San Francisco 49ers Preview: Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, And J.T. O'Sullivan, Oh My!

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San Francisco 49ers Preview: Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, And J.T. O'Sullivan, Oh My!

I was one of the suckers that thought the 49ers were going to be good last season. Fool me once, shame on me. They're not fooling me twice.

Going into last year, they had a pretty good thing going on the defensive side of the ball. Their offense was growing around Alex Smith, who showed some pretty good potential the year before, and Frank Gore.

I even drafted Frank Gore third overall in one of my fantasy football drafts last season.

But it all fell apart, both for the 49ers and my fantasy football team.

There's something wrong with these 49ers, and I'm pretty sure the problems start at the top (more on this later).

The defense is not what's wrong with the 49ers.

I like almost everyone on the defensive side of the ball. Patrick Willis is an absolute God, with a  capital G. It doesn’t get much better than Willis. He can do everything, and he does it all well.

If Manny Lawson can come back from injury, they’ll be pretty good at linebacker.

Justin Smith is a great player, but I’m not 100 percent sure he’s a fit for the style defense they play in San Francisco. He’s a great 4-3 end, I’m not sure he’ll be a great 3-4 end.

I like Isaac Sopoaga, who seemed to come into his own as the season progressed last year.

Kentwan Balmer should be able to step into the nose-tackle position and play well. I can’t imagine him spending much time on the bench with Aubrayo Franklin as the only other real option at the nose.

Their secondary won’t be half bad. Nate Clements is one of the better corners in the league. Michael Lewis is a decent-but-not-great safety. Walt Harris is an OK cover corner.

The offensive side of the ball is an absolute mess.

Alex Smith, J.T. O’Sullivan, and Shaun Hill all have two things in common. They’re all in the mix to become the starting quarterback for the 49ers—and they’re all awful.

Frank Gore and DeShaun Foster should become a pretty decent running-back tandem, assuming they can both stay healthy.

Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson are both upgrades over what the 49ers threw out there last season, but their wide receivers are still a problem. I’m not sure there’s a real playmaker in the group.

Not that there’s a quarterback on the roster that could take advantage of a playmaking wide receiver.

The only solid offensive lineman is Joe Staley. Unfortunately, he can’t play all five positions on the line. The offensive line is a huge question mark right now.

Vernon Davis may or may not be a great playmaking tight end—we’ll find out when he either gets a quarterback, an offense that doesn’t waste his talent, or a new team.

The offense is a problem. A big problem. But the real issue in San Francisco is the coaching staff.

I used to like Mike Nolan, until he completely destroyed his starting quarterback by openly questioning his manhood to anyone that would listen last year.

Nolan’s job will be on the line this season, and rightfully so.

Mike Martz is a disaster waiting to happen. Especially if he figures out that Mike Nolan is a lame duck. Think a lame-duck head coach can keep Martz’s ego in check?

Neither do I.

The 49ers made a bunch of good roster moves this offseason, but they left three very critical issues unresolved—the quarterback, the offensive line, and the head coach.

With those issues still remaining, it could end up being a scary season for Jerry Rice’s former team.

Fantasy Sleeper

49ers Defense

It was either that or the kicker, Joe Nedney. The 49ers are so bad offensively, I wouldn’t touch anyone outside of Frank Gore—and I’d select him with some serious reservations.

Fighting for draft picks, fighting for the playoffs, or contending for the Super Bowl?

What do you think?


Five wins, maybe six. Doesn’t matter. Point is, they’ll be bad. The offense will be painful.

The Mike Nolan Watch starts Week Eight, and ends with his unceremonious firing immediately after the end of another disappointing season.

Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.

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