The San Francisco 49ers are in position to do some damage after nearly a decade of being a doormat for other teams. Here are a few players that need to make an impact or else face the guillotine of the general manager Trent Baalke.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Dixon
The big bodied Dixon was primarily used as the short-down back last year, but the signing of Brandon Jacobs, who is basically a 2.0 version of him, might have signaled the end of his career in San Francisco. Unless he has a really outstanding first couple games, he could find himself on the free agent list early on.
5. The defense, especially the secondary
The NFL’s stingiest run defense didn’t allow a touchdown for the first 14 games of the season and led the league in rush yards allowed per game. However, their weakness (if there was one) was in the secondary, where most of the damage was done by opposing teams. If this team wants to win a Super Bowl, a very real possibility, the defense will need to match and exceed its performance from last season.
4. Frank Gore
In his 8th year, the man that used to be the only source of offense for the 49ers has become just another option. While still the starter for a run-heavy offense, a loaded depth chart looms just behind him, and if he can’t match his production from previous years, a plethora of talent is waiting just off stage to take carries away from him.
3. Kyle Williams
After costing the 49ers a chance at the Super Bowl, the 3rd year receiver has reportedly skipped his off time during the offseason and used the time to get into better shape and work on drills. No doubt remorseful for his mistakes, he will need to have an impactful season to erase the memories of ‘what could have been.’ Williams seems in good spirits during training camp, though, and bygones appear to be bygones amongst his teammates.
2. Michael Crabtree
The former no. 10 overall pick had his best career numbers last year and led the team in receptions and receiving yards, but only scored 4 touchdowns. He’s not in danger of getting cut or anything, but with the likes of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and their speedy new rookie A.J. Jenkins, Crabtree will have to work a little harder to get those touches. And no. 10 is a little too high to just be an average WR.
1. Alex Smith
After having a different offensive coordinator for his first seven years, he’s finally in the same system for two years in a row. Given his success last season, there is much pressure on Alex to continue to improve his numbers, especially on touchdowns where he put up a pedestrian 17. Last year was his first year that his coach actually believed in him and the results showed in his game style and playing confidence. Now the time has come to drop the ‘game manager’ status and become the number one overall draft pick that he is.
By Giovanni Galindo