Biggest question mark for each NFC team heading into training camp

By: Reese Nasser

With rookie minicamps and organised team activities (ota’s) set to end within the next week, and the start of training coming in just over a month, many teams are starting to fully transition into go-mode for next season. 

As the season approaches, there are still question marks surrounding every team. Here, we will take a look at each team in the NFC and the questions concerning their team that still haven’t been answered. 

Arizona Cardinals

How will the addition of Zaven Collins impact Isaiah Simmons?

Last year’s first round pick Isaiah Simmons played well in his rookie season. While Simmons spent a majority of his time playing the safety position during his time at Clemson, the Cardinals used his almost eclubisery at linebacker. He is a fast and extremely smart player and when given the opportunity, played very well last season. 

Even after a solid rookie season from Simmons, the Cardinals used their first round pick on another linebacker. With the 16th pick in the draft, they selected Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins. 

As of right now, it looks as if the Cardinals are planning to go all in with this duo. They will be the pairing at this position for the foreseeable future. 

The issue may arise when looking at experience. Both players are extremely young and will undoubtedly encounter issues with adjusting to the speed of the game. But the future is bright and Arizona could have a special duo here. 

Atlanta Falcons

What will they do with Matt Ryan?

Could we potentially see a Matt Ryan trade in the near future? The Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick and it seemed as if they were going to be all in on this upcoming season.

But then, future hall of famer Julio Jones was sent away in a trade that will only help the Falcons future. So waas Pitts selected as a replacement for Julio? And if so, then this offense isn’t necessarily in a position to win now.

So, would the Falcons have benefited from moving on from Matt Ryan and selecting a quarterback instead of Kyle Pitts? Probably so. Matt Ryan is only getting older and his contract is expensive but that has proven to not mean much in today’s NFL. The Matt Stafford trade is indicative of this. The Falcons may be forced to send Ryan away, solely because that’s the fair thing to do. 

Carolina Panthers

Is Sam Darnold the QB of the future

The Panthers added former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold to their QB room this offseason. The third overall pick in the 2018 draft will have the keys to the castle in Carolina, at least for now. But what will Darnold have to do to keep the job? 

The Panthers have already picked up Darnold’s fifth year-option so he will be on the team for the next two seasons at least.

The offense is slowly being built and they have some very high quality skill players. Running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the best, if not the best, running back in the NFL. The wide receiver combo of DJ Moore and Robby Anderson proved to be a top duo in the NFL.

With offensive mastermind Joe Brady calling the plays on this offense, Darnold should be able to flourish in Carolina. This could prove to be a big year for the quarterback. 

Chicago Bears

Can Justin Fields steal the QB1 job?

The Bears signed veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to a one-year contract worth up to $10 million. Chicago then traded up in the first round of the draft to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

With reports coming out of Chicago that Justin Fields is playing well in the offense and  both the GM and coach being on the hot seat, could Fields be inserted into this offense sooner rather than later?

Fields is a truly talented quarterback and many him slipping in the 2021 draft could very well be the beginning of a storied NFL career. But the Bears have stated that Dalton is and will be the starter heading into the season. So what would it take from Fields to steal the job? 

Simply put, he would have to play out of his mind and Dalton would have to struggle immensely. Yes, the expectations will be high for Fields and he is the quarterback of the future, but allowing him to sit and learn behind a veteran quarterback like Dalton could be exactly what he needs in the beginning of his career

Dallas Cowboys

How will the linebackers look?

Dallas selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round of this year’s draft. They then selected LSU linebacker Jabril Cox in the fourth round and added safety Keanu Neal who is currently listed as a linebacker on their roster. 

These players have all been added to a linebacker group that already consists of veterans Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. 

So how will the playing time be distributed? Will Vander Esch be forced into a lesser role while Smith and Cox are slowly brought into the defense? This would not only allow for Smith to take complete control of this unit but would also let the young players 

While it is expected that Vander Esch could be on the way out due to wanting a big contract, he’ll still be on the roster this season. So for the time being, there is a crowded linebacker room in Dallas.

Detroit Lions

How will Penei Sewell handle the switch to right tackle?

