A 49ers' fan favorite time of the year is the offseason. Hope is the order of the day and every personnel move will be the one that puts the team over the edge. Anything can happen and parity (as long as Jerry Jones will allow it) makes sure the dream stays alive every off season.

However, the regular season is quickly approaching on the horizon. And with the regular season comes the reality of a 16 game-schedule. The games no longer happen on paper and are instead resolved on the gridiron.

The 49ers largest stumbling block, seemingly the same stumbling block they have had since 2003, is a dearth of talent. Without talent, the 49ers will find it difficult to put together a winning campaign.

Yes, the 49ers have improved on their talent since now general manager Scott McCloughan took over in 2005. The 49ers have had several glaring needs since 2005 that the team has yet to address. Quarterback, pass rushing specialist, safety, cornerback, and right tackle immediately come to mind. Shawntae Spencer, a player drafted under the Donahue-Erickson regime, is now starting across from a cornerback acquired via free agency. The 49ers nickel corner (Dre' Bly) was acquired via free agency to fill the void left by Walt Harris, another free agent acquisition. Tarell Brown, a 5th round steal from the University of Texas, is the only drafted cornerback with a viable shot at meaningful playing time. The simple fact is the 49ers have done better in free agency of securing quality starters than they have in the draft.

If overall the 49ers have had a tough time finding quality players, they have seem to be vexed by finding a quality pass rusher and right tackle. Today's NFL is much like yesterday's NFL. Each team needs to be strong in the trenches in order to succeed. Without effective protection a quarterback cannot move an offense. With an effective pass rush, a defense can cripple an offense.

The 49ers have neither and despite acknowledging this as a weakness last season, they have made no reasonable upgrade at either position. Manny Lawson is not going to make a giant leap and be the pass rusher the 49ers envisioned in 2006. In 32 games, Lawson has reorder 5.5 sacks. Only two other first round linebackers, LaVar Arrington and Jamir Miller, have produced a 10-sack season after having fewer than 6 sacks in their first 32 games. Can it happen? Sure. Is it likely? No.

Adam Snyder will likewise fail to make a meteoric rise to the top quarter of the league. The team was looking to replace Snyder with a much maligned Marvel Smith. Now they've signed Tony Pashos to help bolster the right side of the line. Chances are Snyder will perform just as he has in the past - average. Even minor improvements will not gain the 49ers a substantive benefit over the course of 16 games.

The lack of talent in the trenches will also cost the 49ers offensive production. The 49ers brass would love to have you believe that running the ball will be the answer to all the team's offensive ills. Teams will dare the 49ers to throw, as they have since 2005. Snyder, Rachal, and arguably Staley are all better suited for a mauling rushing attack. They can be exposed in pass protection and if defenses can get to the quarterback with a 4-man pass rush, there is little the 49ers can do to answer.

Yes, the 49ers are a tough-minded team. Head coach Mike Singletary can certainly be rewarded there. A coach, though, can only take a team so far. At some point they need talented players - or they need to be innovative enough to maximize a team's talents. Bill Walsh was a master of this. Jimmy Raye? I wouldn't put him in the same echelon. Part of Singletary's mentality is to have the offense line up against the defense and win the matchups. Jimmy Raye will structure his offense according to Singletary's philosophy.

Without more talent, though, the 49ers will not consistently win the battles. Yes, the 49ers will compete. Yes, the 49ers will have heart. Singletary will imbue that into his team. But will they rise above the 7 wins they managed last season? They haven't upgraded their talent enough to merit that kind of projection.

So brace yourselves, 49er fans. And hope that maybe Mike Shannahan and Colt McCoy are the answers to your prayers.