Aaron Erickson's Latest Articles

  • By Aaron Erickson
    Mar 29, 2018 at 6:10 AM 1 comment
    The 49ers ended the 2017 season as the hottest team in football, winning five straight games with their new franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. After signing Garoppolo to an NFL-record contract extension, the 49ers went into free agency looking to improve their starting units and plug roster holes in advance of the draft. Over the next two days, we will look at the state of the 49ers roster after the bulk of free agency. Today, we will look at how well the 49ers addressed their most glaring needs on offense, as well as some options that will be available to further improve those positions in the draft. CENTER Need: Center is a marquee position in Kyle Shanahan's offense. Upon assuming the offensive coordinator mantle in Atlanta, he quickly brought...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Jul 27, 2017 at 7:23 AM 0 comments
    Players report to the 49ers facility in Santa Clara today, and practices will commence tomorrow. Yes folks, training camp is nearly here, and with it comes the opportunity for coaches, media, and fans alike to assess the team's roster. Today, I'll finish up with the last of the three players I believe are the most important to the growth of the team moving forward. I've made my case for each of the first two selections, and today I'll explain the vital role one last player could have in returning the 49ers to contention. Over the last two days, I identified the player I see as the third most important 49er to watch in 2017, as well as the player I see as...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Jul 26, 2017 at 7:00 AM 0 comments
    49ers training camp is nearly here, and with it comes the opportunity for coaches, media, and fans alike to assess the team's roster. Through yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I'll name the three players I believe are the most important to the growth of the team moving forward. I'll make my case for each selection and what their performances could mean to the 49ers in the future. Yesterday, I identified the player I see as the third most important 49er to watch in 2017. Trent Brown, the second most important 49er to watch this year, may make his biggest statement tomorrow when players report in for physicals. Brown has always been enormously talented (and simply enormous),...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Jul 25, 2017 at 6:51 AM 0 comments
    49ers training camp is nearly here, and with it comes the opportunity for coaches, media, and fans alike to assess the team's roster. Over the next three days, I'll name the three players I believe are the most important to the growth of the team moving forward. I'll make my case for each selection and what their performances could mean to the 49ers in the future. We'll start with my choice for the third most important player for the 49ers' rise back to relevance: Joe Williams. To be clear, running back is not the most important position in the offense. The most important positions in any offense tend to be quarterback and left tackle. Here's the thing: neither of those positions are being developed for the future right now, for completely opposite reasons. The...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Jun 14, 2017 at 12:19 PM 0 comments
    In head coach Kyle Shanahan's presser today, he stated that he expected first-round linebacker Reuben Foster to be recovered from his shoulder surgery by the time the team reconvenes and that Foster would be "more than ready" to compete in full pads at the start of training camp. Foster fell to the 49ers at the end of the first round, partially because of concerns about his recovery from shoulder surgery. He has been held out of all contact drills in OTAs and mandatory camp while he...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Apr 25, 2017 at 10:35 AM 5 comments
    The NFL Draft starts two days from tonight, and the 49ers are positioned to inject some desperately needed talent into a roster that limped to a 2-14 record in 2016. New General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan already kicked off the remodel with far more activity in free agency than the 49er Faithful have seen in years. After the March additions, the 49ers still have some gaping holes on the roster. There is not a future star to develop at quarterback. No wide receiver on the roster will pass as Julio Jones or Andre Johnson, top WRs that were central to Shanahan's offenses in Atlanta and Houston, respectively. Aaron Lynch has talent, but he hasn't displayed nearly enough consistency to be counted on as the LEO, the weak side defensive end who Robert Saleh's defense asks to...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 6:25 AM 12 comments
    Now that Robert Saleh's hiring has (finally!) become official, it seems appropriate to look at his 4-3 under defensive scheme and the personnel the 49ers have on hand to fill the specific roles. A couple of 49ers writers have already offered their take on how well the 49ers' personnel fit their new scheme, but I'd like to spend a little more time discussing the scheme and the responsibilities of each position within the scheme. I also have some differing views on the players and their positions. THE BASICS To talk defenses, we need to talk gaps. A "gap" is the space between (or directly to the outside of) offensive linemen. "A" gaps exist on either side of the center. "B" gaps are between the guards and tackles. "C" gaps are directly outside of the tackles (or...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Feb 6, 2017 at 12:45 PM 4 comments
