The San Francisco 49ers officially start the 2017 season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, and it will be the first big test to see how the rebuild that GM John Lynch and HC Kyle Shanahan started is going. Obviously one game is no way to predict how the rest of the season will go, but thus far all we have had to go on are vanilla plays and strict evaluation tape from the preseason games. Sunday brings an actual game plan to which we can see how the mind of “offensive genius” Kyle Shanahan runs. There are plenty of questions that can be examined for this first game but lets take a look at some of the storylines developing.
5. Can Kyle Shanahan Replicate the Success he has seen in Atlanta?
Of every player, coach, assistant, executive that is associated with the San Francisco 49ers right now, no one has the pressure on them of Kyle Shanahan right now. Not to say that he is on the “hot seat”, as ESPN or whoever eloquently put it, but rather that there is a stigma associated with the “offensive genius” moniker that they have given him. The phrase itself suggests that Shanahan could go to any team and instantly transform the offense into a well oiled machine. I don’t think any (credible) person expects Shanahan to transform the offense into a well oiled machine, but the question becomes, can he make the offense look competent with a currently less talented roster?
4. How Will Robert Saleh Do as a First Time Defensive Coordinator?
As many questions as Kyle Shanahan has surrounding him as a first time head coach, Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh has just as many questions around him. Saleh has been in the league for quite some time, but this is his first shot as a defensive coordinator. Already we have seen some of the blitz packages that will likely become a staple of his defense, as well as using players like S Jaquiski Tartt in different ways. We already know that he will do better than former DC Jim O’Neill, but the question Is: How much better?
3. Will LBs Reuben Foster and NaVorro Bowman be the LB Tandem we have wanted?
Reuben Foster welcomed RB Dalvin Cook to the NFL and put everyone in the NFL on notice: He is going to hit you, and it will hurt. From that very moment every fan began salivating at the possibilities of how Foster would look next to Bowman, and what they were capable of as a tandem. Since then DC Saleh has said that Bowman will not be on the field in certain situations, and maybe it will be Foster and S Jaquiski Tartt in sub packages, or Foster and LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, depending on any number of factors including down, distance and look the offense is giving. People need to be excited though, because the emergence of Foster will only make life easier for Bowman. He will no longer have to carry the defense on his back and he can be free to read and react and stay fresh.
2. Will RB Carlos Hyde Finally Have His Breakout Year?
RB Carlos Hyde has looked like one of the better Res in the league during preseason. Unfortunately thats a pretty big caveat. It remains to be seen exactly how well Hyde will do in Shanahans offense, but so far everything we have seen has been very positive. With Res Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert behind him and OW Kyle Juszczyk as a lead blocker/other target I. His own right, the team now has enough weapons that will allow Hyde the proper rest between downs to be able to stay fresh during games and extend his longevity as the season goes. This first game will be critical in seeing if he can put up the top numbers we have always thought he could put up.
1. Can LB Aaron Lynch Replicate the Dominance From his Rookie Year?
LB Aaron Lynch has had a rough offseason. After his son Samson was born 2 months premature, most people would be empathetic towards Lynchs situation. Sadly, some people who can only get people to read their work by utilizing cheap shots and uneducated vagaries chose to focus on his weight. There is nothing wrong with that, if you have nothing else educated to say. Thankfully, Lynch dropped the 20-or so pounds that he came in with after making sure the mother of his child was healthy, and his preseason numbers have shown as much. Lynch was graded as one of the top players by PFF at least one week during preseason, if not more. Now he gets to play against a still-mediocre Panthers OL. This is going to be an interesting test for Lynch as a pass rusher. You want to see him do well as it will set the tone for the season. Its all in his hands now.
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