Good evening, people. You're being treated to a new feature here on Niners Nation called This Week in Niners Nation. The idea is to highlight some of the content that gets pushed down the front page of the site before people get a chance to read it. It will also serve as a recap of the week, its big stories, and the world of the 49ers. It's a new concept and this is the first week, so it's still in the beta stages. I'm open to suggestions for what you would like to have included. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
This first week I'm going to break it up into parts 4 parts: Recapping the News, The Upcoming Game, Hot Topics, and FanPosts. Next week we'll have the weekend's game as a 5th part. Hope you enjoy, and, again, give us a bit of feedback so we can make this work and make it enjoyable.
The big news around here is that Niners Nation and SB Nation are going through a major transformation and facelift. New features and upgrades to the platform and editorial process, as well as new logos, are on their way.
This week began with the big cut down to the 53-man roster and all the assorted fallout. There was little to be surprised about. Scott Tolzien beat out Josh Johnson for the no. 3 QB spot, leading to Johnson's release. Konrad Reuland lost out on the last TE position (whether it's TE3 or TE4 remains to be seen...see: Demarcus Dobbs). Some players were cut that a lot of us were wishing would make the roster. Some were picked up straight away by other teams. Reuland was swooped up by the Jets, Mike Person by the Colts, and Chris Owusu was signed to the Chargers practice squad.
Perhaps, the biggest, most pleasant, surprise was Anthony Dixon making the team. He was an underdog from the start, despite being a fan favorite. Earlier in the summer, 9 out of 10 pundits (me included) couldn't envision a scenario that included him on the roster. The numbers just didn't add up at the RB position. Then Dixon began playing some fullback and some special teams, performed well in short yardage situations, and Brandon Jacobs went down with a leg injury. Jacobs has yet to be cleared to play and Dixon is expected reap the benefits.
The 49ers voted on their team captains and Patrick Willis and Frank Gore are returning from last year. Alex Smith and Justin Smith will be joining them, giving us a 4-headed monster of a captain.
Midweek it became apparent that something was wrong with Parys Haralson. He hadn't played or practiced since hurting himself during week 3 against the Denver Broncos. Rumors swirled around the Twitterverse that we were signing OLB Clark Haggans, recently cut by the Arizona Cardinals. The rumors were confirmed and Haggans is now a Niner, Haralson is on IR.
Last year we were healthy on defense with few starters missing time. Much ink has been spilt on the topic since training camp and team previews got underway in July. The big questions is how we would perform on D with a key injury or two. Our thinnest position is OLB and starters Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith both missed time with minor bumps and bruises during the preseason. Haralson, who was a starter last season, figured to get a lot of action. While he's not irreplaceable, he was definitely expected to feature in the rotation and be a key reserve. Haggans started all 16 games last year for the Cardinals and also won a Super Bowl with the Steelers in Super Bowl XL. He played well in the Super Bowl and, when the best laid plans go astray, it's best to have experience. If a key starter goes out, I'll take a guy who knows his role and knows what it take to win in the League over a prospect / up-and-comer. Blown coverages are not acceptable in a year that has such high expectations.
Randy Moss talks! That's actually the story, guys. Not that we thought he was a mute, but he is notoriously reclusive. The J.D. Salinger of the NFL. When he does speak, reporters gather around. On Wednesday, after practice, he held an impromptu media session, answering a few questions about preparing for the season and this Sunday's opponent, the Green Bay Packers. He's ready for the season. I'm curious and fascinated to see what he can do. I'm not expecting '2007 Randy', but anything other than '2010 Randy' and we have ourselves a steal. I'm hoping that either Moss, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins, or any combination of WRs can stretch the field. One of our biggest strengths from last season was downfield blocking. Having safeties on their heals and CBs back-pedalling creates the opportunities, in both the run game and short passing attack, to exploit this strength and get the ball into playmakers' hands past the line of scrimmage and in space, where they can make plays. Being able to hit the occasional 'home run' will make things easier for everyone. If defenses can't stack the box against us our run game should dominate.
WEEK 1: 49ERS at PACKERS
What concerns do we have as 49ers fans going into week 1? Well, aside from playing the consensus #1 team on the road at the toughest place to play in the league, um, a lot. The Packers score tons of points. Our strength is obviously our defense and we can expect to hold them to a lower total than the average team would. That's still putting them in the 24 point range (for the sake of argument). We scored more than 24 points six times during the regular season last year. The Packers, fortunately have been banged up on defense. Both of their starting CBs have had shoulder problems and both DTs are recovering from injury. We have to score on them and to do so, we'll have to correct our two biggest weaknesses from last season: the red zone and third down efficiency. Failure to succeed in either of those two areas and we could see ourselves get behind in a hurry. 3 < 7...and Green Bay puts up sevens.
Dylan DeSimone has these two posts about the weekends game. We're going to have replacement refs in the game and that's a wild-card. Coach Harbaugh was none to pleased during the preseason, using euphemisms like 'wild and crazy' to sum up some of their calls, because, well, you can't say "$%@&*#&@*#&" at a press conference. Dylan's also isolated Marshall Newhouse as a possible weak link. The replacement starter at left tackle will be a concern for Green Bay all season. Justin Smith should wreak havoc on the line, forcing double teams, with a ripple effect allowing other pass rushers to take advantage of one-on-ones. Separate the healthy from the sick, isolate the weakest member of the Pack...any number of nature show metaphors will do.
Few things attract more discussion than depth charts and power rankings. Power rankings, by nature, mean that the author thinks, with all their being, that the no. 29 team is better than the no. 30 team. No. 30's fans are outraged because no. 30 lost to team X by 17 points while no. 29 lost by 21 points. Definitive proof is discarded by the author, thus making him a buffoon. So, with all due respect and without further ado...I present Wes Hanson's Power Rankings.
Did someone say depth charts?
Another hot topic, one that may be a bit sensitive, is Anthony Dixon's roster spot. Could it be that he was kept on the team as insurance until Brandon Jacobs gets healthy? If an injury arises at another position and Jacobs is full-strength, who gets cut to add depth to said position? RB, on paper, appears to be our deepest position and Dixon appears to be last on the list.
And the winner of this week's most rec'd FanPost is AnthonyLy. Please see Fooch about your prize...the check's in the mail...ok...who are we kidding? All you get is props and a place on This Week in Niners Nation. You also get the honor of knowing that you've encapsulated exactly how many of us feel about last season and the way that it ended. Great year. Nice post.
Another great FanPost comes from grantmp. It deals with the randomness of special teams and a Football Outsiders post predicting that the 49ers are due for a letdown because special teams play is unpredictable, with yearly swings. Hard to believe that David Akers is going to get the 'yips', as nerves while kicking a goal are known here in Australia, a year after setting the record for most points in a season.
One last FanPost is from arodgb at Acme Packing Company, Green Bay's SB Nation site. 'Ask a Packer Fan' allowed many of the Niners Nation faithful the opportunity to ask questions about the Packers. There's a lot of good info on the Packers to be found as well as what some other team's fans' perceptions are of the Niners. They did ask a lot of questions, as well. Spies?
And that's all folks! It turned out a bit bigger than I expected. It will get streamlined, and some weeks I'll have less time than others. Now you get the gist what it will and can be and can give us some feedback.