coast rivalry with the Rams that could last for a long time.
Team on the decline
The Legion of Boom is all but finished, and the offensive line made no improvements last year. The hiring of Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator is a bemusing one, and for Seattle it increasingly appears to be a case of Russell Wilson against the world.
Rookies to watch
Shaquem Griffin, LB, Seahawks
Seattle did at least provide the feel-good story of the draft by selecting one-handed linebacker Griffin on day three, pairing him with brother Shaquill in the Pacific Northwest. Whether it's on special teams or as a situational pass rusher, a role in which he should thrive, it will be fascinating to see how Griffin — whose left hand was amputated as a child — performs after deservedly receiving his shot at the highest level.
Josh Rosen, QB, Cardinals
Sam Bradford is the anticipated starter in Arizona, but it could take only a few strong training camp performances from 10th overall pick Rosen for a quarterback controversy to start brewing. Rosen said post-draft that nine teams made mistakes in not picking him. He'll be keen to prove that as soon as possible.
Dante Pettis, WR, 49ers
When Shanahan trades up for a receiver it's time to pay attention. Pettis can play outside receiver and in the slot and proved himself a threat in the red zone in college, where he also had nine punt return touchdowns. Depending on how much playing time he gets, Pettis could be a sneaky Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
it back to this @flashg88dwin TD dance #TBT
Don't miss the Alumni/#Throwback game against the Rams on 10/21
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) July 19, 2018
Player on the spot
Brandin Cooks, WR, Rams
Los Angeles' offense was one of the best in the NFL last year, yet Sammy Watkins was still unable to establish himself as a consistently productive deep threat. With Watkins now in Kansas City, Cooks takes on that challenge after his trade from New England and does so having received a five-year extension without playing a down. So, you know, no pressure.
Richard Sherman, CB, 49ers
Seeing 49ers next to Sherman's name may still seem strange, but his recovery from Achilles surgery will be pivotal to the success of their defense. After taking part in individual drills at offseason workouts, he is on track to be full go for camp.
Dion Jordan, DE, Seahawks
A knee scope kept the former Dolphins defensive end out of OTAs. He is expected to be ready for camp and to contribute significantly to the pass rush after the exits of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
Markus Golden, DE, Cardinals
Golden tore his ACL in October and is targeting a preseason return. Should his recovery go to plan, he and Chandler Jones will again lead the Cardinals pass rush, forming one of the more underrated duos in the league