We’ve asked six writers to answer 5 burning questions on the San Francisco 49ers after their first four games.
Owning a win over Green Bay in their opener, and after their 35-11 triumph in St. Louis last Thursday, the 49ers are now 2-2. These impressive victories surrounded a pair of poor performances in losses to Seattle and Indianapolis.
The preseason roundtable found our writers quite optimistic about the 49ers’ 2013 season, and now we’ve brought the same six scribes back to share their insight once more.
Here are the 5 questions, and the responses by our writers.
1. In the opener, Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards while Frank Gore rushed for just 44 yards. Last Thursday, Gore gashed the Rams for 153 yards, but Kaepernick threw for only 167 yards. Does this offense have an “identity”?
Turron Davenport: There’s no true identity. They’ve gotten away from the run, even when it’s working. They need precision passes and deep shots off play-action –- but the 49ers must keep their trademark physical offense.
Baily Deeter: Yes. Teams know Kaepernick can distribute the ball and put up points. They moved the ball well against the Rams and will continue to do so. I’m not concerned.
Maggie Pilloton: The 49ers are still based on running. They’ll look to show off Kaepernick’s arm, but they need to keep handing the ball to Gore, and Kaepernick always finds yards on the ground.
Cole Kundich: With a deep backfield and the best O-Line in football, the 49ers should always be running the ball down your throat. This makes Kaepernick more efficient.
Ian Kaufman: In my eyes, the 49ers want to keep their identity mysterious after emphasizing the read-option during last year’s playoffs, but they’ll lean on the run until their receivers are healthy.
Aaron Candelaria: The question says it all. They don’t, but as we saw last week, it should be the running game. Hopefully Greg Roman will stop overcomplicating the offense.
2. Anquan Boldin, NaVorro Bowman and rookie safety Eric Reid have all been terrific. Give us another player or two catching your eye.
Turron Davenport: Ahmad Brooks. He does such a great job setting the edge, which disrupts running plays. He’s also been solid in pass coverage.
Baily Deeter: Brooks has 25 tackles, and after 1.5 sacks against the Rams in the absence of Aldon Smith, Brooks is on pace for double digit sacks.
Maggie Pilloton: I like Vance McDonald. The rookie TE only has four receptions but he’s averaging 14.8 ypc, and he’ll be integrated more. Bruce Miller is on pace to crack 300 yards receiving, that’s big for a fullback.
Cole Kundich: The injuries to Kendall Hunter and Justin Smith have healed nicely, and Bruce Miller’s role has increased significantly.
Ian Kaufman: I like how Justin Smith unites the defensive line, and teams must commit multiple blockers to dueling the Cowboy.
Aaron Candelaria: I don’t see many, although rookie Corey Lemonier caught my eye last game. This third-round pick could make an impact.
3. Bowman has 34 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks and 4 passes defensed. Is it possible San Francisco’s “other” linebacker is also its current MVP?
Turron Davenport: It is not only possible. It’s true. Bowman can stuff the run, blitz the A gap, cover TE’s or RB’s, and even some WR’s. There are simply no weaknesses in his game.
Baily Deeter: Definitely. Bowman’s been great in all facets of the game, carrying the defense with others out.
Maggie Pilloton: I think it’s safe to say yes. Bowman was amazing in St. Louis, whereas Kaepernick, Gore and Anquan Boldin have all been inconsistent.
Cole Kundich: Without a doubt, I have as much confidence in Bowman as I do Patrick Willis. They could form one of the best linebacking duos of all-time.
Ian Kaufman: Bowman looked like Ray Lewis in his prime last week. His dominance allows the 49ers to consider trading Willis, although two elite MLB’s are better than one.
Aaron Candelaria: Definitely. Opposing offenses have to account for Bowman and Willis on each and every play.
4. Aldon Smith has a history of transgressions, and yet he was on the field for every defensive snap against the Colts just 48 hours after his latest DUI arrest. SportsIllustrated.com’s Greg Bedard wrote the following last Friday about the choice to play him:
“The decision was deplorable; it showed that San Francisco doesn’t stand for anything but winning games…(coach Jim) Harbaugh proved that he is every bit the football-focused zealot he purports himself to be, and not in a good way.”
Would you have played Aldon Smith? Did the 49ers fumble this one?
Turron Davenport: I would’ve played him. These so called experts are so concerned with pointing fingers they fail to see what’s important, and that’s examining what caused his actions. The 49ers gave Aldon one last chance to see what his transgressions may cost him.
Baily Deeter: I didn’t like the decision. They would’ve suspended a worse player, so they should’ve suspended Smith. He’s had prior legal issues and needs to clean them up, for himself, and for the team.
Maggie Pilloton: Just 48 hours after his second DUI? No, they should’ve benched him. It was handled extremely unprofessionally. Some things are just more important than football.
Cole Kundich: Harbaugh’s pressed all the right buttons during his tenure, but this was a big mistake. It sends a message that no matter what a player does; if he can help you win he’ll play. Smith’s car hit a tree — what if he’d hit a person?
Ian Kaufman: I would’ve played him. The 49ers needed a win, but they dropped the ball beforehand. He was at a nightclub with other 49er players. The team should provide drivers to ensure their safety, and ours.
Aaron Candelaria: In ‘Harbaalke’ we trust… except this time. The 49ers made a terrible decision. They’ve suspended guys for far less (see Brandon Jacobs). This was just bad all around.
5. The 49ers face Houston on Sunday. If Andre Johnson, age 32, and J.J. Watt, just 24, were both young, which of these Texas-sized studs would you most want wearing Red & Gold?
Turron Davenport: Andre Johnson. He’s a dominant receiver, and a weapon like that gives you so much game-changing ability.
Baily Deeter: Watt’s an awesome 3-4 DE, but they need a WR. Johnson would allow them to put Boldin in the slot when Michael Crabtree returns.
Maggie Pilloton: This is a tough one, but I’m leaning towards J.J. Watt. His size, speed, and athleticism are just unbelievable.
Cole Kundich: Johnson, and it’s not close. The 49ers have great pass rushers and Kaepernick needs receivers.
Ian Kaufman: Johnson. The 49ers could always use a defensive stud, but they need someone to take the focus off Boldin.
Aaron Candelaria: I’d have to go with J.J. ‘Swat’. Imagine a defensive line with him and Justin Smith! The 49ers could roll with a front six, and an extra DB to snuff the pass.