The San Francisco 49ers cleaned house following a dreadful 2-14 campaign. They jettisoned GM Trent Baalke, head coach Chip Kelly, and the entire quarterback room. They hope to turn around a franchise that has completely fallen apart since Jed York decided to fire Jim Harbaugh over a batch of hurt feelings. As they enter 2017 with their fourth head coach in four years, they are a team in transition. With no hope to compete this year, they set themselves up to compete in 2018 and beyond. Three questions stand at the core of their 2017 rebuild.
Is NaVorro Bowman done?
Sadly, the San Francisco 49ers best player’s body may be succumbing to a series of leg injuries. There’s been only discouraging news out of the 49ers’ OTAs with regards to Bowman’s agility and ability to track down and stay with players. Reports are that he struggled to cover Garrett Celek, of all people (who is a blocking tight end). Rumors swirled earlier this year that the 49ers were looking to move on from Bowman. There are rumors he may be cut, which won’t happen lest the reeling franchise fill zero seats next year in Levi’s.
The 29-year-old Bowman missed two-thirds of last year with a torn Achilles, from which he is still recovering. This comes on the heels of spending 2015 getting back to form from missing all of 2014 from shredding his knee in the NFC Championship Game. He may be irreparably broken at this point, and the 49ers may lose yet another face of the franchise after the season.
Is Carlos Hyde on the way out?
If reports out of OTAs about Bowman’s performance are discouraging, then Hyde’s are downright dreadful. The only consistent drumbeat out of 4949 Centennial Blvd is that Carlos Hyde is a complete mismatch for the team and is overwhelmed by every other back on the roster. Forgetting that Hyde can’t stay healthy with any reasonable workload, he’s looked worse than a rookie (Joe Williams), a fullback (Kyle Juszczyk) and a guy who was out of the league (Tim Hightower). Hyde possesses the most natural talent out of all the players, but he is a mismatch for Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and the only of those four backs who wasn’t chosen by this regime. He’ll likely open the season as the starter, but who knows how long the 49ers will ride him, or how long he can be ridden.
Will the 49ers finally have a respectable defense again?
Last year, the 49ers turned in one of the worst defensive performances of all time. The Niners allowed an astonishing 165 yards per game on the ground, by far the worst in the NFL. They allowed 2654 yards on the ground last year, a full 371 more than the second place team (Cleveland). The difference between the Niners’ rushing yards allowed and the Browns is virtually the same as the Browns and the #9 team, Washington. They also allowed 3848 passing yards and 30 touchdowns while picking off just ten footballs (turning QBs against them roughly into 2016 Ben Roethlisberger while also ceding obscene amounts of yards on the ground).
However, they spent two first round picks this year on defense, getting Stanford’s Solomon Thomas (DL) and Reuben Foster (LB). Add Foster & Thomas to Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, and that’s four first-round picks added to the defense in three years (and the 49ers spent their third pick on Ahkello Witherspoon, a CB). They recently brought in Elvis Dumervil, as well. The San Francisco 49ers seem to have put all the weapons in place to have a good defense, now let’s see if they can make it great.