The San Francisco 49ers‘ mantra is “You are getting better or you are getting worse. You do not stay the same”.
With that in mind, the 49ers have gotten better at some positions and worse at others, just like every other team in the NFL. The key is to get better every year at as many positions as possible. The only way for the 49ers to get better this year is if they win the Super Bowl. In part one of our two-part series, we see where the 49ers have gotten worse this offseason.
Safety — Whenever a team replaces a Pro Bowler with a rookie, they have regressed at that position. That’s exactly what the 49ers did this offseason when they replaced Dashon Goldson with first-round pick Eric Reid. Reid could have a really good rookie year, but there isn’t a realistic chance that he can step in day one and be on the same level that Goldson was. Reid may not even be a day-one starter. The 49ers were one of the best teams in not allowing the big play, and a lot of that was due to Goldson — can Reid do the same?
Quarterback — After Colin Kaepernick took over as starting QB for the Niners, the team had arguably the best backup QB in the NFL with Alex Smith. Now that Alex Smith is gone, the 49ers traded for Colt McCoy and no offense to him, but he’s no Alex Smith. The 49ers will have to hope that Kaepernick continues his meteoric rise and that his aggressive style of play won’t allow him to get injured on any read-option plays. If that does happen, there’s a bigger question mark with McCoy than with Smith.
Tight End — San Francisco has one of the best TEs in the NFL with Vernon Davis, but on an offense that primarily utilizes two tight ends, losing Delanie Walker could be damaging to their future success. Walker was the 49ers’ Swiss Army knife and when he was in on offense, defenses didn’t know if the plays were a run or a pass, which is very beneficial to a team that like to run play action. The Niners used their second Round 2 pick on TE Vance McDonald to replace Walker. McDonald has a lot of upside, but may not be a day-one contributor just yet.
Return Game — Ted Ginn did absolutely nothing for the 49ers on offense — he’s just not a good receiver. But as a return specialist, he was one of the best in the league. Ginn has sprinter speed and can return both kickoffs and punts, a sore subject to some 49er fans (Re: NFC Championship Game versus New York Giants). LaMichael James will take over as the full-time kick returner, but the 49ers must spend the offseason finding a punt returner.