Originally posted by nw9erfan:
Originally posted by NCommand:
Wow....a lot of work went into this.
Very very good post and I agree with it. So many factors for why we lost the big games (TO's, poor personnel decisions, poor play calling/situational awareness, key injuries, critical calls against us at critical times, inability to adjust on-the-fly, stubbornness, very slow starts, poor half time adjustments, ST coaching, lack of our own dynamic returner, etc.). Talent has been top 1 or 2 in the NFL the past 3 years even with injuries (as many were well known prior to the season starting with plenty of time to adapt/adjust; many had zero effect on the results i.e. w/o Aldon, we were 5-0). I'd have to say overall, again, there is no question we are the most talented and deepest roster in the NFL. As to "upgrades" on starters there are a few changes but the depth that will be pushing these starters is deep and very talented should there be any injuries. Also, I consider experience in our system as very strong potential as part of an "upgrade." We run very complicated systems on offense and defense and that can't be undermined here. Stevie Johnson just stated the other day that our playbook looked "Chinese" to him.
2014 Projected Starter (2013 Starter) - Depth. Rationale.
QB: Colin Kaepernick (Same) - Josh Johnson; Blaine Gabbert; McLeod Bethel-Thompson & Kory Faulkner. Josh is a MUCH better fit for our offense and already knows our playbook. He and Gabbert should be much better than the turnstile we had last year and neither have any plans of going anywhere else anytime soon = Upgrade.
RB: Frank Gore (Same) - Kendall Hunter; Marcus Lattimore; LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton & Carlos Hyde. Let's be real here. James may not even make the team and we'll have two RB's that fit this system perfectly and should start to take up some of Gore's snaps this year. The depth is insane this year and the future looks very bright = Upgrade.
FB: Bruce Miller (Same) - Trey Millard. Last year we had Boobie Dixon and Will Tukuafu. Neither are well-rounded FB's. Millard was considered the best FB in the draft by a mile given his versatility. Also, with potentially Derrek Carrier, we now have two H-backs once Millard is healthy (more pure FB's should Miller go down) = LT Upgrade.
X: Anquan Boldin (Same) - Jon Baldwin.
Y (SLOT): Stevie Johnson (Quinton Patton) - Bruce Ellington; Chuck Jacobs & Devon Wiley
Z: Michael Crabtree (Same) - Kassim Osgood; Brandon Lloyd & David Reed. We have to remember that Boldin is now a year into our offense and he, Crabtree and Patton play all 3 WR positions. Stevie is most likely an upgrade over Patton and both Osgood and Baldwin are now experienced in our offense. Also, Ellington is gong to add an additional dimension and if we retain Lloyd, we'll have more NFL experience in case an injury occurs again = Upgrade.
TE: Vernon Davis & Vance McDonald (Same) - Garrett Celek & Derek Carrier. Coaches already admitted McDonald handled everything they gave him (b/c the focus is on blocking in this offense) and openly said they plan NOW to incorporate him into the passing game (next layer of development). If Carrier can earn that H-back role, it's going to push Celek off the roster and add much more diversity of which we haven't seen since Walker left = Upgrade.
LOT: Joe Staley (Same) - Luke Marquardt & Al Netter
ROT: Anthony Davis (Same) - Jonathan Martin & Carter Bykowski
LG: Mike Iupati (Same) - Joe Looney & Ryan Seymour
RG: Alex Boone (Same) - Adam Snyder & (Brandon Thomas)
C: Daniel Kilgore or Marcus Martin (Goodwin) - Dillon Ferrell. OT Martin, Marquardt and eventually, Thomas are huge upgrades over moving Boone from RG to OT if we have an injury. Also, Goodwin has been the weak link the past two seasons and Kilgore has been training for several years as an understudy. Now you add the best C in the draft to compete with him? Looney is now another year in and a good swing-G and for the first time, Iupati and Davis will be 100% healthy = Upgrade.
RDE: Justin Smith (Same) - Tony Jerod-Eddie & Lawrence Okoye. TJE had a fantastic year last year and is only going to get better esp. with the competition behind him. And don't count out the magic Tomsula can create with a willing-Okoye. I expect big growth from both this year and the depth is important to continue to sub Justin out. Also, one must consider the same for additional reserves in Dial and factor in the idea that Carradine (1st round talent) will work in both DE positions = Upgrade.
