• Don Atkinson
  • Written by:
    Don Atkinson
    Don Atkinson is a writer and sports analyst for Reach North Media and The Morning Line.

Don Atkinson's Latest Articles

  • By Don Atkinson
    May 31, 2021 at 4:49 PM 2 comments
    It was just three short years ago that the San Francisco 49ers took a chance on linebacker Fred Warner in Round 3 of the 2018 NFL draft. Warner was then a well-regarded but largely overlooked outside linebacker out of BYU, and only a few teams had him in their top tier at the position. In fact, eight linebackers went ahead of Warner in the draft that year, but the 49ers saw something special in the West Coast native and brought him home with the 70th pick overall. That pick has already proven to be one of the best made by the franchise in the last three decades. You would likely have to go back to 2013 (when Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks were on the field together) to find a group of linebackers that struck much fear in opposing offenses. There...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Feb 19, 2021 at 4:44 PM 68 comments
    Winston Churchill once said, "There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction." This is so in football, as much as in everyday life. With a slew of free agents, a tight salary cap, and roster questions at many key positions, the 49ers are indeed about to change. Nowhere is that more true than at the quarterback position. Rumors suggesting the release of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a blockbuster trade for Houston's star quarterback Deshaun Watson, and a host of potential free agent signings have swirled since the close of the team's 2020 season in January. Nothing yet has happened, and in fact it may not any time soon. But ready or not, the NFL draft is approaching, and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Feb 16, 2021 at 3:56 PM 1 comment
    When the 49ers' injury-driven 2020 season mercifully ended, the team took unwanted claim to the basement of the NFC West at 6-10 and began fielding a litany of questions about its roster future. A few of those questions have been resolved, but many more are still left open, and have become the topic of debate among both football analysts and the team's fan base. The greatest questions, of course, have revolved around whether the 49ers can ride out another year with oft-injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who spent much of last season either hobbled on the field or watching from the press box. The fervor over whether Garoppolo can raise his play to a level needed to win a Super Bowl has continued to escalate, making his future with the team, at least to observers, seem shaky...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Sep 11, 2020 at 4:50 PM 120 comments
    When it comes to talking about the 49ers' group of wide receivers, the words of Yogi Berra seem to apply: "It's like deja vu all over again." Last year at about this time, the 49ers took a torpedo to their wide receiver plans when they lost both big-bodied rookie Jalen Hurd and the scrappy Trent Taylor to pre-season injuries. They had another rookie wideout, Deebo Samuel, who would later prove to be a gem for the team's offense, but at the time things were looking less than hopeful for the 49ers' chances of making significant strides toward a playoff appearance. In an effort to boost the receiver room last season, the 49ers brought in veteran Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos, and it had a magical effect on the other wideouts for the rest of the...
