After another disappointing season for the San Francisco 49ers marred by injuries and underachieving, fans can once again look to next season. The return of players like Jerick McKinnon and Jimmy Garoppolo can give hope to fans, but what else needs to be looked at by GM John Lynch?
What position outside of pass rusher is the 49ers biggest need?
While secondary help and linebacker depth are very much needed, the 49ers need to get themselves a wide receiver this year. With McKinnon and Garoppolo coming back, and George Kittle now an established All-Star, all this offense needs is a No. 1 wideout. While Antonio Brown would be the biggest possible haul, look for someone like Golden Tate or Tyrell Williams in free agency to be a more realistic target for 2019. We have enough talent to get by without a superstar receiver, something neither team who played in the super bowl had, but we must improve at the position to take the next step.
Potential Free Agent Fits
As previously stated, Tate would be a nice fit. Someone like Dante Fowler could bolster our pass rush as well, although at this point it would be shocking if the Niners first-rounder isn’t a pass rusher. Of course, Earl Thomas seems like he would be a perfect fit with Richard Sherman and Robert Saleh in the red and gold, and he is exactly the ball hawk that this turnover hungry defense needs.
Position battles to monitor
Although both will be used heavily, it will be interesting to see which running back will get more touches throughout the season, Matt Breida or Jerick McKinnon. If both can stay healthy (that’s a BIG if), I believe Breida is the better every down guy, but Mckinnon also offers that explosiveness that Shanahan loves. Also, DJ Reed and Marcell Harris came on strong at the end of the season and should be in a battle for a secondary that struggled mightily last season, possibly taking over for Adrian Colbert or Ahkello Witherspoon.
Evaluating Kyle Shanahan
Shanahan does not have the record of a great coach, but he has the mind and presence of one. Should the team stay mostly healthy this year, the pressure will be on Shanahan and Lynch to perform. Shanahan has shown more than enough to prove he deserves to be a head coach in this league, and listening to his interviews and breakdowns is always a learning experience. From the outside looking in it may not look like he has reached expectations, but people who follows the 49ers closely realize that we have the right guy for the job. Look for the 2019 season to finally be the one that he can prove it.
Evaluating John Lynch
This is the toughest question to answer for sure. While there have been a fair share of players that have played below expectations (Solomon Thomas being the obvious one), Lynch has also hit on McGlinchey and Breida, Nick Mullens was a great addition, and Lynch and Shanahan seem to be very much on the same page schematically and strategically. Because of that, I do believe Lynch can turn around the perception of himself around the league. However, if they Niners do not have a good draft and are unable to pick up key free agents, this could be the potential Hall of Famers last chance to prove himself.
While there was much to be desired from San Francisco in 2018, 2019 is looking more and more like a year of resurgence. Watch for this team to surprise a lot of doubters.