It’s almost football season again, and I’m excited seeing as the other team in San Francisco hasn’t been playing quite as well (looking at you, Giants). The Niners have looked sharp in training camp as they prepare for a season in which they hope to raise the Lombardi trophy. It’s definitely possible.
QB: Colin Kaepernick was electrifying last year, lighting up defenses on the ground and in the air, and he has looked good in training camp despite some offseason drama. Kaepernick is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, but don’t be surprised if he hits a sophomore slump in his second year of starting. A true measure of his value is how he copes with and overcomes those possible struggles. Still, Kaepernick has all the tools to turn in an All-Pro season, so he could easily dominate again and prove me wrong. Behind him are Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien, but they won’t see the field much unless Kaepernick gets hurt. As a rushing quarterback, there is always more chances to get smeared by a linebacker in the open field. Kaepernick was one of the best in the league last year at avoiding hard contact, and he needs to keep that up to keep him fresh and injury free. Kaepernick is good at running to the sidelines and his timing on slides has been good as well. He is poised for another excellent season as San Francisco’s signal caller.
RB: Frank Gore had another productive year last year, but as he ages the Niners will want to limit his carries to keep him fresh for the playoffs. He’s on the wrong side of 30 for NFL running backs, but the Niners all-time rushing leader should stick around for a couple more years. A strong supporting cast of speedy young running backs like Kendall Hunter, LaMicheal James, and Marcus Lattimore should help ease the load on Gore so that he’s ready to plow through defenses late in the 4th quarter. Hunter was a pleasant surprise as a 4th round pick backing up Gore in the 2011 season before an Achilles’ tendon injury shortened his 2012 season. James electrified the NCAA for 3 years with a couple of Heisman runner ups with his blinding speed up in Eugene while playing for the Oregon Ducks. Concerns about his injury history and size had him slip to round 2 of the 2012 draft, where the 49ers were more than happy to select him. His speed will play a major factor on special teams and late in games if the 49ers hope to play deep into the postseason again. The 3rd running back selected by the Niners in recent years is Marcus Lattimore out of South Carolina. Lattimore projected to be 1st round pick and an NFL star before 2 severe knee injuries sidelined him in his last 2 years at South Carolina. If he can stay healthy, he may be San Francisco’s running back of the future.
WR: Signing Anquan Boldin may have been the best move GM Trent Baalke’s best offseason move, and it looks even better now that last year’s top receiver, Michael Crabtree, is out for most of the year with an Achilles heel injury that occurred in March. The rest of the cast of WR’s looks banged up, with Kyle Williams, Kassim Osgood, and others dealing with minor injuries. San Francisco signed free agent Austin Collie after Training Camp. Collie, a once promising young receiver, had his career derailed by concussions. If he can avoid getting injured, he could be a major piece in the offense.
Defense: Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman are the best in the game at inside linebacker. The consistency and dominance of the tandem is unmatched in the NFL. The secondary lost No. 3 cornerback Chris Culliver to an ACL tear yesterday, but hopefully former Raiders star Nmadi Asoumgha can reclaim his form from his pre-philedalphia and step up to man that spot behind starters Carlos Rodgers and Tarell Brown. Competing with Asoumgha will be 24 year old Tramaine Brock, a hard hitting corner who showed flashes of potential last year. The safeties are returning veteran Donte Whitner and rookie Eric Reid, who replaces All-Pro Dashon Goldson. Reid, a 2013 first round pick out of LSU, has the tools and work ethic to succeed as a starter in his first season.
Special Teams: Andy Lee may be the best punter in the league, no issues there. Phil Dawson is the new kicker, replacing David Akers who was excellent his first year as a Niner but was inconsistent last year. Dawson looks to be a suitable replacement. Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams will most likely return kicks, and the unit looks to be strong again.