(Preview 2023) San Francisco 49ers: on the shoulders of Brock Purdy

The season is approaching. The editorial staff of TDActu invites you to take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of the 32 franchises. Today, the San Francisco 49ers 2023. You can find all the presentations by clicking on this link.

After a fishtail end to the season where they were forced to play with their number 4 quarterback in the conference final, San Francisco is stable by returning with its base men but also by having been picked at its executioner.

This time, the Trey Lance project is definitely buried and the 49ers will have to live with the consequences of this terrible failure in which they will have lost three first draft rounds. But in their misfortune, they show up for this season with one of the most complete squads in the league and a real chance of going all the way.

Last season: 13 wins -4 losses, beaten in the NFC conference finals

Movements in the off-season

Notable arrivals: Sam Darnold (QB), Brandon Allen (QB), Chris Conley (WR), Matt Pryor (T), Jon Feliciano (C), Clelin Ferrell (DE), Javon Hargrave (DT), Isaiah Oliver (CB), Zane Gonzalez (K)…
Re-signatures: Jake Brendel (C), Kerry Hyder (DE), Ross Dwelley (TE), Jauan Jennings (WR).
Draft: Ji’Ayir Brown (S), Jake Moody (K), Cameron Latu (TE), Darrell Luter (CB), Robert Beal (DE), Dee Winters (LB), Brayden Willis (TE), Ronnie Bell (WR), Jalen Graham (LB).
Notable losses: Jimmy Garoppolo (QB), Mike McGlinchey (T), Samson Ebukam (DE), Charles Omenihu (DE), Maurice Hurst (DT), Hassan Ridgeway (DT), Azeez Al-Shaair (LB), Jason Verrett (CB), Emmanuel Moseley (CB), Jimmie Ward (S), Robbie Gould (K)…

Often cited close to the exit, via trade a year ago, Jimmy Garoppolo this time packed his bags well towards the former neighbor, the Raiders. It’s a real change of era in the recent history of the franchise as Garoppolo can be considered the best quarterback in the history of the franchise since Jeff Garcia in the early 2000s.

But it’s not the biggest earthquake in San Francisco at quarterback this summer.

Because yes, the Trey Lance project is already over. Just over two years after the blockbuster that saw San Francisco drop three first draft rounds to get it, the 49ers only got a fourth round. Lucky to have found in Brock Purdy a holder for the position, the 49ers therefore put an end to a project that should never have started. Trey Lance was a player in great need of playing time and San Francisco could not satisfy him at a time when the workforce was already ready to aim for the heights.

Another emblematic holder for many years, Mike McGlinchey, has also packed his bags to take over the management of Denver. San Francisco could not offer him a contract with its current financial surfaces. For the same reasons, two other long-time holders have packed up: Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Moseley. Losses that had already been filled internally by the hatching of Deommodore Lenoir and the second youth of Tashaun Gipson.

In Kyle Shanahan’s “finds” department: Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu and Azeez Al-Shaair earned their big contracts elsewhere while Robbie Gould was let free to make room for rookie kicker Jake Moody.

On the arrivals side, Sam Darnold arrives to take on the role of backup by Brock Purdy.

But the most notable arrival is clearly that of Javon Hargrave. A defining member of the Eagles defense that walked on everyone last season, San Francisco found the financial resources to lure him in and complete a front seven scary. For the rest, San Francisco has been rather discreet in the market and has mainly sought to fill departures among complementary players.

Without a choice in the first two rounds, John Lynch had to be patient. Ji’Ayir Brown (S) has been selected to fill in numerically for the departure of Jimmie Ward. Jake Moody sees himself inheriting a double penalty: assuming a selection in the third round and succeeding an almost perfect Robbie Gould in his Californian years. For the rest, it is mainly projects that should wait one or more seasons, except perhaps receiver Ronnie Bell who found himself in Deebo Samuel a luxury mentor. He is coming out of a great pre-season which potentially opens the doors to the final squad of 53 players.

The strong points)

How not to talk about Nick Bosa? If he still has not extended his contract at the time of writing these lines, the defensive end comes out of a season where he was totally unstoppable.

Voted defensive player of the year, Joey’s younger brother should still be the gondola head of one of the best defenses in the league. What to aim for the record of sacks over a season if the planets align?

At his side, Arik Armstead is now an excellent defensive tackle totally established in the league. To help him, Javon Hargrave was therefore recruited at the end of his first career season with more than ten sacks. Behind, Fred Warner confirmed again last season that he was the alter ego of the quarterback on the defense side. True soul of this defense, he will seek this year to assert himself as the best linebacker in the NFL. With Dr. Greenlaw at his side, the linebacking duo looks scary.

