CARDINALS CORNER

NFC West offseason outlook: The San Francisco 49ers

Jul 4, 2022, 4:05 PM | Updated: Jul 8, 2022, 3:31 pm
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball during the game against the Los Ange...
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on January 30, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The offseason has had many twists and turns not for only the Arizona Cardinals but for the rest of the NFC West.

The storylines have been aplenty no matter where you look in the division, both good and bad.

In an effort to keep up with the additions, subtractions and everything else under the sun surrounding the NFC West, here’s a deep dive into each of the Cardinals’ divisional foes as the offseason presses on.

Let’s dive into the San Francisco 49ers:

Biggest questions

Who starts at QB come Week 1?

The 49ers have quite the QB conundrum to deal with.

Incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the roster as of June 28 and is on schedule for throwing after offseason shoulder surgery.

Once he gets the green light and takes a physical, trading away the QB is still a very possible move for San Francisco.

But will it actually happen? And can the 49ers get back to the NFC Championship game without Garoppolo leading the charge?

That leads us to the next layer in the signal caller saga, Trey Lance.

After playing six games (two starts) his rookie year, Lance has gotten starter reps throughout the offseason with Garoppolo sidelined with the shoulder issue.

Although he was used more as a gadget QB at times over the season, Lance managed to make a pair of starts, one of which being a loss to the Cardinals in Week 5.

But unlike Garoppolo, Lance has the ability to make things happen with his legs, opening up the possibility to extend plays and move the needle on the ground.

The 49ers defense expects to be a force, but can Lance do enough through the air and in the run game to keep the wins coming in?

And Arizona fans thought they had it bad when it came to quarterback questions this offseason.

What’s the status of WR Deebo Samuel?

Much like the Cardinals, the 49ers have had their fair share of contract-extension back-and-forth this offseason when it comes to one of their star players in wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

Despite reporting to mandatory minicamp this offseason, Samuel has reportedly yet to rescind his trade request that the wideout originally made back in March as he searches for an extension.

No matter the trade capital San Francisco could get in return, it would be a massive blow to the 49ers’ immediate plans if the two sides cannot come to an agreement.

Samuel exploded in Year 3 with career marks across the board, racking up 77 receptions (121 targets) for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games played. He was also utilized in the running game, chipping in 365 yards and eight scores on 59 rushes.

He was a big play waiting to happen last season, averaging 18.2 yards per reception and 6.2 yards per carry.

Biggest addition: Cornerback Charvarius Ward

Outside of the news and reports surrounding the team’s top signal callers and wide receiver, free-agent additions have been few and far between for the 49ers.

Of their signings, cornerback Charvarius Ward is the current leader in the clubhouse for most impactful given the team’s need to for added consistency in the secondary.

Last season as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Ward recorded 67 tackles, two interceptions and 10 passes defensed across 13 games (12 starts). He also added 16 tackles and three passes defensed in three postseason games. Per Next Gen Stats, Ward allowed the lowest average separation on targets (two yards) and posted the second-lowest completion percentage among defensive backs (45%).

San Francisco finished the year as one of seven teams to record less than 10 interceptions this past season and was middle of the road when it came down to coverage grades from Pro Football Focus (68.3).

Ward will likely line up opposite Emmanuel Moseley, with Ambry Thomas also in the mix.

Biggest subtraction: Center Alex Mack (retired)

The 49ers are way behind the eight-ball when it comes to figuring out how to replace seven-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who retired this offseason.

San Francisco is now left to scramble to find the team’s next starting center.

As it stands Tuesday, the 49ers have Jake Brendel and rookie Dohnovan West out of Arizona State as the likely candidates at the position.

For this exercise, I only chose one player, but losing starting left guard Laken Tomlinson only adds to woes.

NFC West prediction: Second

Despite the unknowns revolving around the 49ers’ QBs and No. 1 wideout, they are once again poised to be near the top of the divisional standings after an impressive run to the NFC title game in 2021.

A lot of that can be credited to the defense, which features defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead and linebacker Fred Warner.

Bosa (15.5) and Armstead (six) combined for 21.5 sacks in 2022, helping San Francisco finish tied for fifth with 48 sacks. Warner led the team in tackles with 137.

An improved secondary will only help those numbers.

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