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Friday September 5, 2008 10:31 pm

NFL Preview: San Francisco 49ers

Posted by Juan Ruiz Categories: NFL,

Frank Gore on the run for The San Francisco 49ers

2007 RECORD: 5-11

Overview: Coming from a dismal 6-12 season in 2007, having a combination of 25 wins, and 55 losses since the 2002 season, the San Francisco 49ers are a long way from their once dominant glory under the Bill Walsh and George Seifert eras.  The team has gone through three head coaches, a plethora of starting quarterbacks, and five offensive coordinators during that span.  The Niners are run by owners John York and Denise DeBartolo, who are struggling to run a successful business, and rebuild a once prominent and well-respected franchise.

Offense: With all of the above said, things can only look up for this team. On offense, the biggest transaction the team made this past offseason was hire the battle-tested and Super Bowl winner Mike Martz.  Martz brings in a new sense of urgency to not only his players and fellow coaching staff, but for himself as well. He was fired as offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions in 2007, and is now at a crossroad in his career. He’s now trying to prove to not only himself, but the rest of the league, that he still has it in him to put together a winning offense. At the quarterback position, J.T. O’Sullivan and not former number one pick, Alex Smith, will be the starting quarterback.  The depth chart can always change with Smith coming off the sidelines as the backup, so don’t count him out yet.  The Niners have brought in veteran Isaac Bruce formerly a long-time rival from the St. Louis Rams, and free agent Bryant Johnson from the Arizona Cardinals to help strengthen the wide receiving corps. The most interesting story to follow since training camp is how the offense’s most skilled players, RB Frank Gore and TE Vernon Davis will be incorporated into the pass-happy offense that Martz is known for.

Defense: The defense seems to have a few lingering questions this year. What is this “hybrid 3-4” defense that head coach Mike Nolan speaks of, and how are all of the players going to adjust to this type of scheme? Patrick Willis is coming off of a Pro Bowl season, and seems to be ready to take on his role as the defensive leader, which was handed down to him by long-time Niners great Bryant Young after his retirement last season. The defense signed former Cincinnati Benglas defensive end, Justin Smith, and re-signed six-foot-three, 325 pound Isaac Sapoaga to hold down the front line. Overall, this side of the ball seems to be a strong point of this team.

Rookies: The 2008 draft for the Niners was about necessity and not luxury. They drafted defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer out of North Carolina in the first round, and offensive guard Chilo Rachal from U.S.C. in the second. With the retirement of Young on defense, and Larry Allen on offense, as well as an injury to left guard David Baas, and having injury prone Jonas Jennings starting at right tackle, the 49ers needed to focus on both lines. They also drafted receiver Josh Morgan out of Virginia Tech, who has played very well during the preseason, and linebacker Larry Grant out of Ohio State because of the necessity to fill those spots with quality players. The draft was not pretty, but necessary. 

Prediction: Dealing with the predictions for this team this upcoming season is very difficult. The defense is going to be successful only if the offense can learn an extremely complex system that Martz is known for all in one season.  If O’Sullivan can gain a familiarity with the offense, and can become in sync with his receivers and offensive line, the Niners have the potential to compete for the NFC West title. But hey, didn’t everyone say that last season?



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