The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners

The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners
A review and commentary on the history & lastest events surrounding the 17 time NFC Western Division & 5 -Time World Champion San Francisco 49ers. From 1946 and the All America Football Conference to 2009 and the road to a 6th Super Bowl title - For true fans of the scarlet and gold! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Niners Have A Shot, But They'll Need Lots Of Luck

The Niners have historically been a quarterback-focused club. Every time the team has made it to the Super Bowl, it's been led by future Hall of Fame gunslingers. Thank legends Joe Montana and Steve Young for that. Current quarterback Alex Smith (left) will need to produce and do so significantly in order to lead the 49ers back to the playoffs. Entering his third season, it looks as if this young and slippery quarterback is well on his way.What stands out are several things. First, Smith threw for a ton more yards than Montana and Young did in their sophomore years. Second, he's played in more games. Smith also has more TDs than Montana and Young and a higher rating and completion percentage than Young had. Furthermore, eight of the 16 TDs are in third-down passing situations and one score came in a third-down rushing situations. Obviously, then, Smith well on third downs and has succeeded in a handful of fourth-down plays. Therefore, he's good in the clutch.

Smith will get help from some strong receivers. Five-year veteran Arnaz Battle is very solid and can run trick plays. He has the potential to be the go-to guy. Darrell Jackson has loads of proven experience, but there are a few caveats. The eight-year vet has been accused of being lazy; has some health issues (turf toe); and is having trouble adapting to San Francisco's modus operandi. While Nolan understands there's an adjustment period for new players (Jackson spent his previous eight seasons in Seattle), the coach has stated his performance as being merely "OK." Backing up the starters are Ashley Lelie, Taylor Jacobs and Jason Hill. The latter, a rookie out of Washington State, is a talented performer and will be giving all he's got to grab significant playing time if someone doesn't produce. Given his rookie status, Nolan and the offensive coaching staff will be able to mold Hill how they want.
Meanwhile, the offensive line should get a boost with first-round rookie tackle Joe Staley (Central Michigan) in the mix. Competition with another tackle, Kwame Harris, will only bring out the best in both men. Harris, a five-year veteran, allowed 8.5 sacks last season and is fighting for his job. However, Staley may be a candidate for Jonas Jennings' blind-side spot if the latter fails to stay healthy.

Finally, on offense, there's Frank Gore. If the potential of the passing game is realized, running lanes will open up left and right for Gore, who was the NFC's leading rusher last season with almost 1,700 yards in only his second year in the NFL. The downside is that Gore appears injury-prone; most recently, he suffered a broken hand late last month and will likely miss the preseason because of it. The good news is that he'll be ready by the regular season.

On the other side of the ball, fans need to hope the defense can work out its kinks. The unit gave up almost 27 points per game on average last season, surrendering at least 30 in three contests and over 40 in four others. The poor pass rush was largely the culprit, and D-coordinator Greg Manusky and Nolan are tending to the issue by incorporating a snazzy version of the 3-4. Injuries, however, have already reared their head on defense. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (right) sprained his MCL and will miss the preseason, which is particularly crucial. For the 3-4 to work, the line needs a couple of strong and healthy NTs at any moment. Luckily, though, the 334-pound Franklin is slated to return by the regular season. If he's 100 percent, the 49ers' defense has a chance to be quite effective.

As of now, it's the linebackers and secondary getting the spotlight. Tully Banta-Cain, a linebacker and pickup in free agency, is emerging as a young leader on the defense. He's blown through blocking attempts, been in position to sack the QB countless times, and can cover sideline-to-sideline very well. Banta-Cain and star corner Nate Clements, whom the 49ers signed in March, have risen up in camp as San Francisco's two best defenders. Add rookie first-round linebacker Patrick Willis (Ole Miss) alongside Banta-Cain and Pro Bowler Walt Harris at the other corner, and you have a terrific pass defense in the making.

It's obvious that San Francisco's cupboard is far from being bare. If the remaining 49ers can stay healthy, the injured ones heal quickly and the defense progresses, the team has a legitimate shot at the playoffs in the shaky NFC West.

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