    Kyle Shanahan is taking the blame for the Falcons' collapse last night in the Super Bowl, reportedly telling people at the team hotel that he, "blew it." While his offense didn't produce its customary 30+ points, it's hard to imagine that they are responsible for surrendering a 25 point lead. Having re-watched the Super Bowl, I think Shanahan called an impressive game, through all four quarters. First: I must admit that as I am writing this, NFL Game Pass has not yet posted the All-22 coaches' film, so I can't see all of the receivers, their route packages, or the defensive coverage unless FOX's broadcast team saw fit to show them. What I saw was a young offense, particularly the QB, that was depending upon momentum to allow them to play fast and instinctively. Although the...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Jan 21, 2017 at 2:30 PM 3 comments
    Humans are fickle, nervous beings. We don't do well with patience, and we rarely assess value objectively. It makes sense, then that what may very well wind up as a widely successful hiring process by the 49ers has frequently been characterized as a directionless, bumbling effort. As soon as candidates withdraw from consideration, fans instinctively feel a sense of loss and diminished possibilities. While the truth has always been that only one person would fill each available position, it's certainly more reassuring when the team has all of its options available, without having to endure the stigma of watching some those options electing to remove themselves from the process. Everyone wants to be wanted, and public rejection seems humiliating. Let's be clear, the candidates'...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Jan 5, 2017 at 3:46 PM 5 comments
    When Jed York held his year-end press conference to announce and explain the firings of both General Manager Trent Baalke and Head Coach Chip Kelly, he repeatedly alluded to the breakdown in the working relationship between the two men as the cause for dismissing them. It's clear that the search for replacements will focus deliberately on maintaining a better relationship, either by hiring two candidates who have already worked together productively or by hiring candidates who agree on major football-related philosophies and respect one another's ideas and qualifications enough to build an enduring and productive relationship. While many assumed from York's comments, as well as the 49ers' efforts to schedule several interviews with HC and GM candidates from the same teams, that the...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Dec 30, 2016 at 9:19 AM 13 comments
    It's coming. Black Monday, the first day after the NFL regular season ends, is so named because of how many coaching and front office jobs are terminated directly after the season. The 49ers have played poorly for two years, they have missed the playoffs for three years, and changes must be made within the organization to affect change in the on-field product the York family is trying to sell. The roster will be updated dramatically, the coaching staff will evolve, and there will likely be some degree of shakeup within the front office. Whether that change involves firing Trent Baalke, retaining Baalke but stripping him of some power, hiring an experienced football mind as an executive who would advise football decisions and serve as a buffer between the owners and the team, or some...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Dec 29, 2016 at 9:05 AM 5 comments
    Do not worry, 49ers Faithful. The 2016 season is coming to a close, and retribution will be exacted for the painful and humiliating season you've had to endure. On every level of the organization, a unified voice declares that changes will be coming. The roster will undoubtedly experience significant turnover and the coaching staff will change. It's likely that one or more coordinators (if not the head coach himself) will get swept up in that change. While many fans have called for the owners of the team, Denise DeBartlo-York and Dr. John York, to remove control of football operation from their son, Jed, that continues to look like the unlikeliest of outcomes. It would appear that the highest-reaching adjustment to the power structure that the Yorks will tolerate is the possible firing of...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Dec 27, 2016 at 8:54 AM 0 comments
    You've heard all of the clichés about line play and football. All the talk of "the trenches" and how "winning football starts up front" can sound like white noise after a while, but that doesn't make any of the statements false. If you pay much attention to offensive line play, or you regularly listen to or talk football with someone who is passionate about offensive line play, you have undoubtedly heard the argument that you don't need the best offensive linemen to field the best offensive line. While it certainly helps to assemble the unit out of large, strong, athletic, aggressive, technically-sound monsters, an offensive line that communicates well, blocks in combination well, and seamlessly transitions to provide help where needed, tends to perform very well. All of those...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Dec 23, 2016 at 8:20 AM 4 comments
