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San Francisco 49ers: 5 Burning Questions for Week 1

Sep 5, 2014 at 11:48 AM


The San Francisco 49ers will look to start their march towards another deep postseason run on Sunday when they open up the 2014 season against the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers are coming off a regular season that saw them post 12 wins and a wildcard berth in the NFC playoffs. The Super Bowl drive ultimately fell 6 inches short.

The Cowboys are coming off an 8-8 season which saw them once again miss the playoffs with a loss on the final week of the regular season. In 2013 the Cowboys had one of the worst defenses that the NFL has seen in a long time, giving up 30 points or more on 6 occasions.

The rivalry between the 49ers and Cowboys has been one of the best in the NFL for many years and the series record is currently deadlocked at 16-16-1.

With that as a backdrop here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.

1) Will Ray McDonald play? - The 49ers defensive end was arrested Sunday morning after police received a domestic violence call. Many have called for the 49ers to sit McDonald, however NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke have all stated that they believe in due process which leads me to believe that we will see McDonald on the field Sunday afternoon.

2) How will the 49ers defensive front seven hold up? - The 49ers defense will feature a front seven that will be without Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman. If last season is any indication the 49ers should be able to manage just fine. With Smith out of the lineup they won five straight, and two of those victories came with Patrick Willis out as well. In fact, with Smith and Willis out of the lineup the 49ers defense gave up a combined total of 14 points in those two games.

3) Can the 49ers secondary keep up? - Three of the five members of the 49ers secondary have changed since the end of last season. Gone are Donte Whitner, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Stepping in to fill their roles will be Antoine Bethea, Chris Culliver and rookie Jimmie Ward. This group will have their hands full trying to cover Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten. It will be especially interesting to see how the 49ers try to cover Witten. Will they use their linebackers or will it be an extra safety or cornerback charged with that task?

4) Will the right side of the 49ers offensive line show improvement? - Everything is pointing towards the 49ers starting Jonathan Martin at right tackle on Sunday. Martin did a good job for most of the preseason in pass protection, but struggled to get push in the run game. The good news is Cowboys defensive end George Selvie doesn't strike fear in the hearts of anyone in the NFL and this is a matchup Martin should win.

The picture at right guard is a little less clear. After missing all offseason team activities as the result of a contract dispute Alex Boone signed a new deal on Monday and has been participating in practice. If Boone isn't ready to go the 49ers will turn to Joe Looney who played with the starting unit throughout the preseason.

Regardless of who the starter is, they will be matched up with Nick Hayden. In 2013 Hayden earned the second worse grade among all defensive tackles in the NFL from ProFootballFocus with a -34.1.

5) Can the 49ers offense put it together? - The bad news is the 49ers starting offense did not score a touchdown during any of the possessions they were involved in during the first three preseason games.

The good news is the 49ers have a history of being very conservative and vanilla until the games that count start.

With Michael Crabtree set to play a full season and new weapons in Carlos Hyde, Brandon Lloyd and Stevie Johnson, all signs are pointing to improved play from Colin Kaepernick. Look for the 49ers offense to throw some new wrinkles at the Cowboys defense, but also continue with the balance approach that has served them so well since Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman took over. A slow and steady approach could go a long way toward helping the defense get it's footing with the new additions against what can be an explosive offense.

Prediction Time: 49ers 26 Cowboys 23
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.


2 Comments

  • Edd
    Ditto on #4  Jack. Can the O-Line generate pass-protection, something I have yet to see last season or this pre-season. They MUST give Kap time enough to go through his progressions. It's not all on Kap as some people would claim. I have never seen another O-Line that is so good running, yet so lame pass-protecting.
    Sep 6, 2014 at 6:52 PM
    0
    Response: Kaep sure bailed the line out on Sunday.
  • Pokerjohn
    #5. Kaps troubles aren't the weapons he had or didnt have. its the fact that from pre-snap through the end of the play he refuses to look at anyone else. How does he know that nobody besides Crabtree was or wasn't open? he doesn't look. perfect example (I know its preseason save me the speech) one game i beleive VS DEN i saw L. James motion out wide left. Matched up against the biggest LB they had. Mismatch am I correct? If James cant win that battle cut him now. Kap didnt look his way. Didnt look once pre-snap to see what matchup he had. His head stayed to the right and stared down Johnson I think for an incompletion. By now he should know that pre-snap you should at least take a little peek at the matchups you have. The defense is going to be ok this year but dont expect them to shut teams down to 10 pts a game as usual. The offense is going to have to perform like an NFL offense this season for us to have a chance. This college offense that Roman insists on running and harbaugh allows will not cut it. Its boring, uncreative and PREDICTABLE. If i can tell you what they are going to do on a given play then these D coordinators who study tape should know its coming too. 8-8 maybe
    Sep 6, 2014 at 2:27 AM
    0
    Response: It's Jim Harbaugh's offense.


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