Marshall Faulk is back with his latest GMC question. In this question, he asks what adjustments are needed to make sure the 49ers remain in the thick of the playoff race.
The timing of this particular question works well as the 49ers are in the middle of their bye week, and heading into the second half of the 2014 season. The 49ers are 4-3, which puts them a game back of the second wild card spot. Right now, the division leaders are Dallas (6-1), Detroit (5-2), Arizona (5-1) and Carolina (3-3-1). The wild card battle includes Philadelphia (5-1), Green Bay (5-2), Seattle (3-3), and the 49ers. Sub-500 teams that could end up in the mix include New York, Chicago, and maybe New Orleans.
There are plenty of adjustments the 49ers can make heading into the second half, but the most important are on the offensive line and in the pass rush. The 49ers offensive line will be replacing Daniel Kilgore, and hopefully getting Mike Iupati back from a concussion fairly soon. Conceivably, that means the line would be the normal starters, plus potentially Marcus Martin at center. The line will need to adjust to the new center, and figure out some measure of consistency. That first game against a Rams defensive line that improved last week could prove to be a sizable test.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers desperately need to figure out their pass rush situation. Of course, conveniently enough, Aldon Smith will be returning sometime between now and Week 11. That alone should improve the pass rush. The question then will be how the 49ers use Aaron Lynch. My guess is Ahmad Brooks will handle the base defense work, and then he will split nickel snaps with Lynch. Brooks is better in coverage and against the run, so I don't see Brooks going into a full-on 2011 Parys Haralson role (when Aldon Smith took all his nickel snaps), but we will see a rotation. I really am excited about the opportunity to see Smith and Lynch both in the 49ers nickel package. That could be filthy.
The offensive line issue will require some adjustments, while the adjustment in the pass rush is more about figuring out how to use Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch in tandem after Aldon Smith returns. I'm sure people would like to see adjustments in other areas of the team. What adjustments would you make as the 49ers head into the second half?