View Full Version : Offseason Primer: San Francisco 49ers

01-12-2008, 11:28 AM
And thatís brings us to the Niners. They would have had the seventh pick at 5-11 had they not traded it away for Joe Staley. They subsequently have put the best team in football into the seventh pick overall this year, as well as giving away the pick which led to the Randy Moss pick up for the Patriots. An interesting trade, wouldnít you sayÖ

Mike Nolan has apparently been retained in San Francisco, after not really living up to expectations of getting this team back off the ground in the last three years. 4-12, 7-9 and 5-11 are clearly not enough for a team with such proud tradition. 2008 will be Nolanís make or break year as the 49ers head coach.

It will also most likely be Alex Smithís make or break year as a 49er as well. Expectations are extremely high for the No. 1 pick overall in Nolanís first draft. Smith suffered a separated right shoulder. He came back for three games, but was placed on IR in week 11. In six games he threw for just two touchdowns to four interceptions. Not a good rate. Next year, Smith is going to have Mike Martz to work with as his offensive coordinator. The question is can Smith handle the all-out passing offense of Martz?

Frank Gore was one of the bright stars in 2006. The 2005 third-round pick was a pleasant surprise for the 49ers, running for almost 1,700 yards, but struggled getting into the end zone with just eight touchdowns. He struggled getting into the end zone as well in 2007, scoring just five touchdowns, but he did run for 1,102 yards in 15 games. There is no question that Gore is the running back of the future. Gore will be backed up by Maurice Hicks and Michael Robinson. The 49ers will need more production out of both backs to help spell Gore next season. Michael Robinson may see a lot of time in the new Mike Martz offense, and Goreís already fairly impressive receiving numbers will most likely go up as well.

Moran Norris was the sparingly used fullback, and he may not return next season with Martz coming in. I would expect that Martz will try to utilize massive tight end Vernon Davis to his full extent, however, next year. Davis had 52 receptions in 14 games this season for the 49ers and at 6-3, 253, heís a load to handle for any safety in the league. He does need to improve in his run-blocking, but he should be utilized quite a bit next year.

The 49ers need help at wide receiver. They brought in Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie last season, hoping that they would be enough to help Smith become a decent quarterback. Jackson did help some, catching 46 passes, but Lelie caught all of 10 passes and never turned out to be much. Both will need to step up next season if the Martz offense is going to get off the ground. Arnaz Battle has been a pleasant surprise, catching 50 passes this past season, but I donít think heís anything but a No. 3 receiver. Donít be surprised if the 49ers go after a few of the free agent wide receivers, as well as try to add some depth at the position in the draft. I donít think thereís a lot of top-tier talent at wide receiver in this draft, but taking a chance in the later rounds with a guy like Jordy Nelson out of Kansas State, or Marcus Monk, out of Arkansas, wouldnít be a bad idea. Both are fairly fast, and both are tall, especially Monk.

Joe Staley came in immediately and made an impact on the running game at right tackle. The 49ers ranked ninth over right tackle in yards per carry. Heís the anchor of the offensive line for the foreseeable future. However, the 49ers were tied for last in sacks, so Staley may help anchor that line, they still need a lot of improvement. And despite success over right tackle, they were still 27th in the league in rushing.

Adam Snyder secured his spot at left tackle mid-way through the season and started the final 10 games of the season. However, his play has to be more consistent, especially in pass protection to help keep Smith upright. Larry Allen started all 16 games for the 49ers at left guard, but the 11-time Pro Bowl selection will be entering his 15th season next year, and you have to question if heís wearing down or not. 2005 second-round selection David Baas stepped in at right guard and started the final eight games of the season. I would imagine that the 49ers stick with him next year, to find out if heís the future at right guard for the team. Eric Heitmann has been a consistent starter for the 49ers since being a seventh-round selection in 2002.

As you look at the 49er offensive line, you see talent there, but you donít see consistency. I would imagine that the 49ers will use some late round draft picks to bring in some depth and help push the current starting five. There needs to be a distinct improvement out of this unit next year if the 49er offense is going to improve.

The 49ers will also need to see a lot of improvement on defense. The unit ranked 25th overall in total yards allowed, 20th in points allowed, 22nd against the pass and 22nd against the run.

