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NFL Preseason 2010: Training Camp Concerns For The 49ers

Dan MoriCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2010

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 02:  Joe Staley #74 and Mike Iupati #77 work out during the San Francisco 49ers training camp at their training complex on August 2, 2010 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Pigskin prognosticators and numerous media outlets have picked the San Francisco 49ers to win the NFC West this season.

I, myself, think they have a good chance to accomplish this, however, there are some ominous storm clouds brewing.  

Injuries and weirdness have created concern, as the Niners get set for their first exhibition game of the year.

Pro football, by its very aggressive and violent nature, leads to injuries, so quality depth is essential to being a successful team.  The 49ers have already been depleted, as several players that had roles on the 2009 squad have issues that have jeopardized their status. 

Scott McKillop, a reserve LB, saw spot action in 09', but was a very good special teams player. Now that he is lost for the season, the Niners must find a solid backup inside LB, but more importantly, another special teams demon.

The departure of Glen Coffey, who apparently lost the desire to play football, also leaves a glaring hole backing up Frank Gore. Rookie Anthony Dixon will now be counted on to give Gore a breather. 

Gore, with his hard running style, can also be expected to miss a few games here and there. Michael Robinson, another excellent special teams player, and Dixon cannot be expected to carry the load when Gore is out. 

Remember, if Dixon was that good, he would not have been a sixth-round draft pick. He may develop into a decent back, but that is down the road.

The 49ers should make every effort to make a deal for an established RB, or I can almost certainly guarantee, this will be an issue and a weakness that haunts them at some point.

The Kentwan Balmer situation is also a concern.  Balmer was not a top flight defensive lineman, but again, provided NFL caliber depth. It now looks more and more likely that Balmer will not be on the roster come opening day. 

Although I believe Aubrayo Franklin will ultimately sign his one-year deal and report to camp in a week or two, this is not a certainty.  If Franklin chooses to sit out, the D-Line suddenly goes from a solid unit to one with question marks, especially at the all important NT spot.

Adding to these issues is the injury to starting Center Eric Heitman. The center position is charged with calling the line blocking schemes and this is one of Heitman's strong suits. With Heitman out a few weeks, this task becomes the job of David Baas, who has mostly played guard in the past.

Baas will be learning at center, while the Niners also plan to start rookies Anthony Davis & Mike Iupati. Two rookies on the O-Line, plus a player who is learning the center position, will undoubtedly require some time before consistency and continuity are established.

It often takes a year or more for an offensive line to become a cohesive unit.  Mike Singletary does not have that long to wait. 

The Niner Faithful must be crossing their fingers that this group can jell quickly and attain the level of consistency necessary to generate a productive offense. If this O-Line does not play well, the playoffs will be an unreachable dream.

As we move towards the regular season, there will be several battles for roster spots. I believe the starting group does have playoff potential, however, quality depth will be vital for this team. 

As training camp progresses and you watch the preseason games, something to focus on will be the injury report.

The 49ers can ill afford any additional injuries to key players. 

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