Damn it feels good to be talking football. I know it is just the preseason, but getting prepared to watch Broncos football at any level can't be beat. Especially this year, where every position seems to be up for grabs making this preseason the most important we have seen around these parts in many, many years.
That said, I took some time to ask Fooch, who run NinersNation, some questions about our opponent Friday Night and what we can expect to see. He was nice enough to oblige.
The obvious first. What is the deal with Crabtree?? Is this a situation where he wants Top-5 money because he thinks he should have been picked that high or is his foot a concern so he wants as much money now as possible?
First off, it's obviously difficult to know the truth given how silent Eugene Parker and the 49ers have been on things. A lot has been said but it's usually a couple sources removed. That talk though has been that there is a philosophical difference. Parker thinks Crabtree is a top 5 talent and deserves that kind of money, or at least more than Darrius Heyward-Bay. Of course, Tyson Jackson was not a top 3 talent but that didn't lead to a worse contract!
People (again who knows how much in the know they really are) have indicated the team and Crabtree have gotten closer. However, if this really is a philosophical difference I don't see how they could be getting closer unless Parker and Crabtree are backing down. I always mention Parker in conjunction with Crabtree because a lot of the talk is Parker promised big things to Crabtree and doesn't look like he'll be able to back it up.
This can't be good for Crabtree's relationship with Mike Singletary. What has he said about the situation, of anything?
In one post-practice press conference, Singletary was asked about the hold out. At that point he admitted he'd held out a couple times, including his rookie season (he was a second round pick projected as a first). One plus to having a former player as a coach is that he understands the business side of things (especially one who played when the tv money was increasing pretty dramatically). Singletary has stated he obviously wants Crabtree in camp and it would be best for him, but he's acknowledged he understands the money side of things. The biggest plus is that for the players on the field it seems like he's made it a non-issue at this point.
What is the latest on the QB situation in S.F.? Is Shaun Hill the guy or is the competition open?
The competition is very much open. Singletary hasn't even named a starter for Friday yet and once he does, I'd imagine they'd both get equal playing time. Alex Smith has apparently looked quite good for the most part in practice, but the question is if he can convert that into game-time production. He's always been a good practice player. And as I mentioned in the FanPost at MHR, I think Smith has to take the job from Hill. It's an open competition but I consider Hill the incumbent with the job to lose. I'm looking forward to that as much as anything else in this upcoming game.
The great thing about the NFL is the hope each new season provides every team. Last year, it was Arizona surprising everyone and getting to the Super Bowl. What are the fans' expectations for the Niners? What are your personal expectations?
I was discussing this the other day with one of the front page authors at NN and we agreed this team could end up all over the place, and fan predictions are along the same lines. We've got the pessimists thinking 5 wins and the optimists thinking 11 wins. Personally I think 9-7 is slightly optimistic, but where I think they end up. I've been wildly wrong in the past, but if a few things break the right way, I remain convinced this is a team that could make the playoffs. Beyond that, the Arizona Cardinals proved anything is possible in the playoffs. I'm certainly not saying the 49ers are going to get to the Super Bowl, but like I said, a few things breaking the right way could make for a crazy season. Of course, a few things breaking the wrong way means we could be in for a rough season.
First pre-season game of the season, but both teams have a lot of question marks. What are you going to be watching for this Friday Night?
I'll be watching all sorts of positional battles. QB is the easy one. Beyond that, there's the battle between Adam Snyder and Marvel Smith for the starting right tackle position and Barry Sims/Alex Boone for the backup left tackle spot. Given that Alex Boone once required two tasers to be taken down (he was a bit of an alcoholic (link to this story here where it mentions 30-40 beers a day at his worst: http://www.ohio.com/sports/osu/39878257.html)) in one incident, he's clearly a tough SOB. Most folks are rooting for him to make the team over Sims.
Aside from that Kentwan Balmer will be looking to kickstart his career after a rough rookie season and your boy Dre' Bly will be looking to nail down the #2 cornerback job. Bly hasn't blown anybody away in practice but his primary competition, Tarell Brown, has been out since the first or second day of camp due to a toe injury.
It is still early, but give me a surprise player in Camp that will make the team. Give me someone you think might be a surprise cut.
Hmmmm....The 49ers don't actually have a lot of surprises so I'm going with a guy that would be a surprise even to me: running back Kory Sheets. He was undrafted out of Purdue and has shown some nasty skills out of the backfield and even potentially in the return game (not something he did in college). He's already gotten more reps in training camp than back to back preseason phenom and cult favorite Thomas Clayton. I think Sheets would be even more surprising because he has all his practice squad eligibility available if he can clear waivers.
As far as a surprise cut? Veteran Arnaz Battle was on the chopping block, but a Brandon Jones injury and Crabtree's holdout has likely locked in a roster spot for both he and Dominique Zeigler (another bubble guy). Taking them out of the equation, it's hard to tell. As much as the 49ers have struggled in the past, they seem to have locks at a lot of positions. I'll say the 49ers go without a veteran QB and cut Damon Huard, thus allowing them to keep Nate Davis on the 53-man roster. Not an inspiring choice, but what the heck, right?
Our thanks to Fooch for taking the time to answer our questions, as well as for the FanPost where he has handled all the questions and comments from the community as well. Best of luck to the 49ers, and NinersNation, all season long!