2014 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
June 25, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2014 San Francisco 49ers football preview
The 49ers have come so close in the last three years and yet have not made that next step to a Super Bowl championship. Last season San Francisco loss to Seattle in the NFC championship game 23 – 17.
Two years ago the 49ers loss to Baltimore 34 to 31 in the Super Bowl. It was three years ago the 49ers made it to the NFC championship game but lost to the New York Giants in overtime 20 – 17. Now the question is can the 49ers keep things together after an off-season that saw turmoil in the front office, several off the field incidents, a feud between their head coach and general manager and the loss of some key players from last year’s team.
If the 49ers plan on making another run at the Super Bowl the passing attack must improve on its 30th ranking in the NFL. QB Colin Kaepernick threw for only 199.8 yards per game in 2013. There is no doubt he has one of the best arms in the NFL and is a very dangerous running quarterback but he must improve his accuracy and he must be able to read defenses better in order to become a top level quarterback. The 49ers improved their receiving corps by signing free-agent Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd will give the 49ers more experience and added speed to stretch the field. San Francisco also re-signed Anquan Boldin who led the team with 85 receptions for 1179 yards and seven touchdowns. Michael Crabtree missed 11 games last year with a torn Achilles tendon. If Crabtree is healthy and if tight and Vernon Davis signs a new contract the 49ers could have a very explosive passing attack.
The running game should be healthy once again with Frank Gore returning after rushing for over 1000 yards last year but he averaged a career low 4.1 yards per carry. San Francisco would like to lessen his load to make sure he is fresh during the playoffs. In order to do that the 49ers will have to give more carries to Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore. Rookie Carlos Hyde out of Ohio State could also be in the mix. The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL returning for starters including tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis and guards Mike Iupati and Alex Boone. Center Jonathan Goodwin will be replaced by Daniel Kilgore.
San Francisco’s defense was one of the best in the National Football League led by Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis and lineman Justin Smith. Losing defensive backs Donte Whitner, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers will be difficult. Whitner signed with Cleveland, Brown and Rogers signed with the Raiders in the off-season. The 49ers signed ex-Colts strong safety Antoine Bethea to replace Whitner. Free safety Eric Reid is coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season and Tramaine Brock should open the season as a starter. There are some question marks opposite Brock and right now it appears Chris Culliver is the leading candidate to win the starting cornerback job going into camp. Safety Jimmie Ward was the team’s number one draft pick out of Northern Illinois and will likely fill the role as the nickel back and will cover receivers in the slot. With Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Pro Bowl linebacker Ahmad Brooks the 49ers ranked fourth against the run in 2013. Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman suffered a knee injury in the NFC title game and right now the 49ers are not sure if he’ll return as the dominant linebacker he has been over the last three seasons. Until Bowman is healthy, Michael Wilhoite will step in as the starter. One of the biggest concerns during the off-season was the arrest of outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Smith could face suspension from the NFL after two DUI arrests as well as a felony weapons charge and an arrest at the Los Angeles international Airport. Smith last year entered a facility for substance abuse.
San Francisco has enough talent to make a strong run at another Super Bowl. But there is also plenty of concern after losing several to free agency and the off-season turmoil that hit the club very hard. They must find a way to unseat NFC West champion and Super Bowl champion Seattle. If they can’t the 49ers will have to battle for a wild-card playoff berth and fight their way to the Super Bowl.