There are several storylines for the San Francisco 49ers heading into the season. Many of them we have discussed multiple times. With training camp kicking off in a couple of days, there will be new stories that none of us thought of.
With that in mind, we were talking about some under the radar, far-fetched storylines the Niners might run into this season. Here are three.
Deforest Buckner plays himself out of the 49ers price range
We have talked about the additions on the edge, and how Buckner will now face more 1-on-1’s than he probably did all of 2018. What if the season is all sunshine and rainbows? Nick Bosa exceeds expectations, Dee Ford stays healthy, and Buckner leads the defense deep into the playoffs.
As of right now, the Niners have a little more than $7.5 million in cap space for 2020. That number will change with cuts, declined options, and other moves. Could it be possible that Buckner plays himself out of the 49ers price range? It’s possible but unlikely. It could lead to a franchise tag, holdouts, and a saga that nobody wants to deal with.
The emergence of a skill guy forces the 49ers to go thin in the trenches
Training camp and preseason give players that usually wouldn’t get an opportunity a chance to shine. The Niners have plenty of skill on the perimeter on both sides of the ball. Let’s say CB Tim Harris is fully healthy and gives Ahkello Witherspoon a run for his money. We can do the same on the other side of the ball. UDFA TE Tyree Mayfield quietly has a chance to carve out a role in the offense this season. If both he and Kaden Smith prove to be too valuable to cut, or risk being signed off the practice squad, the coaching staff will be forced to make some tough decisions.
That could ultimately lead them to go thin in the trenches. That could be problematic, as one play gone wrong could force you to shuffle around bodies on the offensive line. The decision to bring in journeymen as depth could backfire. The defensive line has better depth than the offensive line, but, like the starters on offense, there’s a drastic drop in talent when the backups come in. These are the types of decisions teams are forced to make.
What if Kwon can’t go?
The expectation for free agent signee Kwon Alexander is that he’ll be a full-go once training camp kicks off. For the longest, we didn’t even know if Alexander would return for the start of the season. So when Robert Saleh said Alexander would be ready, that caught me off guard. I will believe it when I see it.
Let’s say Kwon isn’t as far along as the team had initially hoped. Does that mean Elijah Lee takes over? Do they throw Dre Greenlaw to the wolves and hope he figures it out? Or will we see more defensive backs line up next to Fred Warner? Alexander brings something to the table that the players behind him don’t. I don’t think Lee can hold a candle to Alexander’s athleticism. The tackles six yards down the field Lee made last year are three-yard gains with Alexander on the field. Kwon is far more aggressive and instinctive. Greenlaw has potential, but he’s likely a year or two away from being a reliable contributor.
Alexander’s ability to recover has a more significant impact on the defense than what we are leading on.