Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!
Turn over, attrition and separation are all a part of every job in our society. The National Football League is no different.
In come the new, and out go the old. Transition is coming like the Grim Reaper for some of the 49er veterans and rookies this year. So many new faces and bodies coming into Santa Clara that it will be hard to keep up with the different moves without a sports guide.
This rookie class of 2010 comes in with a few kids who have something to prove. Some of the fellow 49er writers and bloggers have deemed them "Kids with a chip on their shoulders."
They will need this chip every day to win a job, because the vets will not go out with out a fight!
The free agents on this list have some desire to prove people wrong as well. Several players are coming back from injuries or were disregarded by NFL teams in the 2010 draft. Ted Ginn has something of chip on his soldier as well. No one wants to be traded for a fifth round pick when they were selected as a first round pick just three years ago.
The competition is going to be tough this year, and some old faces on the roster from 2009 may have to lead, follow or step a side.
Corner Back Battles: Can Nate Clements get his job back?
Nate Clements comes back in 2010 looking to get the starting cornerback role back after he lost his job to bad play. Nate Clements was visually disappointed about the decision of coach Singletary to demote him, but became injured and ruled out for the 2009 season, before he had a chance to regain his job back. Well he is back this year to regain his position.
Some faithful fans want Nate Clements to move to safety, while others want him to regain his form and get his job back. This year there are seven veterans competing for jobs with four rookie hopefuls looking to make an impact onto the roster at the CB position.
Tarell Brown took over the starting job for Nate Clements in week 8 against the Colts. Tarell Brown's play at times was better than average, and at times was unspectactular. His worst game came against the Green Bay Packers where he was exploited most of the day. Tarell looks to be one of the top three cornerbacks in camp this year.
Shawntee Spencer impressed many of the loyal faithful with his play last year, but was totally exposed by the Green Bay Packers passing attack. He also was sucked in by a running back pass play in the Indy game to give the Colts the win. It is assumed by this writer that Shawntee will be one of the starters on defense in 2010. Spencer showed great coverage ability in 2009. Hopefully he can build on that play in 2010.
Will James is a 10 year veteran who played pretty well for Detroit last year. He started 14 games and had 73 total tackles, two interceptions and one TD. He should move into the nickle back position if he doesn't challenge Shawntee Spencer or Tarell Brown for the weak side corner back position.
Karl Paymah, a one-time resident of Culver City California and former player for the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos comes to town hoping to land a position. Paymah signed as a free agent in 2010.
Keith Smith is a five-year veteran who hopes to make an impact on the team. He played three games for the 49ers late in the 2009 year, after the team was decimated with injuries in the defensive back field.
Rookies Patrick Stoudamire, Tramaine Brock, Phillip Adam, and Leroy Vann don't offer enough talent at this point in their careers to remove the veterans from their positions, but hopefully one of them will come in and compete for a starting position.
None of the rookies or veterans are as good as Nate Clements, but can one of them cause him to finally learn to lead?
Defensive Lineman: Kentwan Balmer your time is now!
When Kentwan Balmer was drafted in the first round in 2008 most of the 49er faithful asked themselves: "Who?"
Most fans still ask who when his name is called out by stadium announcers and TV Commentators. I thought the 49ers were going to draft Desean Jackson, but Kentwan Balmer was a need pick, and thus chosen in the first round.
Kentwan has been very mediocre over the past two seasons, and is another candidate to step up his game or find himself saying hello to the Turk come the end of training camp. Kentwan has not shown the ability to make inside pressure on the quarterback and does not show a high motor that moves the pile.
Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray Mcdonald, Ricky Jean Francios, Demetric Evans, Khaliff Mitchell and Derek Walker are all ahead of Ketwan Balmer at this point. Kentwan Balmer must have a great camp in order to keep his job. It's time for Kentwan to become a leader on defense or step aside.
Outside Linebacker: Manny Lawson where are you?
Lawson came to the 49ers as a high draft-choice with much potential. His length made him the perfect candidate to come off the edge in a 3-4 defense. Manny has been criticized for his inability to create plays from his position. Manny is one of the 49er players who must step up his game to keep his job.
There is so much competition this year at this position, that Lawson will have to play his best football. The 6'5" 240 lbs veteran will get a challenge from Ahmad Brooks who played really well when given the chance in 2009.
The 49ers have also picked up Travis LaBoy, who played for the Arizona Cardinals, before he was injured in 2008. Matt Wilhelm will also be in the mix to compete for the starting role.
Lawson must have a great camp to remain the leader at this position in 2010.
ILB: Navorro Bowman and Scott Mckillop make a push
The team has drafted two players in the past two years to build depth for the future at the weak Inside Linebacker position to play along side Patrick Willis. Scott Mckillop and Navorro Bowman are two players that are really good tacklers. Well we all know it takes a little more than great tackling to make it in the NFL.
Takeo Spikes is the veteran at this position, and I am not sure they can move the 12-year veteran from his post. Takeo is the inspirational leader of this defense in my opinion. He brings knowledge and wisdom that helps this team get better every week.
Takeo will get a push from these two hungry rookies, but none of the candidates like Martail Burnett or Brandon Long move the tenured veteran. Takeo is a leader and will continue to lead in 2010.
Punt Return: Ted Ginn Jr earns redemption?
Last year the kick/punt return team for the 49ers was less than mediocre—it was dismal, and partially the reason the 49ers didn't make the playoffs in 2009. Everyone remembers the fumble by Brandon Jones in the final game against the Seahawks in 2009. It was awful.
