The San Francisco 49ers have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, to be sure. There are few holes on either side of the ball, with all of the major positions filled and viable backups throughout the depth chart. That said, along with players exceeding expectations, there are always those who fall short of what's expected of them.
In 2011, strong safety Donte Whitner played every game like he was chasing down a defensive player of the year vote. He didn't reach that level of play, obviously, but I couldn't help but admire the intensity he showed each and every snap. Few would argue against Whitner's 2011 campaign being the best of his career. Every snap, he looked like he was fired out of the barrel of a blunderbuss -- he was fast, all over the field, and generally an effective safety.
So the career resurgence had begun, right? Well, last season, Whitner took everything he did the season prior and pushed it to the back of our minds. He became a liability in coverage and by the playoffs, he had slowed down considerably. The previous season looked more like lightning in a bottle and thus, he fell short of our expectations.
I got around to wondering which 49ers players could regress next season. The easiest way to peg regression, obviously, is age. We can point to some of the older players on the team as the most likely to regress, and it would be fair. But I do wonder which other players could be candidates for regression. I'm going to list a few players and why I think they could regress, though I don't necessarily expect it. As you can see, I'm leaning on the age factor quite a bit.
C Jonathan Goodwin
Goodwin is getting up there in years, and his best football was already behind him when he came to San Francisco. The center position is one the 49ers need to address at some point, with many of us feeling like they should have this offseason. Goodwin has played good football with the 49ers since coming here, and is part of the strongest offensive line in the NFL. That said, he's the weaker part of the line and he could be on his way to hitting a wall.
RB Frank Gore
This is definitely one of those "age" picks. Seeing Gore fall apart is a 49ers fan's wort nightmare, as Gore embodies so much of what it means to be a 49er. He is one of the most dedicated, passionate players I've ever seen, but his body can only hang in there for so long. San Francisco has multiple running backs to potentially lighten his load going forward, but Gore has been on the "possible regression" list for several seasons now. Will he keep proving us wrong? I sure hope so.
That's just two players. I'll not take all the good ones and let you guys weigh in. Who's going to regress? Will someone who was dynamite last year fall apart, someone like Alex Boone? He was excellent in his first year as a starter -- was that just a fluke? What about Colin Kaepernick? Is Michael Crabtree going to build off last season, or will he go the other way?
What do you think?