Akash's Monday Morning Blitz: Looking ahead to 49ers' first Preseason Game
Welcome to the first edition of the Monday Morning Blitz. As we head into the 2017 NFL season, the 49ersHub continues to explore different ways to deliver premium written content for its fans.
I will be authoring a weekly column that will be dropping every Monday morning, dissecting the 49ers' game seen on Sunday, while briefly looking to the week ahead. Since the NFL Regular Season hasn't commenced yet, let's take a look at a whirlwind of an offseason for San Francisco, while I share some thoughts from training camp.
- On the excitement that GM John Lynch and HC Kyle Shanahan have restored
For about six months now, 49ers' fans all across the world have shared an excitement, similar to the feeling seen in 2011 with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. The key difference between the two teams was the roster that Harbaugh had was in a far better shape to win.
Want to know how poorly the 49ers' organization was regarded? HBO's Ballers, dropped a line, with Raiders' Tim Brown claiming "We ain't the 49ers, there are no leaks in this building whatsoever."
Lynch and Shanahan have changed the culture, starting from the top of the organization all the way down. There's a renewed enthusiasm, even if there won't be many wins on Sunday. The players are all feeling the same level of excitement, from LT Joe Staley "loving football" again to LB Reuben Foster's infectious personality.
Has this trickled down to the fan base in San Francisco? Well, it's probably 9:30 AM EST on Saturday, August 5th. I'm all the way in New York, but I open up Twitter to find my timeline covered in 49ers-related posts. It's only 6:30 AM PST, but fans are headed to Levi's Stadium for their first open practice. 25,319 faithful showed up, decked out in red and gold to watch their team practice.
While most games towards the end of last season didn't have 25,319 people in the stands, an offseason training camp practice attracted that many people. So long story short, YES, the fans in the Bay Area are excited to see their 49ers take the field.
- On the emergence of rookie WR Trent Taylor
"With the 177th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech." It was the third day of the NFL Draft, and the picks were coming in at lightning speed. Most fans like myself had probably never heard of Taylor prior to his selection on draft day.
When talking about Lousiana Tech wide receivers during the pre-draft process, the name that was widely mentioned was WR Carlos Henderson. Taylor was someone that rarely came up in conversations.
With WR Jeremy Kerley re-signing with the 49ers, it seemed as if the slot receiver position was solidifed. Kerley was a bright spot in the ugly 2016 season, as he emerged after an injury to WR Bruce Ellington.
But Taylor has been a shining star at training camp practice. Looking at all the reports from the various beat reporters, everyone is raving about Taylor's route running, speed and ball skills. It looks like he's starting to evolve into Trent Welker.
Most successful teams in the NFL employ a slot receiver that acts as an insurance plan for quarterbacks on third down. Think of WRs Wes Welker and Danny Amendola for QB Tom Brady or WR Cole Beasley for QB Dak Prescott.
Fans fantasize about the 6'5" WR that will run a 4.40 second 40-yard dash and has a catch radius that makes quarterbacks salivate. But realistically, those receivers don't come around very often. Maybe once every few drafts? But to potentially hit on a 5th-round slot receiver could be one of the huge steals for the 49ers.
Look for Taylor to play a major role in the upcoming season in Shanahan's offense.
- Battling the injury bug with G Joshua Garnett and LB Malcolm Smith
Every single fan was excited when the 49ers announced that no player will be starting the season on the PUP list. But at the same time, most were trying to knock on wood, so no player would find themselves on that list before the start of the season.
Well one week into practice, G Joshua Garnett could be missing up to a month with a knee injury he suffered. LB Malcolm Smith is out for the season with a torn pectoral.
This is rough for a young team that's looking to dig itself out of irrelevance, but it could be a blessing in disguise too. While Smith was signed in free agency well before LB Reuben Foster arrived, many had assumed that Foster would be taking over the starting role aside LB NaVorro Bowman.
Smith didn't have a particularly great season with Oakland last year, hemorrhaging yards on both run and pass defense. Though Smith would have been great depth in the middle of the defense, this could allow for a young Foster to grow in his role at the WILL linebacker spot. The 49ers aren't expected to win very many games this season, so it'll allow for Foster to make his rookie mistakes and evolve as a player.
As for Garnett, it's tough timing, but hopefully he can find himself on the field before the start of the regular season. Timing and chemistry is key for the success of an offensive line. There's a reason Dallas' offensive line has been the pillar of its success. They're talented, yes, but they're also extremely in tune with each other.
But injuries are a part of the game and hopefully G Brandon Fusco can step in, along with T Trent Brown and C Jeremy Zuttah and try to shore up one side of the offensive line.
- RB Carlos Hyde is back -- but was he ever really gone?
One of the biggest storylines heading into training camp was the possible release of RB Carlos Hyde. The rumor started from a 49ers' beat reporter, but it seemed more like a false narrative.
With that report coming out, many began to ponder the possibility of releasing the 49ers' running back. Our resident hype man, Evan Sowards, has been firmly on the Hyde train, refusing to get off at any stop along the way. Man, was he right on with his stance.
Hyde came into training camp at a lower weight -- the lowest its been since high school -- and has been fantastic. All the reports out of practice are surrounding how physical the running back has been.
The highlight was when Hyde trucked rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon into the end zone and celebrated by flexing his muscles. But the question that should be asked: Was Hyde ever going to be cut?
Yes, the 49ers drafted RB Joe Williams, added RB Matt Breida as an UDFA, but Hyde was still going to the be the bell-cow. The ex-Buckeye had nearly 1,100 yards rushing last year and was a force, despite missing games due to injury.
While there may be more lions to feed this season, with the additions of talented rookies, the lead dog is still Hyde -- and he's going nowhere.
- What can we really expect as 49ers fans this season?
With this kind of question, people generally look for a win total. "Oh, the 49ers are going to win X number of games this season." Well, in the NFL, it's extremely difficult, given the number of injuries and week-to-week dynamics that change.
San Francisco has an extremely difficult schedule, especially given the teams that they open the season with. If they can rattle off some wins, maybe the team gains a lot of confidence and outperforms some expectations. If they start out with a string of losses, it could derail the rest of the season in terms of wins and losses.
But here's the one thing I know forsure: the 49ers finally have a plan and direction in place. Under ex-head coaches Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula, the 49ers found themselves searching for a vision.
With Lynch and Shanahan, I can confidently say that this team will turn things around in 2-3 seasons -- depending on when they land their franchise quarterback.
Games with Tomsula were hysterical -- due to the stupidity of play-calling and in-game adjustments. Games with Chip Kelly were boring -- as it seemed like the 49ers fan the same dang play over and over again.
With Shanahan, expect a new-looking 49ers' team. Don't expect a certain number of wins or losses, just go out and watch this young team evolve into something for the future.
As we head into the Chiefs game, it'll be exciting to finally see the new 49ers wear their red and gold. Stay tuned for more editions of the Monday Morning Blitz on the 49ersHub. Show your support and share your thoughts on the 49ers on Twitter @49ersHub or @akashanav. Continue to visit the49ersHub.com for more top-notch content on the 49ers.