SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (15-4)
CAMP SITE: Santa Clara, California
LAST YEAR: Niners broke through in coach Kyle Shanahan’s third season. Team garnered top seed in NFL with 13 wins and earned trip to Super Bowl before blowing late lead to Kansas City. Defense took major step forward thanks to emergence of Defensive Rookie of Year Nick Bosa and healthy season from CB Richard Sherman. QB Jimmy Garoppolo returned from season-ending knee injury to lead efficient offense that relied heavily on run game and TE George Kittle.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: T Trent Williams, DT Javon Kinlaw, WR Brandon Aiyuk, OL Tom Compton, WR Travis Benjamin.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: T Joe Staley, DT DeForest Buckner, WR Emmanuel Sanders, RB Matt Breida, G Mike Person.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Niners handled retirement of longtime LT Staley by acquiring seven-time Pro Bowler Williams from Washington. Now they need to get him back up to speed after missing last season and build rapport with rest of line after not having offseason program to speed along process.
CAMP NEEDS: Biggest questions are at receiver where Sanders left in free agency and last year’s rookie sensation Deebo Samuel is dealing with foot injury. Niners hopeful Sanders will be healthy by start of season but need to develop additional options for Garoppolo among 2019 second-season disappointment Dante Pettis, returning injured players Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd, and first-round rookie Aiyuk.
EXPECTATIONS: After coming within one quarter of championship, finishing job this season is task in San Francisco. Avoiding Super Bowl runner-up hangover will be challenge. Only three teams have won it all a year after losing title game with 2018 Patriots only ones to do it in past 47 seasons. GM John Lynch replaced biggest losses from last year by adding Williams, Kinlaw, Aiyuk to replace Staley, Buckner, Sanders. Continued improvement from Garoppolo should help offense, especially if contract issues can be worked out with star tight end Kittle, RB Raheem Mostert. Healthy season from DE Dee Ford could help defensive front make up for loss of Buckner.
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