The San Francisco 49ers will be the NFL’s most improved team in 2019

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 09: Dante Pettis #18 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring on a one-yard catch against the Denver Broncos during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 09: Dante Pettis #18 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring on a one-yard catch against the Denver Broncos during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers are back healthier and better than ever and should be the NFL’s most improved team as we move towards the start of the 2019 season.

The San Francisco 49ers were caught in a whirlwind of misfortune last season with injuries decimating the roster to the point of unrecognition.

Season-ending injuries to the likes of Jerick McKinnon, Marquise Goodwin, and, of course, Jimmy Garoppolo destroyed what looked like a very promising offense early in the season.

And the defense wasn’t immune as they saw players such as Jaquiski Tartt, Jimmie Ward, and Adrian Colbert all end the year on the injured reserve. If you’re counting that’s three starting members of the secondary all done for the season.

But 2019 is around the corner and the 49ers are hoping that the new season brings new fortune. After all, they can’t be stricken with the same terrible luck again — right?

A returning Garoppolo will hopefully provide the 49ers with stability at the quarterback position. It’s crazy to think that the 27-year-old has made just 10 career starts but hopefully 2019 will be the year he could finally prove himself.

McKinnon’s return — along with the addition of Tevin Coleman — will hopefully give the 49ers a three-headed monster in the backfield when aligned with 2018 breakout star Matt Breida.

And Goodwin’s return will help stabilize a vastly different wide receiver core than last season’s. With rookie additions such as Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, the hope is that the 49ers could have a receiver top 500 yards this season.

But health is only one aspect of the equation. Even with a clean bill of health last season, the 49ers would have struggled to make the postseason.

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Their pass rush was weak, their secondary was lackluster, and their wide receivers were hardly anything to get excited about even before injuries to Goodwin and Pierre Garcon.

That’s why the additions made this offseason were so crucial to securing success in 2019.

For starters, the 49ers did their best to address a subpar pass rush by trading for 2018 Pro Bowler Dee Ford and selecting highly-touted Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa second overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

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Pairing them up with budding star DeForest Buckner with the likes of Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas sprinkled in should give the 49ers one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL.

The signing of Kwon Alexander — as hefty as his contract might be — gives the team another three-down linebacker to pair with 2018 rookie standout Fred Warner.

On top of that, the addition of 2015 Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett brings a ton of upside to the 49ers secondary — provided he could stay healthy. But of course, that ultimatum should apply to the entire 49ers roster.

On paper, the 49ers have the talent to be a playoff team in 2019. Of course, a lot of that will depend on how Garoppolo plays in his first full season as a starter and just how healthy the team could be.

But nonetheless, the 49ers look like a vastly improved team at the moment. So much so that NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah named the 49ers the NFL’s most improved team heading into 2019.

The 49ers are undoubtedly improved, but will they be the most improved in the entire league? If we’re basing this off of expected win differential, it’s hard to disagree.

Some of the other teams Jeremiah listed behind the 49ers all do look improved, but they each have their own obstacles to overcome.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars look good on paper, but could Nick Foles have the same success he had in Philadelphia? Across the Bay, the Oakland Raiders’ offense looks improved but could the offensive line hold up and will the pass rush do enough on defense?

And as for the New York Jets, they’ll still be looking for that big second-year leap from quarterback Sam Darnold and there’s no guarantee that their offensive line or cornerbacks hold up either.

Lastly, the Atlanta Falcons will be in a similar situation to the 49ers as they look to finally return to a clean bill of health. But they still finished 7-9 last season — four games better than the 49ers — making improvement more marginal than anything.

Again, the 49ers will still need things to go their way.

Garoppolo must return healthy and prove that he is the franchise quarterback that this team believes he could be. Key offseason acquisitions most prove their worth and live up to their initial hype. And most importantly, they must stay healthy — at least healthier than last season.

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But if each of those things happens, look for the San Francisco 49ers to be the NFL’s most improved team in 2019.