Biggest storylines in the NFC West with training camp underway
With NFL training camp officially underway, football fans are preparing themselves for the 2016 season. Each team has the goal of winning the Super Bowl, but in reality only a few can reach that level. The NFC West is home to two of those teams who have realistic hopes of being in the game on Feb. 5, 2017 in Houston. Let’s take a look at one major story line for each NFC West team heading into the 2016 season.
Arizona Cardinals: Super Bowl Or Bust
The Cardinals came up one game short last season, losing to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. The Cardinals are in win-now mode. For starters, they have 36 year-old quarterback Carson Palmer. Instant Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, who has been the face of their franchise for the past decade and will be 33 years-old when the season kicks off against the Patriots on Sept. 11. The front office went all-in when they traded for one of the best defensive ends in the game in Chandler Jones, giving up a valuable second-round pick to the Patriots. With a healthy and newly extended Tyrann Mathieu ready to go, it’s safe to say the Cardinals are a Super Bowl or bust team.
Los Angeles Rams: New City, New Quarterback, New Era
After long speculation of which team will move to glitzy Los Angeles, the Rams packed their bags and left St. Louis for the bright lights. After paying a huge price to trade up from No. 15 to No. 1 in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Rams got the quarterback they seemingly so badly wanted in Jared Goff. Goff went to high school and college a little over six hours away from the L.A. Coliseum where they will play; so the hometown kid will have pressure on him to bring Los Angeles to playoff contention. The Rams have not had a playoff appearance since 2004, so ownership is hoping a new city and a promising young quarterback can turn their fortunes around. It’s truly all eyes on them knowing the Rams will be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” starting Aug. 9.
San Francisco 49ers: Can Kelly and Kaepernick Coexist?
The San Francisco 49ers have now entered the Chip Kelly Era, which is already filled with drama. Kelly had success in his first two years with the Philadelphia Eagles, going 10-6 in both years; but he craved more power in his third year. When the Eagles failed, all the blame was put on Kelly and now he is with the 49ers. In the offseason, Colin Kaepernick trade rumors were swirling and questions whether he and Kelly can work together have come up. Kelly has announced a quarterback battle between Kap and Blaine Gabbert, but with a $16 million cap hit on Kap, can he really afford to not play him?
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson’s Time to Shine
The Seattle Seahawks have been home to a vicious defense and ground-and-pound running game under Pete Carroll. With the NFL shifting into a more pass-heavy league combined with Marshawn Lynch retiring, the stage is set for Russell Wilson to possibly become the best quarterback in the league. Wilson has the legs and arm to do so, and now he will be the center of the offense for the Seahawks with Lynch gone. Wilson is coming off his best season, throwing for 34 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Wilson has the tools and opportunity to become the league’s best signal-callers and take the Birds back to the Bowl.