Since the 2014 season ended for the team named after a time period where people flocked to San Francisco for gold, the exact opposite has taken place. The 49ers have seen a Hall of Fame line backer retire, a possible hall of fame defensive tackle retire, a power blocking mammoth retire, and the contingency plan for the previously mentioned line backer retire. Overall the 49ers lost enough players to cripple most teams, and maybe enough to cripple them. Will it really hurt them is a question that can only be answered when they start playing games, but during the offseason speculation is all we have, so let's speculate.
Patrick Willis and Chris Borland
For some reason these two are always mentioned as big losses to the defense, but in reality it's only a loss of one filled position to the defense. Willis and Borland never actually played together. It wasn't for a lack of talent on either player's part, it was for a lack of cohesiveness. Borland played very instinctive football which often allowed him to make a lot of plays, but the instances he whiffed on tackles, he left teammates out to dry, and hurt the overall integrity of the defense. Willis and Wilhoite were a better pairing at MLB in the 49ers defense last year. The 49ers gave up only a single 100 yard rushing performance before Willis went down, but gave up six after his injury. The real loss here is Willis. Borland was a good LB, but his impact shouldn't even be felt if Bowman is back to his regular self. Lost in all the discussion about this position group is the fact Bowman didn't play a single down last year. At this point in their careers Bowman is an upgrade over Willis (if fully healthy). In comparison to last year's top 10 ranked defense, they should actually get better here. The duo of Bowman and Wilhoite is better than any duo from last year. Now, going back further it won't be as good as Bowman and Willis, but we probably won't ever see anything that good ever. Assuming the health of Bowman this position is upgraded from last year. Ruling: The National Media is Wrong.
I had a friend text me; "I hope Justin Smith plays another year, I really enjoy watching him play." The only reply I had; "I agree. He's great." I have been trying to convince myself since The Cowboy decided to ride off into the sunset that it's not that big of a loss, and I can't do it. He's been a terror for opposing offenses, and a bolt of energy for the 49ers for too long for it not to be a big loss. In 2011 Justin Smith as a first team All-Pro Defensive End, and Second Team Defensive Tackle, he was soon good he got All-Pro at two positions. While in 2014 he wasn't quite that good as age started to catch up with him, he was still a top tier player in the league, and leader for the young guys. Replacing Smith is impossible. He led a work out regimen that got the best out of a position group every season. Filling into his position is some talented players like; Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine, Darnell Dockett, Ian Williams, and maybe rookie Arik Armstead. The talent is there, and the opportunity (especially the young guys) is there to make a name for themselves, but none of them is Justin Smith. Ruling: The National Media is right.
I know some people are going to read the name and say; "The Basketball player?" No, not that Anthony Davis. The 25 year old from New Jersey who played RT for the 49ers Anthony Davis, who's also referred to as Bam Davis. When Davis is at his best, he's playing the role of "Bam Bam" punishing defenders as a Road grading Right Tackle. He's great at paving the way for Frank Gore (who's also gone). When he's at his worse he's getting beat badly by Edge rushers, if you want evidence juat watch the 2013 NFC Championship Game where he had no answer for Cliff Avril. Even at his worse, Davis was better than the player who manned his position most of last year in Jonathon Martin. This is a position that was going to be looked as a huge upgrade over the 2014 season because Davis missed so much time, we all got to see just how soft Martin really was. Then, out of nowhere to most fans and players on the team, Davis decided to take a leave, claiming he'll come back "At 26 or 27." This is a loss, that on the surface, the 49ers have no answer for. From last Season to this one they may still get better at Right Tackle, but losing Davis is definitely a loss. Ruling: The National Media is right.
Overall the 49ers may be better than the 8 win team they were last year, they may not be. The National Media has predicted 4-6 wins in most cases, and I think they're wrong about that. I do have to agree with them on 2 of the 4 losses mentioned here from an on-field perspective, and 3 of 4 of the field. The disagreement I have is the degree these losses will affect the 49ers. The 49ers also lost players to Free Agency, and I will adress those losses in a similar fashion in the upcoming days. A sneak preview; "The DC Football team over paid Chris Culliver so paid it makes me think Ari Gold is secretly his Agent."
At the end of the day, if the 49ers are better than the National Media predicts they'll all change their tune, because that's what they do. After all they didn't think Pete Carroll should start Russell Wilson, and now they love them both.