There are a few “pretender to contender” lists floating around for the NFL. Do the 49ers count as pretenders, or do we give them an asterisk given the laundry list of injuries the team has suffered?
Sermon is even more prepared than most rookies entering the league having watched quite a bit of 49ers game film prior to being drafted. The running back wanted to be prepared for his transition to Ohio State’s outside zone scheme after spending three seasons at the University of Oklahoma. Shanahan’s system was the one Sermon studied the most.
During the final 49ers’ OTA practice open to the media, Sermon was seen catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo as well as taking handoffs. The ball carrier’s dual-threat abilities, shown off in college, will be a benefit for Shanahan and the offense in 2021.
“Jeff got hurt sitting down in a chair in the locker room and he got out of it and his knee got in an awkward position,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “So, you know obviously it was a freak, unfortunate accident.”
Call that the 49ers’ official narrative of the injury.
General manager John Lynch described the event like this: “He was in the locker room. He was sitting down, talking to some teammates. He got up, and as he got up and turned, he felt a pop in his knee and it kind of got stuck. And his knee — he could tell something was wrong. The next day they did imaging and found out he had a substantial meniscus tear.”
Heavy squats can cause meniscus tears. So it seems quite possible that Wilson Jr. overdid his weightlifting, and the 49ers’ training staff should have been monitoring him more closely and effectively.
That’s quite a different story than the one Shanahan and Lynch have publicly stated.
No. 4: 49ers better not suffer injuries to cornerbacks
The 49ers haven’t re-signed veteran cornerback Richard Sherman as of this writing, meaning they’re intent on rolling with a trio of starters in Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley, while journeyman reserve Dontae Johnson is likely the fill-in starter if needed.
And the Niners better hope, at least for now, this group stays healthy as best as it can this season.
True, San Francisco drafted two corners in the NFL Draft, Ambry Thomas in Round 3 and Deommodore Lenoir in Round 5. Yet OTA practices showed why both rookies aren’t necessarily tabbed as plug-and-play starters.
In Thomas’ case, he gave up a number of not-so-contested catches in coverage, while Lenoir struggled with his reactions skills and didn’t display the necessary speed to catch up after being beat.
Those traits won’t cut it at the NFL level.
Could this also be perceived as a subtle shot at McGlinchey? At least, an unintended one of course. McGlinchey definitely needed to pack on some pounds to withstand his own after last season where he appeared extremely slim. Perhaps, he just wanted to lose weight to be faster as a run blocker. Being able to move fast laterally is always going to be important in the scouting process of linemen for the 49ers.
But it does not necessarily equate to slimmer or shorter stature player. They need their linemen to be beefy to maintain their own, while also being able to get to their gaps to clear running lanes quickly. So when Banks was drafted, it was like the 49ers were reinventing themselves when the reality is they have always had this identity to be a ground attacking offense. That will always be a staple in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Not surprisingly, the 1977 49ers went 5-9, a notable fall from the still-not-hot 8-6 finish from the year before.
But if 1977 was bad, 1978 was far, far worse. And some might view that season as the worst year in Niners history, even beating out Baalke’s last campaign with San Francisco, 2016.
The highlight kicker was Thomas trading away five draft picks to the Buffalo Bills for a 31-year-old washed-up running back, O.J. Simpson, whose knees were gone and was no longer capable of being an impact player at that stage of his career. If a GM was to do something like that today, he’d be fired the following afternoon.
Yet Thomas also released quarterback Jim Plunkett before the season started, too. And while Plunkett wasn’t exactly the answer before he went on to the Oakland Raiders, at least he was a competent starter. Behind him, the 49ers had nobody.
Ironically enough, it was Thomas’ actions elsewhere that truly highlight just how bad a general manager he was.