No. 3: Where Will the 49ers Rank in Starting Field Position?
It’s an often overlooked stat, but starting field position — on both offense and defense — is one of the crucial factors in determining any game’s outcome.
Think about it. A longer field makes the offense’s job much tougher, while the defense can play a little more loosely knowing there’s a larger area of the field for the offense to advance.
Needless to say, the Niners weren’t good at either offensive or defensive field-position starts last year:
- Average Offensive Start — 27.2 yard line, 27th
- Average Defensive Start — 31.6 yard line, 30th
There are plenty of factors working into these rankings. Obviously the kickoff and punt distances play roles. But equally important is kick coverage and the ability to generate solid returns.
Speaking of returns, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley led all punt returners with 21 attempts for an average of 7.5 yards. That number ranked 16th out of 21 qualifiers. So, needless to say, that number could see some improvement.
On the kick-return side, cornerback JaCorey Shepherd led the team with 21 returns and an average of 21.7 yards per takeout.
This number was slightly better, ranking ninth in the NFL last season.
San Francisco continues to experiment with return candidates this offseason, but these numbers will be critical to look at when Week 16 wraps up. It will be a good gauge how well this unit performed.