NFL Season Preview: The San Francisco 49ers Hope the Super Bowl Hangover is Not True
Most teams in recent history who made the Super Bowl and lost generally experienced a fall off the following season. Whether it was due to free agency defections (of which the 49ers saw a great number with DT Isaac Sopoaga, FS Dashon Goldson and TE Delanie Walker, most notably) or injuries (in this case, WR Michael Crabtree, the 49ers’ leading WR), the team that lost the Super Bowl either saw a dropoff in success, or missed the playoffs altogether. That could very well be the case with San Francisco, although they have placed enough contingencies in place to avoid such a swoon.
One of the blueprints of the (general manager) Trent Baalke and (head coach) Jim Harbaugh short reign thus far with San Francisco has been stockpiling draft picks (14 in the 2013 draft, whereas most teams only feature the statutory seven, depending on previous trades involving picks) and ensuring that vital positions were double stocked with viable talent. That philosophy will be heavily tested in 2013, where a great deal of the 49ers’ veteran depth was plucked away by other teams. Along with the aforementioned players, San Francisco also lost the safety blanket at QB that was Alex Smith. They are all in with QB Colin Kaepernick going forward. Meanwhile, the venerable Frank Gore continues to head the RB unit, which includes Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and newly-drafted Marcus Lattimore.
WR Anquan Boldin now becomes the de facto head of the WR corps, with the Achilles injury to Crabtree, which may potentially sideline Crabtree for the entire 2013 season. Although the 49ers expect to have Mario Manningham back by the season opener, it was with good fortune that the 49ers executed the trade for Boldin, which may prevent a potential free fall for the team in 2013. Considering all that San Francisco had to surrender in the trade was a 6th Round pick with Jim Harbaugh’s brother, John and the Baltimore Ravens, it looks even shrewder than ever. AJ Jenkins must prove his worth in 2013, after doing next to nothing in 2012. Vernon Davis is still the best non-WR target on the team at TE, as he is now the fastest receiving threat for Kaepernick.
The Niners drafted Tank Carradine (Florida State), and acquired Glenn Dorsey from Kansas City. They return studs Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith to a strong LB unit, while Nnamdi Asomugha was brought in to bolster a relatively thin CB corps. Carlos Rogers appeared to lose a step in 2012, and the team cannot be too convinced with Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown. Darcel McBath, rookie Eric Reid, and veteran Craig Dahl figure to jostle to fill the void left by Goldson. It remains to be seen if the crack in the dam that became evident in the 49ers’ defense in 2012 will continue to rupture. It is the one major question mark heading into 2013.
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