San Francisco 49ers 2013 Training Camp Preview
San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Preview
On July 19, the San Francisco 49ers rookies report for the start of training camp at the team facilities in Santa Clara. The veterans report five days later.
The 49ers 2012 season saw them go 11-4-1, win the NFC West Division, represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and come within yards of claiming the sixth title in franchise history.
The 49ers head into the 2013 season as one of the favorites to not only reach but win the Super Bowl as it is clear that the team will come into the season with an unfinished business approach. The road back to the Super Bowl will not be an easy one as the 49ers must navigate through a tough NFC West with the likes of the Seattle Seahawks looking to win the division while the St. Louis Rams look to take the next step.
Heading into the season, the 49ers still have one of, if not the most talented rosters in the NFL. Colin Kaepernick will be entering into his first full season as the starting quarterback and his development and growth will be crucial in getting back to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers head into training camp with a knowledge of whom the majority of the starters and potential roster players will be, but there are a few questions that will need to be answered when training camp begins on July 19 with the rookies reporting.
49ers QB Training Camp Preview
Colin Kaepernick enters the season as the undisputed starting quarterback. While coach Jim Harbaugh was stated that as of now, no one has established themselves as the backup, reading other comments suggest that Colt McCoy will be the backup and provide that veteran presence in that role. The real question and battle will be for being third on the depth chart. The two that will be going at it are rookie B.J. Daniels and veteran Scott Tolzien. At this moment, I suspect that we could have a situation where Tolzien is the No. 3 with Daniels serving as the practice squad QB.
49ers RBs Training Camp Preview
Coming into training camp, the 49ers will be privileged in knowing that they have depth at this position. Undoubtedly, Frank Gore is the main man to lead the rushing attack. After him are two backs of similar size and ability who will give the 49ers a change of pace from Gore's running style. LaMichael James got a chance to play late in his rookie season and became a valuable contributor as the 49ers made their run to the Super Bowl. At the same time, Kendall Hunter will be returning from having suffered a season ending Achilles tear and before he went down, he was averaging over five yards a carry.
Bruce Miller comes back as the starting fullback and he will be backed up by Anthony Dixon, who mainly is a special teams player, but at varying times last season saw an increased role in the backfield.
49ers WRs Training Camp Preview
The wide receiver position is the most open and unpredictable position that the 49ers have heading into training camp. With the virtual loss of Michael Crabtree for the entire 2013 season, Anquan Boldin now becomes the No. 1 wide receiver. After Boldin, there are more questions than answers as the likes of Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams will be returning from cruciate ligament injuries that ended their 2012 seasons and, therefore, it will not be fully known if they will be ready to go 100 percent on July 24. Additionally, after not seeing much of the field in 2012, A.J. Jenkins has shown alot of positives in being prepared to contribute in 2013 while rookie Quinton Patton has impressed with his work ethic and attitude.
At the tight end position, rookie Vance McDonald was drafted out of Rice and will come in and take over playing the tight end/halfback role which Delanie Walker use to play. In addition to McDonald and Vernon Davis,, Brent Celek will be looking to make the roster as well.
49ers O Line Training Camp Preview
The 49ers have one of if not the best offensive lines in the league. Anchored by Pro Bowlers Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Joe Staley, the line does a very good job of opening gaps and allowing the running backs to reach the second level of the defense. In addition to those three, center Johnathan Goodwin and Alex Boone are good, solid lineman who have built and developed a cohesive front which has done well to stay healthy, and fully understand their roles.
The likes of Joe Looney, Daniel Kilgore and Adam Snyder are solid backups who can come in and do their jobs if called upon to give one of the starters a breather.
49ers D Line Training Camp Preview
The 49ers lost two important contributors to the defensive line from last season as Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois departed via free agency. To fill their void and also address the need to have viable backups in case the cowboy Justin Smith were to go down like he did late last season, the 49ers brought in Glenn Dorsey and Lamar Divens to go along with Smith, Ray McDonald and Ian Williams.
The 49ers added to the depth of the defensive line position by drafting Tank Carradine out of Florida State and Quinton Dial out of Alabama. Carradine is coming off an ACL injury, but if healthy could see significant playing time as his pass rushing skills could be a major addition to the defense.
49ers LBs Training Camp Preview
The most talented and skilled position on defense and on the entire team, they are led by the All-Pro middle linebackers in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. On the outside, Aldon Smith will look to repeat his exploits from last season as he had 19.5 sacks. Aside from those three, the linebacker position has some quality depth with experienced backups like Parys Haralson, Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson. Rookie Corey Lemonier looking to come in and force his way into the rotation. Lemonier will be making the transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker and he has the potential to in some ways, be a situational pass rusher just like Aldon Smith was in his rookie season back in 2011.
