Even for hardcore fans, preseason games get tryingly old FAST. But the early preseason games can show some luster – especially if you’ve got a new coaching staff, a new playbook and your roster has undergone major surgery.
The San Francisco 49ers will take the field Friday with more new faces since T.O. ‘n’ company jumped ship as the bottom fell out in 2004. A fan can only hope the other bookend has finally been placed for “The 49er Dark Age”.
With plenty of questions for the revamped 49ers, here are five key points of interest for the 2011 preseason…
New Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh will finally take the field in 49er gear, crowned with the holy headset for the first time as a NFL head-coach. Will he be wearing a GIANT wooden cross…? What about a suit — ?
With a near-genocide of last year’s coaching staff, it’ll be interesting to see the dynamics between the coaches and their players. How will Harbaugh operate on the sidelines? What will his demeanor be like? Will it be an obvious transformation from Singletary sidelines?
Prediction: an active, excited and animated new coach. A maestro orchestrating more on offense, focused on developing his high-expecting “west-coast” schemes. Nods, nods and more nods from quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Perhaps he’ll wear anything that allows him to be mobile. Maybe he’ll have some custom 49er cleats. That’d be cool.
During the short free agency, the secondary controlled the 49ers’ headlines. With minimal practice time for most the players and long secondary roster, how will they fair against the highly explosive Saints?
Prediction: patches of athletic defending and miscommunications. Expect high intensity throughout the game – and, fierce competition for starting and roster spots.
In recent years, preseason has been quarterback season for the 49ers, and this year isn’t any different. Smith is the presumed starter, but even Harbaugh said nothing is set in stone with the possibility of Kaepernick making a case.
Smith will take center first, and he’ll be under the microscope in the first game against New Orleans’ first-team defense; then Kaepernick, who’ll get at least twice as much playing time against the second- and third-teams.
Prediction: regardless of performances, reactions will highlight Smith’s mistakes and Kaepernick’s successes. Expect to see a nice deep ball from Smith to WR Braylon Edwards at some point.
As much as Niner fans love watching running back Frank Gore, it’s best not to see too much of him during preseason. Mostly, it’s just not worth the risk of injury. That being said, the future-at-running-back question is starting to bubble up. Will Anthony Dixon get the most playing time? Will there be an experiment with Jeremiah Masoli running the ball?
Prediction: less than three quarters of play from Gore (all preseason), and the backs will get the ball by air as much as by hand.
Will the 49ers Be Ready by the End of Preseason?
With the short off-season, new coaching staff and new players equal an ugly start? Outside Ninerland, they’re saying the 49ers are not only going to have a rocky start, but a rocky season – and, that this is a rebuilding/learning year for the 49ers.
Lets start with the fact that some of the biggest names will have only practiced a week by the first preseason game – and several of those big names are new to the team. Now add, the coaches have only had two weeks of contact with players. All the while, implementing a new offense and defense. Is it just too much to expect success at all this year?
Prediction: at first, it’ll be rough. But with all of preseason and several high profile athletes gathered, AND an ambitious new coach, the Niners will be ready to show the Seattle Seahawks that they’re rebuilt, NOT rebuilding come Week 1.