  • By Don Atkinson
    May 10, 2020 at 3:00 PM 13 comments
    Oh, what a difference a few weeks make. In my initial version of this article, created just before this year's NFL Draft, I penned in the names of ten veteran 49er players who I believed might not be with the team on the opening week of the upcoming regular season. With wide receiver Marquise Goodwin traded recently to the Philadelphia Eagles, accompanied by a trade of running back Matt Breida to the Miami Dolphins, that group of ten was pared down, then shaved again when 49ers all-pro tackle Joe Staley announced his retirement over the Draft weekend. Still another name was snatched from my list two weeks prior to the loss of those three, not by departure but via re-signing, when the team secured cornerback Jason Verrett to a one-year contract in mid-April. The...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Mar 24, 2020 at 9:30 PM 36 comments
    It's been just about a week since the official start of the 2020 NFL season, and in that short period things are suddenly shaking out for the 49ers in terms of their initial roster. Star defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is gone, as are veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders and long-standing offensive lineman Mike Person. Defensive line anchor Arik Armstead is staying, along with Safety Jimmie Ward and nearly all the team's key reserve players. Now approaching the 2020 NFL draft, the 49ers find themselves in an enviable position: They are coming off a Super Bowl season with their roster functionally intact, and they are in serious need at very few positions. It's doubtful the 49ers are worrying much at all about their overall situation, but they are justifiably a bit concerned...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Mar 19, 2020 at 5:47 PM 4 comments
    Amidst the attention-grabbing news of election politics and a serious pandemic, the off-season bargaining and dealings of the NFL have largely gotten lost. Not much from the world of professional football has made it into the headlines apart perhaps from legendary quarterback Tom Brady leaving icy New England for the humidity of sunny Florida, where he will now, theoretically anyway, throw touchdowns for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One thing that has gotten little attention, yet is certainly notable, is that the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers have made it nearly to the NFL draft with their Super Bowl LIV team functionally intact. 49ers General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, at least thus far, have done an outstanding job at checking the team's...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Jan 3, 2020 at 8:20 PM 0 comments
    It's been covered like the last minute of no other matchup this year, this last standoff of the final game of the NFL's 100th season. With both playoff seeding and an NFC West crown on the line, the San Francisco 49ers faced off against their bitterest of rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, in a Sunday night showdown that had all the nation watching. At the conclusion of the game, the 49ers took the division title, Number 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and a solidified confidence about playing at CenturyLink Field and rolled on out of town to start a two-week break. What they left behind was the proverbial monkey that had been on the back of the team since 2011, the last time the 49ers won in Seattle, and a gridiron of trampled Skittles. It was a finish few might have...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Dec 7, 2019 at 5:54 PM 0 comments
    It's been said since Week One, and it hasn't much changed, that the 49ers-Saints matchup Sunday will be one of the biggest of the year for both teams. At stake is the Number 1 seed position in the playoffs, home field advantage, and perhaps bragging rights over being the NFC's best team with three weeks to play. The Saints enter the game, predictably, as the homefield favorites, though Las Vegas has essentially called this one, by making the visiting 49ers a mere 2.5 point underdog, a tossup. If last week's game against the Baltimore Ravens didn't solidify opinions about where the 49ers potentially stand in the playoff melee that's ahead, this game undoubtedly will. The Saints have remained consistent favorites to win the NFC since the season began and have already clinched...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Nov 30, 2019 at 4:54 PM 3 comments
    In what many are touting as a preview of the upcoming Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers are in Baltimore this weekend facing the 9-2 Ravens. The game certainly maps out to be one of the best of this year, with the 49ers' elite defense and powerful run-based offense going up against the Ravens' Lamar Jackson, his prolific offense and an aggressive Baltimore defense. Both teams are coming off dominating wins – the Ravens a 45-6 Monday night thumping of the Los Angeles Rams, and the 49ers a 37-8 humiliation of the Green Bay Packers last Sunday evening. Above and beyond the entertainment value of the game, there are some clear playoff implications, with Baltimore chasing the 10-1 New England Patriots in the AFC, and San Francisco trying to stay a step ahead of the 10-2...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Nov 19, 2019 at 7:27 PM 48 comments