49ers CBs/S Training Camp Preview
The secondary for the 49ers poses one of, if not the biggest question mark coming into the 2013 training camp. The 49ers retain the majority of a secondary that was exposed and beaten on several occasions during the postseason. The team lost safety Dashon Goldson to free agency. At cornerback, it is clear that Carlos Rogers will be one starting cornerback. While Tarell Brown was the other starting corner last season, he will be pushed by free agent signing Nnamdi Asomugha who will be looking at reviving his career while Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver will be making a push to be more than just nickel corners.
At safety, the 49ers drafted Eric Reid with the 18th overall selection and he is widely expected to come in and step in as the other starting safety alongside Donte Whitner. In addition to drafting Reid, the 49ers also have C.J. Spillman who will be making a push to be a starter along with free agent signing Craig Dahl.
49ers STs Training Camp Preview
While punter Andy Lee played up to his All-Pro level, David Akers, a player who was the 49ers most valuable player during the 2011 season became their weakest link during the 2012 season. As a result of the failures by Akers, whom while not directly costing the 49ers a chance to play in the Super Bowl, came close to during the NFC Championship, was let go. In comes Phil Dawson who was signed as a free agent from the Cleveland Browns. Dawson will be expected to be a reliable contributor who can help the 49ers win, but also not be a reason for potentially losing a game. Dawson will be expected to not be Akers' 2012 version.
Aside from upgrading at the kicker position, the 49ers will also be expecting improved play from their kickoff coverage unit which gave up some big returns, one of those coming in the Super Bowl. To improve their kickoff coverage, the 49ers have signed and brought in veteran players like Kassim Osgood, regarded as one of the best gunners in the league and Craig Dahl, two players who have been part of solid kickoff coverage units.
Training Camp Breakout Candidate
A.J. Jenkins came into the 2012 season behind the eight ball and as a result, he would not see much of the field during the season. With that in mind, he dedicated himself to improving and being ready to go when organized team activities (OTAs) came around. Now with Michael Crabtree being out injured and potentially missing the entire season as a result of the Achilles tendon tear he suffered, Jenkins will not get a chance to show why he was a first round pick back in 2012. During OTAs, Jenkins has impressed the coaches as he has shown to be physically in top-notch shape and having worked out with Colin Kaepernick outside of OTAs, has developed a chemistry with his starting quarterback. As a result, Jenkins is poised to have a breakout season as he will have ample opportunity to get playing time and the work he has put into during the offseason should bear fruit.
Main Training Camp Question
Amongst several of the questions that the 49ers will be looking to answer as training camp takes place is, who will emerge as starters in the secondary? Specifically, the questions here to ask are, who will be the starting corner opposite of Carlos Rogers and who will start alongside Donte Whitner at safety? While Tarell Brown was the other starting corner last season, he will be pushed by Nnamdi Asomugha, who was signed as a free agent and at one point was considered to be the best at the position. If he is able to rediscover his past form, he will be able to win that starting spot jumping over Brown, Perish Cox and Chris Culliver on the depth chart. At safety, while Eric Reid was drafted and brought in with the assumption he will take over the void left by the departed Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman will look to try and take advantage of having played in the scheme the last few seasons to use that as his leg up in winning the starting role. Aside from figuring out who will start, the other big question the 49ers secondary will need to answer is can they improve their play from what it was at the end of last season, playoffs included.
RBs Training Camp Battle
While not as big of a battle as the one which will be taking place in the secondary a small battle which to look out for in training camp that is off the radar now is that at the running back position. While it is clear that Frank Gore is the No. 1 back and that 2013 draftee Marcus Lattimore is very unlikely to see any playing time this 2013 season, the battle of who will be the backup becomes interesting. While both LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter are expected to get carries given that it has been expressed that the 49ers would like to limit the number of carries Gore will have during the season in order to keep him fresh for the end of season, whoever is No. 2 will certainly get a few more touches than the other. While James ended the season playing well, if healthy, Hunter could be seen as the favorite to end up being the No. 2 given that he is a better runner between the tackles and is less prone to fumbling the ball.
49ers D Line Depth
While the wide receiver position has some depth, the position which the 49ers targeted in the offseason to ensure it had sufficient depth in was at the defensive line position. While the unit played well, at the end of the season, the injury to Justin Smith and the fact that Ray McDonald wore down as well meant that their effectiveness dipped. Even though they lost two players, bringing in a player like Glenn Dorsey, who with his talent, could be a bargain signing and strengthen the effectiveness of the defensive line in being able to give Smith and McDonald breathers during the game. Additionally, drafting Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial gives the defensive line depth by adding a pass rushing lineman who can help Aldon Smith be effective at the end of the season and also be a serious pass rush threat himself. Dial is a classic 3-4 on the ball lineman who comes from having played at a program like Alabama and could step in and contribute. Also look out for how former Olympian Lawrence Okoye develops throughout the year.