The San Francisco 49ers are head into the 2018 season with quite a few question marks, and yet the level of optimism surrounding the team is as high as it has been in years. Such is the joy of thinking you might have your long-term answer at quarterback.
The 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo at the trade deadline last season. He needed some time to learn the basics of the playbook, but when he took over as the team’s starting quarterback, things could not have gone much better. The team won five straight and it netted Garoppolo and nine figure contract extension. The team’s Super Bowl odds and win total have shot up, and it is due almost exclusively to Garoppolo.
And yet, there is plenty more to be excited about entering the coming season. The national media will focus on Jimmy G, and rightfully so. But we know plenty more storylines will help dictate the end result of this season. SB Nation is in the midst of its NFL preview, and each team site looking at why we’re excited for 2018. Jimmy Garoppolo is an easy reason, so let’s come up with some reasons other than Jimmy G to be excited for 2018.
- DeForest Buckner — He had a strong year last season getting pressure, and appears on the verge of breaking out into the national spotlight
- Marquise Goodwin — He busted out in 2017, and has been having a strong training camp and preseason. Pierre Garçon was brought in last year as the No. 1 receiver, but Goodwin could be emerging as that go-to guy.
- Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt — The 49ers second-year free safety and fourth year strong safety are set to take over a backfield that had seen rotation over the past couple years. Conceivably, this duo could be locked in place for the next three or four years at least.
- Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley — The two best friends could put the 49ers in position to have strong book-end tackles this season. McGlinchey will have his rookie growing pains, but his floor this year seems fairly safe.
- Reuben Foster — He needs to stay out of trouble and healthy, but when he’s on the field, he has flashed the tools to be one of the best three-down linebackers in the NFL
- Dante Pettis — He came to the 49ers best known to many of us for his return skills in college, but he is showing the kind of dynamic receiver he can be. The 49ers have a lot of receivers to feed, but Pettis could emerge as a presence sooner rather than later
- The seventh round picks — Wide receiver Richie James is looking like a solid presence after the catch, while Jullian Taylor has a starting spot for the time-being. Could Taylor secure the spot regardless of Arik Armstead’s status?
- Richard Sherman — He very well might not lose several steps coming off a torn Achilles. And yet, seeing the veteran in red and gold, playing in the style of defense that suits his skillset, it’s hard not to be at least a little excited about what he might do. I’m keeping expectations relatively low, but I’m intrigued.
- Kyle Shanahan’s offense — He’s had a full offseason to work with Jimmy Garoppolo. This is Garoppolo-related, but seeing the two of them together after an offseason of actually learning the intricacies of the playbook has me jazzed.