It is official, the 2019 NFL Season is upon us and we can only assume you’re as excited as the rest of us here at TFA. The NFC West training camp(s) are in full swing and we’ve taken the liberty to condense down the noteworthy information into a weekly series. Check back here next week in order to stay up-to-date on your favorite NFL teams and fantasy players in the NFC West division.
- Seahawks training camp opened up this week with a lot of eyes on the backfield. Chris Carson – who is coming back from a minor offseason knee surgery – looked explosive while hurdling Seahawk defenders the first day of camp. The fantasy football community is wondering if Rashaad Penny will be able to carve out more of a role this year. Therefore, it was interesting to hear that Penny views himself as the 1B to Carson’s 1A in the offense, at least for now. Penny showed glimpses of his natural athleticism and burst thus far in camp. It will be more telling to see how their first-team reps/workloads are managed as training camp and the preseason progresses. That said, this is still very much Chris Carson’s backfield.
- Pete Carroll implied that Russell Wilson has benefitted from getting his contract finalized before the start of camp. Wilson’s focus, accuracy, and command of the offense have been on full display thus far at Seahawks camp. There are multiple reports of Wilson dissecting the Seattle secondary using a heavy dose of both D.K. Metcalf & Tyler Lockett in both 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills. This is more of a negative for Seattle’s secondary than anything else, but we will see how they respond.
- Tyler Lockett is looking every part like the number one WR that Seattle paid him to be. Additionally, Lockett has taken it upon himself to work one on one with D.K. Metcalf in camp. There’s nothing more insightful for a rookie WR than learning from a player who’s ultra-efficient in his route running and had a 96% true catch rate in 2018. Metcalf himself has also been a force in camp downfield – using his size and big body – making contested catches over the top of the defensive backs. His ceiling seems to be sky-high in this offense with Russell Wilson’s ability to accurately throw it deep.
- The Seahawks defense has had a bit of a tough Week 1 in camp. Defensive End L.J. Collier has suffered an “unusual ankle sprain,” which is likely to keep him out for the entirety of the preseason. In other news, DT Jarran Reed – recently suspended for the first six games of the season – was thrown out of practice on Thursday for getting into an altercation with Seahawk G Ethan Pocic (who was also ejected from practice). Let’s just say that the Bobby Wagner contract extension – three-years, $54 million – is a big plus for this defensive group who is looking like a shell of its former self heading into the 2019 season.
San Francisco 49ers
- Interestingly enough, the 49ers defense has been the biggest surprise highlight of the NFC West training camp(s). Part of the reason why the defense is thriving thus far, a healthy and motivated Richard Sherman. Dante Pettis made a comment this week about how Sherman is always pushing him, not wanting Pettis to take plays off in camp. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh had this to say about Sherman, “Mentally, he’s there. It’s not fake. He’s competing his tail off. The feel I’m getting is he’s getting back to the part of his game where he is so confident in his physical ability that he can just focus on the mental part in terms of being in the right spot.”
- The 49ers offensive weapons are starting to click. Jimmy Garoppolo is improving in both his play and mindset after being challenged by the defense earlier in the week. Garoppolo has been specifically working harder to become better in the red zone, “…compared to where we were at in OTAs, I think we’ve made some good strides. Guys making plays and getting in the end zone, it’s hard down there [in the red zone].”
- As to be expected, both George Kittle and Dante Pettis have been the standout offensive weapons in camp during 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills. Kittle is focusing on the little things that make him an all-around talent in this league, specifically his blocking at the TE position. He went as far as to say, “…moving a player from point A to point B against his will, that’s a better feeling than scoring a touchdown.” This bodes very well for Kittle’s snap percentage in 2019 as he can be used as both a true blocking and receiving threat.
