It's been a while since we've talked football here at the Bay Area Sports Journal, but with training camp just around the corner, and the exhibition season set to begin in just about a month, it's time to start getting back into football mode.
Things have been extremely quiet though lately on the 49ers and Raiders front though anyway, so there really hasn't been and still isn't many new happenings to report on. I'm just starting to get anxious to see how Alex Smith and the 49ers take to actually having an offseason to work together and get some kind of cohesion. There are still a bunch of people who aren't quite sold on Smith as the QB of the future, and the Niners went out and added David Carr this spring in order to provide some depth in case Smith struggles or gets hurt. I was kind of hoping that the Niners would give Nate Davis a shot at QB 2, but that's not happening now that Carr's aboard. The Niners also added another element to their offense this spring in getting Ted Ginn Jr. from Miami, and he's a guy who I will be covering closely throughout camp and the preseason. He's a guy who could really help this Niners offense stretch the field, and I think he's in a prime situation now where there isn't all that pressure on him. Ginn will have an oppotunity to play alongside Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree and provide the Niners with a vertical threat in the passing game. Not too mention, he'll hopefully provide some stability to a Niners return game that has been a revolving door throughout the last few years.
The Niners also will have a much different look on their offensive line this year, and that's another area that I'll be watching closely this July and August. The Niners selected two premiere O-lineman in April's draft, and both are expected to start and pay immediate dividends. I really think that line holds the key to the Niners offensive success. They're the ones that will determine how well the Niners run game and ultimately pass game produces, and it's key they get in synch before the seasons starts. Defensively, the Niners are returning much of the same unit, they're just hoping to get better health and hoping the addition of a couple of solid rookies will help to improve an up-and-coming unit. Not too mention, they'll also be getting a full, playing season out of Ahmed Brooks, who didn't get steady playing time until the 2nd half of the year, but produced with 5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles over the final 6 games of the season. They should have an improved pass rush this year, even though they really didn't add anyone. Parys Haralson is primed for a 10+ sack season, and I think Manny Lawson, Ahmed Brooks and Justin Smith all have that capability too with an all-around improved defense. Definitely a lot of things too look forward to with the Niners this year.
Raiders Update: Things aren't quite looking as good for the Silver and Black. Now that JaMarcus Russell is officially off the roster though, I think they can start to move forward now. Like I said when they added him this spring, I think Jason Campbell is a nice fit here in Oakland and could provide the Raiders with a Rich Gannon type, but they need the pieces around him to fall into place in order for them to be watchable this year. What I really want to see is a full year out of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and have them take over the Raiders rushing attack. Secondly, I want to see a group of 3 or 4 receivers emerge as reliable targets. They now have an accurate arm behind center who should be able to deliver, so there are no more excuses. Derious Heyward-Bey needs to step up and Louis Murphy and Chaz Schillens need to play all year like they did the 2nd half of 2009.