For the last three years, the determination and work ethic of the San Francisco 49ers has been immensely impressive considering their three straight conference championship berths. Although the 49ers have been unable to garner the elusive Lombardi trophy under the tutelage of coach Jim Harbaugh, they have proven that they can make adjustments to comeback stronger than they were the year before.
This season, the 49ers will have a versatile franchise quarterback in Colin Kaepernick and a plethora of intriguing rookies with which to win valiantly where they have lost before.
When the 49ers signed Kaepernick to a six-year deal worth $144 million with $61 million guaranteed, it was clear that their confidence in the blossoming young quarterback hadn’t wavered since he became a starter during the 2012 season. While Kaepernick didn’t exactly have a sensational season last year when he completed only 58.4% of his passes for just 3,197 yards, he was still a force to be reckoned with, especially when he discovered an open lane to run free (four rushing touchdowns for 524 yards).
Until the 2014 regular season gets under way, it’s hard to determine if Kaepernick’s slight regression last year was a dismissible fluke or a sign of things to come.
If the 49ers want to make sure that Kaepernick performs exceptionally well in the coming years, it’s important to surround him with some tenaciously gifted offensive weapons who can perform consistently when the ball is in their hands. Although the 49ers weren’t in desperate need of a young running back, the drafting of rookie Carlos Hyde from Ohio State was a smart move considering the age of Frank Gore (31) and the fact that Kendall Hunter is in the last year of his contract. Similarly to Gore, Hyde has the size and aggressive running capabilities to bust through defensive lineman with a heightened degree of strength and toughness.
Even when he is eventually stopped, Hyde almost always falls forward after the fact, which allows the stout running back to gain crucial yardage that smaller backs would have difficulty gaining. On top of that, Hyde has developed into a reliable receiver out of the backfield and can maneuver effectively to get the most yards out of a single catch.
While having a reliable and eclectically skilled running back is essential for the 49ers to thrive, it’s equally important to have a well-developed receiving corps that can make the crucial catches to change the momentum of the game. A sixth round draft pick, wide receiver Bruce Ellington from South Carolina was a steal for the 49ers who needed a versatile wide out who has the illustrious work ethic and exceptional separation skills to make big plays in the NFL. His acrobatic maneuvering prowess to catch balls would be out of reach of the average receiver is what makes Ellington a diamond hidden in the rough considering his intelligence when it comes to reading defenses and his instinctual awareness in finding soft spots.
If the 49ers can work effortlessly to bolster Kaepernick’s confidence as a legitimate passer, the rest of the pieces should fall into place for a team that is unwilling to be less than a perennial playoff contender. Between the addition of essential offensive weapons and the stockpiling of potentially ruthless defensive juggernauts, the 49ers are staying true to what has made them a success since Jim Harbaugh became their fiery head coach.
Although divisional rival Seattle won’t relinquish their top dog mentality easily, the 49ers have the luxury of a solidified identity to build upon to become younger and more athletic than they have ever been before. It may be a tough undertaking initially, but the 49ers are determined to give themselves the edge to not only win their division, but to also win the Super Bowl for the first time in two decades.