Well, Mike Singletary went out and picked up players who will help correct that problem. The team has drafted Kyle Williams from Arizona State, and traded for Ted Ginn Jr., who was a first-round pick for the Miami Dolphins three years ago. Both players have the potential to come in and vie for a wide out spot, but both could confirm a spot by being versatile enough to compete in both roles as a returner and wide receiver.
The team also has undrafted free agent prospect Leroy Vann who excited crowds down in South Florida with his NCAA record breaking returns. At 5'8" and 175 lbs, Vann will have to be everything his highlight films showed, in order to make the 49ers roster. Nevertheless, this year the 49ers went out and got people who will help improve that part of the special teams.
Lets wait and see who comes out the leader at the position.
Special Teams Captain: Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson actually started this debate. The question was posed as to what veterans would step aside in 2010? Michael Robinsons' name was the first to appear. Robinson has become a special player to the organization, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why.
Last year Michael Robinson was the third back on the 49ers roster. He ran the ball three times for two yards. He caught the ball six times for 24 yards. My assumption is he has intangibles none of the fans see. He had 20 total tackles on special teams. He returned 18 kickoffs for a 23 yard average.
Michael has been noted for his toughness on special teams, but this year the versatile veteran will step aside. His position will be challenged by newcomer Anthony Dixon. If Dixon can become a viable blocker in the passing game he will unseat the five-year veteran.
Michael Robinnson has held his job by default. Neither Thomas Clayton nor Kory Sheets could block well enough to unseat Robinson. That should change this year with a bigger stronger Anthony Dixon competing for the third spot in the back field.
Michael Robinson keep your bags packed. This year you will step aside.
David Baas: Leader or Follower?
David Baas, Chilo Rachal, and Tony Wragge are all in jeopardy of falling to second string or worse. Actually, with the team drafting two highly touted linemen in the first round, the whole offensive line could be reshuffled.
The obvious answer is to move David Baas to back up and Adam Snyder becomes a reserve. Mike Iupati moves in to the left guard role and Anthony Davis becomes a starting right tackle, or the eventual starting left tackle. Still too early to assume any of this until the pads are put on in August.
Baas and Rachal were exposed on different plays last year, but both had fairly decent seasons. The addition of the two rookies forces both of the players to step up their game. The domino effect of the drafts puts pressure on guys like Cody Wallace and Alex Boone who hope to make the 53-man roster this year.
Other hopefuls like Brian De La Puente and Patrick Chris will have to learn to follow until someone gets injured. Barry Sims is the best overall back up on the team at the tackle position, and it sounds like Tony Wragge is trying to fill the role as back up center. Joe Staley remains the best lineman on the team until one of these rookies gains enough experience to unseat him.
This group has several people who will have to step up their game or pack their bags.
Mark Roman: Odd Man Out?
Brett Favre has 14 seconds on the clock. He takes his drop. He sees no one open. Justin Smith misses him barely! Brett Farve gets the ball off just before Manny Lawson can get to him. The ball is thrown and Greg Lewis catches the ball just out of the reach of...?
You guessed it. Mark Roman was the victim that day, but there have been better days for Roman.
One of the big hits of the 2009 season came from Mark Roman, when he blasted St. Louis wide receiver Danny Amendola coming over the middle. He also Woo-Hit Arizona Cardinal wide out Jerhme Urban in the first meeting of the 2009 season. That hit could be heard across the world.
Roman finds himself in a bad position this year with the selection of Taylor Mays to the team. He is going to have to stave off the excitement and athletic ability Taylor Mays may bring to the field. Roman also has Reggie Smith to beat out as well.
Michael Lewis is a very capable starter, but another concussion may interrupt his season and career. Curtis Taylor also showed promise last year, but the one guy who stood out in preseason was ball hawk Reggie Smith. Reggie was doing everything to win the strong safety job, but disappeared in the regular season.
Taylor Mays is on chart to move people out of starting positions and make some veterans grab their sticks and handkerchiefs and get out on the road. Lewis is the lead for now, but Mays is following very closely. Roman may have to step aside.
Alex Smith: The General!
David Carr? Nate Davis? Are these viable options to replace Alex Smith? Well hopefully Alex will have the best season of his career and remain the leader of the ball club. Alex improved greatly over recent annual performances. His confidence has improved, and he has the same offensive coordinator for the first time in his NFL career.
This is Alex Smith's make or break year. He will have better protection. He will get a better running game. He will have a better receiving corp. The defense will give him the ball in better field positions. The special teams will give him a shorter field to work with. He has the confidence of the head coach.
Now he must take all the steps to become a better quarterback, or David Carr and Nate Davis will become the leader. I think Alex makes up for lost time this year and becomes that guy we love, instead of the guy most fans dislike.
Lead, follow, or step a side Alex. The choice is yours.
The Head Coach
Mike Singletary has been the best thing to put on a head coach's headset for the 49ers since George Seifert. The pressure on Singletary is much greater this year. His team is expected to win at least the NFC West division.
Now he has some tough decisions to make. Who will he pick to lead this team in to the 2010 season?
Those and many more questions will need to be answered before the start of the 2010 season, but it looks like Singletary is building confidence in his players. He is also injecting a new spirit into the team. He is keeping his promise of smash-mouth football with some of the additions to the team. He is clearly building a team that is a reflection of himself.
This team will be tough, smart, and champions. That's what leaders do!
Return to Champions.