Lets face it, us niner fans haven't had a season to be proud of in a while. This very well could be a thing of the past soon. With the tools we have at hand and the amount of young talent, we could have a break out season.
I'm going to start off with our coaches.
Singletary is going to have his first full year as head coach. If he can keep up the progress he made at the end of last year, things will be bright. He will need to keep the (locker room) shenanigans under control yet still be able to get his passion for the game across to players. As far as micro managing the game that is something that i believe will come to him very fast. Many people criticized him for his poor display of game time management. Im sure this has been brought to his attention and he has made some minor changes in his philosophy to better incorporate time management. Yet at the same time he is a grind them out type of coach and intends having the ball the majority of the game. We must remember that this his first year as a head coach and like many, things experience is the best teacher. With having the last seven games of last year to work out a lot of the initial stresses, i believe he is going to be a very successful and motivating coach this year.
Greg Manusky has done a well job in running our defence the last two years. He has a lot of talent on his side of the ball. As far as I'm concerned we just need him to keep on doing what he has been doing. Being a former linebacker like Singletary, they should be able to work together well in order to keep this defence performing well.
Jimmy Raye, our new Offensive Coordinator, quit possibly has the most difficult task on hand. Not a single Offensive Coordinator has had a successful nor long stay in San Francisco in recent years. Possibly the fact they haven't been able to stick around long enough to work out the kinks is the reason they have found it hard to find success. There are some good things that may be able to work in his advantage. One of those things is his shear experience. Having been a coach for over 30 years with the majority of them being in the position of Offensive Coordinator he shouldn't have a problem getting his system working. Another thing that will work into his favor will be the young weapons that he will be able to groom. I truly believe that if they give this guy a chance that he may be able to bring a strong offensive game plan to the 49ers, something we have lacked in previous years.
Now I want to go a little into our offense. This is where I believe we make or break our year. Having the young players we do have im hoping this side of the ball will finally start clicking.
In my eyes the most vital step in getting our offense together is solving this quarterback issue. The easiest and most obvious way to do this would be to name Shaun Hill the starter and and leader of offense. I think this will help to boost his confidence and begin taking charge of this team. He has proven he can lead the team and win games. The biggest issue i can see with him would be keeping him healthy. That responsibility will mostly fall on our offensive line. Although being the starting quarterback of a franchise holds the most pressure, Hill wont be asked to do as much as many other QBs in the league. The rest of the quarterbacks on the roster haven't proven their ability to win, or simply lack the experience needed to hold this position.
Frank Gore will once again be the work horse of our team. Look for him to get around 350 or more touches this season if he stays healthy. I can easily see him getting 15-20 rushes and 3-5 receptions per game. The acquisition of Moran Norris will help the running game. Gore had two great seasons (06-07) running behind Norris. Hopefully they can regain that unity they once had. The biggest problem we might have in the running game will be our 3rd down back, the person that will relieve Gore. This is why we picked up rookie Glen Coffee. He is a physical down hill runner similar to Gore himself. Otherwise Michael Robinson and Thomas Clayton will need to try and step up here. Robinson showed a little bit of talent last year but simply lacked the reps. Look for rookie Glen Coffee to get a chance to prove himself here.
The most exciting part of this season will be to watch how our passing game evolves. We can depend on Bruce being there when we need him. Although he doesn't have the excitement and big play ability he had earlier in his career, he is still a great dependable receiver. Since we lost Bryant Johnson to free agency the number 2 receiver is open to debate. Of course many people would love to see Crabtree step into this position right away. I personally don't think he will given that role till part way through the season. Right now I think Arnaz Battle should own the opposite side of Bruce(yes I no he isn't listed as the second*check bottom for explanation*). Battle is our only receiver who has managed to stick around and continue to put up some decent numbers. Look for second year man Josh Morgan to possibly be given this spot to start depending on how well each improved in the off-season and his performance in the preseason. Morgan showed great ball skills last year. Although he wasn't thrown to much, the times he was thrown at he made sure to prove himself deserving of it. Crabtree will be expected to move in to the first or second slot before the end of the season. They will just want to see how he handles coming back from foot surgery. Also they will want him to have some time to adjust to the speed of NFL play. This will also be a make or break season for Vernon Davis. I truly believe if he doesn't step his game up we might see a move next year to replace him. I'm not saying he hasn't done OK so far in his career I'm just saying that he hasn't preformed to the level we expected to get from him. He has done quite well handling his blocks but we haven't seen as much receptions from him as we would like. Also he hasn't been thrown to a whole bunch. Look for that to change this year. I expect him to be a vital role in our passing game this year. There will also be quite a competition between the rest of the receivers to see snaps. Brandon Jones, Jason Hill, and Dominique Zeigler will most likely be the other receivers in the rotation. Don't expect to see a lot of these guys but we may need them to step it up if we have an injury to our other receivers.
