With teams gearing up for training camp and preseason coming right around the corner, there have been many teams who have made huge splashes in the free agency and draft. There has been much speculation as to which team will arise as the elite team in each division. One team, however, after making great progress through the draft, has had hardly any mention by the media, the San Francisco 49ers.
Much of the news that has been floating around the NFC West has been about the many personnel changes in Seattle, Sam Bradford possibly starting for St. Louis, and whether Arizona will be able to retain its NFC West title with Matt Leinart. The team to beat in the NFC West should be the 49ers. With an already potent rushing attack with Frank Gore and change of pace back Glen Coffee, the 49ers have a reliable run game. The 49ers Defense, lead by Patrick Willis, were the number 4 defense in the league. The only question that turns up when looking at the success of the 49ers is Alex Smith and the passing game.
Overall, the 49ers struggled through the air last year being 22nd overall in passing. Much of their problems with the pass game can’t be directly pinned on Alex Smith. After finally being named the starting QB in week 7 last year, he was given the opportunity to prove himself. Throughout the year Smith made progress, but due to a faulty offensive line that allowed 40 sacks and allowed Smith to constantly be under pressure, he was never able to play to the best of his ability. Now after having one of the most productive drafts out of any NFL team, the 49ers will be in contention not only for winning the NFC West, but being a major contender in the NFC as a whole.
With the addition of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, the 49ers offensive line will finally be able give Smith the time he needs to find his receivers. For the first few games the 49ers might have to rely on the run a bit, but after settling into their new roles Davis and Iupati will provide Smith with a brick wall between him and flashy defensive ends. With more time in the pocket, Smith will be able to provide this 49ers offense with something completely foreign, a two-dimensional offense.
The 49ers have an underrated set of receivers that will put huge pressure on opposing teams secondary who will have much of their focus on the smash mouth running game that Frank Gore provides. Michael Crabtree, who after holding out for much of last season, was quiet last year, yet showed some flashes of brilliance on the field. He should be a lock on putting up big numbers next year with now proven TE Vernon Davis drawing attention from the opposing teams’ secondary. The addition of Ted Ginn Jr. will allow the 49ers to spread the field out with 3 receiver sets that will keep defenses guessing. Teams will no longer be able to load the front line defending the run and short passes over the middle to Vernon Davis. They will now have to worry about the deep threat that Crabtree and Ginn provide. This new multi-faceted offense will keep defenses guessing and finally push the 49ers over the hump to winning football games on both sides of the ball.
The 49ers now are complete on both sides of the ball and proved to be a force to be reckoned with last year going 8-8. Their offense will become a quiet killer and should be feared by the rest of the NFL. Look for the 49ers to take control of the NFC West and put pressure on the other elite teams of the NFC.