LDE: Ray McDonald (Same) - DeMarcus Dobbs; Quinton Dial; Tank Carradine & Kaleb Ramsey. Dobbs had a very nice year last year and got a lot of playing time and now may not even make the roster! Dial can play DE and NT and Carradine is expected to possibly push McDonald into a backup/rotational role = Upgrade.
NT: Glenn Dorsey (Same) - Ian Williams & Mike Purcell. Williams is now 100% again and was the starter Week 1 last year. He's the slasher-NT and with the emergence of Dorsey's play, these two are going to add different skill sets and strength in splitting snaps and staying fresh = Upgrade.
WILL: Aldon Smith (Same) - Dan Skuta & Morgan Breslin
SAM: Michael Wilhoite (Bowman) - Chris Borland & Shayne Skov.
MIKE: Patrick Willis (Same) - Nick Moody.
TED: Ahmad Brooks (Same) - Corey Lemonier & Aaron Lynch. You can't lose a future HOF player in Bowman for half a year and not have a drop off. But in our case, the backup is already proven. Now we add in the 2nd best ILB in the draft plus another stud in Skov who already knows this defense like the back of his hand, and now we have tremendous depth and ST abilities. Add in Moody who's trained with CK all off season for that specialty hybrid LB/S role and we're very good/deep = Immediate Minor Dropoff but LT Upgrade in Depth. As to the OLB positons, we had the best combo in the game in Brooks/Smith. We were 5-0 without Aldon. Skuta played fantastic for us last year in Aldon's place and Lemonier should really shine even more this year and now we add Lynch and Breslin to the competition? If Aldon gets suspended for a few games = Immediate Minor Dropoff but LT Upgrade in Depth.
RCB: Tramaine Brock (Brown/Same) - Dontae Johnson & Keith Reaser. Brock outright beat out both Rogers and Brown and played both CB positions. He started most of the year and should be even better now.
LCB: Chris Culliver (Rogers) - Eric Wright; Chris Cook & Kenneth Acker.
SLOT/NICKLE: Jimmie Ward (Rogers) - Perrish Cox & Darryl Morris. Rogers continued to play half-speed and two-hand-touch football last year enjoying his monster payday thanks to Cullivers injury. Rogers would have been cut had Culliver not gone down last year. Wright was the #3 going into the playoffs but pulled a hammy badly so we brought Cox back to help and he played exceptional. As a result, Rogers was cut and both Wright and Cox were resigned. With the addition of two press-CB's in Johnson and Cook, we now have versatility and depth we've never had before. Add in future depth and talent (including return abilities) in Reaser and Acker and we're looking at a dynamic shift in how we utilize the CB position going forward. Then we went out and nabbed the best FS/CB in the draft to play the Slot/Nickle and be slowly groomed into the FS role next to Reid in the near future. Should Reid or Bethea get injured, Ward can now slide into the S role and Morris/Cox or another can play the Slot/Nickle = Upgrade.
FS: Eric Reid (Same) - C.J. Spillman; L.J. McCray & D.J. Campbell.
SS: Antoine Bethea (Whitner) - Craig Dahl & Raymond Ventrone. Reid is now the leader back there and is an excellent student of the game. That said, he's not alone even with the departure of Whitner. Bethea is also a student of the game and a very accomplished and savy veteran. With the new style of defense we're expected to play (i.e. exotic off coverage schemes mixed in with press coverage and single-high S), Bethea should have a field-day playing in and around the box esp. with the added pass rush and talent we've added to the front 7. He's also not as poor in coverage as some think. With Ward added, the experience of Dahl, Spillman and Ventrone and the added competition and return abilities of McCray and Campbell = Slight Upgrade.
Well done NCommand and again, I appreciate the positive waves. I agree with probably 90% of what you have here but I don't quite share your level of optimism with the defense, in particular the LB position. As I stated earlier, Bowman probably won't be at full strength (or speed) this season. His knee injury was severe. With Willis now nearing 30 and with probably about 800 NFL tackles on his ledger, he might be due to have a bit of a drop-off, as might A Brooks, who is also around 30 now. Add to that the absence of A Smith for a few games and I think the team is going to feel it. The new guys the team has brought in (Lemonier, Moody, Skuta, Wilhoite, Borland, Skov, and Lynch) all have talent but do they have enough to compensate for the drop-offs / potential injuries? I wonder.