    Changes are coming, 49er Faithful. It's unavoidable. The extent of those changes remains to be seen, as rumors out of 4949 Centennial suggest that the York family is looking for reasons to believe in Chip Kelly – reasons enough to bring him back in 2017. Without a doubt, the roster must change for the 49ers to return to competency. With that in mind, we'll take a look at the existing 49ers roster and identify players that a competitive team can be built around. The team will undoubtedly keep more players than I have listed here, but these are players that could serve important roles in allowing the 49ers to return to prominence. CORNERSTONES Marcio Jose...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Oct 18, 2016 at 7:26 AM 7 comments
    Colin Kaepernick played well against the Buffalo Bills. There. I said it. He read the field, made quick decisions, took care of the football, and generally took what the defense gave him. He also blew apart the Bills' players brash statements that they made no adjustments to him and simply dared him to throw the ball. They certainly made it obvious that they were more scared of his legs in the first half, when they played primarily man coverage with one high safety and an inside linebacker constantly spying Kaepernick for scrambles, but they got out of that frequently in the second half, using four different coverages (that's called a halftime adjustment, Coach Ryan) after Kaepernick put up a QB rating of 144.1 in the first half. After the Bills decided to dare...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Aug 31, 2016 at 8:20 AM 3 comments
    I do not pretend to speak for all veterans. I was never one of the troops who aspired to retire after a full and lengthy career in the Army. I enlisted following the 9/11 attacks because I was angry that our country and its civilians had been attacked, and I had every intention of being part of the effort to ensure that a subsequent attack would not occur. As I had completed my Master's degree prior to my enlistment, I had the option to join the military as an officer, but I felt compelled to enlist, because I felt a visceral need to be a direct and physical component of our nation's defense. I enlisted as Ranger Infantry, complete Basic/AIT, Airborne School, Ranger Indoctrination, and eventually Ranger School. I deployed with my unit for five brief tours to Afghanistan and Iraq during my...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Aug 26, 2016 at 6:44 AM 4 comments
    WHAT HAPPENED? In 2015, the 49ers offensive line was terrible. The quarterback had little protection and running lanes were consistently difficult to find. After firing Jim Tomsula, the 49ers hired Chip Kelly, a highly regarded offensive strategist with a demonstrated desire to run the ball, who also demands a great deal from his offensive line. While most analysts and evaluators felt comfortable predicting that Kelly would squeeze more production out of the 49ers offense, legitimate concerns arose questioning the ability of the 49ers personnel on the offensive line and their ability to perform in Kelly's scheme. The Chip Kelly offense is particularly demanding of offensive guards, as they are often asked to be powerful drive blockers, as well as agile and adept second...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Aug 15, 2016 at 6:30 AM 4 comments
    Parity is the grim reality of the NFL. With the salary cap preventing talented teams from keeping all of their best players and the NFL draft order allowing the least successful teams to pick first, it is remarkably difficult for any one team to maintain a roster that can win games without employing superior strategy. More than those in any other sport, football coaches take a central role in the success of a team. While there are plenty of good football players to go around, there is not a surplus of effective coaching staffs, and the effect of that reality has doomed organizations to mediocrity when they consistently fail to hire the right coach. Last year, the 49ers failed to hire the right coach. Jim Tomsula, by most accounts, was a good, warm-hearted man who cared deeply...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Aug 12, 2016 at 6:20 AM 5 comments
    Joe Staley is the most decorated and longest-tenured player on the 49ers offense. He is also quite easily the most candid source of information. He's been around long enough to see five coaching staffs, and he's honest enough to give his assessment of the team. On Wednesday at Kezar, Staley made several comments to Eric Branch and I before the rest of the media contingent caught up with him. When asked about this year's offensive line, He felt the need to first go back and address last year's line. Staley stated point-blank, "the line was terrible last year, and I think the line's gonna be ten times better this year." Without prompting, he elaborated, "everyone knows, what we did last year sucked, and we can't put that on the field and expect to be any kind of football team. So...
  • By Aaron Erickson
    Aug 11, 2016 at 7:46 AM 1 comment
    49er fans are well aware that Aaron Lynch has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season, under its discipline program for substances of abuse. Lynch's assertion that the test was the result of a diluted sample, caused by him being overhydrated, is little comfort to fans who expected to see the team's best edge rusher leading an improved defensive front to a significantly improved season. Most 49er fans are familiar with the names Eli Harold and Cornelius (Tank) Carradine, as these two players will attempt to step in for Lynch during his absence. Coming out of college, Eli Harold was an under sized (240-245 pounds) power rusher, who also possessed the speed and agility to pursue the football sideline to sideline. In his rookie season with the 49ers, he...
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