Given that I live in Northern California, it is not a surprise to me that the airwaves are buzzing in anticipation of the San Francisco 49ers forthcoming season.
In fact, it seems like every time I turn on the radio, I hear about how “this is their year.”
Though I am not surprised by the “homeristic” perspective being conveyed by the local sports radio jockeys, I find it quite amazing that they continuously fail to acknowledge the challenges the 49ers face.
Not to mention, when the reigning CHAMPS are mentioned, those same sports radio jockeys continue to dismiss their potential to repeat due to a depleted roster and the ensuing post-championship letdown.
Of course, the first thing the Niner faithful point to is the offensive arsenal that the 49ers have amassed during the offseason and, what they believe to be, the inevitable maturation of Colin Kaepernick.
Yes, the 49ers have added veteran receivers Steve Johnson and Brandon Lloyd, while also drafting Bruce Ellington, which, on paper, makes their already impressive receiving corps that much more dangerous. However, Lloyd didn’t play last year, and Ellington is an unproven rookie.
In addition, they added highly touted running back Carlos Hyde via the draft to back-up the aging Frank Gore. However, due to recent injuries, they have very little depth beyond that.
As for Kaepernick’s inevitable maturation, I believe they are being very presumptuous.
Though he is blessed with amazing physical attributes in the way of speed and arm strength, his ability to adequately read defenses and quickly complete his progressions is lacking. Further, he has demonstrated a lack of comfort staying in the pocket and, accordingly, tends to run, which further lends to his inability to make the necessary reads.
This has been particularly apparent against top tier secondaries like the “Legion of Boom.” Against such teams, he has been extremely turnover prone due to his tendency to panic and, as a result, try to force the ball into tight coverages.
Don’t get me wrong, the 49ers will be a solid offensive team, but their realizing the improvement that the fan-base is anticipating is definitely dependent on significant improvement by Kaepernick in the way of poise and decision making.
To this point, the “CK7″ apologists have blamed his lack of production on a lack of receivers, which I see as lacking merit, given that he had Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis the whole season, which is more than many of the other QBs around the league.
However, at the end of the day, he has a spectacular winning percentage, especially considering his age.
As if that weren’t enough pressure for the young, ‘CK7’, he also has to prove that he is worth the large contract extension he just signed. I have seen the whiner-nation turn on him very quickly in the past, so it could get ugly.
Actually, it is the San Francisco defense that I think poses the biggest question this season. I think the Niner fans have come to simply assume that the defense will be amongst the top in the league and, accordingly, I think they are in for a big surprise.
Yes, they were a top-5 defense last year, but they are not the same team going into this season. They will likely be without both Pro-Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman and nose tackle Glenn Dorsey for most of the season. Not to mention, Aldon Smith is expected to be suspended for as many as four games for the slew of brilliant decisions he has made while off the field.
Further, what was already an average secondary has realized an almost complete turnover relative to last year. Though they have two proven safeties in Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea, they have not played together, and they will likely be accompanied by two unproven corners. Not to mention, who knows who they will throw out there in nickel packages?
In recent years, they have been able to get by with their secondary due to the pressure being applied by their D-line and linebackers. That being the case, they could be extremely vulnerable to the passing game, given all of the injuries to their line and linebackers.
As if all of this didn’t speak enough to a potential forthcoming implosion, the ongoing contract impasse between Coach Harbaugh and GM Baalke also hangs over the newly constructed Levi Stadium (which I like to call “the crotch” or “the zipper”).
Now, as for their arguments against The Champs and their ability to repeat, I think the basis of their perspective is also littered with holes.
The local sports jockeys tend to look back on the Seahawks season as if they went about it injury free, which is far from the reality. As we all know, their O-line was a “mash unit” for most of the season, AND they were without the services of the immensely talented, Percy Harvin, all of which are now healthy.
Not to mention, we have, arguably, the best young quarterback in the league in Russell Wilson, who has shown an amazing level of poise for his age, despite constantly having to run for his life due to the lack of adequate protection. Most impressive is his work ethic and inherent desire to be the best in the game, as demonstrated by his “why not me” mantra.
Further, we have the luxury of one of the most talented backfields in the league in the way of Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin. I don’t think the whiner nation even knows who Christine Michael is? They will soon enough.
The Hawks receiving corps did sustain the loss of their leading receiver from last year, Golden Tate (we all know what he supposedly did). However, they now have a healthy Harvin (knock on wood) and rookie rocket, Paul Richardson, alongside returning wideouts Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, which makes for one of the fastest receiving corps in the league.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Hawks look as strong as ever. They have the core members of the “Legion of Boom” locked up for the next 4-5 years, and most of their D-line is returning.
Yes, they did lose some depth in the line in the way of Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Clinton McDonald. However, they should be able to adequately fill that depth with camp standout standout Cassius Marsh, veteran Kevin Williams, and returning backups Benson Mayowa and Greg Scruggs.
year, which wasn’t that noticeable due to the emergence of Byron Maxwell. Though Thurmond was a key contributor, he was the slot corner and should be adequately replaced by camp standout Tharold Simon and/or the always reliable Jeremy Lane.
Next man up!
As for the impending letdown, I simply don’t see it. The roster is as loaded as any in the league, and Pete Carroll’s “Win Forever” philosophy lends to a competitive environment that demands maximum focus and effort from each and every one of his players.
And let’s not forget about the HUGE homefield advantage afforded the Seattle Seahawks by the ruckus, deafening 12th man. If the Seahawks manage to attain homefield advantage in the playoffs again, they will be very difficult to beat.
That all being said, as many of the national media analysts have also picked the 49ers this year, I would not be surprised to see our boy, Richard Sherman, again lambasting the pundits for once again betting against him and the Hawks.