Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Monday, May 08, 2006

NFC West Overview: San Francisco 49ers

The agony of the NFL Draft is now behind us. No longer do we have to listen to Trey Wingo and Mike Golic talk to us about Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Vince Young. Now we get to listen to more stories about T.O. and Brett Favre (who now is saying that 2006 might not be his last year, meaning that not only do we get ANOTHER year of media fawning over every last fart this guy throws out, but he might be the first person since Jordan to have THREE separate "retirement" games. This is bad news to everyone not from Wisconsin.).

What this DOES mean is that it is about time to take an look-see at the off-season developments in the NFC West, ending with the Hawks. Here's the loose schedule that Gavin and I will try to adhere to.....

Monday: San Francisco 49ers
Tuesday: St. Louis Rams
Wednesday: Arizona Cardinals
Thursday: Seattle Seahawks offense
Friday: Seattle Seahawks defense/special teams

That means it is up to me to start the overview off with the horrible team down by the bay, the once-proud San Francisco 49ers.

2005 record: 4-12 (won final two games of the season)

Alex Smith - RAT 40.8 YDS 875 TD 1
(Backup Trent Dilfer)
Can small hands throw the football in the NFL? That is the question, as numerous balls slipped through the teensy-tiny fingers of Smith last season (though only 2 of those counted as fumbles, leading me to question the entire meaning of the word "fumble", because I watched him live in Seattle last year, and he seemed to fumble about seven times that game alone). Smith most assuredly would not have been the #1 overall pick if he had been drafted this year (not even in the top 10, probably), and I wondered about the Niners passing up Leinart in the draft with the obvious struggles of Smith last year. However, the Niners are obviously pitching their tent in Smith's camp. and they will rise and fall based on his small hands and oversized brain (great score on the Wonderlic!). Dilfer is a more-than-capable backup who would be worth a few extra wins if they actually let him on the field, but...... no.

Running Back: (I'm going with Frank Gore as the possible starter, because Kevan Barlow sucks, and I can't imagine that they would go with him again to begin the season)
Frank Gore - ATT 127 YDS 608 TD 3
(Backup: Kevan Barlow, Maurice Hicks)
Gore is, definitely, more talented than Barlow, and Hicks was a real nice find towards the end of last season. If these two are used competently, and have some semblence of an offensive line, then the running game of the Niners should improve from 17th last year. Both are a tad smallish, so it will take some good play-calling as well, but this is, honestly, one aspect of the Niners that I am interested to watch. It might be *gasp* decent.

Wide Receiver:
Arnaz Battle - REC 32 YDS 363 TD 3
Antonio Bryant (from Cleveland) - REC 69 YDS 1,009 TD 4
Eric Johnston - Did not play in 2005, 82 rec in 2004
Vernon Davis - R
Brandon Williams - R
Michael Robinson - R
And we get to the crux of the matter. Brandon Lloyd, he who killed the Seahawks every time we played them with brilliant one-handed catches, was allowed to leave, going to Washington. Much love then was given to the Niners for drafting Vernon Davis, who does appear to be a freak of nature. This is where Gavin and I differ from the football establishment, because, quite simply, Eric Johnston was the best receiver currently on the Niners roster (still is, actually). He had a stupendous 2004, and, if healthy, could easily be an impact player in 2006. Now, I'm not sure if, like Dallas, San Francisco is planning on going to a two tight-end set the majority of the time. If they are, then the pick is more understandable. As for the rest of the wide receiving corps..... woof. I give San Fran credit for realizing that the corps sucked by drafting a lot of talent here, but it remains to be seen if those moves will work.

Offensive Line: (I'm not sure if the depth chart I'm working off of on is up to date here, apologies if it is not)
Kwame Harris, RT, David Baas, RG, Eric Heitmann, C, Larry Allen, LG, Jonas Jenninngs, LT
This line super-sucked last year. According to Football Outsiders, they ranked 29th out of 32 teams (Arizona was the worst, by the way). I just don't see, even with a few new rookies in camp, a whole lot of improvement coming the way of the Niners here, which means that poor Lil' Hands will be staring at the sky following another blitz by Julian Peterson or a solid bullrush by Rocky Bernard. Basically, if this sucker doesn't improve, the offense won't improve, because the talent at the skills positions just aren't good enough to overcome a disastrous offensive line performance. On the plus side (I mean, the SUPER plus side), the NFC West welcomes all-time heavyweight Larry Allen to the show!

