By Eric Ronnebeck
With NFL free agency winding down and the draft now a memory, it’s time to look at what the Seahawks competition in the NFC West has been up to this offseason. We begin this series by taking a look at the Seahawk’s one time divisional doppelganger, the San Francisco 49ers. When the Hawks drafted Russell Wilson, the 49ers were in the dawn of their probable 5 to 6 year Super Bowl window. Times have changed and that window slammed shut when the Hawks beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game on their way to winning Super Bowl 48. With the 2016 NFL season mere months away, let’s see what the Niners have done to prepare.
Head Coach: Arguably the biggest move of the 49ers offseason is the hiring of head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly comes to the 49ers from Philadelphia where he was generally disliked by his players (some of them accusing him of being a racist) and blamed for dismantling a playoff caliber roster. Whether or not that’s true or not, this bold hiring is designed to turn around a struggling 49er offense that was in the bottom of the league in yardage and dead last in points scored. Kelly has his work cut out for him but this may be his last shot at coaching in the NFL and he’s aware of the consequences of another failed season.
Draft: The 49ers didn’t seem to worry much about the offensive side of the ball early in the draft, opting to spend 4 of their first 5 picks on defensive players. Defensive end DeForest Buckner, out of Oregon, was a great pick at number 7 overall and cornerbacks Will Redmond (Miss St) and Rashard Robinson (LSU) should help a depleted 49er secondary. Like the Seahawks, the 49ers went after offensive line help, drafting 3 of them in their first 7 picks.
Wild Card: The wild card for the San Francisco 49ers isn’t a particularly good one. They have a lot of room under the cap to sign players but they didn’t make any big moves in free agency. Instead they opted to have confidence in their draft and build with their young, unproven players. Drafting quarterback Jeff Driskel out of Louisiana Tech is a move that supposedly Chip Kelly is really excited about but that could just be an expected response to (reluctantly) holding on to quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
There is no crystal ball for the 2016 NFL season but most people have the 49ers finishing last in the NFC West. That’s where I have them too.