There are many questions for this team going into the 2010 season. Each day the 49ers practice I think a little bit more of each question is answered. Everything is theory, occasionally the coaches will say something that leads us to believe one thing, but if there's anything to note, it's that coach-speak is something that you must navigate with a compendium on being able to sift through what is and what isn't truth.
This team had a surprising amount of holes coming out of the previous season. Surprising in that, there weren't many of them. The biggest issues were offensive lineman, cornerbacks and getting a return game going. The 49ers have undoubedly already filled two of those needs and could possibly do well for themselves at another. But there are still many question marks, not necessarily holes. "Can Ted Ginn catch a ball?" doesn't qualify as a hole, but it's definitely something we need to consider. After the jump, I'll look at some of the questions.Can Alex Smith take command of this team? | Calling It: Yes | This question is one that seems mostly answered at this point. In every single (just about) report coming out of the teams' organized team activities and every interview with players suggests that Smith is in total control of this team. It's a nice thought.
Will Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis start on day one? | Calling It: N/A | It's a question that needs to be answered, and I'm coming just short of calling this a definite yes. Iupati and Davis recently started taking first team reps with the offensive line, which the coaches claim is necessary just so they can get in all the practice they can--I say it's because they need to start gelling with the other guys on the first team so they can get used to it for when they start day one. Still, not 100% yet.
Is Manny Lawson going to start on day one? | Calling It: N/A | I'd like to call this one, but I just can't. Number one, I like both of these guys, which won't affect my judgement but I'm getting it out there. Number two, Lawson is upset with his contract. This alone wouldn't be enough to lose your starting job, but if the guy behind you shines in practice, like Ahmad Brooks has been doing, what do you do? A week ago I would have said Lawson is the clear starter, now I'm not so sure.
Designated Special Teamer--is Robinson still in the mix? | Calling It: Yes | Singletary's comments today suggest that there will be 3-4 spots open for special teamers who are backups, so this I'm assuming that's not counting Andy Lee or Joe Nedney, I imagine it would count Brian Jennings, however.
Who is Alex Smith's number one target going into 2010? | Calling It: Vernon Davis | Davis has much to say about the 11-to-85 connection and everyone, and I do mean everyone--seems to be on board. Smith should have some reliable targets this season, but 85 over the middle is likely where it's at.
Is Shawntae Spencer upset with his contract situation? | Calling It: N/A | There was a scare, when Barrows said something (may have been Barber) about Spencer and a possible dispute over the amount he's getting paid. Since then, it seems he just prefers to work out on his own, but I wouldn't sleep on it just yet--Spencer does seem a little underpaid for his performance last season. It's something that lingers in the back of my mind.
Who gets the backup positions on the offensive line? | Calling It: Adam Snyder Now A Lock | It's up for debate who will make the roster, but I believe we can now assume that Adam Snyder is a positive to make the 53-man roster in 2010. Snyder showed that, while he can be an "ok" right tackle, he can be an average to good guard, and even showed recently in OTAs that he can snap the ball--he can play all five positions on the line.
Can Ted Ginn Jr. catch the football? | Calling It: N/A | Who knows? This is one of them that will need to be answered going into the preseason.
Can Ahmad Brooks defend the pass? | Calling It: N/A | The determining factor on whether or not Brooks can beat a hold-out Lawson for the full-time starting position is whether or not Brooks can drop back into coverage and do it well. I'd like to see more reports coming out of camp on the matter.
Who will be the primary backup quarterback? | Calling It: Circumstantial | This is an odd one, for sure. Most of us considered the answer to be David Carr, but recent comments from Jimmy Raye suggest otherwise. Raye said that come training camp, he wants Nate Davis to be in competition for the backup job. So when I say circumstantial, I mean this: if Alex Smith goes down to injury, Carr will come in and be the starter; if the 49ers are up ahead big and they rest their starters, Nate Davis will come in like fans wanted him to last year just to see how he does.
What is Alex Boone's place on the team? | Calling It: Practice Squad | I'm calling it as practice squad, and I believe there's enough to argue for to make my case, but it definitely is something that could change once the pads go on, so consider this one open. Boone is just the kind of player that other teams will leave alone on the PS, and he doesn't quite fit into the lineup just yet.
And last but not least...
What's up with the fullback position? | Calling It: N/A | In our roster projections for fullbacks, I listed Moran Norris as a lock to make the roster based on the circumstances, and I would do it again. Admittedly though, there is still a long way to go. Between the fan favorite Brit Miller, Norris the proven (albeit declining) veteran and the freakishly huge Jehuu Caulcrick, it's a position battle that likely won't have an answer until the second half of the preseason. Refer to the question about special teams spots likely going to be open if you want to rationalize for two of these guys, and Miller holds exceptional value there.
These are just some of the questions. Some of them seem obvious, others, there is much to discuss, so that's what we're here to do. What are your thoughts on say, the fullback position? Or Alex Smith's number one target? Things of that nature. Tomorrow, I will roll out another post with more questions, covering all the little nuances of the 49ers roster and gameplan in 2010.