2015 NFL Season Preview- San Fransico 49ers
San Francisco went from being the second best team in the NFL, to out of the playoffs in less than a year.
The offense was one dimensional and it showed. The offense never scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter all season.This was supposed to be quarterback Colin Kaepernick's breakout season but instead struggled almost the entire season. One of the league's best run threats at quarterback quit running the ball. This might have been due to his backup being Blaine Gabbert. Running back Frank Gore proved he can still carry the load at age 31. Tight end Vernon Davis had a severe drop in production due to back issues and an impatience with Kaepernick. Other than Anquan Boldin, the wide receivers were an inconsistent mess. The offensive line couldn't maintain the same lineup for much of the year due to injuries.
The defense had their issues to deal with. They played without nine key players on defense for much of the season. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith missed 10 games because of suspension and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman missed the entire season rehabbing a knee injury he suffered in the 2013 NFC Championship. The secondary was the strength of the defense as cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox played at a high level and free safety Eric Reid continued to show promise in his second year.
The team produced three Pro Bowlers in tackle Joe Staley, guard Mike Iupati, and strong safety Antoine Bethea. Staley showed why he is one of the best power tackles in the league and Bethel was the MVP of the defense as he recorded 86 tackles, four interceptions, and a touchdown.
The rookie class produced a lot of talent for the future. Safety Jimmie Ward was playing well as the team's nickel corner before suffering a foot injury. Running back Carlos Hyde looks to be the heir apparent to Frank Gore. Inside linebacker Chris Borland proved to be one of the best value picks in the draft. Wide receiver and kick returner Bruce Ellington earned snaps at receiver towards the end of the year.
49ers 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 4th
NFL Rank- 5th
NFL Rank- 7th
NFL Rank- 20th
NFL Rank- 5th
After the team was eliminated from the playoffs after week 15, tensions between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the organization exasperated. After the season ended, the 49ers and Harbaugh mutually agreed to end his contract. The team then promoted defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to be the team's new head coach.
When offensive coordinator Greg Roman left to become the offensive coordinator in Buffalo, he was replaced by the team's quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst. After defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was released from his contract, the team replaced him with former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini.
The offseason saw a lot of surprising retirements from key players. Most notably Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Justin Smith, and Anthony Davis.
Notable Additions- RB Reggie Bush, WR Torrey Smith, WR Jerome Simpson, DT Darnell Docket, LB Phillip Wheeler
Notable Departures- QB Josh Johnson, RB Frank Gore, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Stevie Johnson, OT Jonathan Martin, G Mike Iupati, OL Anthony Davis, DE Justin Smith, MLB Patrick Willis, MLB Chris Borland, CB Chris Culliver, CB Parrish Cox, P Andy Lee
Carlos Hyde Rookie Highlights
2015 NFL Draft
Holding the 15th overall pick going into the draft, San Francisco had many positions that needed to be addressed. Primarily at wide receiver, offensive linemen, and defensive end.
Michael Crabtree is now across the bay in Oakland and the receiving corps doesn't have depth. The team signed Torrey Smith but he isn't a complete receiver.
Mike Iupati is now with rival Arizona and the lack of depth on the line is what hurt them last season. This is a need that needs to be stressed.
Justin Smith is now retired and the team terminated Ray McDonald's contract. The 49ers have holes on both sides of the defensive line.
The team ended up trading with San Diego back to the 17th pick so the Chargers could select Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. San Francisco selected Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead with the 17th overall pick. Armstead was the strongest defensive end in the draft but still has the mentality of a basketball player.
The team also notably selected Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt in the second round, Virginia defensive end Eli Harold in the third, and Oklahoma tight end Blake Bell in the fourth. Tartt has the ideal safety frame but isn't incredibly fast. Harold has great burst and acceleration but has to build up his upper body strength. Bell has all the intangibles to be a successful tight end but is very raw as he spent much of his college career as a quarterback.
Arik Armstead Highlights
What to Expect
This team doesn't seem to have any identity.
Colin Kaepernick has to show improvement throwing the ball and has to get back to his running ways if this team is going to return to their playoff form. With Frank Gore now Indianapolis, it will now all be on Carlos Hyde to carry the offense. Torrey Smith has to prove he can be a complete receiver that can be looked to in any situation and Vernon Davis must be the deep threat down the middle this offense needs. Without Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis, it will be hard pressed for the running game to perform at the level they've been used to.
Defensively is where I see San Francisco taking a big step back. Losing Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, and Chris Borland is going to hurt the team moving forward. Having NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith back for a full season will help, but it won't be the top five defense fans are accustomed to seeing.
With the improvements that the rest of the teams in the NFC West have made, its hard to see San Francisco as a playoff team after all the key players they lost.
Best record they can hope for: 7-9