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With the vital pieces finally falling into place, the San Francisco 49ers hope to improve behind rising stars.
San Francisco 49ers Preview: 2007
In 2007, the San Francisco 49ers struggled with key injuries on offense and defense. The San Francisco 49ers finished the season with a 5-11 record and failed to make the playoffs. Despite the disappointing performance in 2007, head coach Mike Nolan remains with the San Francisco 49ers. Owing to the San Francisco 49ers offensive struggles Mike Martz will replace Jim Hostler as offensive coordinator. With the new addition to the staff, the San Francisco 49ers will enter 2008 with all of the pieces necessary to string together some wins in the wild NFC West, where anything is possible.
San Francisco 49ers Preview: Moves
With their top two picks in the 2008 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected DT Kentwan Balmer and OG Chilo Rachal in the first and second rounds respectively. In the grand scheme of things, second-round pick Chilo Rachal may work better in the San Francisco 49ers system. Chilo Rachal is a solid guard with versatile blocking skills, something that the San Francisco 49ers desperately need. Kentwan Balmer's senior season at the University of North Carolina was his best yet and he may prove to be an excellent addition to the San Francisco 49ers defense.
San Francisco 49ers: Offense
The biggest question that must be answered by the San Francisco 49ers offense is who will be the starting quarterback. As it stands, it is Alex Smith who practiced and worked out with the first team during organized team activities. Alex Smith will likely reprise that role in training camp. However, look for Shaun Hill to make a push for the starting job. Mike Nolan has shown confidence in Alex Smith but has reported that neither quarterback has any clear edge at this point. With a good season, Frank Gore could break into the ranks of the NFL's elite backs as he is a talented all-around running back.
In 2007, the San Francisco 49ers offensive line allowed 55 sacks. The San Francisco 49ers will return with a new-look offensive line with young and dedicated players. OG Chilo Rachal will be an excellent addition with his ability to keep defenders off of the ball. Though Mike Martz isn't fond of loading the line with extra blockers for pass protection, there should be a significant improvement in the play of the San Francisco 49ers offensive line if they can avoid injuries. With WR Bryant Johnson itching to put up big numbers, the San Francisco 49ers offense should flourish under Mike Martz's system.
San Francisco 49ers: Defense
The anchor of the San Francisco 49ers defense is ILB Patrick Willis. As a rookie in 2007, Patrick Willis lead the NFL in total tackles. Patrick Willis is a machine-like tackler who is adept at finding opposing running backs and protecting against the run. As he settles into the defensive scheme, Patrick Willis should become an even bigger threat to opposing teams in 2007. The San Francisco 49ers' second leading tackler is strong safety Michael Lewis. In Michael Lewis's first season with the San Francisco 49ers he racked up a total of 104 tackles.
San Francisco 49ers: Special Teams
Veteran special teams standout Allen Rossum joined the San Francisco 49ers as a kickoff and punt returner. Allen Rossum ranks second all-time in career return yards and kickoff return yards. Among active players, Allen Rossum is first in career punt return yards and all of his seven career touchdowns are from kick returns. Though Allen Rossum is coming off of an unproductive season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Allen Rossum should provide numbers and make plays for the San Francisco 49ers special teams.
San Francisco 49ers Preview: 2008
To compete with the elite teams in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers will have to force turnovers and create opportunities for easy scores. The San Francisco 49ers offense is stacked with talented players at all of the skill positions. Once the quarterback situation is resolved the San Francisco 49ers offense should see an improvement on their disappointing performance of last season. A roster full of young, talented players should give San Francisco 49ers fans at Monster Park something to cheer about for years to come.