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What To Watch Against The 49ers

The 49ers are a bad football team. They were 5-11 last season and there isn't a lot of promise that they can improve much in 2008. Everyone is looking around, waiting for head coach Mike Nolan to be fired.

In 2007 their offense was on pace to become one of the worst ever according to Football Outsiders, but little used veteran QB Shaun Hill came off the bench late in the season and they ended up as only the worst offense of 2007 (not all time). Since then:

  • Mike Martz was brought in as offensive coordinator and brought along former Packer QB J.T. O'Sullivan from Detroit, who is currently the front runner to becoming the starting QB.
  • They lost two former starting offensive lineman in free agency, G Justin Smiley to Miami and T Kwame Harris to Oakland. Smiley was actually good, but Harris is an addition by subtraction.
  • Former 1st overall draft choice, QB Alex Smith, is currently the number 3 QB, and former top 5 overall pick, TE Vernon Davis, has not developed into a top player.
  • The Packers top 5 wide receivers are better than any of the wide receivers on the 49ers roster.

They've still got a top talent in RB Frank Gore, but it will be a really bad sign if the Packers defense struggles against that unit.

The 49ers defense was bad last season too, but they could push towards respectability this season. 2nd year LB Patrick Willis is one of the great young talents in the NFL, and last year's high priced free agent CB Nate Clements is still a great player. Long time DT Bryant Young retired after last season, but he was still the team's sack leader in 2007. They did bring in free agent DE Justin Smith, and 1st round pick DT Kentwan Balmer, but their revamped defensive line is a work in progress and provides little pass rush. The Packers might have some trouble running the ball with RB Ryan Grant out, but QB Aaron Rodgers should have time to throw and be able to find an open receiver. It will be a bad sign if Rodgers struggles, or the offensive line struggles in pass protection.