Now that the dream of returning to the playoffs is gone, it's time to look forward to preparing for next season.
Fellow 49er fans, if you disagree with my analysis below, tell me what you disagree with and why! Here's my assessment:
- The kickoff and punt return capabilities are TERRIBLE!
- Frank Gore is very good running between the tackles, but lacks the speed to run outside.
- Glen Coffee may or may not be an adequate #2 running back; he hasn't had enough regular season opportunity to display his capabilities; however, it is clear that he doesn't have sufficient speed to be an effective ourside runner either, at least on a regular basis.
- Michael Robinson, while an effective special teams player, has shown that he will never be other than an emergency NFL running back.
- So, the 49ers have no running backs with outside speed and lack players who can be above-average kick (kickoff and punt) returners; this obviously limits open-field gains to the RARE between-the-tackles breakaway; the 49ers don't really have an outside breakaway as a threat.
- A number of other teams have demonstrated the value of high-impact, dual-purpose, speedy players -- think Chris Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Percy Harvin, Devin Hester, and Darren Sproles among others.
"To get better," the 49ers must replace the following players from the current roster: Arnez Battle, Isaac Bruce, Marcus Hudson, Moran Norris, Michael Robinson, Mark Roman, Barry Sims and Tony Wragge. From IR the 49ers should not resign Thomas Clayton or Walt Harris. Their best playing days are in the past; let's move forward with better and/or younger talent.
To replace these players the 49ers should do the following:
- Do everything possible to sign Marcus McNeil to a long-term free-agent contract in the off season -- while surely San Diego would like to extend McNeil's contract, they may not have cap room to do so, given the need to extend some of their other high-cost players. If the 49ers can't get this done, they should sign another experienced, but under-28, offensive tackle. I realize that this might require relocating Joe Staley to RT.
- Use both first-round draft choices on speedy high-impact players -- one on defense (a premier pass rusher) and one on offense (a #2/#3 running back and/or wide receiver and kick returner). As the former I would opt for Dunlap, Griffen, Kindle, Morgan or Sapp. As the latter I would opt for Spiller, Best or McCluster.
- Use subsequent-round draft choices on offensive and/or defensive linemen or defensive backs, depending upon availability of highest ranked players by position. While I would obviously love to have either Berry or Mays, Berry will be gone by the time the 49ers draft and I don't value Mays over Lewis/Goldson versus a premier pass rusher.
- Consider signing LaRon Council (Northwest Missouri State running back) as a free-agent/Practice Squad player -- he has talent and shows a tremendous desire to succeed.
- Promote Zeigler from the Practice Squad.
Go ahead ... shoot my logic down!