Here we are, the final game of the opening week of NFL 2016. We get the east coast/west coast Monday Night double-header. Cool for us on the West Coast, but if there are any 49er fans in New York, they get a 10:40 pm start time. Kinda sucks for them, but Monday Night Football has always been a bit of a fuck-a-row for the East Coasters.
Anyhoo, this game is going to be a test for both teams. Chip kelly is for all intents and purposes seemingly done a decent job of taking a bunch of miscellaneous parts from the previous regime and a recent draft that focussed on both lines to give us a small sliver of hope that the team may have a solid base to work from. At least this is what gives me hope.
QB? Well, this is a bit of a quandary. Blaine Gabbert won the job merely by being there more than Colin Kaepernick. Nothing great, but not a lot of mistakes either. Kappy? Well, depending on how tonight goes, he could very well be the starter by next week. He will bide his time as the insurance policy. As far as routes go, I’m hoping we played it close to the vest as there was very little mid-range top deep passing.
RB? Both Carlos Hyde and Shaun Draughn played little in the preseason due to injury, but both showed a lot of solid running. Keeping Hyde healthy is vastly important to the fate of this team. Draughn is a very nice compliment to Hyde, and backups Davis and Harris even looked good.
WR? The big unknown. Adding Rod Streater and Jeremy Kerley at least gives us some experienced guys after Bruce Ellington went down again. Torrey Smith has an amazingly great attitude after basically being ignored all last season, so the hope is, as with the QBs that we can open things up tonight and get the ball downfield more than the 6 yard bites we saw in the preseason.
The O line, despite the shenanigans of Anthony Davis, looks vastly improved over last year’s version. Trent Brown has been very solid at RT so far, garnering praise at all stops, and the return of a healthy Kilgore Trout cannot be understated. Andrew Tiller replaces a reluctant AD and pushes him to backup RT. Joe Staley is still in fine form, and FA acquisition Zane Beadles has been solid as well as he has kept first round pick Josh Garnett from cracking the starting lineup.
Vance McD looks to be finally on the verge of a breakout year, and he’s decent enough as a blocker, as is Garrett Celek. Bell has shown flashes of good hands.
On D we should see a lot of improvement. The DBs are healthy and have looked nothing short of fantastic. Eric Reid had a nice pick 6 on Trevor Siemien, and the coverage was spot-on most every game with the starters.
The pass rush is another matter as no one has shown too much against us in the preseason to make a determination. Marcus Rush looked like a pretty good 3rd down option, but he’s on the PS for now. Aaron Lynch is serving his 4 game suspension, and a significantly lighter Tank Carradine steps in for him alongside Ahmad Brooks, the enigmatic on-again-off-again presence. Ray-Ray Armstrong had a very solid preseason and camp to push his way into the lineup alongside NaVorro Bowman.
The D line suffered a major blow since Ian Williams wasn’t able to make it back from his ankle injury. The entire D line hasn’t played a down yet together as NT Glenn Dorsey is also nursing nagging injuries, but we get to see the bookend Ducks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner hit the field tonight along with Quinton Dial. The key here will be the rotation to keep these guys fresh against Todd Gurley. Mike Purcell at NT and Tony Jerrod-Eddie will also be rotating throughout the game, I’m sure.
So, shoot me for being a little optimistic. I think this team looks a lot better than it did one year ago. The coaching staff can’t help but be better than last year’s train wreck, and that should lead to a couple more wins than last year. Better overall play on both lines is my main reason for hope.