Coming off another frustrating loss for the third season in a row, it’s now or never for the San Francisco 49ers. At 12-4 on the 2013 season the Niners came one play away from heading to their second straight Super Bowl appearance only to have their dreams shattered by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. To make matters even worse, offseason headlines have been all but promising of a 2014 comeback with the possible loss of Aldon Smith and troublesome ventures of Colin Kaepernick. In any matter the 49ers remain grounded and determined seal the deal in 2014.
With the end of Colt McCoy’s contract San Francisco reached out to the Jaguars to obtain Blaine Gabbert as their number 2 quarterback for a sixth round pick. While the club is hoping to only use Gabbert as a number 2, having a solid first round pick to take over the reins if necessary is always reassuring. Brandon Lloyd will join forces with Crabtree, Boldin, and Patton as the 49ers newest wide out and has the potential to be the solid #3 receiver Harbaugh has been looking for. Lloyd has taken on a persona of a downfield highlight reel receiver in the past but at 33 years old has had to reinvent his game as a reliable pass catcher anywhere on the field. The offense will also return Mario Manningham and Marcus Lattimore from injuries to hopefully provide another spark in the huddle. While the presence of Aldon Smith on the field is no doubt significant, losing him in the 2014 season is not the end all be all for San Francisco’s defense. There is no getting around the fact that Smith is a rare athlete (40 sacks in his first 38 starts) but with high reward comes high risk and a defense with plenty of weapons it’s a risk the 49ers must pass on to reach their pinnacle in 2014.
For 49ers fans all home games this year are going to be big as the Niners will break in their newly constructed Levi’s Stadium after bidding farewell to Candlestick Park last year. Look for visits from the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, and San Diego Chargers to Santa Clara to take on the red and gold in their new home. While these are all great games to check out at Levi’s Stadium, the game at the top of the list should be when Alex Smith brings his Kansas City Chiefs back to the Bay for the first time since departing from the team he helped build. Smith was a Niner for seven seasons before he took over in Kansas City and lead the Chiefs to an 11-5 record and will surely get a warm welcome back to the Bay. If there was one game to take it all though, it would have to be the 2013 NFC Championship rematch against the Seattle Seahawks. You can be certain blood will be boiling when this rivalry hits the field in San Francisco, especially between a certain cornerback and “mediocre” wide receiver.
Having spent the past three season on the brink of the Super Bowl there is no reason to think the 49ers won’t head right back to the playoffs in 2014. With another year of experience under Kaepernick’s belt the offense should be at the top of their game, especially when it comes to clock management, something Kap has struggled with in his first few years. To get back to the Super Bowl San Francisco is going to have to win in Seattle. They went 2-0 at CenturyLink Field in 2013 and it cost them the NFC Championship both times. With 11 picks in the upcoming draft the 49ers are poised to load up on some fresh new talent and don’t be surprised if Harbaugh works out a deal to move up from the 30th overall pick like they did last year to get LSU Safety Eric Reid.