San Francisco 49ers Prediction and Preview: NFC West Contenders?
The San Francisco 49ers had tons of controversy and turmoil last season. Mike Nolan led the team to an unacceptable 2-5 start in the weak NFC West. Nolan was kicked out of town after the disappointing start, and the 49ers named Mike Singletary the “interim coach.”
After Singletary took over the coaching role, the 49ers seemed to play with a different attitude for the rest of the season. San Francisco not only ended a seven-game losing streak, but was able to win five of their last seven games including an impressive 27-24 victory over Washington in Week 17.
J.T. O’Sullivan began the 2008 campaign behind center, but simply could not keep from completing passes to the wrong team. O’Sullivan threw 10 interceptions in his last five starts of the season before losing the starting role to Shaun Hill. Hill was able to control the ball much better and even became very effective with his arm through the latter part of the season.
Despite the offense's slow start, they did not look bad at all towards the end of the season. Defensively, the 49ers were along middle of the road holding opponents to 326 yards per game. However much like the offense, San Francisco’s defense flourished as the season progressed behind new coach Mike Singletary. Not only did the 49ers rebound to a 7-9 overall record, but they also have a bit to look forward to heading into 2009.
San Francisco was able to sign defensive end Demetric Evans over the offseason from the Washington Redskins. Evans had 33 tackles along with 3.5 sacks during the 2008 season and perhaps can find a way to help out the 49ers. San Francisco headed into the NFL Draft with a few areas of concern. Along with needs in the defensive secondary, the offense lacked any big playmakers.
San Francisco used their first round pick to draft who many people expect to be a sure playmaker in wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Crabtree mad a huge name for himself as one of the key players in the Texas Tech high-octane offense in 2008. Crabtree is a big wideout who can make all the catches as he has tremendous hands.There is no doubt Crabtree will be a force in the NFL, but it may be surprising that the playmaker was not drafted until San Francisco picked him up with the No. 10 overall selection.
The 49ers also snatched running back Glen Coffee out of Alabama in the third round. Coffee is a hard runner who has a lot of strength. Coffee will likely see playing time as a short yardage back early in his career, but could develop into an every-down player.
The 49ers also selected Scott McKillop at inside linebacker out of Pittsburgh. There is not a lot that is known of McKillop, but the linebacker position is a big area of concern so that should give the young rookie a chance to challenge for playing time.
The San Francisco offense will likely be under the control of quarterback Shaun Hill again in 2009. Hill must be able to keep the interceptions down considering how much it hurt the team last season. The 49ers offense should be able to be effective through the air and it will be interesting to see how Crabtree will play in his rookie season.
San Francisco lacks any big time wideouts so we expect the young wideout to land a starting role. The 49ers defense will be a big concern. The rush defense remains solid, but there are legitimate concerns in the secondary. If the defense can improve again this season, the 49ers should see even more accomplishments behind Coach Singletary.
San Francisco will get a solid test in the opening week of the regular season when they take on the defending NFC Champions, the Arizona Cardinals. San Francisco fortunately dwells in one of the weakest conferences in the NFL. However, they have some brutal out of conference matchups with Tennessee and Indianapolis. The 49ers should be able to muster out some wins within the division, and could flirt with finishing above .500.
Pick—Second in NFC West, 8-8 overall
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