We have returned with another FY 2016 NFL team preview! Don’t give a hay about the Bay? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Green Bay; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Minnesota; New England; New Orleans; New York Giants; New York Jets; Oakland; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Diego.
Where They’re Coming From
The short-lived Jim Tomsula era.
Sadly, the enduring legacy of this Cliff Clavin lookalike will be a controversy around whether he passed gas at a press conference or not. It’s almost unfair that Tomsula was shown the door, considering his roster was the football equivalent of a fart. San Francisco finished 5-11, wound up dead-last in DVOA, and made Tomsula the sacrificial lamb.
Where They’re Going
Following the leadership of this genius.
Faced with a question of how to fix this sub-par team, GM Trent Baalke opted to bypass adding healthy, talented players to his roster and, instead, grabbed Chip Kelly off the barge Philly fans exiled him on. The “offensive genius” won’t be in charge of player personnel this time around, meaning his legendary “system” will need to be executed by the likes of Blaine Gabbert, Quinton Patton, Jeremy Kerley, and Vance McDonald. Good luck with that, Chip!
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: G Zane Beadles, DE DeForest Buckner (drafted)
Losses: G Alex Boone, FB Bruce Miller, WR Anquan Boldin
What to Watch For
This secondary might not suck.
If the Niners roster does have a strength heading into this season, it might be this group. The front-seven already suffered a huge loss in nose tackle Ian Williams; any chance they had at stopping the run took a huge hit with his absence. But DeForest Buckner chasing opposing QBs should give a group of promising young players more chances to make a play on the ball.
Jimmie Ward had a strong finish to last season at nickel corner, enough to get moved to the outside this season. Eric Reid didn’t put up the kind of stats he did in his first two years, but was solid nonetheless. Rookie Jaquiski Tartt had some growing pains, but should get time to sit back and learn more this year behind a healthy Antoine Bethea.
If Kelly’s lightning fast three-and-out offense doesn’t tire out this bunch too much, they’re capable of having a very respectable year.
Who to Watch For
Carlos Hyde, RB
There’s no secret about how the Red and Gold will get their yards this year: on the legs of a third-year back coming off an injury shortened season. Despite only playing in seven games, Hyde’s 470 rushing yards led the team by a wide-margin (207 to be exact). Like I said earlier, this team is not drowning in talent.
So Hyde not only needs to produce this season, but he needs to stay healthy. Chip Kelly’s scheme figures to lean on the running back’s speed and ability to cut up-field on a dime. Without Hyde, that duty will fall on plodder Shaun Draughn or the inexperienced Mike Davis because, with the “weapons” we already touched on, there’s no way this team can be a pass-first offense.
Despite fullback Bruce Miller’s bizarre release from the team, at least the run game should still have some solid blocking to play behind. (If you’re tight ends can’t catch a pass, they’d better be able to knock someone down.)
What Could Go Wrong
The team does enough just enough so that Baalke doesn’t get fired.
Plum out of scapegoats, the GM that has taken a team from a Super Bowl appearance to NFC doormat in three years flat is on the hot seat, and Niners fans couldn’t be happier. How sour have things gotten? Check out Baalke’s Wikipedia bio.
Sure, there’s been some bad luck and surprise retirements to help push this team backwards, but it’s hard to point to a single good move he’s made since Sherman batted that ball away. A 3-13 season will net this team a high pick and a new GM. If Kelly raises San Fran up to around .500, Baalke may get another undeserved season at the helm.
Where They’ll End Up
Drafting the QB of the future next season.
With Cleveland sitting on two potentially high draft picks, the Niners may not have first choice at next year’s QB class, but I don’t think there’s any secret surrounding this team’s biggest need.