The San Francisco 49ers’ veterans will report to training camp on July 27. After a great season that ended in a frustrating loss in the Superbowl there are undoubtedly high expectations for the team to win it all this year. Although the 49ers have one of the most talented teams in the NFL, their are some areas within the roster that make for an interesting training camp.
With the loss of Michael Crabtree, the 49ers not only lost their best receiver, but also Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target. The addition of Anquan Boldin helps the cause but at this stage of his career, Boldin is more reliable at moving the chains and making clutch catches instead of being the deep threat that Crabtree was. Injuries to Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams have also prompted the team to place them on the physically unable to perform list. There has been talk that Vernon Davis might see some snaps as a wideout but it’s really up to former first round pick A.J Jenkins to step up. The coaching staff has seen some improvements with Jenkins during OTA’s but then again it’s only OTA’s.
How will Vernon Davis respond?
Davis’ struggles late in the season were well-documented. Although he was more of factor in the passing game during the playoffs, his chemistry with Colin Kaepernick still remains a huge question mark. The injury to Crabtree, elevates Davis to instantly become the 49ers lone deep threat. He’s proved it in the past that he can be one of the best tight ends in the league, but that was with Alex Smith under center. This upcoming season will be his 9th and one of the key veterans in this team. I see Davis returning to his 2011 form he’s just to talented not to.
Can Kaepernick elevate his play?
Last year was the second year player made headlines when he was given the keys to the franchise in the middle of the season. He was brilliant in his play but the one throw he is most remembered for is that one that he didn’t complete in the Superbowl with the game on the line. Now that defenses will have some time and study the type of offense that the 49ers run, will Kaepernick be able to follow up last years great season with an even better one? With the all the attention he received this offseason, including being tops in jersey sells, there will be a bulls-eye on his back. In last years playoff Kaepernick posted an impressive total QBR 92.1 on third down plays. This is one of the reasons why Ron Jaworski ranked him 11th on his quarterback list after only ten starts. Another year under Jim Harbaugh’s offense that allows him to use his athleticism and the experienced gained during last season’s deep playoff run, I see Keapernick stock rising in that list.
Rookies that will have impact:
The 49ers defense also suffered a significant loss with the departure of Pro-Bowl safety Dashon Goldson that left via free agency. In response the niners drafted Eric Reid out of LSU to essentially take Goldson’s place. The 3-4 defense that the 49ers run relies on putting pressure on the quarerback with their front seven. Reid is athletic and a hard hitter but has not shown that he has the same ability to cover deep routes like Goldson and it’s unfair to ask him to replace and produce at the same level that Goldson did. The draft selections of defensive end Cornelius Carradine and linebacker Corey Lemonier, will not only bolster an already elite pass rushing core but will also help Reid have an easier time in coverage. The loss of Justin Smith late in the season slowed the 49er pass rush significantly and the depth that these rookies will provide will ensure that it doesn’t loose a beat when faced with an injury.