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High Expectations / Low Expectations / Put up or Shut up

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I saw this thread in NFL Gen and the Dolphins team forum (originally posted by @cddolphin, for full credit), and I thought this was a good idea. Concept is simple. Who on the 49ers do you have high expectations for this year, who do you have low expectations for, and who do you view as in make or break situation.  This can also include rookies, they are not excluded. Here was my initial response in the NFL Gen thread: 

High Expectations:

  • George Kittle- He looked pretty good last year, and I do think that there is a legit, pretty good starting tight end in there. 2 things he needs to work on are his health (he was constantly nicked up last year), and his drops. He dropped a ton of passes last year, and while it isn't Vance McDonald bad, it was way higher than any of the upper echelon tight ends. But the talent is there, and his ability to line up pretty much anywhere you can put a tight end is a boon. He has some great athleticism and if he can put it all together, I see no reason why he can't have the upside of someone like Ertz. But he's got to put it together. While I don't know if he gets everything together this year, I do suspect he's going to have a really nice season if he stays healthy.
  • Deforest Buckner- So this is a little bit of cheating because he's already a stud for those who know, but I think that there is a good chance he could take another step forward. While the defense hasn't made leaps and bounds with regards to the talent that has been added, it is much better defensively than it has been the last couple of years. Buckner is a guy that has created a ton of pressure from his position, but simply hasn't been able to quite get to the finish line and get the sacks (only 3 last year, but 6 the year before, which is fairly solid from the interior). With what should hopefully be improved secondary play between an improving Witherspoon, the addition of Sherman, Ward moving back to corner, Tartt coming along at safety, maybe the coverages don't break down quite as quickly. While Buckner has struggled against double teams up front, I'm hopeful that the emergence of Solomon Thomas, who will be moved inside on passing downs to rush the passer (his best spot) along with Buckner, will help alleviate those double teams. 

Low Expectations: 

  • Joshua Garnett- I'm notorious for being ready to move on from players / draft picks that I didn't like at the time they were made. If I wasn't a fan, they get a much shorter leash. Garnett was pretty awful his rookie season, missed his entire second season to "reshape his body", and is an overall poor fit for ZBS. Right now, Garnett isn't seen as a starter for the team with both Tomlinson and the newly signed, injury plagued Johnathan Cooper expected to get the starting nods at guard. Through OTAs, Garnett has split a lot of reps with something called a "Mike Person", which I don't view as a good sign, though admittedly the staff has said nothing but nice things about Garnett and this could be more conditioning related than anything. But I'm not expecting much of anything from him. The 49ers lack a 5th round pick in this upcoming draft from the Tomlinson trade, and I wouldn't be at all shocked it Garnett is moved at some point prior to the season to try and recoup that. 
  • Arik Armstead- I almost put him in the "crap or get off the pot" field, however the fact of that matter is that for some reason, we already picked up his fifth year option and he's got absolutely no value through trade, so there's really no reason to get rid of him at this point. Armstead was quietly a very efficient pass rusher from this 3-4 end spot the first two years, but has been injury plagued throughout his career, and I don't view him as a natural fit in our current defensive scheme. He's now moving from 3-4 end, to pass rushing LEO, to the "big end" in our defensive scheme, and I think any time you are start carelessly playing with positions (not to mention a players weight), it's never a great sign and a lack of consistency has really killed some growth potential. 
  • Richard Sherman- This is basically just injury related. At his age, with that injury, I find it highly unlikely that he's a stud on the outside, though that doesn't mean he won't be a solid corner for us. I just don't expect nearly all pro like play from him. 

Crap or get off the Pot: 

  • Malcolm Smith - We gave Smith a pretty insane contract last year for what he was, then he promptly missed the entire season with a torn pec. It made no sense to cut him this year as his dead money was higher than the cap hit, and though there are limited savings next year, he could be a guy that ends up gone if he doesn't show up. We drafted Fred Warner in the third round this year, and he's looked very good through OTAs so far. While it would probably take a lot for him to pass up Smith on the depth chart, if Smith struggles or Warner really does shine, it is possible that would happen and Smith could easily be gone after the year is over, despite a minimal cap savings. 
  • Joe Williams- Williams was a bit of a surprise 4th round pick last year, then was clearly outplayed by Matt Breida all throughout the off season. While Williams appears to be a natural running the football, ball security issues reared their ugly head, and he has offered little outside of being able to run the football - pass catching and blocking are not strong points to his game. The team only kept 3 natural running backs on the roster last year. We just gave McKinnon a bajillion dollars for some reason, so he's safe, and I don't think it's likely that Williams can catch up with Breida, who looked very good at points last year. Williams will battle with Mostert for that RB 3 spot, and while Williams is obviously the more talented running back, he doesn't play special teams, while Mostert is a special teams stud for us. I suppose it's possible that we keep 5 running backs on the roster (including Juice Check at FB), but I'm not sure. So this could easily be a make or break season for Joe Williams already. 