First-round pick and generational talent Penei Sewell spent his time at the University of Oregon almost exclusively playing the left tackle position. He excelled at left tackle and quickly became one of the best offensive lineman to ever step foot on a college field. 

Even with the success that Sewell has achieved, the Lions will be moving him to right tackle. Sewell hasn’t played the right tackle position since high school. 

The left tackle spot will remain with Taylor Decker who has proven to be one of the best at his position. 

So will the transition be difficult for Sewell? Possibly, but he is up for the task. He has potential to become one of the best at his position, as long as he is brought alone correctly. The Lions will have to work with him and make sure he is handling the switch well. This will be something to look at, especially as the season quickly approaches. 

Green Bay Packers

Is it time to trade Rodgers and go all in with Love?

All the talk in Green Bay as of late has been centered around the quarterback position. Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love, for better or for worse, are the only topic discussed. So would the Packers be better off just sending away someone as talented as Rodgers? A surefire hall of famer quarterback who has spent his entire career in Green Bay. A fresh start could be good for both sides. 

If Rodgers doesn’t want to be in Green Bay then he should be allowed to leave. Love was selected to be the next great Packers quarterback so he should be given the opportunity to do just tahta.

Yes, it may be earlier than what the Packers envisioned but they knew a breakup between them and Rodgers would come sooner or later, especially when you consider that they selected Love without even letting Rodgers know. 

Be on the lookout for what happens in Green Bay, it could end up being a league altering decision.

Los Angeles Rams

Is the offense ready for a Super Bowl run?

The Rams offense was stagnant at times last season. They finished the season ranked 22nd in points per game and 17th in yards per game. The unit was average at best so the Saints set out to fix that this off-season.

They added star quarterback Matt Stafford to this offense with a hope that he can help change the course. Since Stafford entered the NFL, he has been a prolific quarterback who has never been afraid to push the ball down the field. He is a quarterback who can lead an offense.

Head coach Sean Mcvay will look to reinvent the offense that the Rams have had now that he has Stafford as his QB1. But will this be enough to help this team make a run back to the Super Bowl? 

The defense has held up its end of the bargain, led by future hall of famer Aaron Donald and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. But the offense must capitalize and turn it around. 

Minnesota Vikings

Will Darrisaw make an instant impact on the offensive line?

The Vikings used their first round pick on Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw. Darrisaw has proven to be an impact player in both the run and pass blocking. He is a talent that this offensive line needs. 

But will the tackle be able to help this line out instantly? A lot will be asked of Darrisaw as he will have to help defend Kirk Cousins blindside. He will also have to step into a line that underperformed last season. 

The Vikings also added guard Wyatt Davis out of Ohio State so it seems sas if they are taking a youthful approach to the o-line. It is yet to be seen how the younger players will handle being plugged in instantly. 

New Orleans Saints

Will Jameis be the starter?

When looking at the Saints, the quarterback position is still yet to be resolved. Jameis Winston would be the clear cut choice to most people.

But, if it were that simple then wouldn’t the Saints have named him the starter already? 

A quarterback battle could take place in New Orleans between Taysom Hill and Jameis. The Saints have seemingly had some grand plan set out for Hill since he first joined the team yet he still hasn’t been used to that degree yet. He played well in his appearances last season, but nothing was worth just giving him the QB1 job. 

An open competition in training camp could just be what this Saints quarterback room needs. It could bring the best out of both players so the Saints can see what they both have to offer. 

New York Giants

Is Andrew Thomas primed to make a leap at tackle?

After a somewhat rocky rookie season, all eyes will be on the former fourth overall pick. Thomas had his ups and downs in his first season with the Giants. Every game that he played was looked at deeply and compared to all of the other lineman that were selected after Thomas. 

Thomas was the first lineman selected and the following three chosen after him all played very well in their rookie seasons. Tristan Wirfs won a Super Bowl with the Bucs, Jedrick Wills looked very good with the Browns, and Mekhi Becton is slated to be the foundation of the future for the Jets line. 

When looking at the big picture, Thomas is still a very talented player who dealt with injuries last season that nobody knew about. As soon as the season ended, Thomas had surgery on his left ankle. Even with being injured, Thomas still appeared in all 16 games. 

