A New Dawn — A New Defense?

Super Bowl bound! 4-12? Shit, who am I kidding. I have no clue how this season turns out. Despite the naysayers and those that laugh and predict doom for jettisoning St. Jim the Wolverine, the team still has talent and the offense will hopefully move out of the 70s.

The defense? Well, shit should be fine, if not a little thin in the defensive backfield. Which leads me to believe we will be a little more aggressive with the pass rush. Ahmad Brooks still remains a 49er, albeit that depends on the charges brought forth by the woman who brought down RayMac. Cutting him at this point would only save $1.5 mill against the cap, so he’ll probably stick around if these charges go away.

If anything, both Ahmad Brooks, and his bookend OLB Aldon Smith have a lot to prove with their recent travails and issues. The defensive line should still be fairly stout as Justin Smith hasn’t been himself the last couple years, and the rest of the crew, plus Darnell Dockett should be good to go. These OLBs (Lunch included) can wreak some havoc if the D line takes care of business. Eli Harold has been seen as a high-value pick where we got him.  Arik Armstead? He’s got the ‘potential’ tag laid all over him. The positive being Jim Tomsula has done very well as a D line coach with a lot less than AA.

Inside LB? Well, there’s the rub. Bowman is by all intents coming along just fine, but his injury was horrific and he is a question. Wilhoite has shown decent game, but his  ceiling isn’t very high. Moody and the rest? Ehh. Have to wonder if someone will fall off a team after cut-down time.

The secondary is thin as well. Even with the signing of Jaquaski Tartt, heir apparent to Antoine Bethea. The only question is when.  The corners were left thin by the Cully and COX departures, but Brock should be healthy. Johnson came on very well last year, but he’s a question as a starter and Shareece Wright isn’t all that. They did sign UDFA Mylan Hicks (Mich St) to a 3 year deal so they see something there.

As far as the coaches go, they have a lot of guys with a lot of time in the game. What does it mean? Little to nothing in itself, but Mangini is on the right side of the line now at least.

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Too Much Time On My Hands

Well, the full doldrums have set in. At least in the football world. I tell ya though this is a pretty golden time to be a Bay Area sports fan. The Giants are reigning World Champs, having won 3 of the last 5 World Series, the 49ers were oh, so close in the Super Bowl a couple years ago, and the Golden State Warriors just finished their improbable run to their 2nd championship in California by beating King James and his court of backups. Some are already casting aspersions on the Dubs as they didn’t have to face a) San Antonio or b) the Clippers, and every team they faced has point guard injuries to deal with. Well, tough noogies.

If San Antonio was so good, they shouldn’t have lost to LA. If LA was so good, they shouldn’t have lost to Houston. The Clippers BTW showed absolutely NO guts by blowing a 20 point lead in game 6. You play with the cards you are dealt. Were the Cavs crippled by injuries? Yeah, somewhat. But, again, tough shit. Tristan Thompson played defense about 100% better than Kevin Love could ever dream of. Did they miss his offense? Maybe, but shit happens. Did they miss Kyrie Irving? Sure. Could he have played defense like fucking Dellavedova did? Possible, but he certainly would have brought more offense. Thong is, you don’t know. If both teams get together at full strength would shit be different? No way to know.

Part of what helped the Warriors during the season was he fact that they had a strong bench. They had role players that could step in when needed. Lee, Bogut, Green, Thompson, and even Curry (and others) missed some time this year due to injuries, but they entered the playoffs fairly unscathed. This however, was tested when both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson both suffered head injuries vs Houston. Steph appeared to struggle for a few games after his injury, and Thompson certainly wasn’t his usual self during the finals. Everyone is banged up at this point in the season. You deal with the grind of the season, and the extra grind of the playoffs. At this point, the NBA should really think about shortening the regular season, as the playoffs are such a long haul.

Kudos to Steve Kerr and the Warriors for a truly epic season.  Let’s hope the Niners pick up where they leave off.

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Alright Already

This has been yet again the weirdest offseason in 49er history. And that’s saying something after last year. Anthony Davis, the guy with the semi-questionable motor coming into the league, decides to retire and forgo something around $18 mill for his services.

