Around The League continues our training camp preview with a look at the NFC West. (To hear our latest division previews in podcast form, just click into the sound file below or go right here.)
Arizona Cardinals: Who will emerge at the skill positions?
The Cardinals' defense quietly holds enough talent to be a top-10 unit. The quarterback position got a big upgrade, even if you aren't a fan of Carson Palmer. The Cardinals have a chance to be a much better team very soon if they can find the right mix at the skill positions.
After Larry Fitzgerald, last year's first-round draft pick, Michael Floyd, and Andre Roberts are battling for the team's other starting job at wide receiver. (They both should play plenty.) At running back, Rashard Mendenhall enters camp as The Man while Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington all try to unseat him. The position is representative of the Cardinals as a whole: A lot more dangerous than conventional wisdom suggests.
San Francisco 49ers: Who will replace Michael Crabtree?
A.J. Jenkins is first in line to step up following Crabtree's injury because he was a first-round draft pick last year. But Jenkins couldn't get off the bench as a rookie, and it's still a mystery if he's an NFL-caliber talent. Ricardo Lockette is Colin Kaepernick's roommate and best friend, and Lockette has an impressive height-weight-speed combination. But he's 27 years old with three career catches. Kyle Williams is back from injury, while Mario Manningham's status for Week 1 is highly uncertain.
The 49ers likely will use rookie tight end Vance McDonald on the field quite a bit, with Vernon Davis lining up out wide. Anquan Boldin will be counted on to do a lot.
Seattle Seahawks: Will the defensive line be healthy?
The team's best pass rusher, Chris Clemons, is highly uncertain to start the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the opening round of the playoffs. Free-agent pickup Cliff Avril struggled with a foot injury in the offseason but should be ready for the start of camp. The Seahawks' other free-agent pickup, Michael Bennett, has a torn rotator cuff, but he should be ready to roll.
Throw in Bruce Irvin's conversion to linebacker and the addition of Tony McDaniel at defensive tackle, and there is a lot of change in Seattle's strong front seven.
St. Louis Rams: Who will start at running back and No. 3 receiver?
Like the Cardinals, the Rams have an exceedingly talented defense and plenty of questions at the skill positions. Isaiah Pead, Daryl Richardson and Zac Stacy all have a chance to start at running back. We like Pead's chances, but plenty of smart people love Richardson despite his lack of inside running skills.
Chris Givens looks like the team's No. 1 wide receiver, and rookie Tavon Austin will start. After that, it's a battle between Brian Quick and Austin Pettis for the No. 3 receiver job.