Matt Leinart (Getty)
There are plenty of accolades amongst the NFC West’s penciled-in starters: half were former No. 1 overall picks, one boasts a Heisman Trophy and the other has multiple Pro Bowl outings, and a lengthy NFL resume. Despite these resume accomplishments, the division’s quarterback situation could be ever-changing, and camp is just the beginning.
The Arizona Cardinals underwent many changes this offseason, but the hits and misses of last season are still somewhat fresh, especially when it comes to the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers will meet a made-over Cardinals team much later in the season this year. The schedulers, with all their playoff race theories, pinned these teams against each other in Weeks 12 and 17, marking the first time in four-consecutive seasons the 49ers and Cardinals won’t meet in Week 1.
With training camp in full swing, it appears both teams could benefit from the postponed meeting. The 49ers, similar to the Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, have their on-paper starters with warning post-its attached.
QB Alex Smith has had his share of quarterback battles, but won’t have to engage in one this year. The 49ers hope he will benefit from playing in the same offense for consecutive back-to-back years, a first in his career. QB David Carr was brought in as insurance, but Smith is their man.
The Cardinals have a battle on their hands. While it’s Matt Leinart’s starting job to lose, there will be competition from former Pro Bowler Derek Anderson who is already rising to the occasion in camp.
The Seahawks are also swimming in a pool of what-ifs. They dished out a cool $8 million and some draft picks for the unproven Charlie Whitehurst who is expected to push long-time incumbent starter Matt Hasselbeck. With Pete Carroll at the helms, the Seahawks must surely be eyeing what comes after the 12-year vet. Carroll likes the competition Whitehurst will bring, but he also seemingly enjoys the untapped potential of Whitehurst. Carroll’s college legacy is shaping quarterbacks into greatness, he’ll want to do the same in the big league.
Not so un-tapped is this year’s first overall pick, Sam Bradford, who may need some time to shake off the rust and get his head in the NFL game. A.J. Feely could give the $78 million kid the lenience of working his way into the No. 1 role.
One thing is for sure, the times are a-changing in the NFC West and none more so than at quarterback. Each team has solid pedigree at the position, but time is running out for three out of four expected starters.
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