Season Preview: San Francisco 49ers

By Daniel Waller
Sep. 04, 2020

The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a season where they went 13-3, finished with the 1 seed in the NFC, and went to the Super Bowl. Expectations are high in 2020.

Key Additions:

Signed TE Jordan Reed, DE Dion Jordan

Traded for OT Trent Williams

Drafted DT Javon Kinlaw, WR Brandon Aiyuk, OL Colton McKivitz, TE Charlie Woerner, WR Jauan Jennings

Key Departures:

Traded away WR Marquise Goodwin, DT DeForest Buckner, RB Matt Breida

Signed elsewhere: WR Emmanuel Sanders

Retired: OT Joe Staley

The 49ers season will come down to health. If their key players can stay healthy, the 49ers should repeat as the best team in the NFC. Right now, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jason Verrett, Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, and Kyle Juszczyk are all missing practice right now. Most of them should be available for week 1, but if any of them miss significant time, it could derail the season.

In 2019, the Niners offense scored the 2nd most points in the NFL and had the 2nd most rushing yards, both behind the Baltimore Ravens. The Niners defense ranked second in passing yards against and gave up the 8th fewest points. The offense has gotten better this off-season. The defense made moves and should be better as well.

Offense: Kyle Shanahan is the best play caller in the NFL, and can make any running back a star. This will be the season Raheem Mostert starts #1 on the depth chart, he showed late last season he deserved it. In the last 9 games of 2019, Mostert rushed for 859 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns.

Last season, Jimmy Garoppolo was recovering from ACL surgery and still passed for 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. He showed great pocket presence and mobility in the pocket. His mobility should improve even more this season with a fully healthy knee. Jimmy has great weapons to pass to in Deebo and Kittle, who are both physical and fast. Aiyuk adds another speedster on the outside. Kendrick Bourne is a great weapon to have on 3rd down and in the red zone, and new addition Jordan Reed will add another receiving tight end opposite of Kittle.

Defense:

The loss of Buckner will be felt on the defensive line. If Kinlaw and DJ Jones can replace most of Buckner's production, Dee Ford and Nick Bosa will still feast on the outside. The Niners young linebacking corps has been extremely impressive and will continue to get better. Fred Warner has proven to be a leader on the defense and Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw fit perfectly at the outside linebacker position. All 3 are fast and instinctive, there's a reason why the Niners gave up the fewest yards to tight ends last season.

The secondary will be challenged, especially Richard Sherman. He was fantastic last season, but is another year older and his age showed in the playoffs. The other cornerbacks, K'Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley are young and have been inconsistent at times, but showed flashes of brilliance.

Special Teams:

Robbie Gould was inconsistent to start the season, but finished the season making his last 17 attempts. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky had a disappointing rookie season, averaging 41.6 yards per punt, which was 14th in the NFL. Richie James Jr. is an exciting returner, averaging 21.4 yards on kickoff returns and 8 yards on punt returns. Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis will also have opportunities in the return can and are all capable of taking one to the house.

Record Prediction:

The 49ers' non-division games aren't particularly difficult (Jets, Giants, Eagles, Dolphins, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Bills, Washington, and the Cowboys). The best division in football got better this off-season. The Arizona Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins, a top 5 receiver in the league. They also drafted stud linebacker Isaiah Simmons and OT Josh Jones. The Seattle Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams to help the secondary.

The 49ers have the most complete roster in the NFL, I predict they go 12-4.

Conclusion:

This season will come down to health. If they can stay healthy, they're still the class of the NFC. Their offense is a juggernaut and got better this off-season. The defense is the biggest question mark for the team. DeForest Buckner's loss will be felt, but if Javon Kinlaw and DJ Jones can fill the void, the defense will be as good as last season. This team is made to win now and built for the future, which is rare to see. The growth of their young core in Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Dre Greenlaw, and Emmanuel Moseley will be fun to watch.