Sunday, October 1, 2023

49ers and Seahawks make the difference in the NFC West thanks to Smith

Geno Smith entered the league under some secrecy last season, eight years after his last chance as an NFL regular starter.

Brock Purdy was a complete unknown, the last draft pick lucky enough to react to the circumstances and secure a spot as a rookie.

Though there was no filming, the two quarterbacks were instrumental in helping their teams qualify for the playoffs in 2022. Smith earned the Pro Bowl players’ title after leading Seattle into the postseason, and Purdy emerged victorious from his first seven games for San Francisco to reach the NFC championship game.

The performance of both teams after these seasons will determine whether the Seahawks or the 49ers will be the best players in the NFC West.

“We’re not worried about Brock,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “Brock is a reality. He knows how to play, and we have to try to keep improving the team, and that’s what we want to do.”

As the Los Angeles Rams undergo a remodel after years of flat-out play and the Arizona Cardinals undergo a complete rebuild under new general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon, the 49ers and Seahawks promise to be the top teams in the division for Season Two as a result.

The Niners won the division and eliminated their rivals in the division round last season, with Purdy defeating Smith and getting plenty of help.

Purdy was sensational as a rookie after being the last player selected in the 2022 draft. He took over the job after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured in December. He eased into leading the Niners to victory in his first start and had seven more wins before injuring his elbow in the NFC Championship Game loss in Philadelphia.

Purdy has had surgery but is in full swing with one of the most complete teams in the league.

But if they don’t even come close to matching last season’s performance, the Niners could find themselves falling behind against an improved Seahawks roster.

Seattle reinforced its defensive line, bringing back star linebacker Bobby Wagner for a second call-up along with healthy Jamal Adams and freshman Devon Witherspoon. Rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba came on the offensive.

The key will be how Smith builds on last year’s level of 30 touchdown passes from just five starts in the previous nine seasons.

“We have to pull ourselves together,” Smith said. “We have very good players. But we must ratify it.”

The Seahawks focused on bolstering a defense that was the team’s weak point last season, and they’re drawing on their past to do it.

Wagner, a key player on the Super Bowl-winning team a decade ago, is returning to Seattle after a year with the Rams and needs to solidify the linebacker position at center.

With cornerback Riq Woolen looking to establish himself after a strong rookie year, the return of Adams from an injury he sustained in Game 1 last year, and other new additions, Seattle promises to control San Francisco more closely after falling 41 points short in a loss to the Niners in the playoffs.

While the big question about the 49ers is whether Purdy was a fluke, there are also some questions about a defense that was the strongest in the league last season.

Coordinator DeMeco Ryans used that success to secure the job as Houston’s head coach. San Francisco hired Steve Wilks to replace him. Wilks has retained the defensive core, but it remains to be seen if he will replicate Ryan’s achievements.

San Francisco still had an unresolved contract dispute with Nick Bosa, last season’s best defensive back.

The Rams still retain some of the figures they produced as Super Bowl champions 18 months ago: quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive back Aaron Donald, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and head coach Sean McVay. After a season in which they suffered many injuries, they have completed getting back together with a grade of 5–12.

The rest of the squad consists of newcomers and various inexperienced players. Their general manager, Les Snead, speaks of a realignment rather than a rebuild, which hampers their chances of a fight in an exhausted conference.

The Cardinals are in a difficult first season under new coach Jonathan Gannon, with a depleted roster that will be missing quarterback Kyler Murray at least early in the season.

Murray missed the end of last season with a knee injury, and his return is still uncertain. Arizona also traded star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and defensive lineman JJ Watt retired. They are currently being renovated.

With an extra first-round pick next season, Arizona should be fine for the long run, but they’re looking at a tough 2023.

Order in which they are expected to end

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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