By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on April 29, 2014
The San Francisco 49ers reached their third NFC Championship game in the past three years, but they failed to make the Super Bowl in 2013. Coach Jim Harbaugh still boasts one of the best teams in the NFL despite rumors of him being traded to Cleveland. The 49ers have some key positions that will have to be solidified next season. With 2014 being a critical year for the 49ers, here are five players facing make-or-break seasons.
With the 49ers losing their top two corners in free agency this offseason, the controversial Chris Culliver is now slated as a starter. Most noted for his comments at Super Bowl 47, Culliver has started a mere six games in three seasons, and on a team that is talented enough to win a Super Bowl, Culliver must produce immediately.
While it may be unfair to put a first-year starter on the hot seat, Daniel Kilgore is the new piece on San Francisco's offensive line. He replaces Jonathan Goodwin, who was a Pro Bowl center and consummate team leader. Kilgore will be expected to exceed Goodwin and keep the 49ers' offense at the top of the NFL.
Fair or not, QB Colin Kaepernick, while a tremendous athlete, still has question marks as a legitimate passer in the pocket. In 10 games this past season, Kaepernick failed to throw for more than 200 yards. Given the off-field issues and his upcoming free agency next season, I don't think its a guarantee that Kaepernick is the answer as a franchise QB in San Francisco.
This is probably the toughest case to make considering that TE Vernon Davis had 13 touchdowns in 2013, but when it came to the playoffs, he only recorded five catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, in three games against Seattle, Davis only had seven catches for 57 yards. These numbers don't work against a key rival.
No surprise here; Aldon Smith is on the hot seat in 2014. Numerous off-field issues have plagued Smith's stellar performance on the field. He will become a free agent this next season, and unless his off-field behavior matches his on-field production, Smith will be out of San Francisco.
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