I get the fact that players are concerned about their health, but all of the retirements have come from the 49ers for the most part. There have been other guys leaving early, but the rash of guys this year on this team is odd to say the least. But really, to blame this on the Harbaugh situation is pretty much calling the players chicken shit fair weather players. I don’t buy it. Mainly because it is a disservice to guys like Patrick Willis who played through tough situations on some less-than-great teams. Or Justin Smith who toiled long and hard to get to this point in his career to be recognized as one of the preeminent defensive linemen. Or Chris Borland’s courage to walk away from a very promising career. AD? I don’t know. He’s been dinged up and didn’t play well last year. He’s played well, but I;m not sure what the Niners do about the 5 years left on that deal. He is giving back $4.6 mill in signing bonus.

Will his loss hurt? I suppose it will. Some. We are changing schemes to zone blocking, and we look to be more mobile, so road graders won’t be needed as much as they were on the previous 1970s style offense. He doesn’t really fit the new system, so have a nice retirement, AD. The lateness of his announcement is a bitch, but what do you do?  Knowing we would need another lineman would have been helpful to know before the draft, but he did what he did when he did. Plenty read into that, but who’s to know? The speculation train is running full speed, but whatever. Shit happens and you deal with it.

All the turnover is a problem but the preseason hasn’t really started so there’s still plenty of time to install their offense. If Harbaugh proved anything it’s that you can install your system fairly quickly. Esp when you remember that he inherited his defense and rode it most of the way. The offense was an extension of the conservative plans from the previous two coaches, but the biggest difference was the D that got stronger and stronger. A new more unpredictable offense, and offense based more on quickness and not slow plays and burning all the play clock is most welcome. All the defense has to do is stay near the top 10. They likely have to be a bit more aggressive with their blitz package, and doing a better job of disguising things. I’d love more aggression. Fabio, for all his success, had games like Denver where he didn’t bother to pressure Manning, and instead laid back and tried to play coverage. Same with the Raiders game. He couldn’t dial up pressure to Carr rot save his life. And this was against a team with a shitty line and little to play for. The O by then was a complete disaster.

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Offseason Blues? Team in Transition? You Make the Call

Well,  this time around, better quiet than turmoil. Last year at this time, rumors were flying about our dear departed head coach, the fact that Harbaugh was nearly traded, the coach didn’t talk to the GM, on and on.

All we have this year is the snickering from the so-called cognoscenti (and blognoscenti) about how the team has no chance, the coach is a goober, a snitch, and a yes man for the FO , the OC is an inexperienced neophyte,  and the team is old and lousy due to defections.

Well, the team is getting a little long in the tooth, but they did get younger at RB and DL. Right? The point being, this team appears to have gone through a lot of turmoil and is quietly going about its business while the sports world is hell-bent on dumping on the team. Tomsula did the hee-haw crowd a favor by having an uninspiring presser to start his tenure, because as we all know, good pressers mean good coaching. It was all a prefect storm of innuendo and snickering by the hoi polloi of the ESPN crowd, quickly followed by the local media. It became de riguer to dump on the team.

The swirl of doomerism is slowing down. Mainly because you can’t keep beating that horse and expecting people to keep listening. The team is starting OTAs and exciting nothingness happens while people are starting to ask questions around VD and his effectiveness and who will the cornerbacks be among the young crop of guys rather than why Jed is the anitchrist who dethroned the greatest coach in Niner history, St. Jim the Penultimate.

Either way, none of this shit will matter until they start playing for real in September. It’s all talk. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be a good team.

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Meet the New Offense, Same as the Old Offense?

Reports out of 4949 Centennial Blvd. is that the 49ers are instituting a much more up-tempo offense. Jim Tomsula is stressing tempo tempo tempo. their first play from their first scrimmage was a screen pass. Can I get an amen? I’ve only been saying for, oh about 9 years now is that we need to run screens. as well as quick-tempo plays like slants. These types of plays have certainly disappeared under the Harbaugh era, and I think opposing defenses took advantage of this by not scheming for it.

The good news out of the recent coaching purge, at least to me, is the fact that the new guys are of a mind to speed things up. QB coach Steve Logan is heavily versed in the West Coast Offense, and the Geepster certainly has run across it. Beyond that, losing the 4-headed play calling scheme that Harbaugh reportedly had will be greatly appreciated.  The 2-plays-in-the-huddle deal will also not be missed. I’ve seen enough delay-of-games and burned time outs to stop a room full of clocks.

