The San Francisco 49ers (5-11) are a team looking to find some magic at quarterback. They had hoped last season they’d get it with Alex Smith. This season, they may have decided to find it elsewhere. For head coach Mike Nolan (16-32), who has posted three straight losing seasons, it’s essential that they show progress if he wants to keep his job.
QB Alex Smith (193 ATT, 94 COMP, 914 YDS, 2 TDs, 4 INT) may be talented but after three seasons of not coming through, it looks like the 49ers will start J.T. O’Sullivan. On the receiving end, free agent vets Isaac Bruce and Bryant Jackson join the team. With the Rams in 2007, Bruce, who is 35, caught 55 balls for 733 yards. Ti Vernon Davis (52 REC, 509 YDS, 9.8 AVG, 4 TDs), at tight end, is skilled. The ground attack, which is aided by a standard but unexceptional O-line, includes Frank Gore (260 ATT, 1,102 YDS, 4.2 AVG, 5 TDs). In 2007, 49er signal callers were the victims of 55 sacks. It will be tough for O’Sullivan to be productive if that trend continues.
Last season, the Frisco defense was below average. They were rated anywhere from 20th to 27th in most categories. The D-line lost two important vets when Bryant Young retired and Marques Douglas left. They’ve drafted and signed new talent to fill the holes. Both linebacking and secondary squads look sound. LB Patrick Willis (174 tackles, 4 sacks), Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007, is a top player. CB Nate Clements (4 INT) is the foundation of a fine secondary.
San Francisco fields some fine special teams. Two of the top kickers in the league are in their ranks—punter Andy Lee and place kicker Joe Nedney. Lee went to the Pro Bowl and Nedney played consistently through 2007. The team needs to improve the return game.
Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator, which means a more aggressive attack. Coach Nolan likes will take risks on defense but is conservative on offense. Martz may open things up when it comes to the air and ground attacks.