The San Francisco 49ers went from being one of the worst teams in the NFL to the NFC Championship game last season and are looking to continue on that roll as a real powerhouse and contender in the NFC.
This off-season is very important for the 49ers. They proved it by making a bit of a splash in free agency taking chances on guys like Randy Moss and Brandon Jacobs. These additions were win now moves by the 49ers.
There will be some very interesting story lines such as position battles, what to expect from Alex Smith coming off the best season of his career and how Aldon Smith will handle being a true starter going into training camp for the 49ers.
Alex Smith earned the title of game manager last season with his fantastic decision making and low number of turnovers. He didn’t have a Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers caliber season but he did exactly what the 49ers needed and the formula worked out nearly perfect. Alex even showed some signs of greatness in the playoffs leading the 49ers to what turned out to be the game winning drive earning them their first playoff win since 2002 and a trip to the NFC championship. There are many faults with Alex but toughness isn’t one of them.
Over the years Alex Smith has been relentlessly criticized by some going as far as saying he was one of the worst number 1 overall picks in NFL draft history. He took all of it in stride and helped lead the 49ers to a 13-3 season. It was an amazing turn around and how did he get rewarded? Well naturally the 49ers saw an opportunity to land Peyton Manning and couldn’t help but to see what he has left in the tank. It wasn’t until after Manning was signed by the Denver Broncos that Smith signed his deal with the 49ers.
Alex Recently stated that they 49ers chase for Peyton and many other things will motivate him this season. The 49ers will need him to be as good if not better than last season if they hope to make another trip the NFC championship game.
Back in may Jim Harbaugh said Michael Crabtree has the “best hands I’ve ever seen”. Just recently he told SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Rich Gannon “This off-season he’s been incredible. He’s our best receiver right now” referring to Randy Moss. Add Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, A.J. Jenkins and Kyle Williams to that mix and it looks as if a good receiver is going to be left out.
The 49ers have definitely improved their WR corps this off-season and look to have a serious battle at the position going into training camp. There is no doubt that Harbaugh loves competition. It will be interesting to see who comes out of training camp as the number 1 WR. Between Manningham, Moss, and Crabtree somebody is going to see less playtime then he would like given that the 49ers will be getting Delanie Walker back from injury and they like to the run that double TE formation.
Aldon Smith had an amazing rookie season compiling 14 sacks and wreaking absolute havoc on opposing quaterbacks. The 49ers took Smith 7th overall in the 2011 draft, which at the time many thought was too early. Analysts thought their was no way they would pass on QB Blaine Gabbert with that pick but they did (thank goodness).
Aldon Really caught fire last season and hopes to carry that momentum going into training camp. He will play a much bigger role in the 49ers defense this season and try develop into one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He is an OLB in the 49ers 3-4 scheme but likely wont drop back in coverage much at all. He will be told to pin his ears back and attack the QB.
Aldon has had some off the field troubles. He was arrested earlier this year for DUI and was recently stabbed at a party. 49ers fans can only hope that this is the end of his off the field woes. He needs to mature and learn to keep himself out of these tough situations.
This upcoming training camp is critical if the 49ers look to continue on as a real contender in the NFL.