We got to ask some questions with ninersnation.com to get some insights on the San Francisco 49ers as we prepare to watch them go head to head with the Denver Broncos tomorrow night. I also took the time to answer some of their questions here.
1) Can you share with us the general feeling of the 49er fans about Kaepernick. Does he deserve a shot this year? Can his career be salvaged?
It's a complicated relationship, to say the least. Some folks think he's a bum, some think he's a decent quarterback in the right situation, and some think he's been screwed by the organization and remains a great quarterback. I find myself thinking different things at different times. It's frustrating. He deserves a shot, especially considering Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, and Jeff Driskel are the other options. Kap and Gabbert split snaps the first two weeks of training camp, but arm fatigue has sidelined Kap for the past week. He has not thrown since last Wednesday, sitting out Sunday's preseason game against the Texans. If he can't throw, he can't compete for the starting role. If his arm can get back to 100 percent, he very well could end up in the starting lineup later this season given that Blaine Gabbert is the alternative, but we're waiting to see how that all develops.
I do think his career can be salvaged. The 49ers situation has grown toxic over the past year, so it might require a new home. It almost happened this offseason with Denver, and right now I think it ends up happening next offseason with a release. But, there's four months of regular season football that could easily change that outcome.
2) I've been used to seeing some really awesome defensive units from the 49ers. What is the status of your defense and what you are looking forward to from this in 2016?
The defense took a hit last year with numerous retirements. They are slowly returning to form, as GM Trent Baalke has replenished the reserves. The 49ers GM struggles at times with offensive draft picks, but he's done a solid job drafting defensive players. This year, I think we see it take a nice step forward. The defense has depth along the line with first round picks spent on DeForest Buckner this year and Arik Armstead last year. Aaron Lynch will sit out four games due to suspension, but he's a talented pass rusher. The secondary seems to be turning into a talented unit, with 2014 first round pick Jimmie Ward impressing in his move from nickel back to outside cornerback. The big question is how it handles extra work due to Chip Kelly's offense. There was plenty of discussion about that in Philadelphia, but it's not a simple answer. The Eagles defenses under Chip Kelly actually did better later in games and later in the season. There were claims of fatigue, but that would seem to indicate otherwise. It makes for an interesting narrative to follow this season.
3) So far, how has the Chip Kelly offense progressed in training camp?
Well, it's hard to tell. The ground game looked very good on Sunday against Houston, while the passing game was not good. Chip Kelly has said the game plan was pretty vanilla, and they are still installing a lot of stuff. That's not surprising, and if the offense does improve, it might take some time before we see it in execution. Blaine Gabbert is likely going to be the Week 1 starter. He had bad situations in Jacksonville, so I get why some people are optimistic he can develop into something. And considering how long it took Alex Smith to turn into a viable starter, I get that. But it is rare that quarterbacks that were that bad turn into strong starters. Of course, considering what Chip Kelly did with Nick Foles, anything is possible.
There are some improvements from last year as we're seeing the high volume yardage from Kelly's offense. Two turnovers cost them points last week, but if the team can consistently move the ball up and down the field, that's an improvement from last year!
4) Tell us about a player on both the offense and defense that most of Broncos Country won't have heard of, but that has your fan base really excited.
On offense, rookie quarterback Jeff Driskel has fans at least intrigued. But I think most teams get that with the rookie QB, especially when it's a late round pick like Driskel was (6th round). There's an irrational excitement that a late round pick will be the next Tom Brady. And when a team is having issues at quarterback, the late round pick is always enticing. On Sunday, his passing was frequently off the mark, but he flashed with his legs, and that's going to keep people interesting.
On defense, check out nickel back Chris Davis. He was a UDFA a couple years back, and ended up starting at nickel back in the team's OTAs, minicamp, and start of training camp. It was kind of out of nowhere, but then in the preseason opener, he impressed in coverage. It seems like he is more than likely going to make the roster. He'll likely be out there with the first team defense on Sunday.
5) Time to put on your arm-chair-fantasy-GM hat for a second: If you could have any 2 players from Denver's team, who would you pick and why that would most benefit the 49ers team?
On defense, it's a simple choice: Von Miller. Most any team would want him, but he works for the 49ers even more so due to questions in the pass rush. They have some options with potential, and Aaron Lynch is probably the most talented on the group as a pure pass rusher. But adding a Miller would be huge for a pass rush that is still developing.
On offense, it'd be another big name: Demaryius Thomas. The 49ers wide receiver corps is a mess right now. Torrey Smith is a starter, but after that, it's a lot of questions. There's some potential, but a whole lot of questions among the group. Smith is a solid deep threat, but not exactly a legit #1 receiver. Adding Thomas would give the offense a huge playmaker in the passing game, which they desperately need.