Preseason power rankings: No. 25

The Mike Singletary Era began under a bad moon last October in San Francisco.  But by the time 2008 ended, the Niners were beating the pants off the opposition with regularity.

[Editor’s note:  Curran claims we’re done with the pants-dropping jokes.  He can speak for himself.]

The Niners ended last year as one of the NFL’s hotter teams, winning four of five to close and capturing valuable momentum heading into the offseason.

So how well has that momentum carried over?  Pretty well. 

Singletary’s tone through the Michael Crabtree holdout and the quarterback competition between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill has been spot on.  As to Crabtree, whose holdout is now close to a month old, Singletary hasn’t beaten up on the player, but he’s made it clear that the team will continue to pursue its goals with or without the diva wideout.

Meanwhile, even though the team has given Smith — the first overall selection in 2005 — every chance to reclaim the starting job from Hill, Singletary has made it pretty clear that the best player will play, and it appears that’s going to be Hill.

Would San Fran like to get more bang for the bucks they’ve thrown at Smith?  Certainly.  But they’re not going to force it.

Having finished giving Singletary a rubdown [editor’s note:  hopefully he kept his pants on], how does the team look?

Again, not bad. It’s a below-average team that’s getting better, as opposed to a good one getting worse or an awful one approaching below average.  [Editor’s note:  Yes, we’re looking at you, Detroit.] 

Hill can’t throw the ball through sheet rock (after all, he’s not The Juggernaut), but he shouldn’t have to. Frank Gore is one of the better backs in the league and his only issue — durability — could be mitigated by the presence of rookie Glenn Coffee, who’s been an eye-widener this preseason with 196 yards on 30 carries through two games.  Besides that, Gore is an excellent pass-catcher and gives Hill dumpoff options.

If tight end Vernon Davis can respond to the red-hot poker Singletary is applying to Davis’ backside [editor’s note:  we like you better when you’re only making pants jokes, Curran], he’ll be a valuable weapon.

The wide receiver corps without Crabtree is . . . meh.  Isaac Bruce is 36.  Josh Morgan is unproven, albeit a potential sleeper.  Jason Hill, Arnaz Battle, and Brandon Jones aren’t going to turn secondaries into puddles of goo.  The offensive line is unremarkable, but gets it done.

Defensively, the Singletary effect was most profound. San Fran allowed 3, 14, 14, 16, and 24 points down the stretch in 2008.  In the base 3-4 defense, Isaac Sopoaga, Kentwan Balmer, and Aubrayo Franklin rotate on the line along with defensive end Justin Smith, the team’s 2008 MVP.  The star of the defense is inside linebacker Patrick Willis.  Takeo Spikes is in there with him; Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson are on the outside.  Those guys need to bring more heat than they did in 2008 because the San Francisco secondary, led by corner Nate Clements, is unremarkable.

Key player:  Gore. He wants to be the kind of guy to run for 2,000 yards, but he just doesn’t seem to have the luck to do it.  The Niners need Gore healthy, and if Coffee can keep the wear and tear down on Gore, that’s to the good.

Rookie to watch:  Crabtree, we suppose.  Of course, it’s hard to watch him when he’s playing PS3 in his living room.  It appears the answer to Deion’s question from his Prime U commercials — “Whatcha have to offer the NFL, Mr. Crabtree?” — is going to be, “Not much yet.” 

Best veteran acquisition:  Dre Bly. Initially, we went with Marvel
Smith.  Then, he descended to second string.  Then he retired.  So now
it’s Bly, a corner who has never been as good as he thought he was, but who does
appear to be close to securing the starting right corner spot.

Key game: Week 4, vs. St. Louis Rams.  The Niners have a pretty balanced schedule early, playing at Arizona, home with Seattle. and at Minnesota.  Still, if Seattle steals one at Candlestick, the Niners could be 0-3.  If that comes to pass, the Niners will be in must-win territory early — after the Week 4 game with St. Louis, the Niners have a bye and then road games against Houston and Indy.

5 responses to “Preseason power rankings: No. 25

  1. Curran is the new Tobias Funke. Everything he says sounds a little vroom! vroom! (making vaccuum cleaner motion)

  2. Currna: “after the Week 4 game with St. Louis, the Niners have a bye and then road games against Houston and Indy.”
    looks like we’re going to forfeit the Atlanta game (game #5) and take 2 weeks to prepare for Houston.

  3. “Best veteran acquisition: Marvel Smith.”
    Is a backup for snyder, Dre Bly might have been mentioned or FB norris is back( was there for the big ’06 season then left and gore hasn’t been the same since)

  4. Mike Singletary will be remembered not just for his on-field prowess as a linebacker for the Bears, but for revolutionizing head coaching by forefeiting a game in the regular season to give his team an extending bye week early in the season and for dropping traw.

  5. Warner’sNightmare=Willis, that’s a funny name. Remember, Warner has never lost to the 49ers in regulation. The Cardinals went 6-0 in the division last year. This year they’ve added playmakers McFadden and Wells, and their defense will be more disciplined this year. Other than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and RB Larod Stevens-Howling who had and 89-yard and a 63-yard return in his last game, their wide receivers have been the stars of the offseason with Breaston, Fitzgerald and Urban all in better shape or with better performances than last year. Competition will do that for you. Let’s not forget the other wide receiver, Anquan Boldin who is the NFL’s all-time career leader in receiving yards per game. While the team did get hot in the playoffs and eventually outplayed the Steelers (but not the officials) in the Super Bowl, they were still just 3-7 outside of the division. Maybe Warner’s nightmare would be to wake up one day not having San Francisco twice on the schedule.

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