I can’t believe that I am saying this but I actually am a little bit worried for the San Francisco 49ers. Maybe it is my years working with Dave Duece Mason who perpetually lives on the panic button, but I am concerned. I know it is only the preseason but I think some warning signs for trouble are lurking.
1. First the off-season bothered me. Distractions with Coach Harbaugh flirting with the Cleveland Browns. Alex Boone is still holding out. Aldon Smith’s bizarre trip to the airport. Chris Culliver’s foolish hit and run scenario. Vernon Davis looking to increase his brand only to show up basically in time to play. Basically a lot of “other stuff” happened that may have partially taken away from a sole focus to get back to a Super Bowl.
2. The next area is the personnel. Last year the Oakland Raiders issue was just a lack of talent. That isn’t the 49ers problem, but the key pieces have different things working against them. Justin Smith and Frank Gore are getting older. Still talented but Father Time catches up quickly and the drop off will happen sometime. Put it this way, their best football should be behind them. Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith will miss time this season. The team has depth but when you start taking multiple weapons away it can only hurt the overall product. The loss of several players in the secondary means new opportunities for other players but will that be an upgrade? So just enough questions on personnel make me a little curious about a defense that shouldn’t be as dominate.
3. The team’s DNA has been run the ball, take care of the ball, dominate on defense and turn the opponents over. So the team’s identity is my next concern. I think based on the roster this team is growing offensively and sliding defensively. The offensive growth seems to be in the passing game. Well that is good and bad. Look for more passes attempted compared to run plays and that to me is a change of focus of how the 49ers became good again. I think they can score more and may need to because the defense will allow more points. Plus we can get back to an issue that has hit the team for a couple of years, can they get touchdowns and not field goals on trips to the red zone.?
4. The schedule isn’t friendly either. It isn’t a killer slate, but not super beneficial either. 7 match ups against playoff teams and 2 games against Arizona that won 10 games a year ago. The division is good, the Cardinals and Rams seem hungry and Seattle still has a ton of good pieces. Games against the Saints, Broncos, Chiefs, Eagles among others will test the 49ers all season long.
5. Finally the last area is history. Over the last 3 seasons the most consistent teams in the NFC have been the 49ers, Packers, Saints, Seahawks and Falcons. Only Green Bay and San Francisco have made the postseason all 3 of those years. The Niners have the best record in that run but last year didn’t win the division. The Packers have the 2nd best record in that stretch and were fortunate to make the playoffs with that 8-7-1 record in 2013. Seattle and New Orleans are both 31-17 over the last 3 years but each had a 7-9 year to miss the playoffs in that run. Atlanta is 27-21 and missed last year because of a 4-12 clunker in 2013. Will that be the 49ers this season? I am not certain of that but there certainly would be some reasons for it if this year falls short.
In the end the team is still good but it is flawed. Obviously if Kaepernick gets hurt the team would fall apart. The strength should be the offense. The defense will be better by the end of the season. The new stadium will be amazing but will the team’s run of great play continue? I am not panicking yet, but I have inched closer to the panic button. Let’s hope all things will line up for the team when they line up to play the Cowboys on September 7th.