Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board for 49ers

Last season, after a tough loss in the NFC Championship, it was obvious where the 49ers had to improve. This year, however, despite narrowly missing their 6th ever Super Bowl championship, they have to feel pretty good about where they stand heading into the 2013 season.

Kaepernick: A True QB1
I've put off writing this for a few days as I tried to gain some prospective after that tough loss to Baltimore, but the more I look at the 49ers and what the future holds for them, the more confident I become. They've found their quarterback of the present and future in Colin Kaepernick, a guy who makes them a legit tittle contender now and should only get better over time. We tend to forget cause he was making it look so easy, but the Super Bowl marked just the 10th career start for the big-armed, quick-footed signal caller. Where I'd like to see him improve though in his first full season behind center, is in the clock management aspect of the game. The 49ers had all the time in the world during that last drive in the Super Bowl, but they just looked out of sync and unsure how to use the clock once they got down inside Baltimore's 10 yard-line with over 2 minutes left on the clock. There were numerous other instances which I'm sure they could have back in that game, but the last couple plays of that very last drive would have to be the spot they'd like to re-do the most as they really had the game in their hands at that point.

49ers Fall Short of SB Win
Again though, it was a sign of a young offense led by a young QB, that will only get better and better. They and offensive line that's one of the youngest and best in the game and all will be returning next season. Then there's the receiving core, which took a complete 180 in 2012 after being basically non-existent for most of 2011. You can put a lot of that on the emergence of Michael Crabtree, who finally took that next step in 2012 and showed everyone why he was so highly touted coming out of Texas Tech. He's a legit number one wideout and has developed a great chemistry with Kaepernick already. Mario Manningham was also putting up some solid numbers in the 49ers passing game before going down with a season-ending injury in December. When looking ahead to 2013, even if Randy Moss doesn't return, the 49ers have to feel good about where they are at wideout, and won't need to do nearly as much work there this spring.

Perhaps the area in which the 49ers need the most improvement lies within their secondary, and on their defensive line. At the tail-end of the season, the 49ers pass-rush became virtually non-existent, and it caused their pass-coverage to suffer some because of it. I know a lot of that had to do with Justin Smith being injured and not being 100% upon his return, but the 49ers need to get more depth along that front line, and could really use another impact corner. Carlos Rogers is still a viable starter and Chris Culliver took some big steps this year, but the Niners need that one premiere cover guy that they can throw on a Julio Jones and not need to worry about giving help to. They linebacking core looks great going forward, and I love their starting safeties, but more depth on the D-line and in the secondary could help out a defense that looked a bit tired at times in January/February. As far as their offense is concerned, I really don't see a dire need in any one particular area right now. They'll likely look into another veteran wideout to replace Moss (assuming he leaves) but the the one area offensively I could see them using a high draft pick on is at running back. Frank Gore isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but he's going to be 30 and has racked up a lot of mileage over the last 6 seasons.

We'll talk much more about what the 49ers will do this offseason throughout, but I just wanted to re-assure Niner fans still reeling from the loss on Sunday that even better times lie ahead, and that's coming from a guy who cannot stand the term "we'll get 'em next year"!

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