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Looking at the 49ers upgrades on special teams

Eric Branch at SF Gate has an interesting article up about Nick Moody and his potential special teams contributions. I argue that this is an area in which the 49ers could vastly improve.

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

To take a cue from Jim Harbaugh, we should always be looking to get better, lest we get worse. No other unit exemplified this more so than special teams last year. A lot of things went wrong last season -- most notably with David Akers. And while the team still had some bright spots on Special Teams -- Andy Lee continues to be a gem and I still get chills when I think about Mr. Akers' record-tying kick in Green Bay -- by and large, we met with massive disappointment.

In particular, the kickoff coverage was pretty abhorrent. As Eric Branch over at SF Gate points out, "In 2012, [the 49ers] ranked 31st in kickoff-return coverage in the regular season" before allowing "a 108-yard kickoff return in the Super Bowl." Gross. I still get mad thinking about that.

And what was particularly disappointing about the special teams unit last year was how successful they were the year before. A huge part of the Alex Smith revolution and the tenacity of our defense had to do with the field position battle. The 2011 season saw a special teams unit that could flip the field with (seeming) ease. Every aspect of the kicking game excelled. And this gave both our offensive and defensive units a boost. It's really difficult to sustain a drive when the team has to start on the five-yard line. Now imagine doing that against a defense with Patrick Willis.

And while our defense maintained its elite status last regular season, and the offense under Colin Kaepernick demonstrated its ability to score from anywhere on the field, I think that both units would like to see a return to form from the coverage and return teams. And this is why I wanted to highlight the article I quoted earlier by Eric Branch. If Nick Moody is the type of guy who will go all out, and some of the new players brought in through free agency are too, then this unit should improve.