Once again our offensive line will be the squad on the offensive side of the ball under the most scruntincy. It would be biast of me to even say they did OK last year. My biggest disapointment so far this year is our lack change on the offensive line. I am by no means trying to down play the arrival of Marvel Smith. I do believe that if Smith's heath isn't an issue this year he will play a very important part in the line at LT. This will also bring in a good veteran leader for the younger guys. I would really liked/like to atleast see them bring a guy or two to cause some sort of compition on the line. Hopefully there can be a little more unity on the line this year. If Marvel is indeed the answer we have been looking for, and can give our quarterback a little more time on the blindside pass rush, we are in good shape.
The good things we have going for our offensive is well spread and should give us a ballanced offensive attack. With Shaun hill most likely being given the reigns, he is going to have his first year as the starter. He is going to be able to show he can bring wins to the franchize through out the whole season. Our passing game finally has many threats and appears to have all the pieces in place. Finally our line hopefullly has that anchor that the can band around that they have needed for years.
Now lets take a look at the deffensive side of the ball. Lets remember our deffense did pretty good last year. The thing that hurt them the most was their amout of time spent on the field due to the offenses lack of being able to put together time consuming drives.
Our linebacker squad is deffantly the best thing we have going on our defense. Future hall of famer Patrick Willis is improving at a impressive rate. And with last years addition of Takeo Spikes the middle should be held strong this year. This is important that we have two strong inside linebackers in our 3-4 scheem. Look for many tackles coming from these two. Quite possiblly 100+ tackle seasons from these two. Parys Haralson has held his ground and is still a young athletic player. He should once again do fine on the right side. Then we have Manny Lawson on the other side of this linebacker core. Lawson is also a young player with good size. I expect to see Lawson to perform better this year simply because of the amount of other skill on this linebacker core. Patrick Willis will continue to grow into one of those dominante deffensive leaders that other players thrive off of.
Our secondary should also be stronger this year because of a key addition. Dre' Bly will bring good balance. Now teams will be forced to spread the ball around the feild instead of picking on one side. With Clements on the oppsite side of Bly teams will be forced to be careful where they throw the ball. Both of these players are big play makers and are capable to cover almost any reciever out there one on one. Michael Lewis and Mark Roman have managed to do enough here so far. Roman could work on his pass deffence a little. Lewis has been solid and look for him to thrive once again. Teams are not going to pass on us as much because of the people we have back there.
Like our O-line, our D-line in the weakest link. It would be nice to see last years first round pick in Kentwan Balmer make an impact this year. That would be the best thing that could happen for our deffensive line. Justin Smith is the only person on this line that had a decent performance last year. He should do good again this year. Aubrayo Franklin didnt have a standout year but numbers arent what we are looking from him. We just need him to clogg up the middle. If Kentwan Balmer isnt able to step it up and take over the left side of the line then we will be depending on Ray McDonald again. Mcdonald struggeled last year.
How we do against the run will determine how well of defense holds up. We have a solid core in our linebackers. We are going to need to stuff the gaps and force our opponents into 3rd and long situations. This is where we will have a chance to make big plays and get the ball in the hands of our offence.
*note on WR line up* I only say that Battle should start the season cause we need some one we can depend on before Crabtree steps into this role. Also it will be good to get Morgan adjusted to playing the slot reciever, the place we are most likely to see hm playing the majority of the year.