The second week of OTAs has come and gone, which is the good news. We are one week closer to the start of Training Camp.
With only three changes to the starting lineup this year — Randy Moss replacing Josh Morgan, Alex Boone stepping in for Adam Snyder, and Aldon Smith unseating Parys Haralson — there isn’t much to opinionate about. Last year, the D-line and secondary were question marks, as well as the entirely new coaching staff with no offseason to prepare the team.
From the beginning, the 49er blog empire has thrived on chaos and ineptitude. And seeing a 49er item on the Profootball Talk website was as rare as a rational thought from FlyingV. That’s all changed this past year. The 49ers are regular input providers to the national blather desks, kindly donating in the past two weeks first Alex Smith’s shoe filled mouth, followed by another mouthful of tennies by HC Jim Harbaugh. The team also makes football news, but is trying out its horseshit wings lately, making the start of Training Camp even more desirable.
Another thing that’s changed is the perception of the NFC West as a pushover division. Want to make the playoffs? Have four NFC West games on your schedule. Not so this year. All four NFC divisions look poised for some spirited competition this fall.
In the North, the Packers will be the favorite, with the Bears scratching around in the mix. But the team to watch is Detroit. They stumbled into the playoffs last year and are at that critical point of upward or downward mobility. Their pass defense was atrocious last year and does not appear to be improved. Their players are running neck and neck with the Bengals in the handcuffs and mug shots department. With Jay Cutler back at QB for the Bears, Detroit may not be able to beat them or the Packers, and that spells a backward slide out of the playoff picture.
In the South, all eyes will be on New Orleans, the headless Saints. Will they emulate the team driven success of the 1989 49ers or fall apart? The Falcons have become an annual make the playoffs and who cares team. And Cam Newton will be expected to lift the Panthers into contention. This division could go in any direction.
The Giants are the reigning East champions, but just barely with their 9-7 record last year. The Eagles will enter the season as everybody’s sleeper dangerous team. All eyes will be on Robert Griffin III in Washington, if not on the team itself. The Cowboys will be on TV a lot and flub-a-dub away another year of the Jerry Jones Is An Idiot Era.
Which brings us to the West. The 49ers will surely be in contention, but the contentionability of both Arizona and Seattle will depend on whether either or both franchises can field a better than decent QB. Or even be able to settle on a starter.
Pete Carroll has a three-headed question mark in Seattle, and he doesn’t seem all that confident in any of them, as judged by his overconfidence in all of them. He signed Matt Flynn for big money as a FA, then promptly drafted another QB in the third round of the 2012 Draft and proclaimed him as head to head with Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson. Sounds like “maybe I’ll get lucky” coaching. Or “maybe not” payment.
Ken Whisenhunt is only juggling two QB heads in Arizona. And maybe he should have gotten a third, like Carroll. The Whiz is making a habit of paying big money for a starting QB, only to discover the better QB is the lowly paid backup. When the backup was Kurt Warner, Whiz befuddled himself into an SB appearance. That’s not likely to happen when the backup is John Skelton. What is likely to happen is a lot more grief for pursuing Kevin Kolb than occurred over drafting Matt Leinart. One QB misjudgment is a mistake, two is a trend.
Both Seattle and Arizona will ride their defenses and hope to get an Alex Smith year out of one of their guys. If these coaches are still waffling about the true starter when the season begins, however, they’re not likely to get anything more than a Tarvaris Jackson year from any of them. Which leaves them in the 8-8 range of competitiveness. Not good enough, boys.