2nd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: San Francisco 49ers

Next up for the NFC West in our previews of all 32 NFL teams is the San Francisco 49ers, who finished in third place in the division last season.

After three straight seasons of at least 11 wins, the 49ers finished 8-8 last season, and it’s probably only going to get worse for them this year, with a number of players now gone from the team due to either retirement or free agency. Among the more notable retirements were DE Justin Smith and LB Chris Borland while two big pieces of the offense — RB Frank Gore and WR Michael Crabtree — left in free agency.

QB Colin Kaepernick is still with the team; he threw for 3,369 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, with 10 interceptions. WR Anquan Boldin led the team in the major receiving categories, with 83 catches for 1,062 yards and five touchdowns, but Crabtree, the team’s second-best receiver, is now with the Raiders. TE Vernon Davis played 14 games, catching just 26 balls for 245 yards and two touchdowns, the worst season of his career. Second-year RB Carlos Hyde is expected to be the starter with Gore gone. In his rookie season last year, he ran for 333 yards with four touchdowns in 14 games, no starts. Veteran RB Reggie Bush, who had 297 yards and two touchdowns in nine starts with the Lions last year, has joined the team as the backup to Hyde. The defense was decent last year, finishing the season 10th in the league.

With Crabtree gone, Kaepernick will have to find a new No. 2 receiver to whom he can throw the ball. That will likely be WR Torrey Smith, who signed with the team in the offseason, who has averaged nearly 900 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons in the league. The running back position is going to be question with Hyde as the No. 1 despite not starting a game in his rookie year. Bush isn’t the most durable back in the league so he may not be able to take over if Hyde can’t handle the workload. One interesting player who made the team’s roster is RB Jarryd Hayne, the Australian rugby player who impressed in the preseason with some of the plays he made, but he’ll likely only be used for select plays. Then there’s the defense, which lost some of its key pieces in the offseason. The defense is likely to have a significant regression this year, leading to more pressure for the offense to perform well.

Looking at the schedule, it looks like a tough road for the 49ers with three of their first four games against teams that made the playoffs last season, including road games at the Steelers and Cardinals in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively, followed by a home game with the Packers. Later in the season, they have back-to-back home games against the Ravens and Seahawks in Weeks 6 and 7. In Weeks 15 and 16, they have another set of consecutive games against playoff teams, hosting the Bengals and then visiting the Lions before ending the season with a home game against the Rams. Looking at the teams they play, the 49ers are likely only going to win four or five games this season.

Source: http://www.49ers.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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