While Brock Purdy’s actual level at quarterback remains to be confirmed, there are really no questions to be asked about his targets. The arrival during last season of Christian McCaffrey opened Kyle Shanahan’s playbook. Deebo Samuel will be revengeful following a lackluster 2022 season. George Kittle remains as dynamic as ever and able to change the course of a match in a flash. Brock Purdy is therefore already very well off. But that would be forgetting Brandon Aiyuk who is progressing year after year, and who is now a real number 1 receiver in San Francisco. Used sparingly, Kyle Juszczyk, the NFL’s best fullback, remains a critical safety valve when he’s not sacrificing himself to protecting his quarterback.

On the offensive line, Trent Williams once again confirmed his status as the best left tackle in the league. If there is any doubt about the real level that the rest of the line will have, Williams is the perfect protector for a Brock Purdy who is returning in addition to a major injury. Even as he gets older, he remains a vital pillar for San Francisco’s attack.

The weak spots)

If Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford had a very good season last year for their first as starting guard, it is advisable to remain cautious when confirming these good arrangements. In the center, Jake Brendel is in a similar situation. Long considered a complementary player, he was launched as a starter a year ago following the retirement of Alex Mack. He has lived up to expectations and everyone expects him to do as well.

The biggest question mark concerns the position of right tackle. Following the departure of Mike McGlinchey, the 49ers promoted Colton McKivitz who presents no guarantees. Just like last year with the inside of the line, Kyle Shanahan is therefore taking a huge bet in a position that is so important for the protection of his young quarterback.

In Robbie Gould, the 49ers held one of the best kickers in the league. In a time when these are very rare and more precious than ever, the coaching staff has no room for error on this movement. Kicker picks early in the draft haven’t been successful in recent years, and Jake Moody’s preseason performances haven’t exactly inspired confidence. The future will tell, but Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch may have shot themselves in the foot by letting out a kicker, certainly aging, but who has never missed a field goal in the playoffs in his career.

X Factor: Brock Purdy

This time, the choice is made! Finished Jimmy Garoppolo, ended also the uncertainty around Trey Lance and the suffocating pressure around the transaction that led to his selection.

Mr Irrelevant a year ago, he rose to power and is the choice of the franchise’s future. Seriously injured in the shoulder in the middle of the conference final against the Eagles, we feared for a moment a “Tommy John” for Brock Purdy. Which could have been dramatic for the rest of his career. Finally, the convalescence was faster than expected and here he is ready to take the reins of the team from the first week.

He was very impressive when he took over for the last seven games of the regular season last year; to the point of making a breakthrough that earned him the podium for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Purdy was even one of the very best quarterbacks in the league during this period. The challenge for him will be to confirm these provisions and show that the level glimpsed last year remains a standard for him.

The right to error will not really be appropriate. Being a starter in a team that is aiming for the title also means that you have to deliver big games right away. With one of the best coaches in the league and a range of targets, each more impressive than the next, he has no choice but to shine. If not, the shadow of Sam Darnold should be felt soon enough: he’s been waiting for an opportunity like this to present itself since being drafted by the Jets five years ago.

Christian McCaffrey - San Francisco 49ers

Player to watch: Christian McCaffrey

Arrived with great fanfare during last season, Christian McCaffrey approaches this new season in conditions that he has probably never known. Accustomed to being the central face of his offense with the Panthers, he is just one option among many in San Francisco. And that’s what makes it all the more dangerous. As his performances last season showed, CMC is stronger than ever. Whether in the race but also at the reception, the running back is able to shine everywhere. Even in the pass where he managed to throw a touchdown last year!

His past season also reassured physically. Particularly hampered by long injuries in the first half of his career, McCaffrey went through the entire 2022 season without major problems. If he’s injury-free this year, a record-breaking season could be the key. The offensive weapons around him will allow him to have free rein to bring this attack to the heights.

2023 San Francisco 49ers Schedule

@Steelers, @Rams, Giants, Cardinals, Cowboys, @Browns, @Vikings, Bengals, BYE, @Jaguars, Buccaneers, @Seahawks, @Eagles, Seahawks, @Cardinals, Ravens, @Commanders, Rams.

The audio preview of the podcast

In summary

With such a workforce, the San Francisco 49ers 2023 must, logically, roll on their division.

Except that the main question mark concerns the most important position there is: that of the quarterback. If the real level of Brock Purdy is that glimpsed last season, everything will be fine. On the other hand, if, like what he did in the NCAA, he fails to maintain his level, things could go wrong. But he will not be alone, with a cast including Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk or even George Kittle, he will be in an armchair.

The defense remains one of the strongest in the league as it has been reinforced by a top player in the person of Javon Hargrave. On the coaching side, Kyle Shanahan is one of the best coaches in the NFL.

It would be a huge surprise not to see them win the NFC West and advance to the playoffs as a team to beat. From there to see them go to the end? They clearly have the means but do not really have a margin on the competition.

Prediction: 13 wins -4 losses, 1st in NFC West, playoffs

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