It is that time of year when the dog days of summer are turning out their last few weeks of heat and sunshine and the season turns to the fall which means the start of NFL training camps and more importantly nearing the start of the NFL regular season.
Training Camp starts today for the 2008 San Francisco 49ers as players report to the teams headquarters in Santa Clara. The first practice will take place tomorrow starting at 9:00 am. As the 49ers prepare for another season the expectations are lower than they were last year when they reported to training camp. Needless to say not too many people will give the 49ers a chance to win the NFC West or make the playoffs this year. I think getting the team to finish 8-8 is a more realistic goal but even that is a stretch. Here’s why:
• Sixth offensive coordinator in six years (Mike Martz).
• A quarterback competition involving a former number one draft pick who is still looking to make an impact, any kind of impact as he enters his fourth season in the NFL, a career back-up who dazzled the 49ers Faithfull because he won two games he started, and a journey-man back-up who the 49ers brass think might be able to start because he knows the Martz system (Alex Smith, Shaun Hill and J.T. O’Sullivan).
• An accomplished offensive coordinator who has an assumed number one wide receiver that had his best years back at the turn of the century. Not mention the assumed second wide receiver was a back-up behind two pro-bowl receivers on his previous team. Oh, and the other wide receivers are ineffective leftovers from last season that avoided the boot that Darrell Jackson received (Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson, Arnaz Battle and Ashley Lelie).
• A head coach who somehow kept his job for one more season, but lost the day-to-day player personnel decisions which the 49ers gave to their new General Manager. (Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan).
Notable Training Camp Competitions:
With David Baas still recovering from surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle and possibly missing the first part of the regular season the starting line could be (LT) Joe Staley, (LG) Adam Snyder, (C) Eric Heitmann, (RG) Tony Wragge and (RT) Jonas Jennings. This is a solid starting offensive line if it can stay healthy. Jennings has yet to complete a full season as a starter due to injuries in his three years with the 49ers. No one is assured of a starting job because rookie Chilo Rachal will give the guards a run for their money and could be starting at some point during the season. Even the teams only constant on the O-line the last couple years, Heitmann, faces competition with rookie Cody Wallace as the heir to center.
The 49ers defense is in a competition of its own. Coaches have to decide if they want to run the D in a 3-4 or 4-3 set. Last year the 49ers went with both with a few positive results. One defensive set needs to be established so the defensive players know their roles on each down. At right LB Tully Banta-Cain is the assume starter, however Parys Haralson will give him competition for the starting job. With all the talent the D has I think a 4-3 base would get the most production. This year’s first round draft pick Kentwan Balmer will factor into the success of the D whether as a back-up or a starter.
(Left DE) Justin Smith, (NT) Aubrayo Franklin, (Right DE) Isaac Sopoaga
(Left LB) Manny Lawson, (Middle LB) Jeff Ulbrich, (Middle LB) Patrick Willis, (Right LB) Banta-Cain
In the secondary the only real competition for a starting job is at safety between last year’s starter Mark Roman and Dashon Goldson who is in his second year. Roman missed all of the OTA’s due to surgery to clean up his shoulder which allowed Goldson to show-off his skills at the position.
Now cross your fingers 49ers Faithfull that no starters lose their job to injuries.
Practices open to the public: 9 a.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday; 4 p.m. Monday; 4 p.m. Wednesday; 4 p.m. Aug. 1; 9 a.m. Aug. 2; 4 p.m., Aug. 3
Aug. 8: At Raiders, 7 p.m.
Aug. 16: Green Bay, 6 p.m.
Aug. 21: At Chicago, 5 p.m.
Aug. 29: San Diego, 7 p.m.