Today the 49ers start training camp. Here are some things to watch for:
Patrick Willis’s Ankle AB4CWFSE2J4K
P-Will is the unquestioned leader of the 49ers young defense. Our 3-4 system is built to funnel ball carriers into the middle of our defense where P-Will plays. Right now Willis might be the best linebacker in the game. With that said, we know that the 49ers can only go as far as P-Will can take them. That is why his injury is so concerning. Towards the end of last season Willis injured his ankle and had to miss the Pro Bowl and most of this years OTA’s. Willis should be fine- He has had ample time to recover and has started participating in practices. What’s concerning is that the reason P-Will is great is because he plays fast and with reckless abandonment which is a good way to get re-injured. Losing Patrick Willis would be the worst thing to happen to the 49ers since Jerry Rice became a Raider.
Manny Lawson and Aubrayo Franklin
When Mike Singletary took over the 49ers he put the team on notice by sending Vernon Davis to the locker room during a game. He later gave his “I want WINNERS” speech. Since that moment the 49ers culture has changed. Most players have become committed to doing anything it takes to win. I don’t know if we can say the same thing about Manny and Aubroya. They’re both a tad bit overrated and they both sat out of OTA’s because of their contracts. This isn’t a shot at these two guys- it’s understandable to take care of yourself and your family but when players like David Bass show up to OTA’s without a contract it makes an OTA holdout look bad.
Defensive Line Depth
To have a great 3-4 defense you have to have at least five good defensive linemen. Right now the 49ers have three proven d-linemen. Besides our starting three we don’t have much depth. Ray McDonald can contribute rushing the passer but it’s yet to be seen if he can develop into an everydown player. Then we have Kentwan Balmer, and there is still time for this guy. The majority of the 49er Faithfull have written Balmer off as a bust, and he might be but we will find out this year. So between McDonald and Balmer we should have solid linemen, however the man who we should get the most excited for is Ricky Jean-Francios. Ricky dominated in college but didn’t see much action last year in the pros. Mike Singletary obviously wants to change that. During OTA’s Ricky took the lion share of reps at nose tackle. That’s not his natural position so that has to lead us to believe that the 49ers are trying to speed up his progression by getting him reps anywhere they can find them.