Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


Do the 49ers currently have what it takes to win Super Bowl LVII?

Marc Adams
May 5, 2022 at 11:55 AM--


When we last saw them, the San Francisco 49ers were leaving the field after a devastating loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers made a lot of moves during free agency. Some were positive, like adding a starting cornerback in Charvarius Ward. Some were negative, like not bringing back players D.J. Jones and Laken Tomlinson. But the team has added a large draft class, as well as a large group of undrafted free agents.

The 49ers have also experienced changes to the coaching staff, front office, and scouting departments. It's been an offseason of transformation so far, and we're still almost three months away from training camp.

Next week, the NFL schedule comes out, so we should have a better feel for how the season may play out. For now, let's take a look at what we know, what we don't know, and what we need to see in order to determine how great of a chance the 49ers have of winning Super Bowl LVII in February 2023.

What we know:

  • Second-year quarterback Trey Lance is ready. This is, of course, according to the 49ers. And I have no reason to doubt this, regardless of what others might say.
  • Lance has the physical tools, the intelligence, and the drive to be great. With a full offseason to prepare, he should develop well in year two. He may not be the quarterback we want early on, but as the season progresses, I believe we'll see him starting to grow into what we believe he can be.
  • The 49ers have ended two of the last three seasons by blowing a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter of a huge postseason game. According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN, San Francisco is the only team over the last three seasons to do so.
  • The team drafted running back Ty Davis-Price from LSU, in the third round of the 2022 draft. Taking a running back that high is not usually a popular decision among the fanbase. This pick was no exception. Not because fans question Davis-Price, but because running backs can be obtained later in the draft (see Mitchell, Elijah). But Davis-Price is a big back that can wear down defenses late in the game. Perhaps he is just what the 49ers need to avoid another 4th quarter meltdown.
  • We also know that Davis-Price was a very good pass protector in college. This could be why Trey Sermon wasn't used much last season. The 49ers like their running backs to be able to pass protect. Davis-Price should help in this area. And that's good news for Lance.
  • The 49ers have put a lot into strengthening the cornerback position this offseason. Not only did the team bring in free agent Ward, but they also drafted rookies Sam Womack and Tariq Castro-Fields, in addition to bringing back Jason Verrett. This secondary, specifically the corners, has the chance to be very good this season.
  • The 49ers continue to build the NFL's most dominant defensive line. Although the team lost Jones and others in the offseason, they also made some additions, including Kerry Hyder, Jr., the team's sack leader in 2020. The 49ers also drafted an exciting edge rusher in Drake Jackson. Jackson has all the physical ability, specifically the first step and bend, that the 49ers crave in an edge rusher opposite of Nick Bosa.
  • The San Francisco defense is still going to be very good. The pass rush should be better. The secondary should be better. If they can continue to stuff the run and get some quarterback pressure from Jackson, this defense could be near the level of 2019.
  • Kyle Shanahan finally has the deep threat he's been wanting in draft pick Danny Gray. He also has a quarterback who will attempt those deep throws.
  • The 49ers made a concerted effort to improve the special teams unit. I expect that effort to pay off.

What we don't know:

  • How will the 49ers' schedule look? Will they play tougher teams at the beginning of the season when Lance is still getting his feet wet? Or will the back end of the season be more difficult? The schedule plays a big role because if you play a team like the Rams to open the season, Lance and the offense could look drastically different that week compared with week 17. So the schedule will be an important factor to consider.
  • Who will replace Tomlinson at left guard? In addition to Aaron Banks, who they drafted a year ago, the team drafted a couple of possibilities in the 2022 draft: Spencer Burford and Nick Zakelj. The hope is that one of these players can become the starting left guard, playing next to all-world left tackle Trent Williams.
  • Will the loss of Mike McDaniel hurt the offense? By all accounts, Shanahan relied heavily on McDaniel, who is a creative play designer, making a big impact on the offense, especially the run game. Will his departure for Miami be noticeable in Santa Clara?
  • How will the 49ers' offense look? Not only did they lose McDaniel, but they will have a new quarterback. The 49ers also now have some deep speed on the outside. Additionally, the team has started drafting running backs and offensive linemen who look a little different than before. Could they be changing into a more power-based run game?
  • How will Mike McGlinchey look in his return from a horrible injury? Last November, McGlinchey suffered a torn quadriceps tendon and missed the rest of the 2021 season. This particular injury has been known to threaten a player's career (50% never play again). It sounds like McGlinchey is recovering well, but we won't truly know until training camp.
  • Will Jimmy Garoppolo be on the roster once the regular season begins? This would be good news for those who believe Lance needs a solid and experienced backup. But it would be bad news for people who, like me, think having such a beloved and well-respected player sitting behind Lance, as he tries to learn the position, is not the best situation.
  • Who will be the other starting safety alongside Jimmie Ward? It doesn't appear the 49ers will be bringing back Jaquiski Tartt, so someone needs to step up.
  • Will Alex Mack return for another season? It sounds like he might be back. And it also sounds like he might retire. If Mack retires, who will be his replacement? I would think Jake Brendel is the leader in the clubhouse, but that could certainly change.
  • How will Javon Kinlaw look in year three, after troubling knee problems? He says he feels better than he has since being drafted. Let's hope his knee holds up and he becomes the player he was drafted to be.
  • Can this defense stop the run without Jones? The 49ers drafted Kalia Davis in the 6th round. Larry Krueger called Davis his "favorite pick." Davis doesn't have to blossom into the player Jones has been, but if he can develop into a solid backup, the 49ers will be happy with that. He tore his ACL in October, and will likely be a candidate for Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start the season, so don't expect him to make a huge impact in 2022. But he is an exciting prospect. Krueger said, "He plays with his hair on fire."
  • Can the 49ers finally develop a threat in the return game on special teams? It seems like forever since the team has had a kickoff or punt returned for a touchdown. How long has it been? Ted Ginn in week one of the 2011 season. That was Jim Harbaugh's first game. That was a long time ago.

What we need to see:

  • We need to see Lance progress and grow into a weapon on offense. I'd rather not see him run as much as he did in his first start, and I'd like to see him run out of bounds or slide instead of taking so many big hits. But his legs are part of what will make him special. That said, it's what he does from the pocket that will make or break the 49ers offense.
  • We need to see the 49ers learn to put teams away late in championship games. This is on the coaching staff, as well as the players. In both postseason losses, the 49ers failed to get the ball to Deebo Samuel as they were trying to protect those 10-point leads. If your best player is barely touching the ball in the last quarter of a tight game, with everything on the line, you can't expect to win those games.
  • We need to see Garoppolo traded to another team. I hate the thought of Lance having to deal with the former starting QB right behind him.
  • We need to see the 2022 special teams unit pull its weight and impact some games. The playoff game in Green Bay was the lone highlight of 2021. In 2022, there needs to be much more.
  • We need to see how the 2022 NFL schedule looks. Pay attention to when big games are played. We already know the 49ers will play the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City on Monday Night Football on November 21.
  • We need to see someone step up and take hold of the strong safety position. And we need to see that player do enough to not be a weak spot on the defense.
  • We need to see Verrett stay healthy in 2022, even if it's not until the second half of the season.
  • We need to see Drake Jackson become that compliment to Bosa. The 49ers have been searching for that person since injuries cost the team the services of Dee Ford. If Drake can become that player, it helps Bosa some, but it will really help Arik Armstead. Quick pressure from the outside usually causes a quarterback to step up in the pocket. If that happens, Armstead will be there. And maybe Kinlaw, as well.
  • Speaking of Kinlaw, we need to see him become a force in the interior of the defensive line. He has the potential to disrupt games. The 49ers need him to reach that potential.

Do the 49ers currently have what it takes to win the Super Bowl this coming February? Time will tell. I wish they would have kept Tomlinson and Jones, but I love some of the additions they have made.

I think the team will be in the hunt, but it all comes down to Lance. The defense should be really good. The special teams will be better. The question is on offense and the young quarterback who will be leading it.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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