I thought it would be nice to have a 49ers thread on here. I think there are a few 49ers fans here and it will be good to have somewhere to debate issues without resorting to the main thread.
Anyway in order to get things started (and generate some talking points) I thought I’d go through the roster position by position and also do a little prediction at the end.
In typical 49er fashion I’ll start with the Defense:
I think the 49ers secondary is actually a weakness. They are reliant on the front 7 getting pressure and in 2011 they lived a lot on interceptions which can’t be guaranteed in 2012. Against the Giants, Lions and Saints they gave up a lot of yards last year if not a lot of points.
In 2012 the 49ers face games against the Saints, Giants, Packers, Patriots, and Lions. In short some of the best offenses in the league.
Dashon Goldson failed to reach agreement with the 49ers on a long term deal and will play 2012 under the franchise tag. Barring an exceptional season it has to be expected that this could be his last season in San Francisco.
Donte Whitner is the other starting safety and is coming off a good season last year, including a game changing hit on Pierre Thomas in the Divisional game.
The 49ers starting safties are both solid but a lack of depth at the position is a concern.
Carlos Rodgers, Chris Culliver
A couple of solid corners, generated a lot of picks in 2011, the question is if they dry up how will they hold up in coverage.
Tarell Brown is the nickel back and has shown some promise.
The 49ers front 7 is crucial to how the defense operates, last year they shut down the running game of most teams they came up against and were able to get pressure on the QB. The questions that remain to be answered are how would they deal with a few injuries and can they keep up that level of performance for a second year.
Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman
Not much to be said here other than you’ve got 2 of the best linebackers in the league. Very difficult to run against and very good in coverage too. Larry Grant proved an able backup last season but you have to think any sort of injury here seriously weaken the 49ers.
Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson
Smith only really played on 3rd down and obvious pass rush situations last year and came within half a sack of the rookie record. Expect him to play every down this year. Whichever 2 start, you are probably looking at the best linebacking corps in the league and their performance will go a long way to determining how many games the 49ers win this year.
Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald
Justin Smith was immense last year and he was a genuine contender for DPOTY. For 2012 the niners need the D-Line to be just as dominant given the tough schedule they face this year.
Alex Smith remains the starter, coming off a 5 INT season. The offense was run to play to Smith’s strengths and he was never really asked to make throws he’s not able too. He was helped out by the running game but even so 2011 marks easily the best year of his career. Given what Aaron Rodgers has achieved in Green Bay after SF passed on him Smith has always been under a huge amount of pressure. Expect the playcalling in 2012 to be a little less conservative with Alex asked to throw a lot more on 3rd down and also to produce more in the redzone. Expect more interceptions. The success or otherwise of the 49ers season will probably rest on how well Smith and the rest of the offense perform in those situations.
Colin Kaepernick remains the backup but this could change heading into camp, where Josh Johnson (who played for Harbaugh in San Diego) presents a challenge.
This is the area that the front office focused on most in the off-season. Mario Manningham and Randy Moss were added in free agency. AJ Jenkins was drafted in the first round. Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams return from 2011. Obviously there are questions over most of these guys. Crabtree has yet to have a full training camp since coming into the league, while he was anonymous in the playoffs last year, only one catch for 3 yards in the championship game. Moss is 35, didn’t play last year and was ditched by 3 teams the year before. It will also be interesting to see how or if Williams bounces back after the twin disasters in the Championship game last year.
AJ Jenkins was a huge surprise in the first round of the draft and the soundings coming out of Santa Clara have not been good. He is said to be too lightweight for the NFL at present and little or nothing is expected from him in 2012.
Moss and Crabtree are the likely starters but if Moss doesn’t work out I don’t think Manningham and Crabtree will scare too many defences.
Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
Davis had an outstanding couple of games in the playoffs but showed some frustration early in the year when not seeing much of the ball. I expect a big year from Davis, I think 49ers will need that and he is capable of taking some coverage away from the receivers.
Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs
It’s hard to know how SF will play the run this year. We can’t expect Gore to carry as much as he has been doing. Hunter did well at times last year and I expect progress from him. The second round pick from Oregon, James, is very exciting and I’m really looking forward to seeing where he fits in.
I’m not at all convinced by the signing of Jacobs and I’m not even sure he’ll make the final roster. If he does it’s hard to see how he’ll get much work unless Gore has to sit out due to injury.
Mike Iupati,Joe Stately, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boon, Anthony Davis
Daniel Kilgore probably the first backup.
Struggled at times last year, particularly at Baltimore but seemed to be able to get it together when it really mattered. The 49ers have drafted 4 O-Linemen in the last 2 drafts.
Pass protection will need to better this year if 49ers are to make use of the talents of Moss et al.
David Ackers, Andy Lee.
Not much to say here, one of the best punters in the game and had a huge impact last year. Ackers is ever reliable and set some records last year. No worries here really. Rock Cartwright was brought in in the off-season and he will help out on Special Teams.
Last year the 49ers won 13 games, didn’t allow a 100 yard rushing game until very late in the year, went to the NFC championship game, Smith only threw 5 picks, and to boot they didn’t have the toughest schedule in the league.
It’s very difficult to see the above being maintained for a second year. The schedule is brutal this year, no one will be underestimating us this year and everything will be more difficult.
Football Outsiders predict the 49ers will regress seriously and will only win 7 games.
I’m not quite as pessimistic. It may be unrealistic to expect a repeat of 2011 but I expect the 49ers to win the NFC West and win probably 10 games in the process. What will happen in the play-offs is anyone’s guess.