The San Francisco 49ers.
I harbor few positive feelings about this team, the players or the memories they bring back. It was largely just not good.
One thing I do give them credit for? Some good fans like David Fucillo who heads up Niners Nation, the community for fans of said team. So I linked up with Fooch to get the insider look at what's crumbling for them this season and what the outlook is moving forward for the Niners.
Well, it's the first of our two this year, and for Rams fans who have gotten used to a certain brand of the Niners...this year looks different. Obviously, the offseason gutted the team from the coach down, but do you pin the 2-5 start entirely on the attrition? Is it more the performance of the components that are around now, like Jim Tomsula and Colin Kaepernick more than the absence of the Niners who are gone?
It's a combination of both. A lot of the players that departed were on the downside of their career, or coming off a single strong year, but the 49ers have struggled to replace a lot of them. They lost Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis on the offensive line, and Jordan Devey and Erik Pears have been brutal substitutes. They lost Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, and while Quinton Dial and Glenn Dorsey are solid defensive linemen, they don't bring nearly the same level of play.
Colin Kaepernick has struggled in a big way, and it seems like without a good offensive line and strong defense, he has reached his ceiling. I do think he can be a better quarterback, but not with this current version of the 49ers. A bad offensive line hurts, but even when he does have time in the pocket, he makes bad decisions, or just cannot make some of the throws.
As for Tomsula? It does seem like he's in over his head. He is a much more player-friendly coach, so there seems to be a certain intensity lacking in the preparation. It's one of many problems with this team.
Offensively, you guys are the only team in the NFL gaining less yards in the NFL than the Rams. Having seen quite a bit of the Rams offense and by that I mean every play, I find that just so hard to believe. What in the world is going on?
The offensive line is awful, and Colin Kaepernick is struggling to make the kinds of throws he needs to make. An ex-coach said Kap lacks the kind of trust needed to make a lot of the timing throws we expect. Instead, he is just waiting for his guys to get open. It limits the passing game tremendously, and when the team falls behind by more than a touchdown, it seems like it's pretty much game, set and match.
The offensive line is a big part of the problem. The right side is awful, and the left side has struggled in part because they have to make up for the right side. And the team is unwilling to make significant changes to try and shore up this unit. Aaron Donald and that defensive front could do some serious damage on Sunday.
On the other side, you're 31st in yards allowed per game. Again...what in the world is going on?
No consistent pass rush is the big problem. Aaron Lynch is their best pass rusher, but even he is limited when the defensive line can't clear nearly enough space. The lack of a pass rush gives opposing quarterbacks plenty of time to find their targets, no matter how well the 49ers secondary is playing.
As for the secondary, it's an inconsistent group that can't fully execute the schemes Eric Mangini is using. The safeties do not provide nearly enough cover for the cornerbacks, and these are not "shutdown" cornerbacks that can handle it all on their own. They're not bad cornerbacks, but they're not good enough yet to do it on their own.
As for the bad play against the run game? Big deficits are one big reason for that, but they are struggling in basic fundamentals like tackling. Physical running backs are going to have their way with the 49ers defense until the group proves it can, you know, tackle.
So it is. You guys fell off a cliff coming off of the 2011-2013 run. How much does it feel incomplete without a sixth 49ers Super Bowl win? Three NFC Championships is a hell of a three-year streak. Is there any satisfaction there or does the lack of a ring render it less impressive than it seems to at least one Rams fan?
Oh it definitely feels incomplete without the Super Bowl ring. The 49ers had never lost a Super Bowl before that one. Even though the Steelers had the one more ring, 49ers fans could say, well, we have no Super Bowl losses. That's no longer the case. And given how quickly things fell apart in the year and a half since their last NFC title game appearance, it's all the more incomplete. In some ways, the 49ers were two or three plays away from three consecutive Super Bowl appearances. There is so much that feels incomplete about it. Thanks, Jed.
Let's focus on Sunday. What do you expect from the Niners? The line's as in favor of the Rams as I've seen in a long, long, long, long time. If you guys were going to pull the upset, what would it take?
I have two significant opposing feelings. My initial thought was 8.5 or 9 points is way too many for a Nick Foles/Jeff Fisher-led Rams squad to be giving. That offense has been bad enough in the passing game, that it seems to open the door for the 49ers to at least cover this one. Furthermore, divisional games are always tricky to figure out, and the 49ers are coming in with extra rest and prep time. Maybe we see more of the screen game, and more outside runs to negate the Rams defensive strengths up the middle.
And then I remember that the 49ers will be trotting out the same offensive line against a Rams defensive front that is downright scary. I feel like Kap getting sacked fewer than five times this game would be a bit of a victory. 49ers OC Geep Chryst could surprise us with a great game plan coming off a couple extra days of preparation, but execution still seems to be a problem. And this Rams offense suddenly has an impressive young running back in Todd Gurley. It's not exactly the same, but you could make a bit of a comparison between this Rams team and the 2011 49ers. By that, I mean they have the strong ground game (not as good an offensive line), and a great defense. You don't need a great quarterback when you can roll that out.
I was thinking of taking the 49ers at +8.5, but now I am probably staying the hell away from this game. I can see a few reasons the 49ers could cover, and I can see a few reasons they could easily get beaten in similar fashion to what we saw against the Rams last week (20-3).
Thanks to Fooch for the time.