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The 49ers are officially back. If you haven’t noticed over the past few years they are no longer in other teams highlight reels. They have a strong core on both sides of the ball and continue to make smart little tweaks that have allowed the organization to play in back to back NFC Championships and the most recent Super Bowl.
With training camp around the corner let take a look at the new look Niners that will again look to earn the top seed in the NFC.
(Depth chart is projected)
Let’s start with both lines:
Right Defensive End: Justin Smith, Demarcus Dobbs, Tank Carradine, Lawrence Okoye
Nose Tackle: Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Lamar Divens
Left Defensive End: Ray McDonald, Will Tukuafu, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Quinton Dial, Mike Purcell
Justin Smith reworked his contract to stay a Niner for life and also free up some cap space. This is good because although the signing of Glenn Dorsey is a short term plus Smith and Ray McDonald will play their 200th and 100th NFL game this season. That added to limited depth behind them says they need to add a big time pass rusher in his prime in the next few years.
LT: Joe Staley, Kenny Wiggins, Carter Bykowski
LG: Mike Iupati, Adam Snyder, Wayne Tribue
C: Jonathan Goodwin, Daniel Kilgore, Sherman Carter
RG: Alex Boone, Joe Looney, Al Netter
RT: Anthony Davis, Patrick Omameh
When the Niners had two first round picks in 2010 and spent them both on offensive lineman it was a brilliant move that many saw would benefit them for years to come. This group had to protect two quarterback with very different styles of playing and did an exceptional job. With Staley and Iupati having some minor surgeries, the young group behind them, including rookie Kenny Watkins, has stepped it up and are now preparing for a full season with Colin Kaepernick taking first team snaps.
Z-WR: Anquan Boldin, Ricardo Lockette, Quinton Patton, Kassim Osgood
X-WR: Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Marlon Moore, Chuck Jacobs
Slot WR: A.J. Jenkins, Chad Hall
Michael Crabtree says he is ready to work out just six weeks after tearing his Achilles. He and Kaepernick had enough chemistry to knock Crabtree out of a three year funk and become the first rounder he was drafted to be. But with he and Mario Manningham out for the start of the season there is ample room for several veteran and rookie players to turn some heads. The off season signing of Anquin Boldin was potentially unbalanced deal in the Niners favor, but he needs another strong presence on the opposite side of the field to relieve the pressure he will feel. A.J. Jenkins, another first round selection, needs to make a bigger impact unlike last year when receivers who barely made the team were seeing more play time.
Backs and TEs
TB: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton, D.J. Harper
FB: Bruce Miller, Anthony Dixon, Jason Schepler
TE: Vernon Davis, Garrett Celek
F-TE: Vance McDonald, MarQueis Gray
Though listed third on this potential depth chart, LaMichael James could have a breakout season this fall. With Tedd Ginn Jr gone, he could see the field more as a returner and as well as the top back up to a more recently healthy Frank Gore. Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald will be the safety valves for the nimble Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick, Scott Tolzien, Colt McCoy, B.J. Daniels
This is Kaepernick’s team now. He is the face of the team and the player who needs to improve most to win it all. Signing McCoy will be beneficial because he knows newly acquired senior offense consultant’s system and he will push the others as a recent starter. The chemistry with Kaepernick in the second half of the season completely took a 180 degree turn can only get better with the first team unit working hard during training camp.
ILB: Patrick Willis, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody
ILB: NaVorro Bowman, Darius Fleming, Nate Stupar
ROLB: Aldon Smith, Parys Haralson, Corey Lemonier
LOLB: Ahmad Brooks, Dan Skuta, Cam Johnson
One of the strongest, most versatile group of linebackers in the history of the NFL kept the Niners in several key games the past few seasons. Past the starters, they have some unproven players that, as the playoff games against the Falcons and Ravens showed, need to help more in the passing game.
LCB: Carlos Rogers, Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock, Marcus Cooper
RCB: Tarell Brown, Nnamdi Asomugha, Lowell Rose, Darryl Morris
NCB: Carlos Rogers, Perrish Cox, Michael Thomas, Darryl Morris
SS: Donte Whitner, C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson, Ray Ventrone
FS: Craig Dahl, Eric Reid, Darcel McBath, Michael Thomas
This was tested over and over in last year’s playoffs. The Nnamdi Asomugha signing added needed depth after Dashon Goldson signed with the Buccaneers. Tarrell Brown is cemented as a starter, but the Carlos Rogers vs. Chris Culliver battle will be worth a watch. The safety positions also seem to be in flux as ex-Ram Dahl adds another serviceable veteran into the mix.
After record setting seasons by David Akers and Andy Lee the year before, consistency has been hard to attain. Akers has injured for most of the season and despite being accurate in the playoffs he was released and the Niners signed Original Brown Phil Dawson. This unit looks solid for the 2013 season.
And finally coaches:
The organization made a bold move in signing former defensive coordinator and head coach Eric Mangini as an offensive consultant. He will help the offensive understand how a defense prepares for versatile offenses, such as the Niners with now full-time starter Colin Kaepernick. His job will be to help the offense get those tough hard to get yards such as the last five in the Super Bowl.
Overall the San Francisco has the building blocks to win a championship. Jim Harbaugh is also a year older and hopefully he will be more big picture minded when it comes to crunch time.