07 Sep Let’s Catch Up On the Niners 2022 Off-Season, Shall We?
A few things have changed since the San Francisco 49ers last played the Los Angeles Rams in NFCCG on January 30th, 2022. Suffice it to say that the Rams got worse & the Niners got much better:
Trey Lance is the 49ers’ starting QB – this is very good thing, especially since they still have Jimmy G as the backup QB, for now. Lance is bigger, taller, faster & has a stronger arm, but his measurables were just the icing the on the cake for Kyle Shanahan, who wanted him primarily for his smarts, pocket presence & leadership ability. Keeping Jimmy G might be subtraction, by the addition of his $13.99M cap hit for 2022. That’s 2nd-highest on the team, after only LT Trent Williams. I understand wanting to have a good backup QB, but not if his cap hit keeps the team from fixing the offensive line, which could trigger a need for the backup QB, due to a higher probability of Trey getting injured, or struggling. I’m confident that if the 49ers can protect Lance, he’s already better than Jimmy G, or will be shortly. Lance likes to throw deep & outside the numbers & is good at it, unlike Jimmy G. His running ability will force opposing defenses to to play 11 on 11, instead of 11 on 10 with in immobile QB like Jimmy G. This will help the pass catchers & rushers to not be double covered as often.. Trey tends to have good misses (except for the rare pass that sails high on him). Unlike we’ve gotten used to seeing previously, he doesn’t throw many hospital balls, or many even interceptable balls. If Lance can learn to throw short & intermediate over the middle as well as Jimmy G does & throw with more consistent accuracy, then it’s simply not going to be fair for opposing defenses & defensive coordinators. Trey has improved steadily & consistently, so there’s no reason to think that he won’t continue to do so, given his high intelligence & very hard work ethic.
Alex Mack (C) retired – TBD, but this is probably not a good thing; Jake Brendel is set to be the starting center for 2022, but he doesn’t appear to be the long-term answer. The 49ers also drafted Nick Zackelj who can play C or G. He is very bright & seems to have improved consistently like Lance has. The team later picked up Blake Hance off waivers from the Cleveland Browns, who can play all 5 offensive line positions, but played OT most recently.
Laken Tomlinson (LG) was signed by the New York Jets – not ideal, but not unexpected. The 49ers still have Aaron Banks, their 2nd-year, 2nd-round pick LG to replace him. Banks sounds pretty solid with a massive frame. Jason Poe (UDFA/PS) has flashed at G as well. He’s a bit undersized, but that helps him to get low, which is key. I was very nervous when the team cut Poe & over the moon when he signed with the PS. The Jets overpaid for Laken IMO.
Daniel Brunskill (RG) is still with with the team, but he’s been replaced by 4th-round rookie Spencer Burford from UTSA. Burford has looked pretty good, but having all new guys for every IOL position (LG, C & RG) is likely not a good thing, at least early in the season, until they get used to playing together & get used to playing with the OTs. The good news is that Brunny is freed up to be the ultimate 6th man, who can play all 5 of the offensive line positions. Trent Williams (LT) remains not only the best LT, but also the best offensive lineman in all of football, so if the 49ers can get the other 4 to step, then they could actually have a pretty decent OL.
