Seahawks and Cardinals are first to camp on July 25.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (15-4)
OPEN CAMP: July 27, UC Irvine, Irvine, California.
LAST YEAR: Reached first Super Bowl in 17 years to cap incredible two-year transformation under coach Sean McVay. Though lifeless offensive performance in that loss to New England still stings, everything else about season was breakthrough that put Rams in driver's seat to win LA's affection over rival Chargers. Won second straight NFC West title and went 6-0 against division foes while going 7-1 at Coliseum. Finished second in NFL with 527 points and more strong play from QB Jared Goff, at least until late in season. McVay got his signature win when Rams beat Kansas City 54-51 in one of most memorable Monday night games in NFL history. Otherwise, defense was stout behind Aaron Donald, who finally got big contract and promptly won second straight Defensive Player of Year award. Beat Dallas in first playoff contest and squeaked out road win over New Orleans in NFC title game marred by missed officiating call. Managed only three points in lowest-scoring Super Bowl.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: S Eric Weddle, LB Clay Matthews, QB Blake Bortles, S Taylor Rapp, DT Greg Gaines.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DT Ndamukong Suh, C John Sullivan, OG Rodger Saffold, S Lamarcus Joyner, LB Mark Barron, RB C.J. Anderson, QB Sean Mannion.
CAMP NEEDS: Rams allowed several veterans to get away in offseason, and they left holes in starting lineup. Weddle should fit seamlessly into Joyner's spot at safety, even if veteran is one year older than McVay. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be eager to find ways to use Matthews in former USC star's return to Coliseum. Saffold and Sullivan are gone from dependable offensive line, and second-year pros Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen must show they can play immediately. Rookie lineman Greg Gaines could be new nose tackle in place of Suh, but must prove he's ready for challenge. Rams also will keep eye on RB Todd Gurley, whose balky knee gets more attention than many Hollywood stars these days.
EXPECTATIONS: Contention for second straight Super Bowl trip, which would be unprecedented in franchise history. While Rams lost some talent, most major components are returning for McVay, who was personally stung by offense's ineptitude in Super Bowl. Goff still has plenty to prove in fourth pro season while angling for next contract, and he'll have dependable receiver Cooper Kupp back from injury. Seems silly to describe conference champions as needing bounce-back season, but Rams are eager to prove they can finish strong this winter.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 25, Renton, Washington
LAST YEAR: Seattle's roster overhaul was successful as Seahawks returned to playoffs after one-year absence. With Russell Wilson playing as efficiently as any point in career and commitment to ground game, Seahawks went 10-6 and earned wild-card spot. Seattle lost to Dallas in opening round of playoffs, but it was still highly successful campaign that again proved general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are two of better executives in NFL.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: G Mike Iupati, DE Ezekiel Ansah, DE L.J. Collier, WR DK Metcalf, DE Cassius Marsh, K Jason Myers, S Marquise Blair.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Earl Thomas, WR Doug Baldwin, DE Frank Clark, G J.R. Sweezy, CB Justin Coleman.
CAMP NEEDS: Seattle needs pass rushers, biggest question mark after trading Frank Clark to Kansas City. Ansah could be answer if he's healthy following offseason shoulder surgery that limited his production last season. But pass rush depth must be developed no matter how effective Ansah is. How competition shakes out at wide receiver will be another camp battle, with rookies Metcalf, Gary Jennings and John Ursua pushing for playing time and roster spots behind Tyler Lockett. Seahawks also need to find trusted nickel cornerback after losing Justin Coleman in free agency.
EXPECTATIONS: Seattle should be among playoff contenders in NFC, but has two significant contract situations to resolve with LB Bobby Wagner and DT Jarran Reed both seeking new deals. Getting Wilson signed to extension during offseason shelved any question about starting quarterback. If defense can find pass rush and be better on back end, Seahawks could be on cusp of pushing Rams in NFC West.
SAN FRANCISCO (4-12)
OPEN CAMP: July 27, Santa Clara, California
LAST YEAR: Season went awry early with QB Jimmy Garoppolo and RB Jerick McKinnon going down with season-ending knee injuries in September. That led to 1-7 start before Nick Mullens took over at QB and salvaged three wins in second half. Defense set records for futility with two INTs, seven takeaways, while offense had 31 turnovers. That was recipe for failure. One bright spot was emergence of second-year TE George Kittle, who set record for most receiving yards in season at position.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DEs Dee Ford and DE Nick Bosa, LB Kwon Alexander, RB Tevin Coleman, WRs Deebo Samuel and Jordan Matthews, CB Jason Verrett.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Pierre Garcon, P Bradley Pinion, DE Cassius Marsh.
CAMP NEEDS: Garoppolo and McKinnon were supposed to be centerpieces of offense last season before injuries, so making sure they are healthy and ready for opener will be key in camp. Other big question on offense will be figuring out top receivers for unit that lacked playmakers one year ago. Dante Pettis showed flashes as rookie in 2018 and has inside track at one job. Samuel being counted on in slot, with other wideout position open competition with speedster Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, Matthews all in mix.
EXPECTATIONS: After 10 wins in first two seasons under coach Kyle Shanahan, pressure's on 49ers to become contender in Year 3. Healthy season from Garoppolo, McKinnon should provide boost to offense. Defensive line should be strongest unit on team with Ford, Bosa joining former first-round picks DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas. Questions remain in secondary, where second-year CB Ahkello Witherspoon struggled opposite veteran Richard Sherman.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-13)
OPEN CAMP: July 25, Tempe, Arizona
LAST YEAR: Cardinals had one of worst seasons in franchise history under first year coach Steve Wilks. Arizona struggled with injuries and was among NFL's worst teams both offensively and defensively. Free agent QB Sam Bradford was released before season was half over and Josh Rosen had an up-and-down rookie season. Wilks became first Cardinals head coach fired after one season since 1952 and Cardinals ended up with No. 1 overall pick in draft.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Kyler Murray, DE Terrell Suggs, CBs Robert Alford, Tramaine Brock and Byron Murphy, WR Andy Isabella, TE Maxx Williams, LB Brooks Reed.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Ss Antoine Bethea and Deone Bucannon, LBs Markus Golden and Benson Mayowa, QB Rosen, OG Mike Iupati.
CAMP NEEDS: Cardinals enter first season under coach Kliff Kingsbury and camp will give them chance to see how well they're grasping his quick-hitting, high-scoring offense. Arizona used No. 1 overall pick on Oklahoma QB Murray despite using No. 10 pick on Rosen year before. He will get first real test outside of minicamps.
EXPECTATIONS: Cardinals are looking at rebuilding year with new coach and rookie quarterback, along with plenty of other new pieces. If they can get handle on Kingsbury's offense and Murray lives up to expectations, they could see slight improvement over last year. That season was so bad, not many other places they can go but up.
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