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John Clayton gives 8 reasons the 49ers might be better than people think

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The 49ers record might not improve, but John Clayton has some reasons we could still see improvement.

The close of the preseason Thursday evening means we will be just over a week away from the San Francisco 49ers taking the field in a regular season game for the first time since Chip Kelly took over. There are some reasons for optimism, and plenty of reasons for pessimism. The team has added some intriguing young talent that might finally step up, but they face a tough schedule, the quarterback situation is a mess, and we don’t actually know if all that young talent will reach its potential.

But if you’re looking for some reasons for optimism, John Clayton has you covered. The ESPN columnist put together a look at eight reasons the 49ers could be better than people think in 2016. You can read the article for all the details, but here are the eight sub-heads he went with

1. Rising talent across the roster
2. Blossoming offensive line
3. Gabbert was much improved in 2015

This one focuses more on how he has worked to be popular with teammates, while Colin Kaepernick was more of a loner. It closes mentioning how he was much better than he was in Jacksonville. Of course, the bar was really low there.

4. Improved, healthy running game

We’ll see how healthy it remains.

5. Two studs at defensive end
6. A leader at linebacker
7. Emerging players in the secondary
8. Offense could help passing game

In this last one, Clayton suggested the 49ers would be looking at the waiver wire, which is not exactly breaking news. But then he also pointed out that the hope is for the fast-paced offense to catch defenses off guard, and for it to potentially help get more production from less skilled receivers.

And that really is the question. I think there is more than enough defensive talent for this to be a quality unit. But if Blaine Gabbert and the passing game can’t get going, will it matter? The team needs to get some kind of consistency from the quarterback position.

All that being said, Clayton did emphasize that the team could be better while not exceeding last year’s win total. The schedule is a brutal one, and that could be problematic. But I do agree with him that there are some areas for optimism. Arguably the most important part of the team, the quarterback, is not exactly high on my list, but I’ll take what I can get for now.