The 49ers lost their 4th straight game 18-15 in overtime last Sunday but there seems to be progress on several fronts. The defense and offensive lines are improving and contain the three best emerging players on the team; Trent Brown (OT), Deforest Buckner (DT) and Solomon Thomas (DT). In addition the Niners have found a few diamonds in the rough including Trent Taylor (WR) who is making his presence felt on special teams as well as the receiving corp.
However there continues to be glaring weaknesses at quarterback and in the defensive backfield that is costing them wins. In addition the inability to score touchdowns can be partially attributed to the play calling of Kyle Shanahan in addition to the poor QB play of Brian Hoyer.
The Niners travel to Indianapolis this weekend to tackle a weak Colt squad which is their best chance to break through the win column in the first half of the season. Once again it matches up two teams that are struggling on offense. Another poor performance by Hoyer could spell the beginning of the end for him as the 49ers starting QB.
Hoyer has proven to be inaccurate as well as lacking any pocket presence. When under pressure Hoyer is a very ineffective passer and, moreover, he lacks the ability to use his legs to scramble out of pressure to pick up yards down field. As the losses pile up Shanahan and Lynch may eventually call on C. J. Beathard to see what he can do to improve the passing game and to score more TDs.
The Niners are two weeks into the 2017 season and there seems to be some trends developing. Most Niners faithful felt like they would be 0-2 at this point in the season because they had 2 tough opponents. Well they are 0-2 but the Panthers and Seahawks are having their own problems. Both Seattle and Carolina struggled on offense and were ripe for an upset. But alas only the Niner fans are upset
In both games the Niners defense played well enough to win. The defensive line play has been very good and the defensive backs, for the most part, have held up their end of the bargain. The defense has done well while being on the field over 60% of the game. In addition, Deforest Buckner continues to improve to the point that he is now one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. The Niners overall earned a B for their efforts.
On-the-other-hand the Niners offense has not been very effective to the point of going 8 quarters without a TD. The offensive struggles are mainly due to a nonexistent passing game. Brian Hoyer is the lowest rated starting QB in the NFL. He is lacking pocket awareness, poise, accuracy and mobility. In short his first two performances are rated an F. Admittedly he at times has not had the best pass blocking support and Goodwin has dropped a couple of key passes but that does not excuse Hoyer’s overall poor play and lack of leadership.
The one offensive bright spot is the ground game. Carlos Hyde ran for well over 100 yards against the Seahawks and started well against the Panthers until the Niners got behind by half time and were forced to throw the ball at the expense of the running game.
Shanahan and Lynch have to be scratching their heads about what to do about the quarterback situation. In fact Hoyer is exhibiting all the same traits that Blaine Gabbert showed last year until he benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick. This week’s game against the Rams may be a watershed moment for Hoyer’s 49ers career. Another bad performance against a below average Rams team could be the start of the end for Hoyer. Even though Shanahan and Lynch have 6 year contracts there still is need and desire to show Niners fans that they are an upgrade from the 2016 2-14 team.
The Shanahan-Lynch Team have picked their 53 man roster and practice squad for the 2017 season. A few surprises including the fact that the Niners are only carrying 2 QBs, Hoyer and rookie Beathard. In addition the Niners trimmed some key veterans, including RB Hightower, WR Kerley, LB Brooks and DL Dial, in favor of keeping younger players for the future. They also placed several players on the IR for the year who would otherwise been cut.
The roster lacks depth and is weak at cornerback which may be their achilles heel early on. In looking at the roster and the schedule the Niners could win 4 to 6 games. Fans are not expecting a lot of wins but they are anxious for an exciting and competitive team. The passing game may fulfill that promise but the running does not. Shanahan will need to mix up the offense by throwing short passes to his running to get them in space against slower linebackers. This won’t be smash football but it could be a ball control passing offense. to help give the defense some need rest
Shanahan and Lunch seem to be setting the stage for what to expect in 2 or 3 years as this roster matures and improves.
