NFL Preview: San Francisco 49ers

Like most teams, it all comes down to the QB.

Head Coach: Mike Singletary
Offensive Coordinator: Jimmy Raye
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Manusky
Special Teams Coordinator: Kurt Schottenheimer
President/CEO: Jed York

Offensive Starters (Projected)
QB: Alex Smith
HB: Frank Gore
FB: Moran Norris
WR: Michael Crabtree
WR: Josh Morgan
LT: Joe Staley
LG: Mike Lupati
C: David Baas
RG: Chilo Rachal
RT: Anthony Davis
TE: Vernon Davis

Defensive Starters (Projected)
DE: Issac Sopoaga
DE: Justin Smith
DT: Ricky Jean-Francois
LB: Manny Lawson
LB: Patrick Willis
LB: Takeo Spikes
LB: Parys Haralson
CB: Shawntae Spencer
CB: Nate Clements
FS: Dashon Goldson
SS: Michael Lewis

Special Teams
K: Joe Nedney
P: Andy Lee

Schedule:
@ Seattle
New Orleans
@ Kansas City
@ Atlanta
Philadelphia
Oakland
@ Carolina
Denver (Wembley Stadium, London)
Bye
St. Louis
Tampa Bay
@ Arizona
@ Green Bay
Seattle
@ San Diego
@ St. Louis
Arizona

Rookies to Watch:
The 49ers have two rookies starting on the offensive line. Mike Lupati and Anthony Davis were both first round draft picks. Both were named to the starting line-up and should help a running game that was already one of the best in the league.

Season Expectations:
The offensive side of the ball will all revolve around how Alex Smith handles the starting role. He’s been shaky in his starts over the course of his career, but he’ll have Michael Crabtree and an improved offensive line to protect him so he should take a step forward. Frank Gore will continue to be the center piece of the offense and with the O-Line stepping up he should put up the numbers we are used to seeing from him. The team signed Brian Westbrook to give a break to Gore and Westbrook is a good fit for San Fran and should really be a useful addition. Vernon Davis put up massive numbers last season and it would be silly to expect him to match those numbers this year. Michael Crabtree missed a few games last season due to the holdout, and with last season under his belt and a full year this year, he should be much better this year.

The defense was one of the best in the league last year, and should be one of the best again this year. The line has a lot of pieces it can move in and out keeping all of them fresh. The linebacking core is led by All-Pro Patrick Willis and young star Parys Haralson. Both are among the best linebackers in the league. The safeties are very solid, Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson are both solid players and Goldson is a rising star in the league. The corners are a little on the weak side but they have some depth. The defense should keep the team close enough for the offense to have a chance to win the game. If Smith can step up, this is a playoff team capable of going deep into the playoffs, if he’s the same guy he’s been, they’ll finish about where they did last season.

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