As visions of training camp dance in our heads like presents for children on Christmas Eve, Levin Black and I took a look at the most interesting 49ers storylines we’re anxious to see - aside from Trey Lance. Here are a few from a special Wednesday edition of the Gold Standard podcast.
How does the wide receiver position shake out?
After his incredible season last year, we all agree that Deebo Samuel comes into training camp as the team’s WR1, but will it stay that way? Levin wasn’t so sure.
“Who is the main target? Who is the guy that we’re seeing or hearing that Trey Lance is favoring? Is it [Brandon] Aiyuk that he turns to when things break down? Aiyuk seems to have taken over the leadership role among the wide receivers. He’s organized workouts, he’s the one that’s been making sure he’s been with Trey Lance, I know he’s been with [Jauan] Jennings at times. Whereas Deebo’s been off doing his own thing in Miami.
Now, once they come and get into practice on the field things could change, but it certainly seemed like Aiyuk is the one that has stepped up and become the leader of that whole group.”
Aiyuk certainly has gone out of his way to work with Trey Lance from the moment he was drafted. He also made it a point to say that becoming a leader is important to him earlier this year.
Beyond Aiyuk, it will be fun to see if Jauan Jennings continues his progress after coming on strong down the stretch last year and who wins the battle between Danny Gray and Ray-Ray McCloud.
Besides Trent Williams, who can you trust on the offensive line?
Whether it’s Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Daniel Brunskill, or Mike McGlinchey, questions abound along the 49ers’ offensive line.
Is Aaron Banks really ready to start, as Kyle Shanahan has said in the past? Does Jake Brendel deserve the trust the 49ers are putting in him by not making any significant additions to the position this offseason? How does another year at right guard help Daniel Brunskill’s development? Can we expect Mike McGlinchey to return to form after a very serious muscle injury last year - and is it good enough even if he does?
The offensive line is the foundation of any offense, and Kyle Shanahan’s group is no exception. While we won’t get definitive answers to all of these questions during training camp, we will find out which ones are settled and which require further study.
Will there be a drop-off in the running game without Mike McDaniel?
The loss of Mike McDaniel will have a big impact on the 49ers. McDaniel has been with Kyle Shanahan for years and was clearly his most trusted lieutenant.
Joe Staley told us last year exactly how much of the running game McDaniel had influence over. Spoiler alert: a lot.
But change doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the results on the field will be worse. For all the complexity of the scheme, it wasn’t as effective as others around the league.
On third down -- a down the numbers say it is advantageous to run, -- they ranked 28th in EPA per play, averaging 2.8 YPC.— Josh Hermsmeyer (@friscojosh) June 28, 2022
Meanwhile they were 8th in the league in passing EPA/pl on 3rd down, including sacks.
Clearly, not all of this can be placed at the feet of Mike McDaniel, but it does mean that there is room for improvement (from both players and coaches). Time will tell if running game coordinator Chris Foerster can improve the team’s efficiency on the ground.
Levin and I got into a lot more storylines that we’re looking forward to in the full show. Please take a listen and let us know in the comments if you have any of your own.
Full list of topics in today’s show:
- Levin’s thoughts on Julian Edelman blasting Jimmy Garoppolo (3:28)
- Top Non-Trey Lance training camp storylines (6:28)
- Will Brandon Aiyuk become the #1 WR? (8:15)
- Can Talanoa Hufanga actually be a viable starter, and how will the defense change if he does? (10:20)
- How does Charvarius Ward look, and will facing Deebo and Aiyuk help? (15:40)
- Have we already seen peak Ambry Thomas? (16:21)
- Who can you trust on the 49ers' offensive line besides Trent Williams? (20:12)
- Will there be a drop-off in the running game without Mike McDaniel? (28:19)
- Who is the #2 linebacker? (34:32)