For the first time in quite a while, there is actually some buzz surrounding the San Francisco 49ers heading into training camp.
No, the 49ers aren’t Super Bowl contenders or anything, and it would probably even be surprising if they pushed for a playoff spot, but this is a growing young team that should absolutely be better than it was a year ago.
They are still clearly way behind the Los Angeles Rams and aren’t even on the level of the Seattle Seahawks just yet, but over the next couple of years, San Francisco could develop into a pretty nice team in the NFC West.
But for now, let’s focus on the three main priorities for the Niners going into camp.
3. Establishing the Featured Running Back
The 49ers are in a unique situation where they have three guys who can challenge for the featured running back role heading into next season, as Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman, and Jerick McKinnon are all jockeying for playing time.
Of course, San Francisco will end up using all three of them quite a bit in 2019, but one of them will have to take precedence above the other two. The favorite seems to be Coleman, whom the Niners signed in free agency this offseason, but let’s not discount Breida, who had a terrific year as the 49ers’ lead back in 2018.
All in all, this is a cushy problem to have and it demonstrates just how far the club has come, but it will be interesting to see whom Kyle Shanahan favors for the No. 1 role.
The best thing about all of this is that these three backs are very versatile, so Shanahan will be able to experiment with different formations and play-calls quite a bit
2. Getting the Receiving Corps in Order
Perhaps the biggest weakness or question mark on the 49ers’ roster is the receiving corps, as San Francisco has a whole lot of unproven talent in that area going into 2019.
Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Jordan Matthews, Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd, and rookie Deebo Samuel will all be vying for a role in the Niners’ passing game, with Goodwin and Matthews representing the only veteran presences of that group.
The good news is that the 49ers have a lot of talent at the position; it’s just a question as to whether or not that talent actually translates into production.
Of course, San Francisco also has tight end George Kittle, who will be the No. 1 target in the aerial attack and will make the receivers’ jobs easier, but a couple of wide outs certainly need to step up and stand out.
1. Getting Jimmy Garoppolo Back on Track
Jimmy Garoppolo entered 2018 as a starting quarterback for the first time in his NFL career (unless you count him filling in for Tom Brady during Deflategate in 2016), but his season lasted just three games before he tore his ACL.
Now, Garoppolo is working his way back and seems primed to take the reins under center for good in San Francisco, but, obviously, he needs to get his rhythm back and become accustomed to actually playing in game situations first.
There is no question that Garoppolo has the potential to be a fine signal-caller in this league, but if he can’t get back to 100 percent, he may never have the opportunity to realize his ceiling.
It’s up to the Niners to ease the 27-year-old back in slowly and make sure he is ready for the rigors of what could end up being the most pivotal year of his NFL career.