This has been an interesting offseason for the San Francisco 49ers. After losing the NFC Championship game to the eventual SuperBowl 48 champion Seattle Seahawks, small issues started to pop up around the 49ers empire.
First, the issue with Jim Harbaugh & GM Trent Baalke not getting along & the possibility that Harbaugh could either leave after this coming season or the 49ers allegedly willing to trade Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns. Obviously, the Browns deal didn’t happen but it leaves quite a bit of uncertainty around the organization & the future of the organization.
After that, star defensive end Aldon Smith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for alluding to possibly having a bomb or access to a bomb. Smith won’t be charged in the case, but it goes with the issues that Smith dealt with last year after being charged on DUI & weapons charges, which he pleaded no contest to both, with sentencing coming on July 25. The NFL has made it clear that virtually anything that is even close to a guilty verdict in a case will lead to some kind of suspension or hefty fine, which Smith will most likely be facing.
Even though this wasn’t a big story in the grand scheme of things, quarterback Colin Kaepernick found himself in the news, being caught with other NFL players in a hotel room in a compromising situation with a woman. Kaepernick was cleared of any wrong doing, & it was great for him as he received a brand new 6-year, $126 million dollar contract, with $61 million in guarantees.
As the 2014 NFL season approaches, the 49ers will be able to go back to doing what they have done better than most teams in the league over the last few years – actually playing football.
Most importantly, being able to work on getting back to the NFC Championship Game & possibly back to the SuperBowl, a place they were at in 2013 when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans.
San Francisco 49ers Offense
The 49ers didn’t make many changes on the offense this season, but they made some major acquisitions that will make the offense much more potent & ready for the Seattle Seahawks in the regular season & possibly in the NFC Playoffs. The team traded for wide receiver Stevie Johnson from the Buffalo Bills, a player who became expendible by the Bills after the team drafted Sammy Watkins from Clemson in the NFL Draft.
Having Johnson available with Anquan Boldin & Michael Crabtree possibly in the slot, along with Vernon Davis, one of the best receiving tight ends in the league, gives the 49ers a very potent passing game & gives Kaepernick many more options to spread the ball too, with players who can play well against the zone packages or in one-on-one situations.
In the running game, the 49ers looked at the future with Frank Gore starting to slow down just a bit & some of the hits getting to him from his aggressive running style over the years. The team drafted Carlos Hyde from Ohio State, a player who has many of the same skills as Gore, but has just a bit more ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, making the passing game even more effective.
The team also has former South Carolina Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore, who didn’t play last season as he was recovering from a devastating ACL injury during his last season at South Carolina. If Lattimore is fully healthy, then the 49ers have a great 3-headed running game which will give Kaepernick all the protection in the world, along with a great & stable offensive line protecting him.
San Francisco 49ers Defense
For the first time in many seasons, the 49ers defense has many questions that will need to be answered, potentially early in the season.
In the linebacking core, the team will need to expect that Aldon Smith may be suspended for some portion of the season, which means Dan Skuta is going to need to fill in & really step his game up. He may not be at Aldon Smith’s level, but if he can be consistent through possible suspension time, it could be enough for the 49ers to sweat through until the possible suspension is over.
On the other side of the field, the other outside linebacking spot was held down by NaVarro Bowman, who suffered an ACL injury in the NFC Championship game last year. The 49ers have him listed as a starter on the depth chart, but the question will be if Bowman will fully be ready to start come week 1 or will he not be the same guy that has complemented Patrick Willis & Smith for the last few seasons, being a major part of the best linebacking core in the NFL.
In the secondary, the 49ers lost cornerback Carlos Rogers & strong safety Donte Whitmer, two players who anchored the secondary for the last few years. The 49ers have replaced them with Tramaine Brock & Antoine Bethea, which could possibly be a step down in the secondary position, but if the rest of the Niners defense can stay strong & healthy, the team will be able to overcome this & bringing the secondary along to that elite level.
San Francisco 49ers Record Prediction
The team will be the 5th team in the NFC playoffs, only because of the dominance of the Seattle Seahawks. The team should go 11-5 again this year, but the real test for the team will absolutely be the games at the end of the season with the Seattle Seahawks.