How 49ers season of turmoil may help team long-term

Jeff Gross

A positive spin on the tumultuous season that has been thus-far for the 49ers.

It's only been five weeks into the current NFL season, and the 49ers have already been through a lot. Since dodging tons of bullets throughout most of the 2012 year in their run up to the Super Bowl, the team has been hit particularly hard by injuries and off-the-field incidents in this still-young season.

The most recent of which was announced Wednesday as San Jose officials charged Aldon Smith with three counts of felony weapons possession, as well as two counts of misdemeanor DUI charges. Smith, who's currently attending a rehabilitation program stemming from a recent single-car accident where he was found to be above the legal limit for alcohol consumption, could face as many as four years and four months in jail a a result of the five charges levied against him.

It's entirely possible that the 49ers could be without Smith even after he complete his rehab program, if there is any NFL discipline handed-down in response to what could become convictions on at least some of the charges.

This comes in a year where the 49ers have already been without their best wide receiver from 2012, Michael Crabtree, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the off-season. Rookie linebacker Nick Moody, who played a key role on special teams, is out with a broken hand for at least another five weeks on the IR with return designation.

We'll all remember that another top receiver, Mario Manningham, tore his ACL and PCL late in 2012 and has yet to see the field. Manningham is currently on the PUP list and thus cannot return until after week six.

Nnamdi Asomugha has been held out of the last two games with a knee injury, nose tackle Ian Williams is out for the season with a broken ankle, and former third CB Chris Culliver was placed on IR with a torn ACL in training camp.

Patrick Willis has also missed two games with a groin strain, and Vernon Davis has missed time and generally been slowed by a hamstring injury.

It's safe to say that the 49ers have faced some adversity with regard to players missing time this year. But is there any possible way that there's a bright-side to this?

I say, "Yes!"

The bright-side is seeing what you have in other players. Sure, you don't want to have to go this route, but sometimes the unfortunate shows you things you wouldn't have taken the opportunity to see had things not gone wrong.

Take for instance the play of Tramaine Brock of-late. The formerly un-drafted free agent out of Bellhaven has stuck around with the team four seasons now and is coming off a multiple-interception game, including a pick-six. Brock also played a strong game against St. Louis, deflecting a pass to Donte Whitner for an INT and generally playing good coverage in both games, too.

With the absence of Aldon Smith, rookie outside linebacker Corey Lemonier and veteran Dan Skuta have rotated in and out of games, generally playing well, too. Lemonier could develop into a legitimate player on the edge, as he has tons of natural pass-rush ability, while Skuta is a solid player all-around who's getting more snaps.

Sadly the WR position hasn't seemed to reveal any gems from the remaining group, but rather appears to have shown us that serious upgrades are needed to the depth behind guys like Anquan Boldin, Crabtree, and Manningham. But at least the team knows this now, has gotten through the tougher portion of the schedule, and can fortify the corps in the off-season.

At nose tackle, Glenn Dorsey has stepped-in and played amazing football for the 49ers. PFF has Dorsey graded-out as the best player on the defense at this time, in fact.

In addition to the talent that's been revealed (or exposed as lacking), there are still more players who are coming off the NFI list and show promise to help the team. Guys like Tank Carradine, a real force to be reckoned with at Florida State before tearing his ACL in November of 2012.

Quinton Dial is a big, physical specimen in the inside of the defensive line who could provide great depth and rotation, coming off a toe injury.

With contract extensions likely coming for guys like Colin Kaepernick, and potentially others like Mike Iupati, the aforementioned Aldon Smith, and perhaps Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock in the secondary, the salary cap will need to be managed accordingly. Knowing what you have from your depth, including real-game experience, helps the front-office and coaches make personnel decisions that are necessary in order to keep star players.

So despite the turmoil, there actually are positives coming from all of the chaos that's been the 2013 Niners. Here's hoping they can survive the present and come out stronger for the future, as a result.

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