Bryant Young, one of the best players for the 49ers in the last 10 years retired after the season, and a replacement is going to have to be found. Ronald Fields, a fifth-round selection in 2005 is the man sitting behind Young on the depth chart, but I would imagine that the 49ers will bring in someone to push Fields for the starting position. Aubrayo Franklin will be entering his second season with the 49ers, and has to be more productive from the nose tackle position for the 49ers. He has to take up some double teams so that the 49ers talented linebacker crew can make even more plays. Marques Douglas started all 16 games in the last two seasons for the 49ers and has really taken to Nolanís 3-4 defense. He had 71 tackles this past season, and three sacks.

Patrick Willis might have been the pick of the draft last season, as Willis stepped in immediately at inside linebacker and made an impact. Willis led the entire league in tackles with 174, 33 more than Denverís D.J. Williams. Heís an incredible talent, who believe it or not, is still adjusting to the 3-4, after playing a 4-3 system in college. At 6-1, 242, he has the size, and he is probably one of the fastest linebackers in the league.

Manny Lawson, a first-round selection in 2006, tore his ACL in the second game of the season, but is expected to return next year and make an impact from the outside linebacker position. Being a converted defensive end, Lawson needs to work on his coverage skills, but heís a good athlete, and heís big and tall.

Derek Smith has been a solid player for the 49ers over the past seven seasons, but clearly has struggled to adjust to his role in the 3-4 defense. After five straight seasons of over 100 tackles, Smith has had 68 and 78 tackles, respectively, in the past two years in the 3-4. It helps that Willis is now beside him, because he is a tackle machine and it allows Smith to freelance a little more. Jeff Ulbrich, heading into his ninth year, backs up both middle linebacker positions and plays a lot of special teams.

Parys Haralson and Tully Banta-Cain filled in at outside linebacker for the 49ers, and have to be more effective in the position next season, to help improve this defense. Both notched 2.5 sacks, which is not enough pass rush from the outside in a 3-4. It will definitely help this group having Lawson back next season. The 49ers may need to find some depth at outside linebacker for next season.

During last offseason, Nate Clements signed a massive free agent contract with the 49ers to make him the highest paid cornerback in the league. Clements wasnít a disappointment, notching four interceptions, 14 pass deflections, while notching 92 tackles. Walt Harris will be entering his 13th season in the league and his third for the 49ers. He had four interceptions, 13 pass deflections and 58 tackles in 15 games. Good numbers, and he will have to keep that production up to help improve the 49er defense next year.

Michael Lewis will be entering his seventh season at safety and his second as a 49er. This past year was one of his most productive seasons, stats-wise. He had 107 tackles and two interceptions. He most likely will start next year as well for the 49ers. Free Safety Mark Roman is another free agent brought in two years ago to help bolster the secondary. The 49ers will need more production out of him next year, especially defending the deep pass down the middle.

The 49ers have paid a lot of money to this secondary, and thereís a lot of expectations on them to produce. I wouldnít be surprised if they drafted a few defensive backs to help push these veterans.

Joe Nedney has been a consistent kicker for the 49ers, since signing with them before 2005. Nedney missed just two field goals this season, and will likely be back next year. Andy Lee, who will be entering his fifth season, was the second-rated punter in the NFL this year, averaging 41 yards net on each punt.

Michael Robinson is the key returner for the 49ers, but will have to improve 25.5 yards per return average next season, in order to help the 49ers get better field position.

01-14-2008, 12:16 PM
To be honest I think Alex Smith needs to go, as well as Mike Nolan. I wrote an article on the 49ers earlier in the season and this is one of thr main points I was trying to get across. I don't think either of them can lead this team to sucess.

As you look at the 49er offensive line, you see talent there, but you don’t see consistency. I would imagine that the 49ers will use some late round draft picks to bring in some depth and help push the current starting five. There needs to be a distinct improvement out of this unit next year if the 49er offense is going to improve.


Great article.

01-14-2008, 01:04 PM
Good read...thx, MB.

01-14-2008, 08:27 PM
San Fran is an enigma. Never knoe what to think of em.