By: Matt Llewllyn (@Atax1s)
As week 1 approaches, the 49ers have officially finalized their roster. Let’s take a look at the players that will take the field against the Carolina Panthers, and also breakdown the offensive and defensive strengths, weaknesses and question marks.
Brian Hoyer, CJ Beathard
Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert
Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden JR and Kendrick Bourne
George Kittle, Garrett Celek and Logan Paulsen
Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore, Laken Tomlinson, Brandon Fusco, John Theus, Garry Gilliam and Erik Magnuson
The real strength in the offense will be in the coaching. Kyle Shanahan is the best offensive mind in all of football, hands down. He should lead this team to improve significantly upon one of the worst offenses of all time in 2016.
Kyle Juszcyk should get a lot of work as an offensive-weapon for the 49ers. He can catch passes out of the backfield and should be in for a large role in goal-line scenarios.
The wide receiving corps for this year’s 49ers should be one of the fastest overall units in the league. Pierre Garçon will be an absolute chain-mover for SF, as was evident in week 3 of the preseason vs the Vikings.
The interior offensive line is a complete mess. Throughout the preseason, too much pressure was allowed in the middle of the line. Improvement is a must in order to be able to consistently run the rock the way Shanahan prefers.
Quarterback remains a weakness for the 49ers, at least until Hoyer can prove otherwise. Hoyer should be a more traditional player at the position than Kaepernick, but he’s still career-journeyman and a stop-gap until the team finds a franchise guy.
Rookie CJ Beathard preformed better than most expected him to in the preseason, but he remains far from ready to start meaningful games. The decision to cut Matt Barkley could possibly come back to haunt the 49ers if Hoyer’s injury history catches up to him yet again in 2017.
- Will Carlos Hyde finally put together a healthy season and top 1,000 rushing yards in the final year of his rookie contract?
- Will rookie George Kittle emerge as the future at tight end for the 49ers?
- Is this the year Joe Staley starts to truly regress at left tackle?
DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Earl Mitchell, DJ Jones, Xavier Cooper and Tank Carradine
NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold, Elvis Dumervil, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dekoda Watson, Pita Taumoepenu and Brock Coyle
Jimmie Ward, Ahkello Witherspoon, Rashard Robinson, Eric Reid, Adrian Colbert, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser, K’Waun Williams, Lorenzo Jerome and Jaquiski Tartt
The defensive line is loaded with 1st-round talent. Arik Armstead has slimmed down and looks to be a force in the trenches. DeForest Buckner was one of the breakout rookies of 2016, and was the most consistent presence for the 49ers defense last season. Solomon Thomas has the potential to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and should be an instant contributor.
The linebacking corps has talent. Reuben Foster looks to be fully recovered from his shoulder injury, and any character concerns have yet to surface. NaVorro Bowman claimed he is still the best linebacker in the NFL. He’s not dropping back into coverage as much (Robert Saleh is instead employing a 6th DB on passing downs) but remains fierce against the run. If he has recovered from his achillies injury, look for the MON5T3R to return to All-Pro form in 2017.
The secondary is young and largely unproven. Jimmie Ward has moved to Safety, Eric Reid is now playing in the box more (and looking like it was a move that should’ve happened from the start) and the top corner, Rashard Robinson, has had both good and bad moments during the preseason.
- Can the 49ers defense go from one of the worst in the league to the top 15?
- Can Ward and Reid stay healthy for a full season?
- Will rookie Ahkello Witherspoon be an impact player in the secondary?
Ronald Blair III, Aaron Burbridge, Joshua Garnett, Jimmie Gilbert, Prince Charles Iworah, Chanceller James, BJ Johnson, Chris Jones, Donavin Newsom, Will Redmond, Malcom Smith and Joe Williams
Garnett will be unable to return from IR this season. This further damages an already suspect interior offensive line.
Joe Williams had hot and cold moments in the preseason, but was eventually beat out by UDFA Matt Breida. His inclusion on IR is more like a red shirt than a true season-ending injury.
Ben Boulware, DeAndre Carter, JP Flynn, Cole Hikutini, Asa Jackson, Jeremy McNichols. Nick Mullens, Noble Nwachukwu, DeAndre Smelter and Darrell Williams Jr.
Should any of the tight ends suffer a serious injury, look for UDFA Cole Hikutini to be signed from the practice squad. The 49ers gave him the maximum amount of money to lure him away from other teams.
Jeremy McNichols is an interesting signing from Tampa Bay. He could be playing to save his career.
Nick Mullens is the de-facto emergency quarterback, should Hoyer sustain an injury.
The 49ers have turned over much of the roster from 2016. With an influx of new talent, new leadership from John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers should easily top the 2-14 record that they finished with last season. Look for them to ultimately finish the season 4-12 or 6-10 range. While the playoffs may still be a year or two away, this will be the most fun 49ers season in the post-Harbaugh era.
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