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2014 NFL Season Preview- San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers entered the 2013 season as the defending NFC champions. They qualified for the playoffs as the fifth seed Wild Card. After falling just short during the previous season,they hoped to win a sixth Super Bowl title. The 49ers' defeated the Packers 23–20 in the Wild Card round and the Panthers 23–10 in the Divisional round, but lost to the division rival Seattle in the NFC Championship by a score of 23–17.
Overall, quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a roller coaster year in his first full season as a starter. He was at his best in the postseason where he displayed his ability to run and throw that he didn't really show in the regular season. Running back Frank Gore continued to defy logic rushing for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns at age 30. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin had a good first season with the team but Michael Crabtree was out for a majority of the season. Tight end Vernon Davis tied his career best 13 touchdowns and had the third highest yardage output of his career.
The defense was as a good as it has been over the past three years. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey played well against the run and defensive end Justin Smith made his fifth Pro Bowl. The linebacker corps was on of the strongest in the league. Middle linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman continued to be the leagues top 3-4 inside linebacker duo. However Bowman tore his ACL and MCL in the NFC Championship game so his status is in question for the start of 2014. Safeties Donte Whitner and Eric Reid formed one leagues better safety combos.
49ers 2013 Rankings
Opponent Passing yds
Opponent Rushing yds
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 3rd
NFL Rank- 7th
NFL Rank- 4th
NFL Rank- 24th
NFL Rank- 5th
After the year, head coach Jim Harbaugh became the first head coach since the AFL/NFL merger to reach the conference title game in each of his first three seasons. Harbaugh wild, have to work his team hard in the offseason to be sure their next playoff appearance didn't end in disappointment.
There was a big off field distraction with outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Smith was arrested at an airport after he got into a heated argument with TSA agents claiming that he was carrying a bomb. The charges were dropped but it is likely smith will be facing some type of punishment in the future.
Running back Kendall Hunter tore his ACL in training camp and will be out for the entire 2014 season.
Notable additions- S Antoine Bethea, T Jonathan Martin, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Stevie Johnson
Notable departures- CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown, WR Mario Manningham, SS Donte Whitner
49ers 2013 Highlights
2014 NFL Draft
Holding the 30th overall pick in the draft, San Francisco needed to address the positions they lost to free agency. Among with the Jets, the 49ers held the most draft picks in 2014 with 12. The team had issues with positions primarily at wide receiver, cornerback, and center.
Other than Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, the team doesn't have any depth at receiver. Quinton Patton didn't make much of an impact and Job Baldwin and Marlon Moore rarely saw the field.
With Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, and Eric Wright all gone, the team needs to restock their secondary. Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock are capable starters but the position needs more depth.
Aging center Jonathan Goodwin is no longer with the team. San Francisco needs a young center to anchor a talented offensive line.
The team ended up selecting Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward with the 30th pick. Ward was considered the top strong safety and the best man to man coverage safety in the draft. However his size will likely force him to move to cornerback and has less than ideal recover speed.
The team also notably drafted Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde in the second round, Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland in the third, and South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington in the fourth. Hyde was seen as the best power running back in the draft but also doesn't play like a power runner which raises some questions. Borland was considered the best tackling middle linebacker coming out of college but his lack o's size and speed may hurt him at the pro level. Ellington had great burst and caused corners to hesitate constantly, but his lack of route running skills make him a project at the pro level.
San Francisco also picked up Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov as an undated free agent. Skov was considered to be the best run defending middle linebacker coming in but his speed limitations and being too overaggressive limit him to the 3-4 defense.
Carlos Hyde Highlights
What to Expect
The offense will continue to rely heavily on the running game. With Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, and Carlos Hyde filling up the depth chart, it is likely one of them will be traded at some point this season. Colin Kaepernick will continue to progress as a quarterback but will likely be asked to do more with his legs than he did last season. The wide receiver corps now has enough weapons that can get open and are capable of making plays.
The defense will continue its dominance in the NFL's toughest division. With the condition of NaVorro Bowman in question, either Chris Borland and Shayne Skov will have to step up to the second inside linebacker spot beside Patrick Willis if Bowman is put on the PUP list. Jimmie Ward is already listed as a cornerback so he will be fighting for a nickel position early on.
Playing in the NFC West and Seattle coming off a Super Bowl victory, the 49ers will be under the radar. The thing to remember that San Francisco was holding its own during the NFC Championship for most of the game, so they are more than capable of beating Seattle. I can't say that they're the favorites to win the division, but their talent and depth almost guarantee them a playoff spot.
Best record they can hope for- 12-4