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The core of the team is anchored by a young and talented group of players who will benefit from the experience gained from the recent trip to the Super Bowl. While the loss was disappointing to the 49ers, there are few reasons to doubt that they will be back for another shot next season.
Yet the 49ers must look back to their 2012-13 campaign and realize that some of their players did not match up to expectations. While some 49ers experienced setbacks due to injury and fatigue, others simply did not play up to par.
Here are eight 49ers who disappointed fans during the 2012 season.
Wide Receiver Randy Moss
The 49ers signed free agent Randy Moss to a one-year deal hoping for anything out of the veteran wide receiver.
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Most San Francisco fans would doubt that, especially after what they saw of him this past year.
When the 49ers signed Moss to a one-year, $1.75 million contract with additional incentives, they knew they were taking a relatively low risk on a player who despite his accolades, comes with plenty of baggage (sbnation.com).
With that being said, it may be hard to immediately throw Moss into this group. In his defense, Moss was being brought in to add depth to a position where, at the time, the 49ers already had a number of players. As long as he avoided becoming a distraction to the team and acted as a mentor to the 49ers young receiving core, any contributions on offense would be welcome.
Moss's stat lines in 2012 were not awe-inspiring. He had 28 receptions for 434 yards and two touchdowns over sixteen regular-season games (pro-football-reference.com).
Sure, Moss's age is a factor. Sure, Moss did not play the previous season.
However, Moss's own name creates a reputation, both good and bad. The 49ers did get some production out of him in 2012, but he should have been able to give more, especially when the team became thin at the position and Moss moved up on the depth chart. Despite having an opportunity for an increased role, his contributions remained lackluster (pro-football-reference.com).
Did Moss "give up" on his team like he did with other franchises? That is up for debate. He did not however, measure up to the production given by former great Jerry Rice at the same stage of his career (pro-football-reference.com).
That comparison alone warrants disappointment among 49er fans.
Defensive Tackle Isaac Sopoaga
Defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga saw a diminished role in 2012.
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Isaac Sopoaga has spent his entire nine-year career with the San Francisco 49ers. Up until the 2012 season, he has been a stalwart on the defensive line. He has been good—but not stunning—during his tenure, and while the 49ers defense has improved dramatically since he first starting playing in the NFL, Sopoaga's numbers have remained much the same.
Sopoaga had 21 tackles and one sack in 2012, compared to his best season in 2008 when he recorded 26 tackles playing defensive end (pro-football-reference.com).
While decent, the more significant statistic is that Sopoaga only played 31 percent of defensive snaps in 2012 as San Francisco utilized more nickel and dime packages. He also ranked 82 out of 85 nose guards and defensive tackles (sfgate.com).
It is hard to say whether or not the 49ers were hoping to get a lot out of Sopoaga. Yet all signs point to him being phased out of future San Francisco plans as they hope to build a younger core. His backup, Ricky Jean-Francois, is younger, cheaper and more versatile and looks to take over for Sopoaga next season.
If Sopoaga wanted to retain his starting role, his efforts certainly came up short. If he does continue with the 49ers, he will most likely be a backup and be forced to take a drastic salary cut.
Center Jonathan Goodwin
49ers center Jonathan Goodwin may also be phased out of the 49ers' long-term plans.
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John Madden referred to the 49ers' offensive line as one of the best and underrated lines in the NFL during the 2012 season (mercurynews.com).
With stars like Alex Boone, Joe Staley and Mike Iupati anchoring the line, it would be hard to argue with Madden's statement.
Yet if there were one glaring weakness along the line, it would have to focus on 34-year-old center Jonathan Goodwin.
Goodwin has played well since joining the 49ers in 2011 and it is hard to state that he "disappointed" San Francisco in 2012. At his age though, his best playing days are clearly behind him and while the rest of the offensive line is young and dynamic, Goodwin's age started to show in 2012.
In 2013, the NFC West figures to be a very tough division and the 49ers cannot afford to have any glaring holes in the offensive line, especially as they struggle to protect one of their hot commodities in quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
With that being stated, Goodwin will most likely be phased out, opening the door for youngsters Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney. Both of the potential replacements are versatile and come at a much cheaper price (rotoworld.com).
Looney's preparations have also warranted attention and have made Goodwin's future all the more uncertain. Looney stated:
I’ve been working at all three interior line positions this season. I think I’m getting a hang of center and I’m just going to work at it this offseason and come back better. Whether it’s at guard or center, I’ll do whatever the coaches want me to do and try at the best of my ability.
While Goodwin's play did not warrant any lack of confidence in the 49ers' coaching staff, it certainly did not make him an essential part of San Francisco's plans for next season.
Wide Receiver A.J. Jenkins
Rookie wide receiver A.J. Jenkins has yet to make an impact with the San Francisco 49ers.
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When the 49ers drafted Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, they were hoping for an explosive playmaker who could compliment incumbent starting receiver Michael Crabtree.
Jenkins may yet fill that role, but 2012 was not a season to compare with that statement.
He only played in three games during 2012 and failed to record a single reception. He was targeted only once and dropped the lone pass in his direction (sfgate.com).
In most cases, first-round draft picks are expected to have an immediate impact on their NFL franchises, especially at the playmaking positions like wide receiver. Such was not the case for Jenkins.
True, Jenkins was drafted by a team that had built up plenty of depth at the position. The 49ers already had Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams. They added Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. Yet when Manningham and Williams went down with season-ending injuries, Jenkins failed to take advantage of the situation and make an impact.
