It took until the day of the draft, but Steve Keim finally pulled off the big move we’d all been waiting for, trading #23 for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (and a 3rd-rounder to boot). And just in time to (somewhat) assuage the panic over the DeAndre Hopkins suspension.
Over the weekend, Keim added a couple offensive playmakers and fortifications for the interior offensive line and front seven. Mid-to-late-round picks rarely make an impact right away, but the draft class included a number of intriguing prospects.
At this point, the 2022 roster is mostly complete—although you should never count out a few last-offseason moves from Keim. (It’s almost “Keim Time” after all.) So what questions remain about this roster? I have five big ones.
Do we have the depth to withstand the D-Hop suspension?
We all remember how ordinary the offense looked last season with D-Hop out of the lineup. Christian Kirk and A.J. Green didn’t scare anyone downfield and our bread and butter was Zach Ertz over the middle and a bunch of short stuff to Rondale Moore and the RBs. It wasn’t pretty. Now, Kirk and Chase Edmonds are both gone. Solid players, but replaceable. Unlike Hopkins, who was the centerpiece of our passing game.
We’ll get to Edmonds’s replacement in a minute, but Hollywood Brown is basically an immediate upgrade over Kirk. He was a legit WR1 in Baltimore, and he’ll have to play that role again for 6 weeks while Hop is suspended. (Let’s just hope he left his case of the drops in B-More.) The underwhelming Green is back to underwhelm opposite Brown, and the team is expecting big things from second-year slot man Moore. Plus we added Trey McBride at TE and Maxx Williams should (could?) be healthy come Week 1. We *should* have the pieces to withstand Hop’s absence better than last season, especially since it’s at the beginning of the season when guys will be healthier. (Knock on wood.)
Who is this year’s Chase Edmonds?
Edmonds may not have been a Pro Bowl player, but he was an important cog in our offense. He played 58% of the snaps on offense and accounted for 162 touches for 903 combined yards (only two TDs though). But he’s off to Miami to be a member of new HC Mike McDaniel’s usual stable of RBs.
At this point, there’s no clear candidate to replace him. Former Sun Devil Eno Benjamin figures to get the first shot to do so. He handled 40 touches spelling Conner and Edmonds as a rookie (including a TD against San Francisco) and looked like a potential rotational RB. We also have third-year player Jonathan Ward, who is best (only) known for catching Chris Streveler’s only pro TD pass. The team also added Keaontay Ingram in the 6th round and UFDA Ronnie Rivers as depth. There are some interesting names here, but no proven depth at all behind Conner. I’d love to see one of the young guys step up and handle 150+ touches, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Keim add a veteran here at some point.
Where is the pass rush going to come from?
Switching to the defensive side of the ball, if you’re not concerned about the pass rush right now you either haven’t been paying attention or are delusional. Franchise sack leader Chandler Jones took his double-digit sack total to Oakland and the team has done basically nothing to address that loss.
Granted, 5 of Jones’s sacks came in Week 1 so he wasn’t exactly a force week in and week out, but, again, the team has not yet made a significant addition at pass rusher. We’ll get Dennis Gardeck and J.J. Watt back healthy (where’s that wood to knock on again…), and rookies Cameron Thomas and MyJai Sanders have potential, but Gardeck is very inconsistent and Watt is getting up there. The other guys on the depth chart are Zach Allen and Markus Golden. Allen is solid and I really like Golden, but who are opposing coaches scheming against besides Watt (when he’s healthy)? I would like to see another veteran addition here as well.
Do we have enough beef in the middle of the D-line?
I’m just going to come out and say it: No, we do not have enough beef in the middle of the D-line. The only two non-UFDA DTs currently on the roster are disappointing 3rd-year players Rashard Lawrence and Leki Fotu. They both only played about 1/3 of the snaps last season. For what it’s worth, Lawrence—the projected starter—graded much better than Fotu.
Those two, plus UFDAs Manny Jones, Will Miles, and LaRon Stokes, aren’t going to be enough, especially in a division where the Niners and Seahawks are going to want to run on you. A veteran RB or pass rusher would be nice, but I think Keim HAS to add another DT. Maybe a guy like Akiem Hicks, who I mentioned a few weeks ago. Hell, even bring Corey Peters back. Someone, anyone! Where’s the beef?!
Is this really our CB group?
Keim has curiously never seemed to value the CB position during his tenure as GM. He’s never drafted one in the 1st round, and we all remember the revolving door at CB2 opposite Patrick Peterson when he was here. Since he left, we haven’t really had a CB1 to speak of, and the cupboard is as bare as ever this year.
Currently, we’re going into the season with what has to be the worst CB group in the league: Byron Murphy Jr., Marco Wilson, and Jeff Gladney. (Plus a bunch of UFDAs and JAGs, including familiar names Antonio Hamilton and Jace Whittaker.) In fact, Mike Clay recently did name our CBs as the worst in the league. Murphy is a solid NFL player, albeit miscast as a team’s top CB, Wilson graded as one of the worst in the league as a rookie, and Gladney is a total question mark. (Plenty of talent, but plenty of issues as well.) I simply cannot fathom going into the season with this as our group. Stephon Gilmore is gone, but the recently released James Bradberry would be an amazing pickup if we can make it work with the cap. Make it happen, Keim!
So that’s five questions, but only one where I think we have a satisfactory answer. I think we can handle D-Hop’s suspension okay, but I don’t like our depth at RB, pass rush, DT, and CB. I wouldn’t call RB and pass rush roster holes, per se, but they’re definitely weaknesses. (Although it’s easy enough to find productive RBs these days. Not too worried there.)
But DT and CB are absolutely roster holes that Keim simply must address before the season. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a veteran DT who can play two downs, but CB is a glaring weakness at a hard-to-fill position.
I hope Keim has Bradberry’s agent on speed dial.