Now, all of that stated, the DL could actually be improved this year if Tank, Dial, and Williams hit the ground running. That level of depth could keep Cowboy and McD fresh until the playoffs. With Williams now healthy and able to keep Dorsey fresh, the NT position should be strong. If Tank can provide some pass rush, it would take some pressure off the OLBs. If the DL is indeed improved, then the defense should be very, very solid. As you all know, it all starts up front.
I also like what the Niners did with the safety position because I think Ward will be a stud. Dominated at the Senior Bowl, excellent cover guy, and just loves the game. He will earn his first round grade. The team will be more physical, more intense, and in general, better in coverage on passing downs now. The corners however, are still pretty young and inexperienced (outside of Wright and Cox and the latter may not even make the team) and that has me concerned. Hopefully, Culliver is fully recovered and ready to go but if he gets suspended, that could be a problem too.
So, to me, even though the offense is clearly better at many positions, the defense is still a pretty big question mark. It could be better, it could be worse, or it could stay at the same level. I'm obviously hoping for better but in the NFL, there are no sure things. One thing is certain however....this team will be fascinating to watch.
Thanks for all of the great posts Zoners...
Thanks brother and nice post yourself. I think everyone's level of concern regarding the defense is understandable but let's take into a few factors here:
1. Bowman's injury, Willis and Brooks at 30 years old and Aldon potentially missing some time. To counter and play a positive Devil's Advocate here, Brooks has very low tread on his tires and has gotten better every single year (last year was his best and he was the best OLB by far in the playoffs). He's also 100% attendance at workouts with the team. He's a professional. Aldon isn't going to miss any time b/c he didn't violate any NFL policies (drugs); alcoholism was already addressed privately. Looking at his case, it's highly unlikely he gets charged with anything at this juncture minus some support counseling, etc. He'll still have legal matters to settle out of court though but otherwise, I doubt anything comes from it. Even if he was charged with a misdemeanor, at most, he'd be suspended for 2-4 games at most and we were 5-0 without him LAST year and the depth behind him is another year more experienced and with more quality depth. Not worried. Willis is a concern. He's been nicked up for the past 3+ years now and has missed some time. Yet when he did, who filled in for him admirably? Wilhoite...the same guy who's expected to start for Bowmanbut now, he'll have two very good ILB's to push him, provide incredible depth and boast up our ST coverage units (Borland and Skov).
2. Don't worry about the youth and lack of experience with the CB's. The truth is Culliver and Brock have been with us for years and have played both CB's positions, in the nickle and dime. They know this defense like the back of their hands. The same can be said for Cox. Only Ward/Bethea will have to learn like Stevie Johnson over on the offense but Ward is only going to play 60% of the snaps and slowly work into the full defense including the FS position. And is anyone really worried about Bethea's ability to learn quickly. Reid should be even better this year and is already a leader back there.
3. One element that is a bit of an unknown that could have profound effects in getting off the field on 3rd downs and generating a lot more 3-and-outs and TO's is the scheme that Fangio can now run vs. what he had to do with the "old" regime in Brown, Rogers, Whitner & Goldson/Reid. With the old regime, we could only play one way d/t the poor coverage ability of Goldson and the inability of the smaller/weaker CB's in Rogers and Brown. Whitner was a known liability in coverage esp. in the RZ. But NOW, Fangio has specialists in press coverage (Cook and Johnson), both Brock and Culliver can play press and are very physical and aggressive at the LOS, Reid can play anywhere and has tremendous range (single-high S), the entire unit can play off-coverage schemes still with their experience in our defense and we have playmakers all over the field who now contest balls and generate TO's (Brock, Culliver, Reid and Bethea...Ward now too). And look at the depth. You have a 4.2 lightning fast slot CB who's been developed for a year in Morris, Acker and Reaser seem in the same mold as Brock and Culliver (and Cox) and like all three, just need time to develop/heal up. And you're right...Wright, Johnson and Cox are all going to PUSH Culliver at the #2 CB position teh entire off season and the entire year. The "losers" will only make our nickle and dime defense that much better. B/c of the youth, speed, aggression, ball skills, IQ in our defensive scheme and depth, Fangio can call ANY style of defense he wants now. For encouragement, rewatch the NFCCG. That was one game where Fangio didn't sit back and play conservative off-coverage the whole game and he dialed up a lot of pressure on RW who aside from a couple bombs, did absolutely nothing against us. Now, imagine what he can do with THIS personnel...
[ Edited by NCommand on May 21, 2014 at 9:01 AM ]