    The 49ers' stellar defense has had its moments of letdown, especially of late, but it's principally been as reliable as any football fan, or football coach, could possibly hope for. Less reliable has been the 49ers' offense, but there's something to the idea that things are about to change. Offensively, what has been a frenetic and often inconsistent offensive unit is starting to solidify. There is still much to improve on offense, as 49ers' Head Coach Kyle Shanahan would readily admit. But as we get closer to the post-season, there is every reason to be encouraged by the direction in which the team is going offensively. Fresh off a grueling and gut-wrenching loss to the Seattle Seahawks the week before, the 49ers took a full quarter-and-a-half to shake off a...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Nov 7, 2019 at 12:53 PM 1 comment
    Now halfway through the 2019 season, the exotic moves that make pro football an exciting chess game to watch are already starting to appear. Fresh on the heels of rumor and speculation about wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s future with the Cleveland Browns, comes the news that former Dallas Cowboys superstar wideout Dez Bryant is, at least by his own proclamation, ready to return to the NFL. From 2010 until 2017, Bryant was largely the catalyst of the Cowboys' offense, and his ability to make game-winning catches and crank out spectacular kick returns made him a football icon of that time period. He parted ways with Dallas under rumblings of conflict with Cowboy's Coach Jason Garrett over an offensive unit scheme that reportedly iced Bryant out of being an...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Oct 29, 2019 at 8:27 PM 0 comments
    Being the 49ers offense must be a little like being an older sister to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. You may be gorgeous, too, but you're never going to get the same level of attention as your sibling. Last Sunday, the 49ers offensive unit took a bold step toward letting the rest of the world know that it was rather special as well, racking up a whopping 51 points against what is widely regarded as one of the tougher defenses in the NFC. The 49ers offense has scored 207 points over the first seven games of the season. Toss out the 9-0 score in the underwater game they played in Washington two weeks ago, and the team has averaged an impressive 33 points per game. Not bad for an offensive unit that has largely taken a back seat to the 49ers defensive unit...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Oct 25, 2019 at 5:36 PM 4 comments
    Former Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has already donned his fresh number 17 jersey, gotten a few practices under his belt, studied some playbook, and is settling into his new life as a San Francisco 49er. Judging from both his demeanor and his smile, he seems genuinely happy to be here. While everything is looking good within Niner City itself, there is still an element of second-guessing, and even some outward media criticism, over the team sending its third- and fourth-round selections in the 2020 draft in exchange for the veteran Sanders and Denver's fifth-round pick. Some are saying two mid-draft picks was too great a price to pay for what they deem to functionally be a "rental player," in that Sanders plays out his contract at the end of this...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Oct 9, 2019 at 5:46 PM 2 comments
    Brace yourselves, 49ers faithful. As the team continues to rack up wins, the fan-based bandwagon activity is, predictably, starting up. There's been recent sightings of lightly worn Vernon Davis and Alex Smith jerseys in markets outside the Bay area. If the Rams fall to the 49ers this Sunday, expect Amazon sales of Niners apparel to soar. But while the fringe fans are starting to come alive, many of the NFL's insiders continue to look at the 49ers as if they were a cheap Rolex knockoff: flashy on the outside but ready to quit telling the correct time at any minute. And those critics are digging in. In the Tuesday episode of ESPN's First Take, commentator Stephen A. Smith continued to downplay what the 49ers have done so far this season, saying "I'll give the...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Sep 26, 2019 at 8:40 PM 8 comments
    Two weeks until the beginning of the end – that's the low-brow fortune-telling amongst many of the NFL's very best armchair quarterbacks this week. Indeed, it's only a matter of time before the 49ers disintegrate before our very eyes, and we're just one game away from the wheels falling off the proverbial wagon in Los Angeles. For those who are ready to embrace that epiphany of football's elite thinkers, I just happen to have a newly repainted section of the Golden Gate up for sale. Ignore the fact that both the paint on the bridge and the printer's ink on the deed are both still wet. And maybe for those not in need of a bridge, or who perhaps just want to take a more intellectual and analytical look at the 49ers and the state of the NFL, here's another idea that...
  • By Don Atkinson
    Sep 11, 2019 at 9:00 AM 3 comments
    With the first Sunday of the NFL season barely in the books, the molten lava of dissatisfaction and fretting over the strength of Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers' quarterback of the present and future has started once again to bubble to the surface. Garoppolo, it seems, has never been quite free of the doubters after his honeymoon of five inspired wins to finish off the 2017 season came to a halt on the field at Arrowhead stadium in the third game of 2018. Garoppolo's season-ending injury in that game gave detractors fodder to chew on for the next fourteen months, and some less than brilliant practices before this 2019 regular season began provided all the spice the naysayers needed to keep the negative chatter going. But while many are ready to disembark from the...
Share 49ersWebzone