For the San Francisco 49ers, 2014 was a disappointing, injury-filled season that ended with an underachieving 8-8 record. Coach Jim Harbaugh was essentially let go by the team, and three players at key positions, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith all retired. Since then, there has been a lot of unrest among fans as to whether or not this team still has what it takes to compete for a Super Bowl.
Despite everything that has happened the last six months, there are three good reasons for 49ers fans to be optimistic about the offense for the upcoming 2015 season:
There wasn’t a single element of the offense to point to and blame for
the lack of production in 2014. Instead, it was everyone and
everything. The offensive line and Vernon Davis were very banged up, which crippled the offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was
mind-numbingly inconsistent but even the times where he made some really good throws, many of them were dropped.
The playcalling was awful and when you consider all of the distractions, it’s actually amazing they were able to finish the season with eight wins.
This year, the offensive line should be intact and if healthy, there’s no reason to expect anything but improvement. Anthony Davis was sorely missed last year and before starting center Daniel Kilgore went down against Denver, he was Pro Football Focus’ number three ranked center.
Guard Mike Iupati was awful in pass blocking and now is replaced by promising first-year guard Brandon Thomas. Joe Staley still anchors this line and with Alex Boone in a contract year, he should be better than the first half of last year.
Everyone should be back healthy and remember, this year we 49er fans do not have to cringe and watch Jonathan Martin get destroyed on the right side of the line this year!
2) Torrey Smith and a healthy Vernon Davis
They haven’t had anyone that can blow the top off defenses and force the safeties to stay back and not “cheat up” to the line against the run. This cannot be over-emphasized. If the 49ers are able to stress a defense vertically the way they are already able to work in the horizontal game, this offense should be much harder to stop than last season.
With the safeties back, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis can work underneath and the running game should open up with less defenders in the box.
Torrey Smith has blazing 4.3 speed and is regarded as one of the best deep-ball receivers in the game, but what makes him equally dangerous is his ability to draw defensive pass interference penalties.
If Smith is attracting attention on one side of the field, Vernon Davis have a much easier time finding space over the middle or an opening on a deep seam route. This added dimension will also make the coming screen game to Reggie Bush and Carlos Hyde even more effective.
There are only 11 defenders and if the safeties are forced to respect the speed of Torrey Smith and Vernon Davis, there are so many more options for this year’s 49ers offense.
Oh and when all else fails, there’s a rumor that there’s this quarterback that might have some running ability. Stay tuned.
3) Colin Kaepernick
While there are a lot of questions surrounding Kaepernick’s maturity and ability to read defenses, there’s reason to believe that he should improve this year.
He’s got a tireless work ethic both in the weight room and in the film room. He worked with future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner in the off-season to work on his touch passes and reading defenses.
He should have more time to throw with better pass protection. The added speed at wide receiver (and a healthy Vernon Davis) will give him more options and equally importantly open up the run game. His legs will also be untied this year.
The pressure is definitely on him to get better, but if the offensive line remains healthy and the added speed at receiver pans out, then there is every reason to believe that we will see an improved and more impressive Colin Kaepernick in 2015.
There will be more articles in the future about the rest of the offense, the defense, why 49ers fans should also be skeptical of the promises of immediate success, and the coaching staff, but for now, it’s safe to say there’s every reason for 49ers fans to be optimistic about the offense for 2015.