With the 2009 Season approaching there are a several veterans on the 49ers that must step up and produce to stay in the teams plans for the future.
I came up with the top five players that need a breakthrough season to survive another year with the 49ers. Some of the players have more competition at their position.
Others have expiring contracts this year and have not been living up to expectations. Who on this list will make it?
Moran Norris, has returned with the hopes of regaining his blocking presence that he displayed in 2006. He allowed Frank Gore to break several 49ers team records for rushing that year.
This year, Mike Singletary plans on running up the middle more often and Norris is the key to make sure he takes out the linebackers and defensive backs that are targeting Gore. If Norris does his job and allows the 49er running attack to thrive, he will be back again next year.
Robinson has been the 49ers utility man for a few years now. He has shown the ability be a playmaker on Special Teams by blocking, tackling and returning the ball. Robinson has also been good at spelling Frank Gore; he can catch, block, run and even be a weapon for the Wildcat package. This year he finds himself in the middle of a now crowed backfield with two promising rookies in Glen Coffee and Kory Sheets. Michael will need to step up in camp this year and make plays whenever he gets an opportunity. If he fails to do anything extraordinary this year, he may not be back for another as a 49er.
Manny Lawson is a locker room favorite; his unique sense-of-humor and leadership ability make him valuable. However, he needs to find a way to get more sacks, create turnovers and stay healthy.
Lawson has put on more bulk, stayed in Santa Clara and has worked hard this off season to get primed for a full-time role to rush the passer and be available on all three downs. If he can't get to the Quarterback this year, it would be hard-pressed to imagine him getting a big extension, if any next off season.
Vernon Davis, a favorite of Mike Singletary and now that Coach cleared his head and refocused him to think more about the team and less of himself he has a chance to change his perception this season.
Going into last season, Former Head Coach Mike Nolan and Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, said several times in Training Camp that Vernon was going to have big role and the ball will be going this way often. That never happened.
The lack of a solid RT prevented Davis from catching passes because he had to fill in and help block. Because the Quarterbacks’ were constantly getting harassed and injured on a frequent basis (see Barry Sims, Jonas Jennings).
This season with new OC Jimmy Raye Davis should get a fair chance to prove that he is the mismatch nightmare that we all want him to be. He just has to learn to focus on the ball and make adjustments with his body to bring the ball in for a catch on a consistent basis. If he continues to be inconsistent in his attitude, and making catches, I doubt he will get a contract extension with sure handed back-ups Delanie Walker and Rookie Bear Pascoe waiting for their chance.
There have been countless articles about why Alex Smith has not been successful as the starting QB for the 49ers. The former first overall pick has dealt with enough adversity in his first four years to fulfill some Quarterbacks' entire careers. Alex will get his shot at some point this year regardless if he gets beat out by Shaun Hill for the starting job.
Nevertheless, when he does get his chance he needs to perform at a level that would allow him to return as the starter and make good decisions. Alex would have to let his play do the talking on why he was chosen as the first pick in the draft in 2005.
Jimmy Raye's offense is strikingly similar to Norv Turner's offense that was implemented in 2006. With less of a learning curve this year compared to his first four, I believe he will get a chance to redeem himself and possibly win the “2009 Comeback Player of the Year Award”.