The San Francisco 49ers enter 2014 with a few question marks that can be fulfilled by players that are already on the roster. This team is set up to be a contender for a while and is considered to be one of the favorites to win it all this year. Here are three players who need to step up in 2014:
Kaepernick is said to be looking to get a contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $18 million per year. He had a pretty good run in the playoffs last year and will need to build on that momentum. The 49ers have become more of a team that relies upon their quarterback and have mysteriously abandoned the run even when Frank Gore was hitting a groove. The question remains, Is Kaepernick the quarterback that can shoulder the bulk of the offense in a pass happy league? That is what Kaepernick needs to prove. He needs to believe what his eyes show him and throw his receivers open. He needs to see the whole field and work through his progressions. The 49ers will only have a successful season if Kaepernick plays the kind of football that he has shown in glimpses. The test of all test will be Kaepernick’s ability to lead the 49ers to a victory against the Seahawks in Seattle.
This name may surprise some but Wilhoite will be relied upon to step up in the absence of Navorro Bowman. Bowman is said to be out for the first six weeks of the season. The interior linebacker play is crucial to the 49ers’ success. That will not change. Wilhoite did step up well last year when Patrick Willis was out so this is not a new thing to him. He will need to rely on his time as a safety in college prior to the NFL. There will be times when he is matched up agianst the tight end or slot receiver just like Bowman was from time to time. Wilhoite will get the opportunity to have an impact on what has the potential to be a championship season.
The 49ers will entrust the center position to Kilgore this year. He has been waiting to step in at the position since he was a fifth round pick out of Appalachian State. Jonathan Goodwin is set to either move on or retire so the job is all Kilgore’s. Some, like myself thought that the 49ers would look at a center as early as the third round. The 49ers were vulnerable to interior pass rushers last year. Pushing the pocket back into the Kaepernick’s lap is one of the best ways to spook him. Kilgore will be relied upon to stop that from happening. As noted above, it seems like the offense is moving towards a more passing offense so the pass protection by Kilgore will be very important.
These are just three players that will need to step up this season. There are surely more on the roster and we will take another look at them once free agency and the draft have taken place.