It is far too early to assume that Jenkins will be a first round bust. Most likely he is a work-in-progress and Jenkins stated that himself. "I want to contribute a lot more than I have been," said Jenkins, who plans to work with quarterback Colin Kaepernick this offseason. "So I'm going to make that happen and come back bigger, faster, stronger" (via cbssports.com).
The 49ers are also hoping for much more out of Jenkins as he enters his second professional season. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was hoping for a more immediate impact from Jenkins, but recognized that Jenkins faltered in his rookie season (sfgate.com).
If Harbaugh was disappointed in Jenkins, certainly the rest of the 49er Faithful is as well.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers
49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers saw a fall in his production during the 2012 season.
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In 2011, cornerback Carlos Rogers enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career, totaling 52 tackles and six interceptions. A year later, he still posted 50 tackles but had only one interception (pro-football-reference.com).
In Rogers' defense, it is hard to fault the lack of turnovers produced from one year to the next. Furthermore, the 49ers defensive line did not put nearly as much pressure on the opposition's quarterback in 2012 as they did in 2011. Defensive backfields are usually only as good as their defensive lines allow them to be.
Yet in Rogers' case, the 49ers signed him to be an elite shutdown corner who could lock down top receivers in key situations. Following some of his gameplay during the 2012-13 San Francisco playoff run, it was evident that Rogers was not equaling the challenge. He anchored a backfield that was 11th best out of 12 playoff teams in 2012 (49erswebzone.com).
Rogers had difficulty with receivers like Anquan Boldin and Julio Jones, and given San Francisco's salary cap concerns, Rogers' future with the team may be in question.
Make no mistake, Rogers is a solid cornerback and is still an asset to any NFL team. Yet Rogers is scheduled to make $5.85 million next season and there are questions surrounding whether or not his performance is worth the price tag (sfgate.com).
While his solid play-making abilities are not in question, he is no longer the priceless commodity that the 49ers hoped he would be.
Tight End Delanie Walker
Tight end Delanie Walker may have seen his last days in San Francisco.
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Playing in the shadows of fellow tight end Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker has developed into a solid and versatile receiver and run blocker.
His numbers even rose in 2012, catching 21 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns compared to 19 receptions for 198 yards and three touchdowns the year before (pro-football-reference.com).
Yet the one glaring weakness in Walker's 2012 gameplay was his potential for dropping catchable passes. In the divisional playoff game against Green Bay, Walker dropped two passes, making him less favorable as a target for Colin Kaepernick (kffl.com).
It is hard to guess how the lack of execution hurt the 49ers down the stretch and into their eventual Super Bowl loss. Had Walker been able to excel in this category, perhaps he would have been a much more suited target for Kaepernick in the passing game, especially when favored targets like Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree were well covered.
Walker remains a top priority in the 49ers resigning efforts this upcoming offseason and his talents far exceed those of just a receiver (sfgate.com). Given his recent struggles with the receiving game paired with the 49ers salary cap concerns, will Walker's future be with another NFL team?
It is hard to say at this point.
Tight End Vernon Davis
Tight end Vernon Davis' production fell off significantly in 2012.
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Tight end Vernon Davis still remains one of the most dynamic and talented tight ends in the NFL today.
With that being said, it is a wonder why he experienced such a sharp drop-off in production during the 2012 season.
In 2011 and two years removed from his career-best season, Davis amassed 792 receiving yards on 67 receptions with six touchdowns (pro-football-reference.com). 2012 figured to be another solid season for the vaunted tight end, which led to a climactic performance against the Chicago Bears in Week 11. In that game, Davis had six receptions for 83 yards and one touchdown.
Yet something happened with Davis following that game.
For the remainder of the regular season, Davis was held to only six catches, entering a cold streak at a time where the 49ers were in desperate need of receiving help. Davis attributed the problems to not yet having developed a solid rapport with quarterback Colin Kaepernick (via cbssports.com).
Regardless, the 49ers would have been able to benefit much more if Davis had been a larger part of the game plan during the latter portion of the regular season. Six catches over a six week span is not very good considering how valuable an asset he is to the team.
Fortunately, Davis found his mark in the playoffs posting back-to-back 100+ yard performances against both the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens (sfgate.com). While it may not have been enough to win the Super Bowl for the 49ers, it certainly states that Davis should remain a force for San Francisco next year.
Fans just hope that Davis will not endure another disappointing stretch like he did in the second half of the 2012 regular season.
Kicker David Akers
Kicker David Akers experienced the worst season of his NFL career in 2012.
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Up to this point, every player on this list could have been classified as needing improvement or only a minor disappointment.
Not so with kicker David Akers.
If there was one 49er who epitomized disappointment in 2012, Akers would have to be the choice.
Coming off a career-setting year in 2011, Akers experienced his worst year in 2012. He made only 29 field goals out of 42 attempts, good for a lowly 69 percent (pro-football-reference.com).
He had two less-than-memorable moments in overtime play against the St. Louis Rams in Weeks 10 and 13. Had Akers made both of those field goals, the 49ers would have won both games instead of having a tie and a loss, respectively.
Even though San Francisco made it to the Super Bowl and Akers made all three attempted field goals during the game, head coach Jim Harbaugh certainly felt some concern over his veteran kicker and it is possible that such concern affected some of the play calling.
Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Akers falls into being part of the problem and not with the solution of the 49ers' future.
In Akers' defense, he did struggle with complications resulting from double-hernia surgery the previous offseason (49erswebzone.com). While that may explain his disappointing season, there are no mulligans in football and injuries do not put points up on the board.
Akers is set to make $3 million next season, although the 49ers are all but certain to part ways with the veteran kicker and evaluate other options (csnbayarea.com).
For Akers and the 49ers kicking game, 2012 will be a season to forget.