Top 5 questions facing 2015 49ers
Thirty-six of the 49ers’ opening 53 players were with the club at the end of last season. That figure is actually higher than a year ago. But, obviously, there is large turnover with the expected contributors. The 49ers return just 11 of their starters from Week 1 of last season, as well as a new coach. Clearly, the organization heads into this season with a lot of unknowns...
5) In need of special contributions
The 49ers’ margin for error is slim, so every hidden yard and opportunity to score points in the kicking game becomes even more important. Rookie punter Bradley Pinion, who takes over for Andy Lee, and the coverage unit must have a net average around 40 yards. Kicker Phil Dawson must also have a good season, as the 49ers figure to be in close, low-scoring games. The 49ers are looking for more explosiveness from their return game, whether that comes from Jarryd Hayne or Bruce Ellington.
4) New faces in charge of X’s and O’s
Coach Jim Tomsula replaces Jim Harbaugh, who was wildly popular with the fan base but not-so-much within the organization. Tomsula managed his training camp in a way to keep his players fresh physically and mentally. The practices stressed tempo and were shorter in duration. Meetings did not run for more than 30 minutes at a time. A big burden falls onto the shoulders of offensive coordinator Geep Chryst and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini to provide the week-to-week game plans.
3) Offensive line on the move
The early returns from the 49ers’ new zone-blocking scheme were favorable. The run game looked more season-ready than the pass protection during the 49ers’ exhibition season. Joe Staley is the only 49ers starter on the line who returns at the same position as a year ago. Alex Boone moves to left guard. Marcus Martin starts at center, newly acquired Jordan Devey is at right guard, and veteran Erik Pears is at right tackle. This unit has to find a way to provide time for Kaepernick.
2) Pass defense must be team effort
The 49ers do not have a great pass-rusher with Aldon Smith no longer on the team. And they do not have a lock-down cornerback, either. So the 49ers are going to have to get a lot of contributions from a lot of different players at all levels of the defense. NaVorro Bowman might blitz more as he returns to action from the knee injury that kept him out all of last season. The 49ers have a deep group in the secondary, and they figure to rotate many of those young players into their sub-packages.
1) It’s all about Kaepernick
The 49ers will go as far as quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes them. The addition of Reggie Bush and an emphasis on the short-passing game will be needed to get the ball out quickly and slow down the pass rush. Speedster Torrey Smith on one side can open things up for Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Kaepernick must be more decisive in his pre-snap reads in order to be a more effective passer. He remains a big threat with his ability to run the read option and scramble, but the 49ers need him to make more plays from the pocket.