The Chip Kelly era did not last very long in San Francisco. The former Eagles head coach didn’t even make up through Week 17 in his first season on the job out west. The 49ers were that bad.
Thus, San Francisco is beginning a new era with Super Bowl offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as head coach and former player/broadcaster John Lynch as general manager. It’s an unconventional setup so it’ll be interesting to see how it works out.
It’s hard to imagine the 49ers’ turnaround will be immediate. San Francisco still lacks talent, especially at the quarterback position where they employ Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. That’s not very intimidating.
The Eagles’ Week 8 game falls between a big division matchup in Week 7 and a tough Week 9 game against the Broncos. Perhaps, then, the 49ers could be a trap situation for the Eagles.
It’s also entirely possible San Francisco is just going to be as bad as expected while they sort through their quarterback issues. The Eagles’ pass rush should be able to have a big impact on their game. The 49ers’ offensive line ranked as the worst in the league last year per Football Outsiders. San Francisco made some changes up front but it could take time for them to solidify. This could be a game where you forget the Eagles cornerbacks are a weakness on the team (except now I just jinxed it).
Here’s a more in-depth look at the 49ers from our SB Nation associates over at Niners Nation.
Notable free agent additions:
QB Brian Hoyer, WR Pierre Garçon, FB Kyle Juszczyk, DT Earl Mitchell, DE Elvis Dumervil, LB Malcolm Smith
Notable free agent departures:
QB Colin Kaepernick, WR Torrey Smith, S Antoine Bethea
C Jeremy Zuttah
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
Solomon Thomas, DT, Round 1: He missed most of the offseason workout program due to Stanford’s quarter system, but he should move into a significant role early in training camp. He will likely get a chance at the strong side defensive end role in the 49ers 4-3, and rotate inside to tackle in their sub-packages.
Reuben Foster, LB, Round 1: A torn rotator cuff has raised questions about his rookie season availability, but the 49ers have said their doctors believe he will be ready for training camp. He will compete with Malcolm Smith at the weak-side linebacker role. If healthy, my projection would be that he is primarily a nickel linebacker next to NaVorro Bowman this first season, but eventually takes Smith’s job in the base defense.
Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Round 3: The 49ers are overhauling their cornerback position, with second year Rashard Robinson starting on one side. Keith Reaser and Dontae Johnson are the veterans competing on the other side, but Witherspoon is competing with them. He got some first team work in the offseason workout program, but training camp will tell us more about how close he is to securing a starting role.
Joe Williams, RB, Round 4: Carlos Hyde is the starter, but Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner pushed hard for the 49ers to draft Williams. They have had success turning day three picks into stars, and Williams has that buzz. He will start out behind Hyde and Tim Hightower, but with Hyde hitting free agency after this season and a regular member of the injury list, Williams could emerge sooner rather than later.
George Kittle, TE, Round 5: The 49ers are overhauling their tight end position, and Kittle could very well end up a regular contributor right away. He was getting some first team work in the offseason workout program, and the 49ers already tried to trade away last year’s No. 1 tight end, Vance McDonald.
Trent Taylor, WR, Round 5: An undersized, white receiver who catches a lot of passes is automatically going to get the Wes Welker, and that’s the case with Taylor. Reports from the offseason workout program say he is catching everything thrown his way. Additionally, he is expected to compete to be the starting returner on special teams.
Biggest offseason addition:
For the second straight season, the 49ers biggest addition is Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers were plenty busy in free agency, and some of those additions could make big additions on both sides of the ball. But for a team in the early stages of a rebuilding process, Shanahan is the big addition. New GM John Lynch will make his own impact, and has emerged as the face of the organization to the media. But I feel like this is Kyle Shanahan’s team, and he is the guy who will be looked upon as the rebuilding process moves forward.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
How the defensive line comes together - You could point to big storylines at every position, but the 49ers rebuilding process is going to take some time. The biggest investment in draft capital and salary cap space has been the defensive line. Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead represent the 49ers last three top picks. How they come together this season is a big step in the rebuilding process.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
Offensive line - The 49ers acquired center Jeremy Zuttah in a trade, and signed Garry Gilliam, Brandon Fusco, and Tim Barnes in free agency. They’re not high profile moves, but considering the team’s struggles the past three years, how this group gels will be critical for an offense that is changing schemes under a noted offensive mind.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
NaVorro Bowman tore his Achilles last fall, but by all accounts was a full participant in the offseason workout program. We are left to wait and see if he has lost a step; Reuben Foster had surgery on his rotator cuff before the NFL Combine. There was talk the injury might need another surgery, but the 49ers have said their doctors like Foster’s progress. How quickly he is a full participant in practice will be a big storyline.