With NFL training camp right around the corner. There’s plenty to cover before the season gets into swing. When it comes to the 49ers, they have been one of the more exciting and interesting teams in the league the last few years and this year is no exception. Trey Lance gets his first chance to take over the team and prove himself to be the next franchise quarterback. A stout defense who ranked 7th in team DVOA last season, in addition with a few new pieces. In hopes to continue being among the top NFL defenses in 2022.
While on the offensive side of the ball, a major concern comes at the interior of the offensive line who lost two key pieces in Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack. Along with a crowded running back room and questionable status of star Deebo Samuel, with his on going contract dispute. Training camp is going to answer many of the questions at hand. Before then, let’s take a closer look into all you need to know about this year’s Niners.
For someone who is just starting out in their career. Lance finds himself under more pressure than maybe anyone else from last year’s draft class. This San Francisco squad is ready to win, and while they have been close to being back on top the last few seasons. There has been something missing at their most important position. Now, the chips are all in on Lance. Who the 49ers are relying on to the bring a much needed spark to their offense. With a special running ability, big arm, and willingness to push the ball downfield.
Kyle Shanahan can expand this offense more than ever before, especially in the passing game. An aspect that seemed to be exposed in the postseason last year. Where they passed for only 532 yards, and 2 TD, at a 58% completion percentage through three games. It’s difficult to see how much longer they can rely on their defense and running game to keep them afloat. Lance brings talent and potential that just isn’t there with Jimmy G. As long as the patience and reps are there for him, I believe the gamble will pay off for the Niners. Along with exceptional players around him like George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Trent Williams.
This is one of the best situations in the league for a young quarterback. Training camp will answer some big questions on where Lance stands and if the coaching staff believes in him as much as the front office seems too. While Jimmy G still holding a roster spot for the time being. Will this season bring the Bay Area to Trey Area, or will there a familiar face back under center?
Coming off a year where the 49ers line ranked 16th in yards per carry and 15th in sack percentage allowed. Overall placing in themselves as a pretty average o-line in most areas. It’s difficult to see whether they’ll continuing improving from last year, if not actually take a step back. In an offseason where they lost their best guard in Laken Tomlinson to a three year 40 million dollar deal to the Jets. As well as center Alex Mack who retired last month. Both being big pieces on the interior of the line, now leave some lengthy concerns.
They are replaced by guard Colton McKivitz and center Jake Brendal who both have less than 3 years of NFL experience and have played limited snaps in their careers thus far. The upside however, is both have played backed up Trent Williams and Mack, being able to see what some of the best at the position do. While the lack of urgency to get replacements in free agency or in the draft where they only made two selections that came in the later rounds (Spencer Burford, Nick Zacklj). It certainly seems like the team is confident in what they have on the line.
Daniel Brunskill and Mike McGlinchey will once again hold up the right side of the line. Brunskill specifically being one of the more underrated players on the line. Following a year where he played close to 1100 snaps and only allowed five sacks. In the end, Shanahan is one of the best in the league at working with what’s available. Utilizing pieces like George Kittle and Kyle Juzczkyk who are among the best skill position blockers in the league. It can allow this offense to work around some of their deficiencies and give Lance the best chance to prosper in this dynamic offense.
The real backbone of this team has been its defense for years now. Led by Fred Warner, Nick Bosa, and Jimmie Ward. They ranked top 10 in points allowed, passing yards allowed and rushing yards allowed. All that after having major questions in the secondary with Emmanuel Mosley and Jason Verrett both having injury issues all last season. Along with linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair also being out for multiple games last season. Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans has found a way to use their 4-3 scheme with one of the deepest and strongest D-lines in football, to still be effective with sub-pair talent in the backend.
They spent much of the draft adding more depth to the defense after losing some in the offseason. Knowing that maintaining a stout defense will always keep competitive. Now, with the additions of corner Charvarious Ward, safety George Odum, and second round pick defensive end Drake Jackson. If this defense can stay mostly healthy, I think there is a chance this unit will be one of the best in all of football. On paper, this team doesn’t scream talent like the Rams or some other teams. However, for anyone who is paying attention and seen what each other these players bring to the table respectively. It’s clearly the bright side and scariest part of this team.
Training camp is where these kind of players shine. It’s the time of the year where we hear the hype around the crazy 6th round pick no one saw coming, the high level draft picks becoming a possible star, or the undrafted player killing it in practice. The hard part is finding the diamonds in the rough who will actually live up to the short week or two of hype and make a career out of it. So, who do are those guys coming into this year? Drake Jackson will most likely be the most talked about rookie. Being the first pick the Niners made in the draft and apart of the strongest unit on the team. It will be interesting to see where he cements himself on a crowded defensive line where he currently lies behind Dee Ford on the depth chart.
However, I would like to highlight guys like Danny Gray and Tyrion Davis-Price. Both were also taken in this last draft and have a real chance of carving a significant role this season. Gray a 6 foot 186 pound receiver from SMU that is full of speed. Running a 4.33 40 at the combine, Gray isn’t someone whose numbers jump out at you but the intangibles are there. The athleticism and speed alone pose a great open field threat and with slim depth behind Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. We may be seeing a lot of Danny this season.
Incoming LSU running back Davis-Price is another addition to this loaded San Francisco backfield. A 6’1 219 pound big back that LSU football described as a “downhill runner with excellent balance that has the ability to navigate through traffic and beat a defender to the edge.” Finishing his last season with over a 1,00o yards and six touchdowns. He brings a nice new feel to a running back core that seems to have a new featured back every year. For now Elijah Mitchell seems to be the workhorse after a breakout rookie season, but it will be interesting where Shanahan decides to go behind him. With another third round pick from last season in Trey Sermon and veteran Jeff Wilson also in the fold. Be on the lookout for Davis-Price in the next coming months.
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