San Francisco 49ers: 11 Reasons to Watch 49er Football This Year
This season looks to be at worst, good TV for 49er fans. With so much in the balance and so much unknown, 49er fans around the Bay Area will be tuning in on Sunday more than ever.
Every team has been affected by the lockout, the 49ers maybe more than all of them. The odds are stacked against them this year but a potential change of direction may be taking place. Good or bad, the Niners are going to be an exciting team to watch this year. Let’s take a look at 11 reasons why.
1. Jim Harbaugh
High bar Harbaugh.
Jim Harbaugh has a remarkable history of success. Niner fans are hoping he can continue that streak as head coach for San Francisco. As a quarterback in the NFL, and as a head coach for both San Diego and Stanford, Jim Harbaugh has always been able to persevere and win. Niner fans will be watching to see if he can bring the 49ers organization back to the innovative high level of play that they came to expect in the 80s and 90s under Bill Walsh. That may not be possible, but anything half way there would be accepted with open arms in San Francisco right now.
2. The Fans
Niner Fans miss winning.
Despite the 49ers record for the last several years, the San Francisco 49ers were the first team to win 5 Super Bowls. The Niners have a history of being an elite franchise. Niner Fans long for those days to return, and it became apparent towards the end of last season that they were not going to sit by and take it quietly.
How long will it take before Niner Fans begin to chant CK this year or boo Alex Smith (assuming Alex starts)? Tune in.
3. Aldon Smith
Whenever you are a first-round pick, the fan and team expectations are extremely high. Lucky for Aldon, all he is expected to do is get to the quarterback. Something that he is capable of doing very well.
Initially, most people were shocked by his selection in the first round. Then as the dust settled and people had time to learn who he was, most came to the agreement that Aldon was a good pick. He should get a lot of PT right away, so Niner Fans will be able to prematurely judge him quickly.
The truth is the guy has beast potential written all over him, but he is still a very young guy. Look for Aldon to make an impact fairly soon but evolve into a feared presence on the San Francisco D as he develops over the next few years.
4. Patrick Willis
His reputation precedes my writing. Patrick has been a dominating force in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl every year since being drafted to the 49ers in 2007. Regarded by many as the best linebacker in the NFL, Patrick Willis IS the 49er defense. Going in to his 5th year he is a full-fledged battle scarred veteran. If the Faithful can have faith in one thing this year, it is Willis.
5. Vernon Davis
A decent QB, an unpredictable offense, and Vernon Davis are a dangerous combo. Unfortunately, last year the Niners had serious QB issues and an extremely predictable offense. This year and moving forward, it is widely assumed that Vernon will be used more frequently. Harbaugh has a history of using tight ends heavily.
Vernon was recently ranked No. 88 by his peers as one of the Top 100 Players in the NFL. Most Niner Fans, and probably Davis, think he should have been ranked higher on the list. Look for Davis to have a great year.
6. Frank Gore
“We look at Frank as a (lifetime) 49er,” said Baalke and Harbaugh over draft weekend.
Like Willis is to the D, Gore has been to the 49er offense for a long time. Gore injured his hip last season and is getting to the point in a running back's career where they usually start to go downhill. However, Frank may be the exception. He showed no sign of slowing down before his injury last year, running hard as ever.
This year he will be in a new offense. Coach Harbaugh indicated they would be using multiple backs in the run game. This will take pressure off of Gore and could possibly extend his playing career. Keep your eyes on No. 21 this year.
7. Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick is the most athletic quarterback the 49ers have ever had. Whether his football mind and ability to make quick decisions under pressure at the pro level equals his athleticism, is yet to be seen. If it comes close, the Niners may have found their Franchise QB.
What we do know about Colin is that he is the only quarterback to throw for 10,000 yards and run for over 4,000 yards in NCAA history. Fans will be on the edge of their seats if and when CK takes the field this year.
8. Michael Crabtree
This year needs to be Michael’s break out year. After a hold out his rookie year (causing him to miss five games) Crabtree still managed to have a good rookie season. However, his sophomore season was anything but impressive.
Going into his third year he needs to do well to prove he is not an overpaid one-hit wonder. Although the QB situation was at least partially to blame for Crabtree's poor performance, it is also possible that Crabtree's poor performance may have been part of the reason there was a QB situation.
Whatever the reason, Crabs needs to step it up big time this year and prove that he has what it takes to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Niner fans will be watching to see if he can.
9. The Defensive Backs
Due to the lockout and the fact that we have yet to have any trades or free agent signings, the strategy that Harbaugh and Baalke are using to address the DB situation is still unclear.
I imagine that drafting Culliver was not their one-stop resolution to a struggling defensive back unit. Look for some action in this position once the NFL is open for business. With one shut-down corner picked up this off season, the Niners defensive unit could be a whole different animal.
10. Kendall Hunter
What might have been the best immediate value pick, was the 49ers fourth round choice, Kendall Hunter. Kendall may see quite a bit of playing time from early on as a change of pace back. Someone who can back up and come in for Gore as needed.
If Kendall can prove himself as a solid back he may end up being the future running back for the 49ers after Gore retires. This is one of my favorite picks for the Niners this year. A tremendous value in the fourth round. Kendall has a terrific opportunity in San Francisco and Niner fans will be watching closely to see if he can capitalize.
11. Alex Smith
All eyes on No. 11. If Alex does in fact come back and start this year (as most analysts predict he will), he just may be up against one of the least supportive fan bases in sports history (not to say they haven’t been for years).
Niner Fans are tired of Alex. Look for CK calls from the crowd on Alex’s first interception, if not his first incomplete pass. Whether you are an Alex supporter or not (probably not), watching Alex Smith this year will be like watching a Hollywood train wreck, or possibly, the biggest comeback “Rudy” movie ever made (probably not).
Don’t miss it!