Defensive Line: (same caveat as the offensive line)
Marques Douglas, Bryant Young, Anthony Adams
One year into the 3-4 system, which means one of two things. Either it was an abject failure, as it did finish last in the NFL, or it was a learning year, meaning that there can be no direction but improvement for the wayward Niners D. However, where is the talent infusion coming from for this so-called improvement? Not on the line, where Parys Haralson (DE) was the first talent taken in the fifth round (note: I don't include Manny Lawson in that as it is WAY more likely that he takes over Julian Peterson's OLB position). Can Bryant Young really stand up for one more season? The guy is pushing a zillion, isn't he? Again, the talent here doesn't lend itself to the impression that the Niners are a team poised to make a giant leap.

Manny Lawson, R, Jim Maxwell, Jim Ulbrich (hopefully with mustache), Brandon Moore, Derek Smith, etc.
I liked the draft pickup of Manny Lawson. He was the one defensive end that I would have preferred over Tapp, but since I knew he wouldn't last to #31, I didn't mind us not getting him. He has a great motor and all the tools to perhaps be just as good as Peterson. I missed watching Ulbrich play last year, and hope that he is healthy and ready to go. Honestly, this is the one aspect of the defense (just like the running backs for the offense) where I can see some actual play-making talent, which is good if you're playing a 3-4 and are counting on your linebackers to be all over the field.

(Brief note: San Fran actually picked up Derrick Johnston, a rookie from Washington, as a possible cornerback. If a team is looking at a member of UW's secondary from last season to help their team, problems are a-brewing, because, wow, that secondary seriously, seriously sucked. I am super serial right now, as serial as Manbearpig.)
Listen, I could tell you this secondary, but, honestly, who knows? Sure, Plummer is still there until he inevitably pulls a Springs and gets injured in training camp. Mike Rumph is still there to make fun of. Tony Parrish is an actual professional football player who somehow got on this team. Kris Richard? Shawntae Spencer? Heck, why don't they just sign Etric Pruitt to boost the secondary, eh? Expect Arizona, St. Louis, and Seattle all to make quick work of what is a below-average group.

For a team with a whole lot of cap-room, the Niners did absolutely jack-squat so far this offseason. That should mean huge klaxon warning bells blaring for Niners fans, and huge sighs of relief for all the rest of the teams in the West who count on those two easy wins every season. However, for laughs, here is one fan commenting on a recent post at Football Outsiders. I give you Michael, a man who knows no reality....

you guys keep bashing the niners im not worrying this guy who wrote the column is biased he writes for they should of got another guy to write it. i predict the niners will have7-8 wins because of there easy schedule plus eric johnson is back we got antonio bryant a 1,000 yard reciver in cleveland who also sucked at qb. plus in my opinion we have the best offensive line in the league. so i think we’ll finish 2nd in the nfc west….

My favorite part? Best offensive line in the league. Wow. Evidence for that? And Antonio Bryant will vault you 3-4 wins? Antonio Freaking Bryant? Next up, Karl Cuba (excellent tag, man!)

The binning of the niners offense was to be expected but they have changed half the personel. New starters this year are Battle (should be healthy), Bryant, Johnson, Jennings, Newberry (again is now healthy), Allen and Snyder. Alex Smith will have an extra year to learn (the idea that at this stage you can say he will never be a good qb is laughable, he played the whole year behind a banged up, young line with only one reciever, Lloyd, who refused to go over the middle). Why is Bryant described as ’streaky’ in the article when he’s done nothing but produce? We all know he’s a tool but he has performed well and can everyone here say that if they’d been a 21 year old millionaire they never would have done anything stupid, he’s still only 25, he has time to mature.

The real worry for niner fans is at OLB, the only guy on the roster is Brandon Moore and though he is an OK pass rusher (5 sacks in reserve duty), he’s only 6′-1

If your "real worry" is OLB, then you don't really understand this team. And Bryant has done nothing but produce? On what planet? Final question.... what is binning?

Reality so far, Niners fans? You must hope for some slight improvement this year based on:
1. Smith radically improving
2. Vernon Davis and Manny Lawson being awesome
3. Frank Gore becoming a servicable back
4. (??)

Any other thoughts by readers about the Niners offseason so far?

Tomorrow.... St. Louis!

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:00 PM  0 comments


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