The San Francisco 49ers are entering the final quarter of the 2017 season. It hasn’t necessarily been a fun one, and injuries have dominated the headlines so much so that there is a constant churn of new players signed off the street playing significant snaps each and every week. But there is a lot of room for optimism, from the relative weakness of the NFC West to Jimmy Garoppolo arriving and seemingly thriving.
Aside from the fact that everyone involved in the organization, everybody reading this, myself and everybody else in existence is super doomed, there is plenty of reason to be excited about where this team is going. This offseason will be a hugely important one, as the 49ers try an fill holes and surround Garoppolo with talent, but first, there’s another four games to play.
Which brings up the question: what the heck do we need to see in those games? On one hand, some of the more promising players on the roster are injured. On the other hand, there are some younger players who weren’t much of a factor at the beginning of the season but who could stand out down the stretch.
No more injuries
Seriously: it’s getting old. The last thing the 49ers need is an offseason-long injury for any of its younger players that seriously need the development time or, knock on wood, something to happen to Garoppolo. Having Reuben Foster out for so long is one of the biggest disappointments of the 2017 season.
Tank’s last shot
Before he went on injured reserve, Tank Carradine seemed like he had finally found his place with the 49ers. He moved positions several times, but looked like a natural fit starting at the defensive end spot in the 4-3 defense. Unfortunately, the injury happened and though he was activated prior to Week 13, he was inactive against the Bears. Leger Douzable has been a quality pickup, but the 49ers need to see what Carradine can do before he hits the open market in 2018.
A strong finish for Fusco
Brandon Fusco has been an interesting player at right guard. He plays next to Trent Brown, who is basically the 49ers’ best offensive lineman and Daniel Kilgore, who is ... not good. Fusco has had his struggles here and there, and missed assignments seem to be his downfall. But he’s looked better than Kilgore and Laken Tomlinson, for sure. I’m not sure if that’s just him looking better compared to those guys or if he’s a legitimate starter. We need to see more.
Kittle to step up
Obviously, I made my personal thoughts about the tight end position known earlier today. I think Kittle has a lot of potential, but it’s hard to determine if he’s just not picking things up as quickly as he should or if the injuries have limited him significantly. I’d like to see him get more playing time in the final four games, and plenty of targets to really suss out whether or not those drops are going to be a big problem.
Something big from Thomas
At this point, I’m convinced that Thomas needs a full offseason of hard work to develop his arsenal of pass-rushing moves, because he’s been largely ineffective in that area this season. He’s consistently shut down despite not seeing a ton double teams or plays designed to take him out. DeForest Buckner is getting all those double teams and he’s thriving. But Thomas is going to keep getting a ton of playing time over four games, and it sure wold be nice to see a sack or two before it’s all done.