DJ Jones (NT) was signed by the Denver Broncos – again, not ideal, but the team has Javon Kinlaw coming back & he looks to be better than ever. Kinlaw underwent ACL reconstruction surgery + a clean out of his knee this off-season. The 49ers also signed Hassan Ridgeway, who has been very effective in limited use. It is probably best limit him to 30-40 snaps per game, based on his history. They drafted Kalia Davis, who looks like a DJ Jones clone as far as measurements & playing style. Kalia is coming off an ACL in 2021 & is likely to be an injury redshirt for 2022. Returning, they have Kevin Givens (DT) & Arik Armstead (DT/DE)
Dee Ford (DE) finally retired – it’s hard to really miss a guy who only played in 7 games for the 2020 season + 2021 season combined (it felt like a lot less than that TBH). The 49ers drafted Drake Jackson (DE) from USC at #61 overall. This kid has freakish bend & athleticism. He’s already showing signs of being a star, to bookend the other edge opposite Nick Bosa. I’ve been predicting Drake Jackson, 2022 DROY & Nick Bosa, 2022 DPOY. The team also re-signed Kerry Hyder who’s a hybrid DE/DT. He had 8.5 sacks for SF in 2020. I’m very bullish on our signing of Kemoko Turay (DE). He has a wicked spin move & was one of the 49ers’ top performing DEs in the preseason. I was shocked when the team cut him & elated when they able to sign him back to the PS. Returning, they have Samson Ebukam (DE), Charles Omenihu (DE/Nascar DT) & Jordan Willis (DE). The 49ers’ defensive line is easily the deepest, but their front four may be the best as well.
K’Waun Williams (Nickel CB) was signed by the Denver Broncos, which is a good thing – As good as K’Waun was for the 49ers, rookie Samuel Womack (Toledo) looks to be as good as, or even better than, K’Waun was in 2021. Womack led the NCAA in pass break ups for the 2021 season. He had 2 really nice picks vs the Green Bay Packers in the 1st preseason game & a huge 50ish-yard return on one. He can also play boundary CB, as well as Nickel CB. He has the same measurements (5’9 with 32-inch arms) & combine scores as K’Waun, except a much faster 40 time: 4.40 vs 4.53. Sammy Womack might just be the biggest steal of the 2022 draft for any team. The 49ers also added versatile UDFA Qwuantrezz Knight from UCLA who can play Nickel CB, boundary CB & Safety. ‘Trezz was another scary cut, prior to being signed to PS. Womack & ‘Trezz were so good, that the team was forced to cut veteran Darqueze Dennard, Dontae Johnson & Tarig Castro-Fields (which was shocking since he was drafted in the 6th round this year).
Jaquiski Tartt (SS) was allowed to walk. He was signed & later cut by the Philadelphia Eagles, so he’s available again, if needed – this is a good thing. Talanoa Hufanga appears to be the starting SS. He is very instinctive & a thumper, but he lacks top-end speed. The 49ers also signed George Odum (S) form the Colts. He is a very sure tackler & an iron man. His primary function is as an All-Pro special teams player, but Odum played well in limited action as a safety for the Colts (had 1 interception) & had an INT vs the Vikings in the 49ers’ 2nd preseason game & a couple INTs in practice this preseason. Tarvarius Moore isn’t new to the team, but he feels newish, after missing the entire 2021 season with a torn Achilles. He is very fast, but sometimes takes bad angles. Tashaun Gipson is veteran safety on the PS, who is likely to get called up on gamedays. With Jimmie Ward out at least for the first four weeks to start the year (due to starting the season on short-term IR), Odum and/or Moore are likely to be needed to fill in for Jimmie at FS.
Raheem Mostert (RB) was signed by the Miami Dolphins, which would be bad, if he could stay healthy.. The 49ers drafted Tyrion Davis-Price (TDP) (RB) from LSU in the 3rd round. He’s a big, bruising back, with similar measurables as Deebo Samuel, but 10-15 pounds heavier. Jordan Mason (RB) from Georgia Tech was UDFA, but he flashed brightly in the preseason, as another big, tough, quick (but not fast) running back. Both rookies did so well, that the team had to let JaMycal Hasty (Jaguars) & Trey Sermon (Eagles) go. Elijah Mitchell is RB1, but he had 5ish injuries in 2021 & missed all of the preseason games with an injury this year with an injury, so it wouldn’t shock me if at least 1 of the other RBs has better stats for the 2022 season. Jeff Wilson Jr. (JWJ) seems to back to his 2020 form, which is great news. The team recently signed Abram Smith (RB) to the PS. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in 2021 at Baylor (Hasty’s alma mater).