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From an outsider's perspective, I have high expectations for RB Matt Breida. Sure, McKinnon is the hot name and the sexier option as a pass-catcher, but Breida at times looked more effective than Hyde behind the same OL and against the same fronts. I wouldn't be surprised, and in fact expect Breida to lead the team in rushing attempts.

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1 hour ago, Forge said:

Richard Sherman- This is basically just injury related. At his age, with that injury, I find it highly unlikely that he's a stud on the outside, though that doesn't mean he won't be a solid corner for us. I just don't expect nearly all pro like play from him. 

I don't have terribly high expectations for him individually, but I think his presence is going to help our entire secondary. I think we'll see a big step up from our guys this year, even if Sherman isn't what he used to be. Then again, he might very well be a very good player too.

I don't actually have high expectations for any individual. I think most of our team is built on several committees. RB by committee, with the Jet and Breida, receiver by committee with all the guys we have. Kittle has a chance to be the guy at TE, but I still expect a solid contribution from Celek. Our pass rush should go by committee as well. We have several interior DLs who can rotate. We have several LBs as well, and only Foster so far seems to be special. We have good young DBs, a potentially super vet in Sherman, and a wild card in Jimmie Ward. I could easily imagine Spoon being our best DB, for all I know. 

In other words, I have high expectations for our DBs, average expectations for our LBs and pass rush, high expectations for Buck, high for our receivers as a group, but average for any individual, low expectations for our TEs, but higher for Kittle perhaps, and high expectations for our OL, to be honest. 

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1 hour ago, rudyZ said:

I don't have terribly high expectations for him individually, but I think his presence is going to help our entire secondary. I think we'll see a big step up from our guys this year, even if Sherman isn't what he used to be. Then again, he might very well be a very good player too.

I don't actually have high expectations for any individual. I think most of our team is built on several committees. RB by committee, with the Jet and Breida, receiver by committee with all the guys we have. Kittle has a chance to be the guy at TE, but I still expect a solid contribution from Celek. Our pass rush should go by committee as well. We have several interior DLs who can rotate. We have several LBs as well, and only Foster so far seems to be special. We have good young DBs, a potentially super vet in Sherman, and a wild card in Jimmie Ward. I could easily imagine Spoon being our best DB, for all I know. 

In other words, I have high expectations for our DBs, average expectations for our LBs and pass rush, high expectations for Buck, high for our receivers as a group, but average for any individual, low expectations for our TEs, but higher for Kittle perhaps, and high expectations for our OL, to be honest. 

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Posted (edited)

Hmmm, this is a good idea.

High Expectations:

  • Jimmy G. - Without sounding obvious, I want to see if he can continue to build on last season and work on his deep ball. As some have already mentioned from the OTA forum, his deep ball hasn't been pretty. Besides that I think he will continue to grow and it definitely helps when you have Shanahan as your OC/HC.
  • Deforest Buckner - I agree with what you mentioned above Forge.
  • Akhello Witherspoon - I like what I saw from in his rookie season and now with Sherman coaching and giving advice to these young guys, I hope he's able to continue thriving. 
  • Jaquiski Tartt - before his injury last year, he was looking promising as our starting safety. Actually both him and Colbert, so I'm interested to see how he comes back especially with his contract coming up for rebid.

I have more Crap or Get off the Pot, than I do Low Expectations, so here you go:

  • Jimmie Ward - position change after position change, and consistent injuries every year. There have been a couple of games where he has started strong and looked promising, but then he gets derailed ala Armstead and gets hurt.
  • Arik Armstead, Malcom Smith, Joshua Garnett - Same reasons as you wrote Forge.
  • Laken Tomlinson - I know, who am I not going to list from our o-line, but our guard play doesn't look desirable and I know Shanahan expects more out of our center, but I'm a bit nervous what will come of our guards. 

 

Edited by StevenK

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You took my guy Kittle! So I'll skip him and go with other guys.