- We will be keeping close tabs on the San Francisco 49ers backfield as training camp continues. RB Jerrick McKinnon is currently on the PUP list until at least early next week, as per head coach Kyle Shanahan. That leaves both Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida handling the majority of first-team reps. As enticing as the Coleman and Shanahan reunion might be for fantasy purposes, Matt Breida is going to command a share of this backfield. Breida showed last season (when healthy) that he can carry a significant part of the load. If anything is evident about this group of running backs, it’s that coach Kyle Shanahan is happy about having a stable of “starting caliber depth“. This group is going to have fantasy value, but it will be difficult to predict weekly.
Los Angeles Rams
- Aaron Donald is an unstoppable force and there are few who will argue this point. He’s the most talented defensive tackle in the NFL and is well-deserving of his number one spot on the NFL’s Top 100 players list. The Rams defense will be in the upper tier of the NFL defenses in 2019 so long as they are healthy. Todd Gurley even mentioned that he thought OLB Dante Fowler Jr. was getting to the ball, “as fast as Aaron Donald.” This group of defenders looks poised to dominate the NFC West.
- The player every fantasy football fan is on pins and needles about is Todd Gurley (ranked 5th in the NFL top 100). What will the Los Angeles Rams change in 2019? The biggest takeaway right now is that there will be workload management in place for Todd Gurley this season. We’ve started to see and hear a bit from head coach Sean McVay about what that will potentially look like as Gurley has predetermined days off. McVay is impressed with Darrell Henderson’s skill-set, “He made a couple big plays again today and you are starting to see him flash. A comfortable level, playing a little bit faster. You can feel he’s not thinking as much.” There’s no doubt that both Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown will have weekly roles this season in an effort to reduce the wear and tear on Todd Gurley.
- Cooper Kupp is a welcomed sight on the field in training camp for Rams fans. He has made an impressive recovery from his torn ACL that he suffered last November. We never want to get too wrapped up in coach-speak but McVay said that Kupp, “looks more explosive than he was before, actually. Some of the numbers indicate that with just the way that we’ve monitored him and he’s feeling good… Physically, the knee hasn’t bothered him at all and that’s a blessing for us all.” The signs are pointing to a Cooper Kupp ADP spike in early August.
- Cardinals camp has been a buzz on social media and in national news. This is one team that many NFL fans are very intrigued by and for a lot of good reasons. Will Kliff Kingsbury be able to implement this air raid offensive system successfully in year one? Does Kyler Murray have what it takes to fulfill the hype of going number one overall in the NFL draft? Will David Johnson’s skill-set at RB be again lost in a system or will he work his way back into the fantasy elite? All of this will remain more or less a mystery until week one of the regular season. That stated, Kyler Murray’s command of the offense and the chemistry he’s demonstrated with his go-to weapons has really stood out.
- Numerous times in practice this week Murray called an audible at the line, shifted protections and dropped dimes into tight windows downfield. Larry Fitzgerald even made a comment on Murray’s abilities, “I’ve never seen a quarterback come in so quickly and be able to command an offense.” Highlight plays featuring sideline balls placed perfectly to Larry Fitzgerald and Chrisitan Kirk both surfaced the internet this week. There seems to be a lot of emphasis from HC Kliff Kingsbury with Kyler Murray on improvising the play when he feels it necessary, which says a lot about the level of trust that Kingsbury has in his young QB. If Cardinals camp is any indication, the parallels to Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes will be flying come the regular season.
- In a new system that should feature multiple looks with three or four-receiver sets, it is good news for that the Cardinals rookie wideouts have had a rather productive first week of camp. Andy Isabella is an explosive athlete and should be viewed as more than just a slot receiver. His athletic metrics were incredible – 88th percentile SPARQ-X score – coming out of the combine (his player comparison is Tyler Lockett). Another bright spot player is rookie WR KeeSean Johnson. The rookie is already moving up the depth chart and getting time with the first team during practice. General Manager Steve Keim has KeeSean pegged as a guy who could have a rookie breakout as a naturally talented route runner. Johnson also currently has the longest catch in Cardinals camp (a 65-yard bomb from backup QB Brett Hundley). This is a player that should be on all of our respective radars.