Near the end of the season, Thomas began to play at a much higher level. This could be a sign of things to come in 2021 for the young tackle. 

The Giants have also brought in a new offensive line coach who will help develop Thomas. His production will be looked at closely, especially due to the return of veteran tackle Nate Solder. 

Philadelphia Eagles

How will the WR unit look?

With second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts currently slated to be the starter in Philadelphia, the topic of who he will be throwing the ball to will be discussed heavily.

Last year’s receiver group had their struggles and no one stood out as the clear number one in the group. It didn’t help that the Eagles took wide receiver Jalen Reagor with the 21st overall pick which led to the Minnesota Vikings taking Justin Jefferson with the 22nd pick.

While Reagor showed flashes during his rookie season, Jefferson went on to break the rookie receiving record and hauled in 1,400 receiving yards. 

So what will the wide receivers look like in 2021?

The Eagles traded up in the draft and selected Heisman winner DeVonta Smith. If Smith can be everything that he was in college, the Eagles will have a star on their hands.

But it can’t come down to just Smith. Other receivers will have to take a leap and play well, not only to help the team win but to also see if Hurts is the guy for the job. 

This will be a big season for every player on this offense, but especially for the guys that used to ball at Alabama. 

San Francisco 49ers

Will Trey Lance earn the starting job?

There is still no sign of who will be the starter come week one. It would come at no surprise if Jimmy Garappolo is given the job based on history alone. Garoppolo helped lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth and while sometimes injured, is still a talented quarterback. 

But the other option may be better. The 49ers spent their third overall pick on NDSU quarterback Trey Lance. Lance has looked good up to this point and was chosen to be the quarterback of the future.

Much like the situation that the Chicago Bears are in, it will come down to when the change at QB happens and not if it will happen.

There is a chance that Lance could take the starting job now, especially when considering how much head coach Kyle Shannahan has openly supported the young QB. But, it will be on Lance to earn the job. 

Seattle Seahawks

Have the Seahawks done enough to keep Russ happy?

All off-season long there have been conversations regarding Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Some have questioned whether WIlson wants to be in Seattle or if he has requested a trade. Both Wilson and Seattle have claimed that there were never any trade requests and that the partnership between the longtime QB and the team is good.

So given that things in Seattle are good, have the Seahawks done enough to keep Russ happy? The team remains mainly unchanged from last season Seattle had just three selections in this year’s draft and didn’t make any big time signings in free agency. 

It could be argued that Seattle feels the roster they have is more than enough, with players such as DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Chris Carson, this offensive unit looks good on paper. But that doesn’t include the inconsistent offensive line and the defense that is just a shell of what it used to be. 

A Wilson trade could still be on the table especially if the star QB feels as if this team is not moving in a direction that he feels aligns with him. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Are they primed for a repeat?

The Buccaneers have returned all 22 starters and will look to make another Super Bowl run. But are they primed to do such?

At points last season the Bucs look unbeatable. Led by quarterback Tom Brady, this offensive unit fired on all cylinders. A combination of veterans and young players worked together and this defense quickly became one of the best in the NFL.

Given all of this, the Bucs should be ready to run it back. With reports that the offense would be undergoing changes, with head coach Bruce Arians and Brady working together to implement some changes, this offense could look even different next season. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is quickly becoming one of the best play callers in the NFL and will also be included in any offensive changes.

If done properly, this team could be even better next season, but are they uo for the task? 

Washington Football Team

Is the QB of the future already on the team?

Washington’s future at the quarterback position is very much up in the air. Washington    signed long time veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. He will join a quarterback room that has Taylor Heineke and Kyle Allen, two quarterbacks that played snaps for Wahignton last season.

The team took themselves out of the chance to select a top quarterback in last year’s draft when they reached the playoffs. But the playoff game may have shined a light on the possible quarterback of the future in Washington. 

Taylor Heineke played well in only start last season, even if it resulted in a loss. The game was against eventual Super Bowl champ, the Buccaneers. 

Heineke showed potential, scoring two touchdowns and throwing for over 300 yards. With only two games played last season, the sample size is very small for Heineke but it could be worth looking into for Washington.

The quarterback spot is up for grabs and Washington will have to figure out who they want to send out week one. 

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