Basically two weeks until the start of training camp and the 49er Faithful are anticipating a vast improvement over 2016. What can they expect in the first year of the Lynch/Shanahan era. They can expect a lot of new faces, fierce competition to make and stay on the 53 man roster and a culture that demands responsibility, accountability and teamwork up-and down the organization.
They can also expect that once the season starts there will be new offensive and defensive schemes that will better fit the personnel on the roster. But will the 49ers win more than two games? Its hard to know but they will have better chance than they have had the last two year. Also it seems there is a significant upgrade at some of the offensive skilled positions most notably the wide receiver and running back positions with the addition of both free agents and rookie draft choices.
Another key factor is there is stability in the front office and head coach positions and it clear the GM and head coach are on the same page and working together for the to build a winning culture. Organizational stability is huge in terms of continuity to the organization, players and fans as well as for the recruiting of free agents to the 49ers. Its clear throughout the league that these two men have the respect amongst players due to their background and vision for building a winning organization.
John Lynch has come to Santa Clara and become the face, voice and leader of the 49ers. John is quickly changing the 49ers culture inside and outside the building. He is open and engaging which is something that was missing for over 15 years or since the York Family took the franchise from Eddie D. John projects a positive enthusiasm that infects all the people around him.
Kyle Shanahan will be more prominent once camp opens up and will be the spokesperson on game days. But Lynch is in charge of the day-to-day pubic image of the 49ers which had fallen on hard times. Lynch also bring his deep NFL credentials of toughness and leadership to the party as well. In other words Lynch has “street credibility” inside and outside the locker room.
Will John Lynch succeed in turning around the 49ers franchise? In my opinion he has already done a lot in terms of bring back the 49ers tradition and shaping the future. In addition, Lynch has put in place a good staff of scouts and personnel operatives to help bring winning back as well. Will the 49ers win another Super Bowl … only time will tell as that will requires the right players and coaches as well as the ability to execute the game plan. It also requires a measure of luck. It seems that Kyle Shanahan has the background and system to shape a competitive team.
In my opinion in the foreseeable future John Lynch will be elevated to President of Football Operations because of his vast football knowledge and communication skills.
Unless the Niners make some last minute transactions the roster seems to be set for training camp. The signing of Elvis Dumervil competes the roster which should be a upgrade from last year. There are improvements at every position although QB seems to be better only from the standpoint that Hoyer knows Shannahan’s system.
It is striking how many players from the 2016 roster have been cut and replaced by Lynch and Shannahan especially on the offensive side of the ball. QB, receivers and offensive line are essential new. In addition there is a noticeable change of culture in the locker room and field. Will this translate to wins? We won’t know this until the season get on the way.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan continue to say all the right things. The rebuild is going to be a process that takes a while. Both men seem to be on the same page and compliment each other unlike the previous coaches and GM (Trent Baalke). Both Lynch and Shanahan emphasize that the 2017 season will be a building year especially with the QB situation still up in the air.
It is now apparent now that Kaepernick will be opting out of his contract and entering free agency. Frankly the 49ers welcome this outcome as they undoubtedly would have cut Kaepernick given his on-field performances the last 2 seasons, his $14 million contract, the regression of his “football acumen” and his on-going political distractions. Moreover, the new 49ers management believe that his is a polarizing figure with the 49ers Faithful. Thus they believe it is time got move from the bad blood that developed last year.
When looking at the Niners roster it is obvious that there is a glaring lack of top notch talent. Is the team better than 2-14? Well achieving 3 or more wins isn’t much of a stretch but they are not likely to win 8 or more games for sure. Under the right circumstances the 49ers could challenge the Rams and Cards in the NFC West next year because the Rams also rebuilding and the Cards are an aging team that has lost a step or two.
Free agency starts March 9th so we’ll see what Lynch and Shanahan’s next moves will be as they rebuild the roster.