No. 5: Special Teams
Believe it or not, the 49ers actually boasted one of the NFL’s best special teams units in 2017. This, despite the 6-10 record.
San Francisco 49ers
Pro Football Focus ranked the Niners’ special teamers the fifth best last season, posting a unit grade of plus-71.0. It helped having veteran kicker Robbie Gould make all but two of his 41 field-goal attempts, boasting the league’s second best field-goal percentage of 95.1. And the Niners also boasted a league-best average of 4.2 punt yards per return against.
But there are reasons why San Francisco could fail to hit this mark again in 2018.
Sure, special teams coach Richard Hightower is back, and the continuity within the coaching staff should help matters a lot. Yet special teams are always so tough to gauge, as the majority of contributors wind up being depth players at other positions.
Simply put, the same cast of special teams aces from a year ago might look nothing like what we see in 2018.
OK, so the 49ers have some promising returners, namely Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis, who set an NCAA record for punt-return touchdowns in college. But as far as coverage units go, one shouldn’t automatically expect San Francisco to return to the top five this season.
If the offense is scoring points, however, it might not matter all too much anyway.