Again, and this bears repeating, I have no idea what the Geepster truly brings as an OC, but at this point I like what I’m hearing. The D has a solid set of coaches and players, so I think we will be good there, but the offense is an enigma wrapped in a riddle at this point.

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Justin Smith Retires

Not sure why he made this a 4-month decision, but Justin Smith decided to retire at the age of 35. No word from him yet, but a tougher guy on any team would be pretty hard to find. A five-time pro-bowler, all done here with the Niners from 2008 to 2014, he consistently took on double and triple teams to tie up the line and allow the LBs to make plays behind, around, and in front of him. He was also named a 1st team All-Pro DT, and 2nd team DE in the same year, 2011. He was also named All-pro at both positions in 2012. No mean feat there.

He won numerous awards on the Niners, as he came to SF in 2008 as a free agent. In Cincinnati he was a somewhat mis-cast 4-3  DE and some time OLB. In the 49ers 3-4 defense as a DE (he’d switch to DL on passing downs),  his impact was felt across the league. Yet another stalwart from the team who has chosen to retire. I was hoping Arik Amstead would get one year to learn under him, but such is life, and such is the game of football.

Vaya con dios, Cowboy.

jsmith

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How the Mighty Have Fallen

Click back to a year ago, and the 49ers were one of the top-ranked teams in the league. No.2 in fact. The Harbaugh-to-Cleveland rumors hadn’t surfaced, and the whole behind-the-scenes nightmare of innuendo hadn’t surfaced either. What happened? Well, we all remember. Injuries, blown leads, more innuendo, whatever. We ended up 8-8 and not the #2 team.

As it was across the league, in 2014, PFT had it right picking the AFC playoff teams, going 6 for 6. The order wasn’t spot-on, but that’s a pretty good job. The NFC had surprises in Dallas (Ranked 14th in the NFC) and Detroit (ranked 12th) taking the Niners (ranked 2nd) and the Saints (ranked 4th) who fell out.

What does it mean for this year? Who knows? Most likely, diddly. No one certainly stuck their necks out and said the Niners would go 13-3 in 2011. I thought they’d be a WC team. Then again, I had said that for a while because the team had talent. It was the coaching that was suspect. And that’s the rub. No one in any position of doing prognostication goes out on a limb for a team that hit the skids. Or a team that’s on the rise.

The latest power rankings look like this:

NFC – – – – – – – – – – – –

1. Sea
2. Green Bay
3. Dal
4. AZ
5. Philly
6. Det

In other words, they picked the playoff teams from last year. The only exception being that someone has to represent the NFC South. the AFC is the same.The Niners are down with the also-rans at 19th. Again, what does this mean? Squadoosh? Are the 49ers the 19th best team in the league? Not unless you believe that the players they have won’t be any good. This is the 5th ranked defense that didn’t have Bowman or Willis through most of the season. The defense should be fine.

As I’ve said, the big question is the offense. 30th in passing is not very good no matter how you parse it. 4th in rushing is fine, but it sure didn’t seem like we were very effective at it. For al the talk of limiting Kappy’s rushing, he ended up with 639 yards. He had 524 yards when he was supposedly running too much. My take on this is the coaching staff went way too hard in the wrong direction. There is telling your QB to try and hang in the pocket, but then there is leaving him hung out to dry to take a sack. In his ‘running’ year of 2013, Kappy had 39 sacks.  In his misbegotten year in the pocket,  he had 52.

The passing yards were similar, the TD numbers were similar, even the fumble and INT numbers were all close. Why the disparity in the seasons? Well, injuries played their part, especially on the offensive line. But the play calling (surprise) seemed lacking to say the least. 15th in 3rd downs (40%) is smack in the middle of the league. 50% on 3rd and under 4 yards is shitty. All these numbers are down from the previous years. Why? More than one team came out of our games saying they knew what was coming a lot of the time, based on formation and tendencies. Sure, you can say that all teams know most of the time what’s coming, but that’s bullshit. This isn’t 1975. Which is where our offense has been these last few years.

Also, this team lost leads in 6 games.

Bears? 17-7 at the half.
AZ? 14-6 lead
Rams? 10-10 tie
Oaktown? 10-10 tie (13-10 Niners in the 3rd)
Seattle? 7-3 lead
SD? 28-7 lead

Harbaugh would go conservative and sit on leads. 11th in scoring in the 1st halfs of games. 30th in 2nd halfs.

Bring on the Geepster.

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