Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: San Francisco 49ers

The life of a 49ers fan has to be frustrating. They haven't made the playoffs since 2002, and they also haven't had a winning record since then. They also have had no winning seasons since then, and 4 different head coaches. And that's not even including the QB flops in-between. Now, another new coach has taken charge in San Francisco, and can Jim Harbaugh lead this team to the postseason?

What's New: Basically the entire front office and coaching staff, yet the roster hasn't seen a large amount of turnover. The new GM, Trent Baalke has a ton of pressure on him to bring in the right personnel to help Jim Harbaugh and his new coaching staff. Only the running backs coach, defensive line coach, and offensive line coach last year were retained. The lockout surely won't help the new coaching staff implement their new schemes with the team. On the roster front, gone are center David Baas, corner Nate Clements, NT Aubrayo Franklin, and OLB Manny Lawson. These are pretty sizable losses for a team that didn't do a whole lot to replace them. Their notable acquisition was WR Braylon Edwards, who combined with a healthy Michael Crabtree will create a nice wideout duo for the '9ers. They also added safeties Madieu Williams and Donte Whitner, and added corner Carlos Rogers as well, alongside rookie DE Aldon Smith from Missouri.

Biggest Strength: They have the running game with Frank Gore, who is still one of the NFL's best at the position. They also have great weapons in the passing game, with Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree, plus Vernon Davis as well. If it wasn't for their QB problems, they would have a very potent offense with all of the capabilities that they have. On defense, their D-Line has gotten better with the addition of Aldon Smith, and they still have maybe the best linebacker in the NFL today in Patrick Willis.

Biggest Weakness: On defense, their secondary leaves a lot to be desired, and problems are still going to arise from the loss of Nate Clements, even though he was a major bust there. The offensive line has some problems too, especially last year after allowing 44 sacks, and losing center David Baas to New York. But the major question is of course at the QB position. Is it Alex Smith's team, or rookie Colin Kaepernick's team? The first preseason game did not answer any of those questions, and there is still no indication of who the opening day starter will be. There is no consensus among experts and fans alike as to who will be the opening day starter, unless someone impresses plenty soon. But either way, the major question this year will be can the QB position settle down enough to give the '9ers a chance to win?

Outlook: Because of the QB turmoil, along with a suspect offensive line and issues on defense, this team is not where they need to be in order to compete for a division title, even in the NFC West. If (by some miracle) either Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick plays better than anyone expected, only then will this team have a chance at sniffing the playoffs but until then there are too many questions about this team to give them a chance at a playoff run.

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