Quarterback’s Biggest Question Mark In NFC West

Hasselbeck is the most experienced of the bunch and got the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005, but his health is an issue, sidelining him for 11 games the last two seasons. The Seahawks were unsure enough to trade a second-round pick for San Diego third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst.

The biggest question lingering over every NFC West team concerns the most important position – quarterback.

Whether it’s Matt Leinart in Arizona, Alex Smith in San Francisco, Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle, or Sam Bradford in St. Louis, uncertainty abounds.

Smith, the No. 1 pick in 2005, will get another chance to show that he’s worthy of the job. This will be the first time in his pro career that he’ll have the same offensive coordinators in consecutive seasons. The 49ers haven’t had that since 2003.

Leinart steps into the all-but-unfillable shoes of Kurt Warner and will quarterback an offense that’s intended to be more balanced than the pass-first scheme of recent years.

Then there’s Bradford, the No. 1 pick this year, who left Oklahoma after his junior season in which, because of shoulder injuries, he played just three games. The Rams are coming off a 1-15 season in which they scored a league-low 175 points.


Now that Pete Carroll has personnel control of the NFL team he coaches, can his teams be better than the ones he coached in New England and New York? Will the Seahawks find a real No. 1 receiver, having spent gobs of Paul Allen’s money on T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Nate Burleson over the last four years? Is rookie Russell Okung ready to become the next Walter Jones – or at least be a solid NFL left tackle? Will Carroll be proven right for taking playmaking safety Earl Thomas over former USC standout Taylor Mays?


With Warner gone and Leinart at quarterback, will the Cardinals lean on Beanie Wells to be more of a Pittsburgh-style offense? How will Steve Breaston adjust to the starting role in replacement of Anquan Boldin? The Cardinals gave up 90 points in two playoff games – and now have lost Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle – so what have they done to stabilize their defense? Arizona won the division the last two years but was swept by San Francisco last season. Is a power shift afoot?

San Francisco

What will Michael Crabtree do in his first full season? He had no training camp last year and didn’t join the team until October, yet he played well in the second half. The 49ers drafted two offensive linemen in the first round – tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati. Will that work out as well as it did for the Jets, who made the playoffs with rookie first-rounders D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold on their line?

St. Louis

Do the Rams have the luxury of taking their time and allowing Bradford to watch and learn for a while, or is the rookie going to play right away? How much punishment can Steven Jackson take, seeing as he’s the focus of opposing defenses? Are the Rams comfortable protecting their – what? – soon-to-be-$80-million investment at quarterback with a rookie right tackle (Rodger Saffold) and second-year left tackle (Jason Smith)?