Five Things the 49ers Must Address to Return to Respectability

co f.Contributor IDecember 18, 2008

Since Singletary has taken over the Niners, they have made significant progress. But a complete turnaround they have not.

In order for the Niners to be seriously competitive deep into the playoffs, there are five areas they must get better at. Those five areas are offensive line (right tackle), defensive line (nose tackle), pass rush (defensive end or outside linebacker), safety, and a real fullback.

The offensive line has been playing better lately, but it must become more physical, and protection from the right side has been anything but spectacular. Snyder is good but is not the long-term answer. Made even more apparent against Miami, Barry Sims may not have a future in San Francisco next year.

The defensive line is small, quick, and athletic but lacks a true nose tackle to keep those big offensive linemen off the linebackers. Someone like B.J. Raji out of Boston College would be great.

The defense's ability to pressure the quarterback has dramatically improved as of late, but the defense still hasn't been able to sack the quarterback. A pass rushing defensive end would be ideal because he could stay in on rushing downs also. If the Niners can't get a pass rushing end, then they should settle for an outside linebacker that can rush the passer.

The outside linebackers that the Niners have are good but don't get much help from the interior line play. Putting a monster pass rushing defensive end opposite Justin Smith would also help Smith from attracting so much attention. Bottom line is a true every down defensive end that also excels at pass rushing would make everybody around him better.

Mind you, the play of the secondary has been OK, but it could be better. Mark Roman is a decent safety but lacks playmaking ability. Next year's free agent market might be able to fill that void, but if not, let's look to the draft.

Frank Gore enjoyed his best year as a Niner when he had a bruising fullback in front of him. Since Martz has taken over as OC, the fullback position has morphed into more of a receiving threat than a lead blocker for the Niners' best offensive player.


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