2_San Francisco 49ers1

Denver Broncos Gameday HQ

NFC WEST SAN FRANCISCO 2014 STRENGTHS: • Strong offensive line and receiving corps, strong linebackers and great coaching 49ers Offense With the exception of the center, the 49ers return every starter from the 2013 NFC Championship game squad, giving belief to Coach Jim Harbaugh that this could be San Francisco’s best offensive unit this decade. Even with Michael Crabtree missing most of the 2013 season, the 49ers were able to post the fourth most-efficient passing game last year—according to FootballOutsiders.com—with the careful Kaepernick, clutch Anquan Boldin (ranked third-best wide receiver by FO’s analytics) and athletic Vernon Davis (ranked third-best tight end by FO) supplying the fun action to the 49ers’ precise passing attack. Now add Crabtree for a full season plus former Bill’s top receiver Stevie Johnson to the mix, and you can actually feel the power surge with optimism throughout San Francisco. Tight end Davis can make the big play (13 touchdowns) like his fleet afoot teammates or do the dirty work as a good-sized blocker. Davis really is a big receiver ala Jimmy Graham these days. The offensive line should enjoy a bounce back from 2012’s elite standing to 2013’s good-but-disappointing finish. Joe Staley has long been one of the best left tackles in the game, but his 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Good D-line lacks depth, mediocre secondary 49ERS leadership truly shows when you see the emergence of left guard Mike Iupati also reaching elite status the past two seasons, while right tackle Anthony Davis and right guard Alex Boone are slowly making names for themselves, albeit to a lesser degree. So with fourth-year vet, first-year starter Daniel Kilgore replacing standout center Jonathan Goodwin, the world awaits to see if Staley’s stuntmen can supply all the special effects once again. All this will only enhance a running game that delivers consistently, whether it’s via Frank Gore’s 31-year-old legs (1134 yards on 276 runs), Kaepernick’s 26-year-old sliding legs (533 yards on 80 runs) or relief supplied by 25-year-old running back Kendall Hunter and 22-year-old rookie Carlos Hyde. Remember, 52 ROB TRINGALI/GETTY IMAGES SPORT percent of Harbaugh’s offense came on running plays, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Offensive Player to Watch There are 110 million reasons to put Kaepernick under the microscope the next six seasons, but the main reason the 49ers are paying the 26-year-old quarterback like a star ($44 million over next three years; $110 million over six years total) is because he has performed like a veteran QB at a younger age with lesser talent around him. In 2014, Kaepernick now has his best trio of receivers—Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson—men who have all been go-to guys for previous organizations. He may have his best offensive line, perhaps topping the outstanding 2012 run-blocking crew, not to mention old Frank Gore and the youngsters running back crew of Kendall Hunter and rookie Carlos Hyde. Put it all together and Kaepernick will continue to beat foes with passing efficiency (2969 passing yards on 456 attempts), stellar read-option playcalling (9 percent of Niners offense comes on R-O plays) and vital ball control (only 7 interceptions). Colin Kaepernick


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