Give & Go: 49ers 2014 Position Battles
(originally written by D-Rock 8/26/14)
With vacancies opened up at a few positions due to injuries, departures, holdouts, and a potential suspension, there are a lot of question marks out there as to who the 49ers will put out on the field come September 7th when they go to the 'Death Star' and play Jerry's Kids (a.k.a. the Dallas Cowboys). The most aggravating factor is the injuries that have occurred. Glenn Dorsey is out for the season. Ian Williams isn't 100%. Navorro Bowman won't be back until November. Kendall Hunter is out for the season. Crabs, The Cowboy, Ray McDonald, and Brandon Lloyd are nursing injuries. "The next man up..." is what everyone likes to say. So who are these 'next men up'?
Dorsey is out. Ian Williams isn't ready. It'll be up to Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs to help fill in, along with the young'uns Carradine and Dial. Mike Purcell, a young'un himself who was on last year's practice squad, may have what it takes to contribute as well. And the jury is still out on Christian Okoye, who may or may not be giving opposing linemen nightmares (and whether or not they are Nigerian in nature remains to be seen). Quinton Dial shined in the first preseason game, and could be just what the Niners need right now.
Alex Boone wants to get paid. His strategy is to get fined to death by the team for missing practices. I dunno if Boone is piloting this train or if it's his agent, but it's a damn shame that it's come to this. The 49ers took a chance on a young and troubled Alex Boone and brought him on the team as an undrafted free agent back in 2009. Had it not been for the 49ers' faith and support, Boone might be working as a bouncer in some crap-hole Columbus nightclub (or worse, playing in the AFL). Add to that the departure of Jonathan Goodwin, and the 49ers will have to fill two spots on the O-Line. Kilgore is currently the heir-apparent at center, with the rookie Marcus Martin possibly taking over at some point. And then there are Joe Looney and Jonathan Martin looking to fill a spot as well. I'd rather have Adam Snyder in the mix but he has been recently injured. Things are looking really bad with the O-Line right now and my confidence wasn't boosted one bit last Thursday where they put up a horrible effort.
Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers departed for Oakland (willingly, I might add). I didn't mind Rogers leaving, but Tarell Brown was a solid corner and I hope a Chris can come in and be as good or better than Brown. Chris Cook and Chris Culliver are vying for a starting corner spot right now, and, if I had a say in any of this I would lean on Cook. Cully has had issues off the field, and I question his mental fortitude. I'm talking about a guy who wanted to use brass knuckles on a bicyclist. A BICYCLIST! Dude! You're an NFL athlete who hits people with your body for a living! You need an implement to help you assault someone who rides a bicycle? To be fair (I guess), I don't really know the whole story behind it...but c'mon. A BICYCLIST! Moving on....Jimmie Ward looks like he is being groomed to take over Carlos Rogers' spot as slot corner. Reports state that Ward has shown some great athleticism in practice, but he is a rookie after all, and slot corner is one of the hardest, if not THE hardest position on defense to play. Hope for the best and expect the worst? Ugh.
Someone's got to play inside with P-Willy while Bowman is out. Michael Wilhoite has filled in before, quite capably, and his main competition right now is Borland. I've seen Borland interviewed a number of times and he is a very bright guy. He might not be able to put it all together in time but I think he will eventually work his way into the lineup. It looks like Aldon Smith will miss some time due to a suspension, so the team is looking to Lemonier and Skuta (along with the rookie project, Lynch) to help outside. Both Lemonier and Skuta contributed last year but can they contribute consistently? Aldon missed four games last season and the 49ers managed without him so I'm hoping for more of the same.
Without Kendall Hunter, Frank Gore is gonna have to lean on Carlos Hyde and/or Jewel Hampton to spell him from time to time. Hyde looked pretty good carrying the football against the Baltimore 1s and also showed up for pass protection. Jewel Hampton has been on the practice squad the past 2 seasons and showed that he hasn't mastered the art of pass protection in all of that time. Hampton might have to spout out lyrics from his namesake to Coach Harbs in the near future: "Do you want me//Like I want you?//Or am I standing still//Beneath the darkened sky//Or am I standing still//With the scenery flying by//Or am I standing still//Out of the corner of my eye//Was that you//Passing me by?"
Finally, Wide Receivers
Back in April, the pundits and fans were admiring the depth that the 49ers had at wide receiver, something the 49ers struggled with in the past. Crabs, Q, The General, Lloyd, Stevie, and Bruce Ellington (who, I am anticipating will garner the nickname 'The Duke') are a great collection of weapons for Kap this year. But, Crabs has had frequent injury problems and Lloyd is no spring chicken (and may not be healthy enough by September 7th). If most of these guys can stay healthy, the offense should have enough playmakers to get in the end zone. I'd hate to see the 49ers having to pick up Jon Baldwin or Kyle Williams off the street in desperation.
There's an adage (one of my favorites) that goes something like: 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger'.
If the 49ers can overcome all of these hiccups, they can fortify themselves as a unit and have the momentum they need to go to the big show. I've seen it happen before. At least twice. The New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers won Superbowls as a wildcard team. And we're talking recent history. Don't get me wrong; I haven't surrendered to the idea that the best the 49ers can do is a Wildcard spot. All I'm saying is that the Giants and the Packers dealt with issues in the middle of their champion season but were able to get things right at the right time. With the absence of Bowman and Aldon (among others), the 49ers will likely run into issues in the middle of the season. I'd like to think that they will have the resiliency to prevail.