Only a few days away from full training camps starting up, now is the perfect time look forward to what could be for the San Francisco 49ers’ offense in the 2011 season.
From improved line play to a potential disappointment in the receiver corps, fans could be in for some surprises with how the team’s offense moves.
Here are four bold predictions for the Niners offense for the upcoming season.
However, with less time for a new coaching staff to implement changes, the team will need Gore to perform at his highest level. That means he will need to be
Gore has been injury free once his six seasons with the 49ers (2006), which was by far his most successful in both usage levels and rushing averages.
So how do the Niners ensure their main rushing option stays healthy? The answer appears to lie in the supporting rushing cast.
While rookie Kendall Hunter will play a role in 2011, don’t be surprised if the team pursues a low-cost back on the market to strengthen the overall unit.
It may also depend on who’s handing off the ball…
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been pegged to play a pivotal role in the Niners
That doesn’t happen if Alex Smith, who will return to the team for 2011, can hold off the rookie. Smith will have the advantage, as he’s projected by most to take the starter role for the upcoming season.
However, Smith will need to not only improve his play (and avoid the injuries that have held him back), but also get some support from his wide receiver corps.
Since being drafted tenth in the 2009 draft, wide receiver Michael Crabtree has mystified fans with his less than stellar play.
While history has shown that a wide receivers show improvement in their third year for his play, this will most likely not be the case.
In addition to injury concerns and a selfish attitude, he has also made some confusing statements about Alex Smith (which may not be the best idea seeing that he’s now coming back). Not a great sign for a player who still hasn’t shown his full potential as a pro.
The Niners may also need to make a play on the free agent market to get talent to challenge Crabtree into improving his play.
Despite the disappointment, there will be one area of improvement for the Niners' offense.
After struggling mightily in giving away sacks (allowing 44 in 2010 after 40 in 2009), the Niners' offensive improvement lies in the ability to protect the passer.
Make no mistake: The line will dramatically reduce the number of sacks they give away.
Most important to this improvement is Mike Iupati, the second year guard who will only see his game improve after a very solid rookie year. This is in contrast to Anthony Davis, the other 2010 rookie lineman whose play was frustratingly inconsistent.
A key question in this improvement will be who will play the center position. While David Baas is sure to be the heir apparent after the season ending injuries to Eric Heitmann, the team will have to drop some money to make sure he doesn’t slip away.
If the pass protection can go hand-in-hand with the above-average run blocking already in place, perhaps there is some reason for hope with the current line arrangement.