Under-the-Radar San Francisco 49ers Ready to Break out in 2012
While the Patrick Willises and Justin Smiths of the world should credited for the 49ers' recent success, it would be a pity to leave out the under-the-radar players that contributed to this transformation.
Who expected Dashon Goldson or Ray McDonald, or even Alex Smith to have breakout seasons last year? The unexpected led to a huge turnaround in 2011 for this 49ers squad that fell one game short of a Super Bowl appearance.
Can we expect the same in 2012? Sure, why not?
Here are four under-the-radar players to watch out for in the upcoming season.
Anthony Davis (OT)
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After a miserable rookie season, Davis made huge strides in the right direction during his sophomore campaign.
Inconsistencies, especially in pass protection, continue to frustrate both teammates and fans alike, but at least improvement was made in 2011.
His run-blocking improved, and during stretches of the regular season, Davis was actually stout in pass protection.
Can we expect Davis to continue making strides in 2012? The big fella has all the talent and physical attributes in the world, but mentally, he must play catch-up.
Bruce Miller (FB)
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The former defensive lineman-turned-fullback had a surprisingly excellent rookie campaign.
Miller is a solid runner and blocker, but his talent really shines in passing downs.
His athleticism allows him to be a menace as a receiving threat, which should push Harbaugh into implementing Miller more within the offense next season.
Tarell Brown (CB)
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Tarell Brown, who started opposite All-Pro Carlos Rogers, was phenomenal at times last season. Even during the Mike Singletary era, Brown was considered a promising prospect.
Brown won't be a free agent till 2014, but after his swell 2011 season, I expect the Niners to re-sign the talented defensive back before his value skyrockets. Teams will pay handsomely for a young defensive back of Brown's caliber.
Despite his rather short frame (5'10''), Brown has excellent length to bother taller receivers. He flourishes in man-to-man and press coverage. Brown can even play some zone, which should highlight his versatility.
Brown could be possibly looking at a Pro Bowl nod in 2012 if his play continues to rise.
Brandon Jacobs (RB)
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This may be a surprising selection, especially after being so bashful about the quantity of running backs at the 49ers' disposal.
While I still find the 49ers' overcrowded backfield a bit troubling, Jacobs, with the exception of Frank Gore, will have the most clearly defined role.
With his bruising running style, Jacobs will be the perfect goal-line back in San Fran's running oriented offense. Look for Jacobs to possibly hit close to double digits in rushing touchdowns for the 2012 season.