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Well this season got ugly pretty quick didn't it? After watching the 49ers hand Minnesota a convincing loss, the team is now coming off three straight losses and sits at an abysmal 1-3 record. Most fans probably knew going into the season that the first quarter of the season was going to be a bit rough for our beloved 49ers. Three out of the four teams have legitimate chances to make the playoffs and even the Vikings are playing like a fringe playoff contender and it appears we got them on a bad night. As it stands right now, it is going to take some major work for the 49ers to get even close to the .500 mark to end the season.
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Aaron Lynch: After collecting his second and third sack of the season against Green Bay over the weekend, Lynch has been playing like the player we thought he could be. Projecting him out to a 10-12 sack effort in 2015 is a win for this team. While he hasn't been consistent, he has been the team's best pass rusher. Kudos to Coach Tomsula for what appeared to be him counseling Lynch after his second sack about being in the moment. Being down 14 late in the fourth quarter is not a time to show off your dance moves.
Navarro Bowman: While I hesitate to put two defensive members on here, I have to give kudos to Bowman. He has returned to form prior to his injury and he seems to be playing as good as ever. It is always great to see a good man and great player return to form. He is in for a long season, but it appears that he is not having many ill effects from his injury. Kudos to the team for holding him out all of last season so he could heal. All too often players rush back from injuries and are never the same.
Carlos Hyde: I love me some Hyde and it showed in week one that he has the goods to be our featured back. I'll give the team pass on they way they used him weeks two and three because you just can't run the ball like you want when you are down by 30. I hated that he only had 20 yards against Green Bay. The 49ers are trailing 7-3 going into the second half and leaning on Hyde for a quarter could have changed the game in our favor. How did Harbaugh beat Green Bay so many times? He kept Rogers on the sideline. If Kaepernick needs a strong running game to be an effective passer, and the team better get back to doing what it does and quick.
Special Teams: Good thing we traded away Andy Lee right? Understandable that he was traded due to salary cap issues, but Lee is still averaging 52.7 yards a punt in Cleveland, while Pinion is only averaging 44.3 yards per kick. With an offense as bad as ours, field position is one of our greatest assets and it just isn't happening. It has been mostly a mixed bag in the kick and punt return game because kickers are so good now that we have only had 7 kick returns this season even though it feels like we have given up a million touchdowns so far. Hayne has been a mild bright spot setting up the 49ers only points in Arizona, but he just isn't getting the touches because the defense isn't forcing fourth downs. Hayne has only 6 returns through 4 games and the team as a whole only has 60 punt return yards with most of that coming from Hayne's one return in Arizona. This team needs shorter fields on Offense. We currently rank 29th in the league in kicking which isn't going to cut it with how bad our offense is playing right now and my preseason worries that our team would struggle getting off the field on third down are coming true.
Colin Kaepernick: He easily deserves to be in the "Ugly" category, but after four games I am going to give him a bit of a pass right now because of what he is facing in games. I thought the 49ers called an absolutely perfect game for Kaepernick in Week 1, but ever since it has been back to the same stuff as last year. In Week 1, Kaepernick was constantly on the move and rolling out and hitting his targets. This might have been effective since Hyde was having a career night at the time. Bottom line is, Kaepernick is not good enough to be a pocket passer right now. He is in danger of actually getting hurt bad or having confidence shot so much that it could ruin his career. While he isn't the greatest QB in the league, let's not get too carried away on the Blaine Gabbert talk because I'm not sure if we want to go that route yet. CK7 needs to play better, but he isn't really getting a ton of help and this could be his last season in San Francisco, especially if this team goes 3-13 and there is a first round stud there for us to take.
Coaching: There is something to be said about our defense under Fangio and Harbaugh. We lined up and said, "Ok. Beat us" and it worked. Personnel changes aside, I hate what Mangini is doing right now with the zone blitz concepts. I know that he has to create pressure from somewhere, but bringing both safeties into the box and then asking them to sprint downfield to cover is just pointless and it really showed in the Pittsburgh game and to some extent against Arizona. I think he called a decent game against Green Bay and Minnesota and put the team in place to win, but I don't think he is showing things to our opponent that hasn't been shown over the past 15 years. I can't say much about Tomsula because I just don't know what to think about him. Apparently he is a great guy and the players like him, but so was Singletary and we all know how that turned out. This season could be one that puts Coach Tomsula in a one and done role, especially if he looses the locker room and a hot candidate emerges. The Offensive play calling has been horrible as well. Can we get a quick slant please coupled with a three step drop?
Offensive Line: To say this is ugly might be a complement, because it has been putrid. This unit has given up 14 sacks through four games and outside of the game against Minnesota; they have not done much in the run game either. It is hard to believe that this is the best five guys we have on the team, but sadly I think it is. Even crazier to beleive is this team is actually ranked 5th in the NFL right now in rushing and I think that is mostly on the strength of Hyde's week 1 and Kaepernick running for his life the past few weeks. The right side of this line is horrid and even the left isn't playing the best either. There needs to be a shakeup quick before we end up with a QB on injured reserve. The timing of Anthony Davis's retirement really hurt this unit as it didn't allow for Baalke to draft for this need. Instead of replacing one starter, he ended up replacing three with Kilgore still out with his leg injury. If this unit can't give CK7 more time to throw, I think Anquan Boldin is going to have a seizure on the sidelines. He already looks like he is going to go nuclear at any given moment through the first four weeks.
Front Office: As fellow contributor Al Sacco analyzed last week in his exclusive, Baalke has generally been given high marks for his drafts over the past few years. And I think that most of us tend to forget that outside of 2011, he has been mostly a miss when it comes to finding talent. Three years removed from the 2012 draft and no members remain on the team. His habit of "redshirting" players has yet to really pay off like we have all hoped. It could be that this is just a painful growing year for us that will pay fruits down the way, but I just don't know. I know GM's don't hit on all the picks, but it makes one wonder if leaning on our veterans in 2011-2014 was a bad idea because we didn't allow young players to develop.
Aaron Rogers: His play over the past two weeks really makes me hate Mike Nolan for choosing Smith over Rogers in the draft. Smith has turned into a nice player over the past five seasons, but he isn't even close to Rogers. It really makes you wonder what Nolan and Company saw in 2004 to make that bad of a choice. No doubt in my mind that Harbaugh would have won us at least one Super Bowl with Rogers under center. Hindsight is 20/20, but this one continues to sting even ten years later.
Scheduling: The NFL didn't do the 49ers any favors over the 1st quarter. Late Monday night game and then fly to Pittsburgh for a early game against a team with ten days rest? Speaking of ten day rest, the Steelers will be coming off eleven days rest next Monday (10/12) when they play San Diego. That's 21 days rest and they haven't even had their bye (Week 11) yet. I know you have to play the games on your schedule, but now the team flies to New York for an away game? I know TNF pulls ratings, but I think moving it to Friday night would still be a draw and provide a better product both for games the following week and for the midweek game. This might be a topic for further research as the season progresses.
Contracts: While I rail on Baalke for not setting this team up to win in regards to the offensive line, I will give kudos to the brilliance of the design of Kaepernick's contract. More and more it looks like a really smart move that the team might be able to get out of in the off season. It is going to take some stellar play over the next 12 games for CK7 to enter next season as the unquestioned starter in my opinion.