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The days between the Super Bowl's final gun and the start of training camp are filled with a multitude of emotions: sadness, denial, anger, excitement, loathing, and confusion. My patience for win-loss speculation, especially in the middle of April, quickly wears thin.

Now, the NFL is so hungry to stay relevant that it has resorted to airing flag football games and making World Cup line-ups with current NFL players.

Rejoice, Gentle Reader! The humid, scorched air of July is upon us; the lack of substance has reached its crest and is subsiding. In fewer than two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers open training camp and we can prepare ourselves for six months of football.

If you're still looking for a few reasons to be excited for the start of the 2018 season, here are three to consider:

A Fully Armed and Operational Secondary

In the 49ers' 1985 offensive playbook, head coach Bill Walsh included the following notes to the offensive line: "There is no group within any sport whose success is as dependent on effective communication… when five or six of us are involved, no amount of talent can replace the ability to understand one another."

Like an Old Testament prophet, Walsh's words ring true and apply to the 49ers' young secondary unit.

Last year, the secondary suffered more than its fair share of slings and arrows. First, we saw Rashard Robinson's inability to play cornerback or special teams without committing multiple penalties. Trading a veteran player, despite horrific play, and replacing him with rookie Ahkello Witherspoon was a bold move for both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch.

The gamble paid off in spades, as Witherspoon stepped up and was the solid defensive back the 49ers were lacking.

Further, safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward suffered season-ending forearm injuries. Their injuries, combined with safety Eric Reid dabbling in linebacker play, resulted in a secondary with severe talent gaps.

With each new season comes the rebirth of a healed team and new additions. Fortunately, the 49ers' secondary comes into camp injury-free and under the leadership of boisterous veteran Richard Sherman.

His positive attitude and teeming self-confidence are infectious; both elements have been missing from the 49ers' defensive backs since the departures of Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner.

Sherman might not be the cornerback he was three or four years ago, but he's the right man to fulfill Walsh's prophecy and fill any talent gaps with swagger and communication.

DeForest Buckner Strikes Back

If you've ever been in a situation where you felt snubbed for exceeding expectations, then you've walked a mile in DeForest Buckner's shoes.

Indeed, the 49ers may not have had a top defense last year, but Buckner is the man who kept the unit together and the run defense respectable. He and the defensive line saw 491 rush attempts last year, the most in pro football, but only allowed 3.9 yards per attempt, which was one of the lowest totals among all teams during the 2017 season. (Source: Pro Football Reference)

Further, Pro Football Focus awarded Buckner an 89.6 pass rush grade, ranking him third among interior defenders and the sole player under 25 years old to be in the top 10 at his position.

With great ignorance, football experts refused Buckner a place on the AP All-Pro team, and football fans forgot his Pro Bowl invitation. Experts and fans refusing Buckner of a singular honor last season is beyond rational thought.

Buckner comes into the 2018 season as the clear leader of a defensive line that could be one of the best in the NFL.

For discussion's sake, let's assume the following interior roster:
DeForest Buckner
Solomon Thomas
Sheldon Day
Earl Mitchell
Arik Armstead

That's a hellacious rotation of talent for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and one that gives no rest to the opposing offensive line.

I'm Jimmy Garoppolo. I'm Here to Rescue You.

It's hard to find any 49er fan who isn't excited to see Jimmy Garoppolo behind center this fall.

However, we live in an era during which people seek to disagree for no real reason other than to pick internet fights through a plasma screen. So, I have no doubt there are a few fans (or reporters) who have a list of excuses as to why Garoppolo is a terrible quarterback.

We all know Garoppolo has never lost an NFL game as a starting quarterback. However, for him to become the New Hope for the franchise, he needs to experience loss.

Let's face reality: the 49ers are not going 16-0 this season. So, what happens if the team loses two or three in a row? What if Garoppolo has two or three average or below average games in a row?

There is no doubt a full offseason learning Kyle Shanahan's playbook will provide Garoppolo a deeper understanding of the offense.

What's unknown is how he bounces back from an inferior performance and keeps the ten men on offense ready to walk into the molten depths of the earth with him.

Of course, as a fan, I'd like to see the best of both worlds for Garoppolo: big yardage, 30 touchdown passes, double-digit wins, and elevating his mental game. Seeing him bounce back from a tough loss would be more exciting than a five-touchdown performance.

Each professional sport has a few short weeks of training camp, but the hype leading up to the opening of football season is like none other. This year's 49ers have had fans on the edge of their seats for months, and we're just a few days away from finally seeing the team's offseason work in action.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.