1. Manny Lawson uses his athleticism to do these things: I'll be honest, I didn't expect much, if anything, from Lawson. But he really is impressing me in this camp. He's come in heavier, is beating proven LTs (mostly Staley), and using his enormous wingspan to bat down passes at the LOS. Many doesn't need 15 sacks to be a success, but he does need to be approaching 10 as the season nears its end, while contributing in other areas. We need Manny to block kicks, tip passes at the line, and control the sidelines to keep the speedier backs from taking it to the outside. But at least 8-9 sacks will be the key.
2. Ahmad Brooks plays to half his talent: He's another guy I didn't expect much from. Since our OLB depth is non-existant he will be on the team, and will often be active on gamedays. Now that he's getting his chance in camp he may prove to be somebody. He may actually be the most talented player on this team (Willis and Gore included). Normally I see no reason why a player would become a different person just because it's a new season, but in Brooks's case, I'm willing to have some hope based on the fact that he played for the pathetic Bengals. If you have a character issue that you need to overcome in order to be successful you go to the Pats, or at the very least to any team other than the Bengals. Singletary doesn't have to be a magician to get more out of Brooks than the Bengals did, but he will have to prove his "motivational" talents if he wants Brooks to live up to potential. If he does, we may have quite the pass rush next year.
3. Our QB (please let it be Hill) becomes our best offensive lineman: Ever watched the niners in the 80s? Was the O-line that great, or did Joe simply not stand like a deer in headlights at the sight of pass rushers? O'sucks-alot was purely amazing. The guy would just throw the ball on the ground anytime a defensive player got near him, Alex Smith early in his career would either run all the way to the left and throw it away or just stand there like a moron. We need someone who can move around the pocket, avoiding sacks, making plays, and not throwing interceptions due to the pressure. Our RT hasn't been taken care of, our LG is a question mark especailly with Baas out indefinitely. It is on our QB to reduce the sack totals with 3 step drops, quick reads, quick releases and pocket mobility.
4. Frank Gore plays 16 regular season games, 64 regular season quarters.
5. Either Glenn Coffee or Sheets allow Gore to play 64 regular season quarters by doing enough to make the team comfortable with them taking a good chunk of his carries (maybe 30%?)
6. Mark Roman is NOT called upon to play. This either means that Goldson stays healthy, or Smith/Hudson play well enough to beat our Roman. If Roman and Lewis are both in at S we are vulnerable to the deep attack, which puts our running game at risk, and takes us out of our game plan.
7. Franklin plays like Franklin of late last season, not like Franklin of early last season. He doesn't have to make the pro-bowl, just has to be effective. Nolan asked him to be a big fat guy with power. Too bad he's a smaller (not small at all, but smaller than Wilfork, Williams, Hampton, etc.), quicker DT that excels at getting around his man, rather than tying up two blockers. Don't try and fit a square peg into a round hole and you'll get some use out of it. This doesn't seem like such a longshot.
8. Patrick Willis take the next step. The kid is very good. But he's far from great. I hear he's becoming more of a leader, which will be key to him development. When he takes his game to the next level (shedding blockers, reading offenses, leading the defense, calling plays from the field, etc etc etc), this defense will be very very very tough to play against. Btw, how lucky is this kid to have Singletary as his head coach? I mean really, talk about a match made in heaven. Anywways, Willis improved every year in the league. This year should be no different. Once again this is more of an expectation than a wish.