This segment of the series will cover the Arizona Cardinals, and the 5 Time Superbowl Champion San Francisco 49ers.
San Francisco 49ers: 4-12
3rd place in the NFC West.
1-5 vs the NFC West
Reasons for Optimism:
Realistically there is no way they end up with 17 players on IR in 2019. Going into the season the 49ers were seen as a potential playoff contender. While the team was short on depth, there was no way to realistically over come that many players going down. The 49ers will again have plentiful cap space, as well as the #2 overall pick at their disposal to continue to build the roster. Rookie WR Dante Pettis flashed at times, scoring 5 touchdowns. RB Matt Breida also had a break thru season, averaging 5.3 yards per carry gaining 814 yards. While defensive back depth was a significant problem for the 2018, 49ers, Richard Sherman proved that he can still play at a high level. Deforest Buckner continued to ascend, and rookie MLB Fred Warner started all 16 games with 124 combined tackles on the season.
Causes for Concern:
Heading into year 3, Kyle Shanahan has delivered less than spectacular results. He was given a barren roster in 2017, and a devastated by injury roster in 2018. However, his record was 2 games worse in year 2 of his program. 2018 didn’t feature a 9 game losing streak like 2017 did, but Shanahan is really going to have to deliver in 2019 to justify his continued employment beyond next season. The other big concern would be the health of QB Jimmy Garappolo. He has never started 16 games in his career, and has battled injuries on and off throughout despite limited action seen in a reserve role with the Patriots. Also concerning is that Garappolo was 29th in QBR prior to his injury. Some of this can be contributed to falling behind in games early, but not certainly not all of it. First round pick Reuben Foster was officially a waste with him being cut after a domestic abuse incident. Combine that with the continued below average play of premium draft picks Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead and you’re presented with an unfortunate situation. The 49ers have essentially wasted the #3, #17 and #31 picks in the first rounds of 2 separate drafts. Missing on those 3 picks is a big reason for their continued struggles.
Arizona Cardinals: 3-13
Last place in the NFC West
2-4 vs the NFC West
Reasons for Optimism:
The fact that the entire coaching staff from last year was fired was a good first step. Rookie Josh Rosen had some flashes last year, but it was pretty evident the offense Steve Wilks installed was ineffective to be kind. The Cardinals were able to pry newly hired USC OC Kliff Kingsbury to come on board as head coach. In another one of these “Next Sean McVay” type hires, the Cardinals are hopeful that he will be able to turn things around in a similar fashion. At the very least, Kingsbury will bring in a modern approach to NFL offense and try to help Josh Rosen out as much as possible. Larry Fitzgerald has said he will return, and obviously star RB David Johnson is still in the fold. Depending on how the Cardinals build their offense, there could be a chance to perhaps get things rolling a bit. On defense, the Cardinals have some playmakers but depth is an issue that will need to be addressed frankly on both sides of the ball for them to improve upon last year’s disaster.
Causes for Concern:
Kliff Kingsbury had a less than stellar record (35-40) while he was the head coach of Texas Tech. After being let go there, he was looked at as a good coordinator choice but not head coach material by NCAA teams. What kind of staff he is able to assemble around him will be very important in Arizona. His overall lack of experience running an NFL team could be a significant handicap if left to his own devices. There have also been rumors swirling in the desert that the team is not 100% behind 1st round pick Josh Rosen moving forward. While this talk has been vehemently denied by team officials, it’s still not an entirely good look. Any time a team completely cleans house with a coaching staff only 1 year into the program is also a pretty bad omen. GM Steve Keim won’t be given a 3rd chance if the new staff stumbles the same way the previous staff did.