By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on July 7, 2014
The commencement of NFL training camps and the unofficial kickoff to the 2014 season is little over two weeks away. That means the San Francisco 49ers can finally put a roller-coaster offseason in the rear-view mirror, returning to the gridiron, where they're one of the league's most formidable teams. Here are five reasons why they'll shock the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks by winning the NFC West title.
There's a reason the 49ers have been so successful over the past three years. Outstanding drafting has equipped San Francisco with championship-caliber talent. During the past two drafts, GM Trent Baalke has acquired incredible value with nearly every pick. With a virtually complete roster, simply stockpiling talent, regardless of position, has been the front office's aim. The rich get richer in 2014.
The 49ers are a run-first team. With a deep backfield, a talented offensive line and a highly athletic quarterback, that won't change in 2014. But an upgraded wide receiver corps should make San Francisco more explosive. Michael Crabtree is healthy after missing 11 games in 2013 while Stevie Johnson and Bruce Ellington should add a new dynamic to the group. Expect the 49ers to fare much better than 30th, their standing last year, in passing.
In addition to improving their depth at receiver, the 49ers will be getting a boost at running back in 2014. Starter Frank Gore is on the verge of decline, but the addition of Carlos Hyde in the draft and the emergence of Marcus Lattimore, a 2013 draft pick who redshirted his rookie season, will pick up the slack. Throw Kendall Hunter, a productive runner and reliable pass protector, into the mix, and the 49ers have a supremely deep backfield.
It's impossible to predict how the Seattle Seahawks, the reigning NFC West and Super Bowl champions, will respond to capturing the franchise's first title. But the 49ers, after losing two conference championship games and one Super Bowl over the past three seasons, are undoubtedly the hungriest team in the NFL's best division. Falling just short of the league's ultimate prize three consecutive years has had to intensify said desire.
Hunger can only go so far. At the end of the day, winning still comes down to talent. And one could make the case, after yet another offseason of stockpiling ammo, that the 49ers are the NFL's mot talented and deep team from top to bottom. The trench play is there. The playmakers are there. One of the league's most dynamic quarterbacks is there too. It will pay off with a division crown in 2014.
May 23, 2015 by Evan Massey
Which five members of the Cleveland Browns need to step up during 2015 OTAs in order to secure a roster spot or move their way up the depth chart? Read More
May 23, 2015 by Brandon Laass
As training camp approaches, teams will look for players to step their game up for the upcoming season. Who will those players be for the New England Patriots? Read More
Find out which five members of the Atlanta Falcons must step up the most during 2015 OTAs in order to secure their roster spot or earn more playing time. Read More
Which five Arizona Cardinals need to step up during 2015 OTAs in order to secure their roster spot or earn playing time? Read More
Which five members of the Buffalo Bills must step up during the 2015 OTAs in order to secure their roster spot or earn playing time? Read More
May 23, 2015 by Kelsey Kay
With OTAs in session the 49ers will be extremely active in the media. Look for the these headlines to show up on your radar. Read More
May 23, 2015 by Taylor Sturm
The Tennessee Titans go into their 2015 OTAs with several starting spots up for grabs, but which players have the most to prove? Read More
May 23, 2015 by Brad Berreman
Former No. 1 pick Jake Long is still available after major knee injuries ended his last two seasons. But here's why the New York Giants need to consider signing the four-time Pro Bowler. Read More