We went over three San Francisco 49ers with the most to prove on defense last week. Ahkello Witherspoon, Jaquiski Tartt, and Kwon Alexander all face some kind of pressure as we get closer to the 2020 season. Let’s take a look at a few players on the other side of the ball today. We could probably do one player at each position. The 49ers offense is stocked with speed, athletes, a quarterback who distributes like a point guard, and a play-caller with a habit of keeping defense off balance. You won’t see the latter two today, but we will talk about the 49ers prize offseason addition.
Williams’ former and current teammates are all in awe when they speak about Williams and his athleticism and movement skills. Williams said he feels “25 again” after his first year of not playing football since the second grade. Williams has to prove that he can not only play but play for 16 games. The 49ers gave up a third-round pick for Williams, who has played 16 games twice since 2010.
Williams is expected to come in motivated as ever. This will be the first Super Bowl contender he’s played on during his career. Knowing he’ll be in the national spotlight, and likely playing on a one-year deal, I’m not going to be the person to bet against Williams. The year off will turn out to be a blessing in disguise that hopefully keeps Williams in the Bay Area for years to come.
Poor Dante. Kendrick Bourne showed a video of him, Jimmy Garoppolo, and a couple of other receivers, including a carbon copy of a guy that looked like Pettis. Dante responded, “don’t let KB’s story fool you; that’s not me.” Pettis was off on his own in the mountains. He can’t win. Because Pettis is not broadcasting his workouts, fans give Pettis a hard time. I don’t know if I’ve seen a player so young unfairly criticized for what he does off the field during his personal time as Pettis. If it’s not football-related, you can guarantee there will be a comment calling Pettis out.
The first week or two of training camp will shape Pettis’s season. If he gets off to a hot start and is making plays, confidence will build, and his talent will prevail. If the contact and drop issues arise again, will Pettis overcome them? He didn’t last year, and he was phased out of the offense. Pettis needs to prove he can beat out the competition. This season will tell us a lot about Pettis.
Richburg saw his season cut short in 2017 after playing four games with the New York Giants. Richburg battled through injuries during 2018, but only missed one game. It was evident Richburg wasn’t at full strength. Then, in 2019 Richburg started the season and ended up playing 13 games at a high level before seeing his season cut short once again. This injury hurt more than the previous ones as the 49ers were in contention and needed their starter.
I wish there were a better way to track Richburg’s performance—all offensive linemen for that matter—in 2019. He was really, really good before the injury. What made Richburg borderline elite was his communication and awareness. The 49ers had trouble with defensive lineman stunting and looping up the middle, and it cost them at the most critical times in the playoffs. Richburg has to prove that he can stay healthy. If not, Weston is a sneaky cut candidate a year from now. San Francisco is paying him just north of $4.3 million in 2020. Richburg’s cap number jumps to $11 and $12 million the next two seasons. If Richburg can’t hold up, the 49ers can release him post June 1 and save $8.3 million while having $3 million in dead money.
Richburg has to show the organization that he can play at the level he’s capable of for an entire season.