Technically, the 49ers lost Josh Norman (CB), but he was just replacing Jason Verrett, who will miss at least the first 4 games on the PUP list coming back from his ACL from week 1 2021 in Detroit. The good news is that the team signed Charvarius (Mooney) Ward (CB) form the Kansas City Chiefs. Mooney was one the best man-cover CBs in 2021. He appears to be a perfect bookend CB to play across from Emanuel Moseley. Once Verrett is back, the 49ers will have 3 very solid-to-great, boundary CBs. While the secondary might be their weakest defensive group, it’s pretty far from weak.
The 49ers didn’t lose any notable WRs, but they added some real nice ones anyway – Danny Gray (Danny Deuces / Danny Phantom / the Gray Hound) is a 3rd-round pick from SMU. He has 4.33 speed, but he’s not a track guy trying to play football. He’s a complete WR, who just happens to have legit track speed. Danny Deuces had a huge 76-yard TD catch & run from Lance vs the Green Bay Packers in the 1st preseason game & a nice 22-yard catch in traffic over the middle from Nate Sudfeld (Lions). Ray-Ray McCloud (of dust) is a KR/PR/WR, who was one of the best WRs in preseason. Ray-Ray has had fumbling issues, but there’s a lot to like with him. He can make guys miss in space & Kyle is a wizard at getting guys the ball in space. Malik Turner is a journeyman WR who had a very good preseason. The 49ers are lucky to have him on their PS. — same with Tay Martin, who is a UDFA rookie.
The team also didn’t lose any notable LBs, but added several nice ones – Oren Burks was a S/T ace for the Packers, who played well at LB this preseason. I didn’t really notice Curtis Robinson, but clearly he did enough to make the 53-man roster, even though he’s on IR currently. Marcelino McCrary-Ball had an INT vs the Packers with a really nice 40-yard return, which landed hm a spot on the PS. Due to Oren Burks, being out with a knee injury & Dre Greenlaw recently practicing in a blue jersey (arm) on Labor Day, the 49ers also signed LB Buddy Johnson to the PS. He’s larger, rather than faster, as they already have all speedsters (outside of Oren Burks). Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw & Azeez Al-Shaair are the best ILB trio in football.
The 49ers didn’t lose any TEs, but added veteran Tyler Kroft, who can block & catch, making him possibly their most complete dual-threat TE, after the one and only George Kittle. Charlie Woerner is very good blocker, but hasn’t done a lot of catching. Ross (the boss) Dwelley might have the best hands on the team & gets good separation, but his blocking is not very good.
Mike McGlinchey (RT) is back from his quad tear, but he’s already had a setback – which kept him from playing in all but a little of 1 preseason game – This is a huge concern, as none of backup OTs are nearly as good as him in pass-blocking. The 49ers signed Blake Hance C/G/T to their 53-man roster, which forced them to cut Trey Sermon (RB), their 3rd-round draft pick from 2021. Hance played T most recently in Cleveland. They also signed OT Leroy Watson to the PS. He played TE at 270 LBS & bulked up to 300 LBS to play OT. He has 35-inch arms, which is ideal, if he can develop into a starter, or swing tackle. Hopefully I’m overreacting & these guys are just for depth!
To summarize, the San Francisco 49ers improved significantly this offseason. My only concern is the offensive line & that’s mainly due to the health of Mike McGlinchey and the inexperience of the rest of interior-offensive line. The 49ers defense has the chance to be the absolute best in 2022 & maybe the best overall since the Legion Of Boom days – once Jimmie Ward returns of course. The team still has the best pass-catching trio in the NFC with Deebo, Aiyuk & Kittle. The run-game has never been worse than top-5 under Kyle Shanahan. This season, the 49ers could win rushing title by playing #BullyBall to the extreme.
My record prediction (if McGlinchey stays healthy) is 11-6. I was closer to 13-4, before the news broke that Jimmie Ward is dealing with a significant hamstring-tear.