In 2008 the eventual NFC Champs, the Arizona Cardinals, swept the San Francisco 49ers. Now the 49ers have the chance to prove themselves and others when they face Warner and company in week one.
As to who will be under center when that day comes is still in the air. Hopefully, we will be witnessing Alex Smith take the field to finally prove that he can become the franchise QB the 49ers envisioned him to be in 2005 when they selected him first overall.
The offense will be taking a similar approach to the one used in 2006 when Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator.
Mike Singletary is centering the offense on Frank Gore, bringing in Jimmy Raye as the new man to call the offensive plays while signing 49er alum Tom Rathman as RB coach. Frank Gore will be running behind the re-signed FB Moran Norris, who was a member of the 49ers in 06-07. Norris was a key piece to Gore's success in 2006, as his blocks helped him run for a total of 1,695 yards and earn a Pro Bowl selection.
The offensive line was upgraded with the signing of veteran RT Marvel Smith this offseason. With a fairly young offensive line, Smith will help develop a strong unit in both the passing and running game.
The 49ers can not afford to be one-dimensional in their offensive attack, so with the 10th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft they selected Michael Crabtree to hopefully become the number one receiver, something they have missed since Terrell Owens left San Francisco.
Crabtree will be under the wing of Isaac Bruce, who has the chance to groom the young receiver as he did last season with Josh Morgan and the rest of the young receivers.
I believe the passing game will still be just as important as the run this season; maybe we will see Crabtree and Morgan kick start the season and have people taking notice that the 49ers are surely able to throw the ball.
The defense hasn't really been improved as far as drafting and free agent signings have gone this offseason; with the exception of signing the defensive end Demetric Evans.
Even then, we're still left wondering if he's really an upgrade; I'm not too sure about that, but we will see.
I do believe our linebackers are ready to become mainstays, especially with Patrick Willis and a healthy Manny Lawson making plays from sideline to sideline.
The 49ers secondary is what worries me the most, mainly the FS position which is being battled out between Dashon Goldson and Reggie Smith. Our CB situation is serviceable, but I want to see someone emerge and eventually replace the veteran Walt Harris.
I expect to see Isaac Sopoaga become the Nose Tackle we have all been waiting for. Last year's first round pick Kentwan Balmer is still a question mark and hopefully he can start on the opposite end of Justin Smith.
I think the 49ers are close to taking the NFC West Title, but it all depends if we get consistent QB play.
Personally I would like to see Alex Smith step up and shine, shake that "bust" label off and help this team end this playoff drought. Maybe with Jimmy Raye's offense, he can improve on his 2006 numbers and finally break out this season. Even our defense will benefit from a strong offensive showing.
If Alex Smith can't figure out how to shine, I do think Shaun Hill can step in and at the very least be a game manager. Of course, the team as a whole has to stay healthy; if they can do that I think the 49ers can come away this season with a 10-6 record at best, or the very least an 8-8 record.
Will that be good enough to win the division? Possibly, as I think the 49ers have the pieces to be successful this season. The players seem to play better under new head coach Mike Singletary, and with the changes they have made I can see the playoffs on the horizon. The game at Arizona looks to set the stage.
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