In 2013, the San Francisco 49ers storm into training camp with high expectations and a chip on their shoulder.
Five yards and a no-call is all that separated this team from their sixth Lombardi Trophy and the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. This season the team has shifted gears, rebooting for a new generation of 49ers football.
Hardnosed defense and explosive, innovative offense is the name of the game for San Fran. But going forward, the future of this organization will rest on the successes and failures of their new franchise quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
In the following slides, we’ll thoroughly assess the central themes and storylines of San Francisco’s 2013 offseason. It will range from camp battles to roster breakdowns to the burning questions we can’t seem to shake.
Trent Baalke (left) and Jim Harbaugh (right) are gearing up for their third offseason together.
Training Camp: Rookies report on July 19, veterans arrive on July 24, located at the Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Center in Santa Clara, Calif.
Roster Cuts: August 27, Down to 75 by 4:00 p.m. ET; August 31, Down to 53 by 6:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 8: vs. Denver Broncos
Aug. 16: at Kansas City Chiefs
Aug. 25: vs. Minnesota Vikings
Aug. 29: at San Diego Chargers
Which 49ers players will get to grace Candlestick Park in its last season ever?
Since the Super Bowl, there have been a lot of new faces strolling around the Bay Area headquarters. A lot of these newcomers, whether they are rookies or veterans, come from very esteemed backgrounds and are looking to impact this roster.
Over the next month, the evaluation period will help San Francisco deem which players are worthy of a slot on the roster or the practice squad. In other cases, they’ll be trying to determine who is ready for more responsibility on game day.
The point of this offseason will be to sharpen the look of this roster yet again. Come September, the 49ers will have said goodbye to close to 40 names that are currently in camp working for a spot.
For complete analysis of the entire roster, click here.
Are the 49ers ready to move forward without Michael Crabtree?
The 49ers are no longer one of the league’s struggling franchises, and as a result, there seem to be less and less concerns about the direction of this team. Though, like any one of the 31 other franchises, San Francisco is susceptible to the elements. Inevitable change on the roster, as well as the front office and sideline, has produced several unknowns.
How the 49ers endure the loss of receiver Michael Crabtree is just one of many hot topics floating around out there. The reigning 1,000-yard pass-catcher woefully tore his Achilles tendon in OTAs, which will prevent him contributing until late in the season, at least.
The chemistry Crabtree exhibited with quarterback Colin Kaepernick was second to none, and that kind of natural hookup cannot be forced nor manifested overnight. It will fall on the shoulders of No. 7 to find a rhythm with one of several up-and-comers on the roster.
All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson also took his talents to Tampa Bay, signing as the Buccaneers’ high profile free-agent acquisition. This created yet another void where a top-tier player used to reside. Throw in tight end Delanie Walker, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and kicker David Akers, and you have a team that is in flux at all three phases of the game.
For complete analysis for the 49ers’ burning questions, click here.
Is last year's first-rounder, A.J. Jenkins, ready to take the role at WR?
Considering the 49ers have a defense with six Pro Bowl starters and an offense that is affecting change league-wide, it is no surprise that there are not many openings available on the roster.
The fact is, San Fran has one of the deepest rosters in professional sports, with most of the positions settled, even when it comes to second and third-string players. However, their success has not gone unnoticed, and it has led to other teams poaching their prospective free agents in the offseason.
This will allow for select positional battles to take place.
This year, wide receiver, safety and defensive line are all hot positions in 49ers training camp. By means of injury and the free-agent market, there will be significant changeover at those positions.
Other positions in mild transition are at backup tight end and outside linebacker. The 49ers are actively looking for talent to emerge there, counting on contributions from their No. 2s this season. In a spirited environment populated by front runners and underdogs, the 49ers will find their answers in training camp.
For complete analysis of the 49ers’ biggest training camp battles, click here.
Eric Reid is San Francisco's rookie to watch in 2013.
It is hard to believe that the defending NFC champions bulked up more than any team in their conference. The 49ers went into Radio City with enough capital to dictate the board for three straight days. It was impressive, to say the least.
Regardless of the stacked roster we discussed in the slide prior, San Francisco came out of the draft with a lot of picks (11). They were also prepped and readied for the UDFAs that fell through the cracks, having made a few noteworthy signings.
Moreover, everyone joins this roster with different first-year expectations.
Eric Reid, Tank Carradine, Vance McDonald and Quinton Patton highlight the band of guys looking to contribute right now. Then there are players like Marcus Lattimore and Quinton Dial, who, for injury or experience reasons, will not be rushed onto the field in 2013.
However, the latter are not to be forgotten, as they may become factors down the line.
Among this crop of UDFAs, the 49ers will also be on the lookout for a gem to stash on their practice squad. The front-office brass found underdeveloped players with high ceilings, especially if these prospects take to the coaching.
For complete analysis of the 49ers’ rookies and UDFAs, click here.
Nnamdi Asomugha has an uphill battle to make this roster in 2013.
It is no mystery that the 49ers tout one of the most competitive ballclubs in the National Football League. In a fierce business where the thematic question is “what have you done for me lately,” the 49ers have upped the ante.
By raising the performance standard and refusing to play favorites, the organization has made it even harder on employees hoping for job security. Year in and year out, San Francisco’s players have to scratch and claw to earn a role, which is a competitive philosophy that has ultimately produced results.
The team has roughly 40-plus guys that understand what it takes to adequately represent the 49ers brand on Sunday. Now entering the third year of the Jim Harbaugh era, there are only around 10 openings that are truly up for grabs.
As coach Harbaugh himself would tell you, “it is a meritocracy” in San Francisco, and those jobs will be won outright. With that said, returning players like Anthony Dixon and newcomers like Nnamdi Asomugha are all fighting for their livelihood.
For complete analysis of 49ers players on the bubble, click here.
Will Patrick Willis finally lead his team to the promise land in 2013?
Cutting down to the final 53-man roster can be bittersweet for the coaching staff. On the one hand, there is the belief that they’ve improved their roster. And on the other, they had to say farewell to several players they believed in and formed relationships with.
Considering roughly 90 percent of San Francisco’s final roster is locked in, the staff will pay close attention while configuring the remainder. As they look to contend for another Super Bowl, the 49ers cannot afford a single misstep during their final cut-down period.
For complete analysis and projections of the 49ers’ final 53-man roster, click here.
Dylan DeSimone is the San Francisco 49ers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. A former NFL journalist and fantasy football writer for SB Nation, Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area, Dylan now writes for B/R.
To talk football with Dylan, follow him on Twitter @DeSimone80.