By Niner Faithful
Training camp is almost here the team reports Thursday with the first practice taking place Friday. There has been so much roster turnover this year (52 new players) everyone will be exciting to watch. Here are just a few that I wanted to highlight in this week’s blog.
George Kittle: The rookie tight end (5th round 146 overall) impressed both head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch during this year’s offseason program. He has great hands only dropping one ball on his 48 receptions during his 4 years at Iowa. He has the size (6’4 247 lbs.) to be a red zone threat one on one something the team has been lacking. Where he’s value is going to be though is he blocking. Iowa is a running team and George Kittle was their best blocker and loves doing that being quoted saying “he takes pride in it” and “moving a man point a to point b ageist his will is the greatest feeling you’ll ever feel”. During the teams off season he got the loins share of reps with the ones showing that the coaching staff thinks highly of him. Now it’s time for him to do it with the pads on and I can’t wait to see it.
Trent Taylor: Trent Taylor was Kyle Shanahan’s draft crush. The 5’8 wide receiver may not be the biggest player, but has the separation skills and play making ability in space to play in the slot he can catch the football and was moved all over the field during OTA’s. He’s a smart receiver and has the ability to read defenses fast. He has shown that he can produce at least in college (136 receptions 1,803 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in 2016) and did a little bit of return duty as well (482 yards on 58 returns). He probably won’t start over Jeremy Kerley this year but has too much upside to risk losing him to try and put him on the practice squad and his punt returner potential make him someone I’m dying to see during camp and the preseason.
Arik Armstead: In camp last year he was pointed out by Joe Staley as someone who could have a brake out year. His shoulder injury ultimately put him on the IR and we never really got to see if that was true. This year he’s slimed down to better fit the “Leo” position he’ll be playing in our new defensive scheme. He will no longer have being a first round pick status to keep him on the roster with their being a new GM and Coaching staff he will have to go out and earn it. He isn’t the Idea size for a “Leo” but his athleticism and unique size make his an intriguing player to watch in training camp this year I can’t wait.
NaVorro Bowman: The Mon5t3r is the heat and soul the defense. We all know the story of his injures in 14’ and then last year and what his absence did to the defense. There are questions about whether or not he can comeback from another devastating injury and return to his former Pro Bowl self or even a NFL starter. The Niners themselves have to have some concern about his ability to come back going out and signing Malcolm Smith and drafting Reuben Foster. From all accounts he’s healing just fine and will be full go for training camp and the Pre-Season but that was before pads went on so well see how it holds up. I have faith that the Mon5t3r will be back to his old self sooner than latter especially with Foster and Smith pushing him for his spot. They say pressure makes diamonds and I can’t wait to see him shine in training camp this year.
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By Niner Faithful
Competition it’s a word being thrown around Niners headquarters these days. Both Head coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch have said there is competition at every spot on the roster no one is going to be handed anything. So, as we get ready for training camp later this month I thought I would break down some of the key position battles that I think are worth keeping an eye on in training camp.
Tight End: Probably one of the spots that has the most Competition is tight end. The Niners went out and sign veteran Logan Paulsen drafted Gorge Kettle signed undrafted free agent Cole Hikutini and still have Blake Bell, Garrett Celek and Vance McDonald from last year’s team. Gorge Kittle has been a name that has been getting a lot of attention in the Niners OTAs and different minicamps. He was singled out both by GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and some point this offseason. John Lynch saying on an interview on KNBR last week that the rookie “really flashed” and that he “catches the ball extremely well.” (I believe that was a shot at Vance McDonald) and said he could possibility be a “play maker near the red zone” something that the team didn’t have till he was drafted. It’s hard for this position to get worse so I expect improvement from last year in my opinion.
Defensive Line: Pass rush was a big problem for the Niners last year they tied for 19th in the league with 33 sacks. The Niners have spent the last three drafts on the D-Line they drafted Solomon Thomas with the 3rdoverall pick this year to go along with Deforest Buckner (7th overall last year), and Arik Armstead (17th overall in 2015). Returning from last year’s team are Aaron Lynch, Ronald Blair, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, and Chris Jones. We signed Earl Mitchell, Elvis Dumervil, and Noble Nwachukwu in free agency while drafting D.J. Jones, and Pita Taumoepenu to go along with Thomas. They say that the biggest jump a player makes is from year one to year two so, with Buckner entering his second year and Armstead basically playing his second year I expect the picks we have spent on the D-Line to start paying off. Add that to the fact that it’s a contract year for Lynch and Carradine. We have a staff that understands 1008 snaps for Buckner is too much and Dumervil has a lot to prove after a subpar year last year I expect the pass rush to make great strides over last year.
Linebackers: Last year the season turned when NaVorro Bowman went down in week 4 he is our best defensive player and looked to fully recovered from his devastating knee injury in 2014. Besides losing Bow we lost Ray Ray Armstrong (IR week 3) and Shane Skov (IR week 12) which forced players who shouldn’t have been starters to start. This was one of the positions in need of an upgrade the most. Besides NaVorro Bowman the Niners have brought back Ray Ray Armstrong, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, and Aaron Lynch (although he’s moving to the D line). We signed Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle, And Dekoda Watson in free agency. We Drafted Reuben Foster (I believe the steal of the draft) with the 31st pick overall along with Pita Taumoepenu (although he is also going to move to the D line). We also signed undrafted rookies Donavin Newsom, and Jimmie Gilbert. It’s clear that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan saw this as a position of need and addressed it. As with most of the team I fill this is a position that can only improve over 2016. And Thank God that got rid of Nick when my friend Mary can see you suck it’s time for you to go. You can’t keep 10 linebackers so the competition for spots on the 53 is going to be intense with a big factor with must players being can they play special team. These are just a few of the battles that will be going on in training camp this year and it’s going to be fun to watch.
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