After the 2013 season ended, there were a lot of questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers and their roster. Heading into free agency and the NFL Draft, the 49ers were expected to answer a lot of the questions about the holes in their roster. Now that the draft has finally passed, it’s easier to analyze whether or not the 49ers have accomplished what they set out to do.
In the NFC Championship Game, critics and fans accurately contended that the Niners and the Seattle Seahawks were playing in the real Super Bowl. Obviously, the Seahawks won that game and then beat the Denver Broncos to win the Championship. Although there were obvious holes in the Seahawks’ game, they were the better team. But now, can the Niners contend with them?
NaVorro Bowman’s injury was the first negative that stuck out in everyone’s mind regarding the 49ers’ roster. How will the 49ers replace someone of Bowman’s caliber? The common problem among fans and some analysts is that they believe that the 49ers have to replace him with someone with equal skill.
In two of the last three seasons, Patrick Willis has missed a few games. The 49ers have had two different players play in his place next to Bowman. Larry Grant and Michael Wilhoite have both started at the ILB spot. Obviously neither of them are on the same level as Willis, but they both played well enough in his stead.
Grant is no longer with the team, but Wilhoite is joined by third round draft pick, Chris Borland. These two will battle for the starting spot next to Willis on the defense. These are both capable players that should be able to fill in for Bowman for the first half of the season.
Public opinion has all but declared that Aldon Smith will be suspended or arrested. Now I can’t see the future, so I can’t confirm or deny whether or not he’ll miss time this season. But as of now, he is on the team and is training like he will play.
However, if he does miss time that means the 49ers pass rush is dead in the water, right? They did nothing to address his absence in the draft or free agency, so they must have a huge hole in the roster. Well, the 49ers didn’t make any initial moves in the offseason regarding OLB, because they didn’t have to make any moves.
The 49ers have their “plan B” already on their roster. The 49ers have Corey Lemonier, who was atop Pro Football Focus’ list for rookie edge rushers, coming back with a year of playing under his belt.
Looking for an instant impact from your rookie edge rushers? Here’s how some of last year’s top picks fared in 2013. pic.twitter.com/KCk9AnpWOf
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 12, 2014
They also have Dan Skuta, who played surprisingly well last year while Smith missed a few games while in rehab. The 49ers already know what it’s like to miss Smith for a few games, and they are fully prepared for it.
Now we get down to the supposed black hole in the roster: the secondary. The 49ers let three of their four starters of the last few years leave in free agency, and all they did to combat those losses was bring in Antoine Bethea from the Colts to replace Donte Whitner and draft a couple rookies.
Now they have Tramaine Brock (who?) and Chris Culliver (who?) set start at corner with Eric Reid and Bethea starting at safety. Obviously the 49ers are in trouble in the secondary, right? Well maybe to the casual fan, but not exactly.
Tramaine Brock started a handful of games last year, and was widely regarded as the 49ers’ best corner. In fact, he played well enough to earn a four-year, $16 million contract extension that was initially thought to be intended for Tarell Brown.
Chris Culliver was a extremely solid player in 2012, excluding the Super Bowl which was the worst game of his career. Because of his pre-Super Bowl comments, the world was focused on him. When he proceeded to struggle in the spotlight, he was written off by millions, despite his solid play earlier in the year.
Eric Reid is a great player who should anchor the back of the defense for years to come. Bethea was never a top safety, but he is an very reliable starter who can stay healthy and lead the team.
The 49ers may have some question marks about the roster, but the supposed holes are not as big as the national media and opposing fans would like you to believe. Now until the season starts, everything is speculation, but looking at the 49ers roster and the success they’ve had the last few years, the cries of disaster might just be a little exaggerated. But now, they have definitely filled up plenty of holes. Their only obstacle to defeating the Seahawks? The 12th man.