It's getting close! The start of the 2014 season for the Dallas Cowboys is just a couple of days away. As is customary, we preview each opponent by asking Five Questions of the enemy blog, in this case Niners Nation.
Blogging The Boys: The 49ers offense bogged down in the preseason. Is there anything there that could carry over to the regular season, or was it just a case of preseason not really mattering?
Niners Nation: My biggest concern with the offense is the offensive line. The 49ers had Joe Looney and Jonathan Martin playing at right guard and right tackle while Alex Boone held out, and Anthony Davis dealt with a shoulder injury. Boone and Davis remain question marks for the opener, so there is still some concern with such a new group of players together. The 49ers had the same five starters the last two seasons, so having a new center, and potentially new right guard and right tackle for the short term are concerning. Looney and Martin looked decent enough later in the preseason, but it's something to worry about.
In terms of the rest of the team, the 49ers generally keep things fairly vanilla. As long as the line can stand up to the Cowboys defense, I'm not overly concerned about play-calling and execution at this point. A poor performance on Sunday though, and we won't be able to say, "oh, it was just the preseason."
BTB: Give us some more detail on Aldon Smith missing the game and what that means on defense. Also, does the Ray McDonald situation have any effect on the game?
NN: Smith is out the first nine games of the season, which means the 49ers will start some combination of Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier in his place. The most likely scenario is Skuta handling base down work, and Lemonier coming in on nickel situations. That is how they handled it last season when Smith was in rehab. Lemonier is a very talented pass rusher, but obviously he is not Aldon Smith. It hurts, but is not crippling.
The Ray McDonald situation is tough to call. Based on recent comments from Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke, I think McDonald plays. However, the 49ers are currently investigating, and if something comes up between now and Sunday that is bad for McDonald, he could very well sit. My guess is he plays, but that could easily change.
BTB: What's the status on the offensive line? Should 49ers' fans be worried about it?
NN: We still don't know if Alex Boone and Anthony Davis will play on the right side. Backup RT Jonathan Martin struggled early in camp and the preseason, but he came on fairly well in the latter part of August. He dealt with mono earlier this summer, which led to him losing some weight. He is getting his strength back, so he should be a capable replacement in the short term. Joe Looney is a better pass blocker than run blocker, which goes against a lot of what the 49ers do. It really comes down to how the right side of the line performs. If it's Looney and Martin, they take a step back, but they are still capable enough.
BTB: Who is new to the 49ers that you're excited about, and who left that gives you worries?
NN: I'm excited for the debut of running back Carlos Hyde. Frank Gore continues to roll along, but I think we see Hyde emerge as the starter by next season. For now though, I think we see him getting somewhere around 8-10 rushes per game. He is a between-the-tackles runner, and he brings some serious size and power. He has been treated like the clear No. 2 in the preseason, getting a decent amount of rest. I don't think we see him turn this into a committee backfield, but he is going to get plenty of work.
The 49ers lost some notable veterans, including S Donte Whitner, C Jonathan Goodwin, and OL Adam Snyder. I honestly am not overly concerned about the losses, but of that group, I'd probably say Goodwin leaves the most room for concern. Goodwin was not a great offensive lineman, but for the 49ers, he did solid work as the center. My concern is more with not knowing what Daniel Kilgore will do in his place. The 49ers drafted Kilgore in 2011, and this will be his first time in the starting lineup. He's been OK during the preseason, but it's still a question mark.
BTB: What's is your view on the Jim Harbaugh/49ers front office issues. As someone who doesn't follow the 9ers daily, I wonder how much is real and how much is media sensation.
NN: I think there is some tension because Jim Harbaugh is a guy who lives a bit on the edge, and seems to thrive on an "us against the world" sort of mentality. That being said, I think there has been some overreaction on this. The Browns thing was as much agent and Browns front office driven as anything. He was not going to the Cleveland Browns. It will help matters considerably if the 49ers win the Super Bowl, because then there really would be no excuses for 49ers CEO Jed York to not just dump as much cash on Harbaugh's lawn as he requires. If the 49ers come up short, I think all bets are off for what happens next.
Thanks Niners Nation.
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