49ers news: Niners ‘perfectly positioned’ to make run amid offseason, per Michael Silver
By Peter Panacy
COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the San Francisco 49ers plans, as well as the rest of the league, but NFL.com’s Michael Silver is optimistic about the Niners in 2020.
The San Francisco 49ers aren’t alone in looking at what has been an odd offseason.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had more than its fair share of impact on all major sports across the globe, the NFL certainly not being alone here. And while the NFL hasn’t yet seen a major delay in its actual regular-season schedule, the offseason programs have been thrown into a whirlwind. The 2020 NFL Draft was all done remotely, early spring workouts are being done remotely and there’s chatter some teams, including the Niners, could play away from their home venues at some points this season.
Such disruptions will ultimately have varying effects on different teams. So it’s a good question to ask: Which squads are best prepared to handle the jumbled offseason?
NFL.com’s Michael Silver thinks it’s San Francisco:
"Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers are perfectly positioned to emerge from this unusual offseason and make a championship run. … the Niners looked like an ascending team throughout the 2019 regular season and playoffs, and even after surrendering that fourth-quarter lead against the Chiefs, they walked off that field in South Florida with every reason to believe they can compete for a title in 2020."
It will be a different team, yes. The 49ers ultimately had to trade Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts, clearing up much-needed cap space and prompting the first-round draft selection of South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
Perennial Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Williams will replace another Pro Bowler, Joe Staley, who announced his retirement during the draft.
Yet Silver also added the Niners can expect some reinforcements back in 2020 who weren’t available to help the team make the Super Bowl a year ago:
"The Niners, theoretically, could get an infusion of juice from several players who’ve been in the building (and gained familiarity with Shanahan’s system) and are fighting their way back from injuries: running back Jerick McKinnon, a versatile 2018 free-agent signee who missed the previous two years with knee injuries; multi-threat receiver Jalen Hurd, a third-round pick in 2019 who sat out his entire rookie season with a back injury; and slot receiver Trent Taylor, whose 2019 campaign was derailed by a series of foot surgeries."
To Silver’s point, the 49ers aren’t entering the early stages of a complete rebuild or a new head coach taking over and installing an entirely new system. As the NFL.com article pointed out, then-Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh had difficulty getting his 2011 program up and running into the preseason after that year’s lockout.
New coach, new system and it took a few headaches before San Francisco became a regular-season threat.
This time around, Kyle Shanahan and Co. have the bonus of retaining a large chunk of their top players. Someone like Williams, who played under Shanahan when the latter was the Washington Redskins offensive coordinator between 2010 and 2014, also doesn’t have to worry too much about adjusting to a new system.
There’s no getting around the fact adjusting to the COVID-19-related setbacks will be difficult. Each team will have challenges on the table between now and Week 1.
At least according to Silver, though, San Francisco is about as equipped as anybody to deal with those challenges.