About a week ago, we broke down and reviewed what transpired across the bay with the Raiders this spring and summer, and today we'll do the same for the 49ers.
The 49ers had an overall quiet, uneventful off-season for the most part. They're big move came in the draft, as they selected quite possibly the next San Francisco receiving great in Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree. The Niners aren't going to just hand Crabtree a starting receiving job, but I fully expect to see him on the field more times than not when the Niners are on offense. The team also added some depth to their offensive backfield with the drafting of halfback Glen Coffee (who could end up being the primary back-up to Frank Gore) and quarterback Nate Davis, who team officials believe can be a success at this level. Two other 49ers draftees that didn't get any headlines but may make some noise down the line are former Fresno St. tight end Bear Pascoe and former Pitt. linebacker Scott McKillop. The Mckillop was ranked as the 8th best inside linebacker in the draft, and won Big East defensive player of the year honors. He's a tackling machine (151 tackles in 2007; 137 in 2008) and should learn well behind Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes. Pascoe played in a high powered offense in college and is a very good blocker with solid hands.
The Niners also made a couple of free agent signings over the last 2 months as well, although none were too earth-shattering. Dre' Bly was added as soon as the team got news that their starting corner from the last 2 seasons, Walt Harris, would likley miss the season with an injury. The Niners shouldn't miss much with Bly taking Harris' spot, as both are very similar style defenders with very good ball instincts. The Niners' also added to their quarterback depth, adding former Chief Damon Huard to back up Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. The two adds that could make the biggest difference for the Niners offense though was the re-signing of full-back Moran Norris and the addition of tackle Marvel Smith. Frank Gore was at his best running behind the path-clearer, and with the Niners reverting back to their power run game behind Mike Singletary, bringing in a bruising full-back was a must. Smith should provide stability to the offensive line if he can stay healthy, as he was a key cog on the Steelers' O-line over the last 9 seasons, which was one of the best O-line's in the game over that period of time. If his back stays strong, the 49ers O-line will be much improved.
Overall, I'd have to deem the 49ers offseason a success. They didn't lose anyone too important to the team, and added some guys that could pay huge dividends. However, they still have some questions, especially on offense, as training camp approaches (less than 2 weeks away). One of which surrounds teams starting quarterback. Will it be the polished game-manager and winner Shaun Hill or the young guy with loads of potential who's yet to pan out in Alex Smith? Also, how will the a Niners receiving corps, which all of the sudden has options, pan out? Youngsters Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree will likely join Issac Bruce as the teams top 3 guys on the depth chart, but they also have veterans Arnaz Battle and the newly-signed Brandon Jones who will want some time on the field and some passes thrown in their direction. I look forward to seeing how these things transpire throughout camp and into the pre-season!