Two and a half weeks from now, football will be officially back. It’ll be here before you know it. The San Francisco 49ers have enough storylines heading into the 2019 season to give them a Netflix series. The variance of the Niners will be intriguing for the diehard fans, to the most casual fan. How long will it take for Jimmy Garoppolo to shake off the inevitable rust? Who will come out of the preseason as the Niners lead back?
There will be questions that we have to wait until the regular season gets here to find out. For example, will the pass rush lead Robert Saleh to become more aggressive as a Blitzer and in coverage? For now, we’ll stick to questions that’ll be answered before September. You can go down the depth chart and ask crucial questions for just about every position. I’ll give you two on each side of the ball.
Finding the right Person at right guard
Mike Person was a valuable asset for the 49ers in so many ways last season. Person can slide over to center if he needs to. Playing 999 snaps was probably Person’s biggest strength. In Kyle Shanahan’s system, it’s more about being on the same page as the guy next to you. You don’t have to be a Mike Iupati-type mauler to be effective in Shanahan’s scheme.
That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Per PFF, only 11 more linemen allowed more pressures than Person in 2018. He had some plays where he got beat so fast that the running back didn’t have time to react. That’s a problem. The door is open for Joshua Garnett to seize the starting spot, but the team didn’t even exercise his fifth-year option. Add in the injuries, and Garnett could very well be fighting for a roster spot. Ben Garland, anyone? The job is Person’s to lose, but he’s far from a lock to start.
For about 75-80% of the snaps this season, the 49ers are going to have at least five defensive backs on the field. I think if you were to ask the coaching staff their best five defensive backs, they’d say these five: Jimmie Ward(remember, this is them), Jaquiski Tartt, Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, and Ahkello Witherspoon.
Injuries and inconsistencies robbed each of those players from playing a full season in 2018. That’s been the case of their entire career besides Sherman. Adrian Colbert could steal snaps at free safety. At minicamp, his speed showed up in practice as the safeties are more interchangeable. You’ll see both positions near the line of scrimmage this year. K’Waun Williams is still starting in the slot, but is he even the best option? I’d lean D.J. Reed.
There are plenty of options that could develop throughout the year. Tarvarius Moore at free safety has an uncapped ceiling. Tim Harris was the draft pick, but Fred Warner called out UDFA Alex Brown as the guy who has impressed the most at cornerback. The 49ers have plenty of depth in the secondary; now it’s time for these guys to cement themselves as starters.
Avoiding injury is obviously the goal. Every team wants to get out of training camp with a clean bill of healthy. Besides injury, what’s the most important thing you want to see during 49ers training camp?