49ers: 10 Questions Entering the Regular Season
1. Does Candlestick have any magic left?
The wind-swept concrete beast has seen a lot of great -- and a few not-so great -- moments. The 49ers kick off their 43rd and final season at Candlestick before moving into Levi's Stadium for the 2014 season. The final scheduled game at the 'Stick is Monday, Dec. 23, against the Atlanta Falcons. But that could be extended at least one game with an NFC West title. -- Matt Maiocco
2. Can Kaepernick live up to the hype?
Colin Kaepernick generated more buzz than any quarterback in the NFL through the offseason with endorsement deals, magazine cover shoots and ever-growing expectations. He has just 10 NFL starts to his credit, so will teams be able to adapt their defenses toward containing such an explosive threat? -- Matt Maiocco
3. Is Reid ready to fill Goldson's shoes?
Eric Reid has already justified his position as the No. 18 overall pick. Reid was not given the 49ers' starting job at free safety. He earned it. But the scrutiny does not end. After all, he'll be replacing Dashon Goldson, an All-Pro performer. -- Matt Maiocco
4. Can Gore keep it up?
Frank Gore is 30 years old. This is when a lot of running backs begin to hit the skids. But Gore had the second-best season of his career at Age 29. Yes, he has lost a step, but he is still one of the game's top all-around backs. -- Matt Maiocco
5. Who will emerge as the No. 2 wide receiver?
Anquan Boldin is the clear No. 1. Beyond that, it could be a receiver-by-committee approach with Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton (11), Marlon Moore (19) and Jon Baldwin vying for roles in the offense. As always, expect Jim Harbaugh to stick with the "hot hand." -- Matt Maiocco
6. Are the 'Smith Brothers' still boss?
Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks in his first 13 games last season, but was shut out the rest of the way. Justin Smith, who lines up alongside Aldon Smith, sustained a partially torn triceps. But a lot of the problem was that Aldon Smith was dealing with a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness. Both are healthy. And both had tremendous training camps. -- Matt Maiocco
7. Does the season fall apart if a backup QB is needed?
Alex Smith is gone, replaced by Colt McCoy. After a rough two games to open the exhibition season, McCoy was named as the No. 2 quarterback following the 49ers' third preseason game. Rookie B.J. Daniels is on standby if McCoy isn't cutting it as a backup. -- Matt Maiocco
8. Is McDonald the new Walker?
Delanie Walker was a huge part of the 49ers' offense. The 49ers selected tight end Vance McDonald in the second round to take his place. McDonald might be a better option in the passing game, but his blocking is still a work in progress. The 49ers will likely continue to use two-TE formations as much as any team in the NFL. -- Matt Maiocco
9. Is special teams going to bounce back?
David Akers missed more field-goal attempts than any kicker in the NFL. And the 49ers' coverage unit faltered in the Super Bowl, allowing Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return. Phil Dawson (9) should give the 49ers a more-reliable kicker. The 49ers made a commitment to special teams, but it remains to be seen how it plays out. The team took one gamble, however, with the decision to go with rookie Kevin McDermott at long-snapper over reliable veteran Brian Jennings. -- Matt Maiocco
10. Will Mangini have an impact?
The 49ers hired defensive-minded coach Eric Mangini to serve as "senior offensive consultant" under Greg Roman. Mangini will analyze opposing defenses to help the 49ers construct game plans and not become predictable. Roman has added wrinkles to the offense every season, and now he has a defensive mind in the room to stay one step ahead. -- Matt Maiocco