Hosts Thoughts: What non-QB story to pay attention to out of 49ers camp
Jul 31, 2023, 11:16 AM
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
From now until the start of the NFL season, 49ers training camp will be filled with stories about Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, and Sam Darnold.
Is Purdy healthy enough to lead the team? Who should be the backup quarterback, Darnold or Lance? Why is Brandon Allen still around?
But what are the non-quarterback storylines that fans should pay attention to out in Santa Clara? Here’s what our hosts think:
Kevin “Whitey” Gleason
For the third time in the last four years, the 49ers have a new Defensive Coordinator heading into camp. Given the amount of talent the club has on that side of the ball, there’s no doubt Steve Wilks will oversee an outstanding defense. The question is, how will Wilks make his mark on the 49ers’ defense? How will his defense look different from DeMeco Ryans’ or Robert Saleh’s?
Camp observers say a new focus on preventing the deep pass is already evident. But while many expect Wilks, given his history, to blitz more than his predecessors, we won’t know much about that until the regular season starts. And given the talent the 49ers have up front with the addition of Javon Hargrave, the 49ers may be able to routinely bring pressure without blitzing.
For me, you have to look at the most important positions and or most important players to any team. On the 49ers, the players that fit this label include the quarterbacks, all-world tackle Trent Williams and the best pass rusher in the NFL Nick Bosa. Since the QBs don’t qualify for this question and Williams is in camp, my guy is Bosa.
I think it is just a matter of time before he is signed but there are things to watch regarding Bosa. Who develops on that lethal D-line while he is out, also what kind of payday will he actually get? The Niners want him, he wants to be there and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and former Rookie Defensive Player of the Year is about to get PAID! He’s 25, he deserves it, the Niners need him, he makes them special and we all want to see him sprinting off the edge the second the opposing QB calls for the snap.
I am really looking forward to the Bosa Bucks as my favorite non-qb storyline.
1. The Arrival of Javon Hargrave
Slapping a guy like Hargrave onto this defense is just silly, in all the greatest ways. How long will it take him to acclimate, if any time at all? How will he blend with new DC Steve Wilks? How will any offensive line contain him plus Bosa plus a healthy Armstead plus everyone else? And is this the first time a defense has had dueling Javons (Kinlaw)? I don’t know, but I love it.
2. The Disease of More
Pat Riley’s phrase was meant to apply to championship teams and the subsequent fallout, and although the Niners lack The Championship, I think we can apply it here. I’m speaking specifically about the offense.
I’m not worried about Kyle Juszczyk or Ross Dwelley or Jauan Jennings, I’m talking about the Big Boys: Deebo, Aiyuk, McCaffrey, and Kittle. This has a chance to be an all-time offense if Purdy can continue his climb to semi-greatness. The projections for the former Mr. Irrelevant range from cute little fluke to Tom Brady 2.0 and I honestly don’t know which is more correct. But if everything leans toward the latter, this offense could be something to see, and I mean Something To See.
But it’s going to take a massive lack of selflessness to make it work the best it can, and when it comes to receivers, that’s generally not the case. Some days it might be Aiyuk, some days it might be Deebo, some days it might be Kittle. Who knows? But these guys are going to have to get comfortable with being the occasional decoy, and selling those routes as if they were the ones getting the pigskin. If they do, and they stay relatively healthy, their reward will be a big fat diamond ring in February.
3. Brandon Aiyuk
No, I’m not interested in his skills, all signs point to an even better year than the thousand-plus yard year he had in 2023.
I’m referring to how we pronounce his last name. Now I was always under the assumption that it was “eye-YOOK” and moved on with my day. But too many otherwise very talented announcers have taken to pronouncing it “EYE-ook”.
Our resident Brandon-ologist Amil Fragoso (and ASU alum like Aiyuk) assured me that it is in fact “eye-YOOK”, and that’s good enough for me. Now if we could just get a league memo out there that would be great.
4. Nick Bosa’s Contract
He ain’t goin’ nowhere. The Niners ain’t letting him sit out. He’s going to be the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history (for like 10 minutes) and both sides know that. So I aint worried. I imagine this is the typical “vet has a contract coming up and both sides would just assume he is wrapped in bubble wrap anyway so grab a hammock and we’ll figure it out soon enough” situation.
Strap in. This Niner team could be great, and by great I mean an ALL-TIME great team.