The 49ers first preseason game of 2011 has the team traveling to the Bayou to go up against the New Orleans Saints. The last time the Saints were on the field they suffered a surprising loss to Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The last time the 49ers were on the field Mike Singletary was newly fired as head coach and Jim Tomsula who is currently the defensive line coach for the team, was interim head coach. A lot has changed since for 49ers since the end of 2010. New head coach Jim Harbaugh has assembled a great coaching staff while general manager Trent Baalke has drafted and signed/re-signed the players needed to make the 49ers competitive. The 49ers newest additions to the team are what to watch out for during the 49ers vs. Saints game.
5 Things to Watch Out For
Jim Harbaugh is bringing back the West Coast offense to San Francisco which was a huge reason for the 49ers success back in the glory days. While it may not be the same West Coast offense made famous by Bill Walsh the 49ers are in good hands with an offensive minded head coach. Harbaugh has worked with his quarterbacks so it will be interesting to see what they have learned so far under his tutelage.
The 49ers significantly upgraded their secondary in free agency by signing safeties Madieu Williams, Donte Whitner and cornerback Carlos Rogers. The 49ers also re-signed last years starting safety Dashon Goldson which gives the defense familiarity and a hard hitter. It will be interesting to see how Rogers plays alongside other cornerback Shawntae Spencer. Both are solid locks for the starting positions on defense but with Drew Brees and his passing offense the cornerbacks will get tested early. First preseason game or not, Rogers and Spencer need to show the 49ers are past giving the deep pass.
Whitner was one of the best defensive backs last season having a combined 104 tackles. Whitner will fill-in great for the 49ers and will help keep down the big passing plays. Keep your eye on Williams and Goldson as both are fighting for the other starting safety spot opposite Whitner. Both will need to come out early and impress defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Who’s Under Center?
For those in the anti-Alex column, I guessing that is pretty much all of you, the NFL lockout may have brought Alex Smith back to the 49ers as the presumed starter but it may be the lockout that finally ends his career as a starter. Smith has only been in training camp for one week when the new CBA was ratified on August 4. Rookie Colin Kaepernick has a one week jump on Smith working with the first team offense but I assume Smith will start. Smith's only advantage is having Harbaugh's playbook longer than Kaepernick. If Kaepernick can play well and show his extra week with the first team offense was not just for show could earn him a start the following week.
Nose Tackle Ricky Jean Francois
Ricky Jean Francois spent his first two seasons in the NFL as a backup with the 49ers but during training camp this year he is getting his shot to be a starter. With nose tackle Isaac Spoaga out with an injury Jean Francois is showing in training camp he has more than just potential. The nose tackle has shown he has absorbed everything defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has thrown at him. Jean Francois can showcase his developed skills against the Saints and make the 49ers forget about Aubrayo Franklin.
Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards
The 49ers biggest acquisition during free agency may not suit up tomorrow as he has only been with the 49ers for one week. Not only that but Braylon Edwards is not at 100% so I doubt Harbaugh will want to risk injury to another wide receiver. Should Edwards play a series or two keep eye on any signs of injury and if he is the deep threat the 49ers hope he will be. If Edwards is in the game you know Harbaugh will throw at least one deep pass for the wide receiver. If the pass is catchable lets hope Edwards brings it in.