All the chatter this offseason is about Super Bowl expectations and what we're hoping for from the team. While those are clearly the most important expectations, there are some player career milestones on the table in 2012. The 49ers have a storied franchise history with some amazing names, and some of the current 49ers will be moving up the ranks. I used Pro Football Reference for tracking purposes.
The biggest in my mind as a 49ers fan would be Frank Gore's career rushing total. Last season, Gore was recognized for passing Joe Perry on the 49ers all-time rushing list. This involves a bit of a numbers game, however. Gore passed Perry for total rushing yards on official NFL record books. However, Perry rushed for 1,345 yards with the 49ers while the team was still part of the old AAFC, which leaves him with 8,689 career rushing yards with the 49ers. Frank Gore finished last season with 7,625 career rushing yards, leaving him 1,064 yards behind Perry overall.
Gore is likely to see a decrease in his rushing attempts because of the 49ers deep pool of running backs. Nonetheless, another 1,000 yard season is not out of the realm of the possible. It might be a little more difficult with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James getting their split of carries, but it is still possible.
Head after the jump for a look at some of the more random "milestones" on the horizon for the 49ers. We wrap it at the end with a look at Randy Moss on the all-time NFL lists. If you think I'm missing anything particularly significant, let me know.
Alex Smith has been around seven years now, and even as he has struggled, Smith has moved up the passing charts. He remains a ways off from Montana, Brodie and Young, but this season, he has a shot at passing Y.A. Tittle in passing yards. He is currently 3,473 yards behind Tittle. If the passing game develops like many of us are hoping, he could reach that number. This past season, Smith threw a career high 3,144 yards. If he were to throw for 3,865 yards, he would pass Jeff Garcia. Both are possible, but will take some work.
Vernon Davis is going to be able to make up some solid ground in the various receiver rankings. Although he has struggled at times with consistency, he is starting to enter rarified air in 49ers history:
- He is currently 12th in 49ers history with 3,803 receiving yards. If he puts up another 700+ yard season (he had 792 yards last season), he would climb past Bernie Casey, JJ Stokes and Roger Craig on the all-time receiving yards list. If he hauls in 1,071 receiving yards, he would climb past Freddie Solomon as well. He is currently 1,392 yards behind Brent Jones. It is highly unlikely he will pass Jones this year, but should be able to do so next season.
- He is also in ninth place with 35 receiving touchdowns, two ahead of Brent Jones. Nine touchdowns would move Davis ahead of Freddie Solomon and John Taylor. 13 would tie him up with Dwight Clark. As talented as Davis is, I would be surprised if anybody on the roster piled up a lot of touchdowns. If the offense develops as I would hope it develops, the team will spreading the touchdown love to all the skill position players.
- Finally, Davis is currently 11th with 304 receptions. A repeat of his 67 receptions last year would move him into a seventh place tie with Gene Washington.
The 49ers don't appear to have any other really big franchise milestones on the horizon, but a couple guys will continue to climb the charts on offense:
- Michael Crabtree has climbed into 24th place on the 49ers all-time receiving list through his first three seasons on the team. If he gets 753+ yards he will move into at least 15th place. 1,094 yards would move him into 14th place.
- Ted Ginn is ninth in punt return yards with 787 yards. If he comes close to matching his totals last season, he would climb into fifth place on the franchise return list.
Defensive statistics are a little harder to figure out since things like tackles and sacks have not been tracked through the entirety of NFL history. Furthermore, with tackles, the tracking is often inconsistent. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that Patrick Willis is third in recorded franchise "history" with 542 tackles. According to PFR, Willis is nine behind Ken Norton Jr. and 179 behind Ronnie Lott. Given the improved defense, it is unlikely he will pass Lott, but he should pass him in 2013.
The 49ers recently signed free agent Randy Moss to a one year contract, hoping he can help in developing a bigger play passing game. Any projections for Moss in 2012 will be as much guess-work as anything else. He struggled in 2010 and then sat out all of 2011 to deal with some family issues. He reportedly still has his skills in practice, but we won't know how they convert to the real thing until at least August, if not September.
Moss has put together one of the most dynamic careers in NFL history, and he has a chance to further cement his legacy this season. Among all-time NFL leaders, Moss ranks ninth with 954 receptions, fifth with 14,858 receiving yards and he and Terrell Owens are tied for second with 153 receiving touchdowns. Here are the quick breakdowns of the players ahead of him in the three categories:
1. Jerry Rice - 1,549
2. Tony Gonzalez - 1,149
3. Marvin Harrison - 1,102
4. Chris Carter - 1,101
5. Tim Brown - 1,094
6. Terrell Owens - 1,078
7. Isaac Bruce - 1,024
8. Hines Ward - 1,000
9. Randy Moss - 954
1. Jerry Rice - 22,895
2. Terrell Owens - 15,934
3. Isaac Bruce - 15,208
4. Tim Brown - 14,934
5. Randy Moss - 14,858
1. Jerry Rice - 197
2. Terrell Owens - 153
2. Randy Moss - 153
The possible outcomes of this season for Moss would seem to be quite varied. Conceivably, he could finish the season second on the career list in touchdowns and receiving yards, and around seventh in receptions. On the other hand, a poor camp once contact starts up could leave him in the exact same position as he currently sits. I'm not here to say one is more likely than the other because I honestly have no clue.