49ers

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

The 49ers ran through the NFC playoffs, held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV and arguably have improved this offseason. So, they've got to be the favorites in their own division, right?

It wouldn't exactly be going out on a limb to take that stance, as San Francisco currently is the betting favorite to emerge not just from the NFC West, but the conference as a whole. There's a reason for that, and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon doesn't disagree.

"You'd have to go with San Francisco right now," Moon said Thursday on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo and Dibs" show when asked which team is the favorite in the NFC West. "I mean, they're the defending NFC champs. They bring back pretty much everybody from that football team. 

"They've lost a couple of receivers, but I still think they have a lot of good talent on their team. Their strength is going to be in their running game. I think their offensive line just got strengthened by signing (Trent Williams). So, they're going to be the team to beat, but this is going to be one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL.

"You've got Seattle, who's going to be right there. ... And then you always have the Rams, who you just don't know how good they're going to be. And then Arizona is going to be much more improved. So this is going to be a very, very competitive division, as it usually is."

[RELATED: Report: 49ers' Mostert requested pay raise this offseason]

The 49ers might be the deserved favorites in the division, but Moon is correct. The NFC West was tough enough last year, when San Francisco split the season series with the Seahawks and went down to the wire in both meetings with the Cardinals. As good as the 49ers are, claiming a second straight division title will be no easy task.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Fred Warner not surprised peers consider him one of best in NFL

49ers' Fred Warner not surprised peers consider him one of best in NFL

Linebacker Fred Warner was a solid 16-game starter as a rookie for the 49ers in 2018.

Last season, he broke out.

Warner was selected as the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November. He led the 49ers for the second straight season in tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown, broke up nine passes, forced three fumbles, registered three sacks and had seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He capped his season with an interception of Patrick Mahomes in the team's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

Recently, Warner was announced as the No. 70 player in the game in a vote of players on the NFL Network.

"I wouldn't say I was surprised at all,” Warner said. “I felt like I competed at a high level last year. I think my peers saw that. It probably wasn't reflected in the awards last year when it came to All-Pro and those sorts of things, but obviously we got to the Super Bowl.

“That’s all I care about and continuing to be the best player I can for this team so that we can make it back to that game and make sure the outcome is how we want it.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The 49ers are in the early stages of training camp. Despite all the restrictions and changes to the typical camp routine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner said the 49ers are intent on remaining focused on preparations for the regular season, which begins Sept. 13 against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I don’t think a lot has changed,” Warner said. “When we get out there, it’s all business. We’re all hungry to get back at it and get going.”

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The NFL canceled all preseason games this summer. Teams generally do not tackle in practices. But for someone who makes his living tackling, Warner said he is not concerned about lacking precision once the season begins.

“I’m not worried about that one bit,” Warner said. “The way we practice and we prepare is all you need. We do thump in practice, but we’re not bringing guys to the ground. We’re working on our technique and tracking, making sure that we’re working that technique in practice, so that when we do come to the games it’s all natural.”

How Jalen Hurd's physicality has stood out to 49ers' Raheem Mostert

How Jalen Hurd's physicality has stood out to 49ers' Raheem Mostert

Jalen Hurd only played in the preseason last year before a back injury ultimately cut short his rookie season, but the 49ers wide receiver nonetheless flashed intriguing potential with a two-touchdown performance against the Dallas Cowboys.

But Hurd's potential as a blocker is what most excites 49ers running back Raheem Mostert.

"[He's] gonna go out there and he's gonna put his all, especially with what I've seen these past couple years when he's been healthy," Mostert said of Hurd on Wednesday when he was asked about the 49ers' big receivers and their blocking ability. "Going out there, and trying to de-cleat somebody. That's inspiring in itself as a running back because you know that he's gonna do his job to the best of his ability, and he's gonna put his body out there on the line. Why not do the same as a runner?"

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Hurd certainly has the measurables to be an effective run blocker. He also played running back at Tennessee before transitioning to wide receiver when he transferred to Baylor, checking the important "positional versatility" box for coach Kyle Shanahan.

The 49ers spoke openly of how much they value blocking contributions from skill-position players all along the way to Super Bowl LIV, and the role their wide receivers and tight ends played in San Francisco rushing for more yards (2,305) than any team but the Baltimore Ravens in the regular season. Shanahan said George Kittle set the tone in that regard.

“I mean, he had more yards in the pass game as a tight end in the history of the NFL [in 2018],” Shanahan said of the tight end in January. “So, any time you have a guy like that who's one of the best players on your team who's always just talking about running the ball and playing the physicality in the game and giving everything you can, it helps you hold everyone else a lot more accountable, and rarely do you have to."

[RELATED: Mostert knew he would remain with 49ers 'no matter what']

Can Hurd provide similar value during his first full NFL season in 2020? He has the size, and Mostert believes Hurd definitely has the skills.

"It's nice to see those guys out there coming back, especially Jalen, because he is a bigger receiver and he's more physical," Mostert continued. "He's one of -- probably the most physical receiver I've seen, tape-wise and even going out there practicing. It's nice to see him back."