Back in the day, one of my favorite parts of the offseason was the day NFL preview magazines were available at bookstores and news stands. Street & Smith, Athlon Sports, and so many others produced the annual magazines to help NFL fans get ready for the approach of training camp. Those magazines have become a bit dated due to the Internet, and the 24/7 coverage of the NFL. And yet, there is still something about their arrival that marks an important point in the offseason.
Athlon Sports recently released their magazine, and they have provided an online version of their breakdown. As usual, they have analysis on the offense, defense, and special teams, and then provide a “final analysis” followed by their prediction. It also includes the regional cover you can see if you purchase the magazine in the Bay Area.
It is no surprise they are down on the San Francisco 49ers, predicting they finish fourth in the NFC West. Here’s what they have to say in their final analysis:
The 49ers have their third coach in three years and did little in the offseason to upgrade the talent on a team that went 5-11 in 2015. It’s been just four seasons since San Francisco reached the Super Bowl and lost 34-31 to Baltimore, but that seems like ancient history. If the 49ers finish .500 this season, Kelly should get some votes for Coach of the Year.
The offensive rundown points to some of the usual stuff. They talk about Chip Kelly having to make do with Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. They also look at the lack of established weapons in the passing game, and raise the questions about what to make of the offensive line.
On the defensive side, the early publish date means no mention of Aaron Lynch’s suspension. They reference Jimmie Ward as a safety, ignoring his nickel work and the fact that he spent the offseason workout program working as the outside cornerback opposite Tramaine Brock. It’s one of the downsides to putting together previews for all 32 teams. When it’s a broader national look, you’re going to miss important details.
This doesn’t add a whole lot to our assessments of the 49ers heading into 2016. But the concept of the national preview magazine is particularly interesting these days when it has such significant competition from the Internet. David Neumann put together a 49ers-specific preview guide, but focused on issues that were a bit broader, and thus could make it to the start of training camp without being completely outdated quickly. I’m curious how long these preview magazines last.