With training camp getting closer, the San Francisco 49ers are not far from beginning another run at their elusive sixth championship. The team has an all-or-nothing feel to it this year, in large part due to the fact that there could be some significant roster changes after the season.
The 49ers have to take things one step at a time however, and getting through the summer is the first hurdle. Here is a look at five realistic training camp goals for San Francisco.
1. Stay Healthy
It goes without saying that the main objective for the 49ers should be to get out of training camp with their roster completely healthy. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, and every team has to deal with players going down.
One way you will see the team try to combat the injury bug and minimize risk is by giving their key veterans time off. Don’t expect to see much action from players like Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis or even Colin Kaepernick in preseason games.
2. Stay out of trouble
Given the recent issues the team has had with players getting into trouble with the law, they may want to lock everyone in their rooms after practice.
In all seriousness, the 49ers have to hope that the troubles of Aldon Smith are a thing of the past, as he has probably ran out of chances. One more incident could mean an end to his tenure in San Francisco.
The 49ers are also still waiting on a resolution with the Kaepernick incident in Miami, although it doesn’t appear that there will be any punishment to come from that.
Beyond what has already happened, the team will hope that no other players put themselves in a bad position, and the roster can concentrate on football for the summer as the season approaches.
3. Determine roles
The 49ers will have their share of position battles to sort out during camp. They will have to find a replacement for NaVorro Bowman, determine who will be Gore’s primary backup and figure out what cornerbacks beyond Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver and Jimmie Ward will make the team.
There is also some question as to who the return man will be, considering LaMichael James‘ future is up in the air.
4. Remedy contract issues
The team has said that a long term deal for Kaepernick is their primary objective and would like to get something done sooner rather than later. If the 49ers haven’t come to an agreement with Kaepernick by the time camp opens, it could be a distraction from day one.
It’s unlikely Mike Iupati or Michael Crabtree get extensions any time soon, but it will be interesting to see how the team handles the situations of Vernon Davis and Alex Boone. Both players skipped recent OTAs, reportedly because they were unhappy with their contracts.
5. See progress from rookies (and first-year players)
The 49ers have gotten exactly one starter out of their 2012 and 2013 draft classes (Eric Reid). While it’s still unknown if anyone in the 2014 draft class will line up with the first units, San Francisco will at least want to see progression from their rookies.
The nickel corner position is Jimmie Ward’s to lose, and Marcus Martin could be the starting center come Week one. Other rookies that will be battling for serious playing time are Bruce Ellington (returner), Carlos Hyde (primary backup runningback) and Chris Borland (inside linebacker).
Beyond the traditional rookies who will be competing are first-year players who were “redshirted” last season as they recovered from injuries. The two names everyone will be watching are Cornellius “Tank” Carradine and Marcus Lattimore.
Carradine will be in the mix to be the first defensive lineman off the bench to spell Ray McDonald or Smith, and Lattimore will compete to see carries behind Gore. The 49ers are hoping Carradine and Lattimore show enough to not only be able to contribute this year but for seasons to come.
Photo: Getty Images
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