The San Francisco 49ers head into OTAs with expectations higher than they have been since at least 2014. A five-game winning streak behind a new quarterback who subsequently signed a nine-figure contract will do that for a team, and NFC West odds are reflecting the changing expectations.
The 49ers are right behind or right ahead of the Seattle Seahawks in most odds, with both teams trailing the Los Angeles Rams. The general consensus is that this is the Rams division to lose following a strong 2017 and a busy 2018 offseason.
Nonetheless, the 49ers players are confident and think they can make some noise this year. New 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was in attendance at Michael Robinson’s youth camp this past weekend, and he spoke with the NFL Network analyst about his new team. Specifically he said that if the 49ers are consistent and show discipline, they can win the NFC West.
“Just consistency. Consistency and discipline. On the defensive side of the ball, they got all the talent in the world. We have talent up front. We’ve got talent in the second level, the linebacker group. Obviously, Reuben Foster is a tremendous talent and Malcolm Smith has been in this system and plays as well as anybody I’ve ever seen. Brock Coyle is also adept in this system. Eli Harold has been doing a great job. ... so we’ve got talent all around. And the secondary is young, but they’re incredibly talented and they work incredibly hard. Adrian Colbert is a great safety. ... Ahkello Witherspoon has all the talent in the world, can move, can cover anybody. So it’s just understanding that it’s a day-to-day-to-day grind to be great, and that’s what I’m trying to get through to them, but they work as hard as any group I’ve seen.”
I suspect it will take a little more than just consistency and discipline, but yes, consistency and discipline are going to be critical. One issue for younger teams can be finding the consistency week in and week out, and even just play in and play out.
Sherman has shown an interest in taking on a leadership role. He can’t make every player be consistent on every play, but it feels like he’ll be able to command the huddle. The 49ers have invested quite a bit of young talent on defense, and following the departure of NaVorro Bowman, finding some additional leadership was likely of some concern. Whether or not Sherman fully returns from his torn Achilles, his leadership on and off the field could pay huge dividends.