High Expectations:

Ahkello Witherspoon - Started a bit slow but you could see from day one he was a natural cover corner. His tackling which was a big concern was actually really solid. Didn't like his performance vs the Rams to end the season where he looked a bit lazy, but overall was as good as advertised in his rookie campaign. It looks like he put on some weight and has had a good offseason thus far. Barely getting targeted, and when he has been targeted he has made nice plays on the ball. Going to be a stud, and could be THE reason the secondary is above average. 

Jimmy Garoppolo - I just think he is going to be one of the better QBs in the league and have a monster season. Sure he struggled last practice, but from all reports he has been lights out. Which may tell us something about our defense (lol), but good to see him kill it in the red zone. I've mentioned my concerns of his deep ball due to his sloppy footwork at times, and looks like he is still off on it during OTAs/minicamp. Don't like to hear that, but it's only going to change once he fixes his footwork. Doesn't seem like Shanny is too concerned about it, but he needs to be at least decent in that area to be borderline elite. Either way, this offense will be top 5 in the league, mainly due to Jimmy G.

Solomon Thomas - If he gets more rushes from the inside which seems to be the plan, then he has a chance to have around 8 sacks next season. He is never going to be a good edge rusher, but as long as he is a dominant run defender from the edge and a good inside rusher, then he will make a big time contribution. Buckner is by far the better player, but think Thomas is a bit more explosive and that will help him pile up more sacks. Would be great if both could combine for around 15 sacks next season. Don't think that is a unrealistic expectation either. But the caveat is if Thomas does get majority of the rushes when we go to nickel from the inside. Though Armstead will surely be rotating with him Thomas/Buckner.

Low Expectations: 

Cassius Marsh - He is going to be on the field opposite Attochu, but I just don't think he is going to give us much. I know he had some nice pass rushing numbers after signing here mid way through the season, but I'm just not expecting much. He's had plenty of shots elsewhere and has been mediocre as it gets, if not worse. Saleh/Shanny sure seem to like him, but maybe that is because of what little we have at that position. So far it seems like he hasn't gotten anywhere against Staley/McGlinchey. And I don't expect that to change during training camp. Hoping he proves me wrong though. 

Eli Harold - Some how some way, this man looks to be the starter again at the SAM position. He just gives no pass rush and isn't exactly a great cover backer. Sets the edge fairly well, but that's it. Very disappointing that it seems like he will be the starter when an argument could be made that he shouldn't even be on the team. Really hoping someone like Pita emerges at training camp and usurps him. A position that will likely need to be addressed next offseason. 

Jonathon Cooper - Doesn't look like Joshua Garnett's weight loss has helped him much and Copper will be the guy that gets the first shot at RG. The former 1st round bust is in his third team in five years for a reason. Some Cowboys fans have said he played better down the stretch but not going to get my hopes up. Garoppolo's quick release will help in pass protection like he does with any OL, but what will he give in the run game? Not sure of his fit in this scheme. Meh.

Crap or get off the Pot:

Earl Mitchell - He wasn't very good last season and needs to do something to keep his spot on this team next season. Had some occasional success pushing the pocket, but overall was more of a negative than a positive. Mitchell could very well be replaced by DJ Jones or someone else. I feel confident in saying next year will be his last year on the team, and he gets replaced at some point.

Malcom Smith - As stated already, got a terrible contract that he never deserved. It was a case of a team having insane amount of cap space and terrible talent so they overpaid for him since he has some experience in the scheme. Not good news for him that he has been getting replaced by Warner when the defense is in nickel as that is one of his strengths. He surely wasn't given that contract because of his run stopping ability. He had 23 missed tackles a few years ago, I repeat 23 MISSED TACKLES. So yeah, please do something to make that contract only look bad and not TERRIBLE.

Laken Tomlinson - Definitely don't feel good listing one starting guard under low expectations and another one on this list but this is the reality of the situation. At times last year this guy was just as bad as Beadles and Kilgore which is saying something. Did finish the season strong but that was mainly due to Jimmy G taking over. Good thing for him is Jimmy G will be the starting QB from the start next season. However, his 5th year option wasn't picked up and he will need to show something to get a contract from this team. 

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Tomlinson is a great pick for put up or shut up. Wish I had thought of him

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I definitely forgot about Eli Harold for low expectations. 

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Short and sweet, but I seem to be rolling along these days with lots of football optimism.

So, I guess I can throw a general high expectation across the roster. All will likely not deserve this, but that's the point of seeing each year unfold. 

 

Cool thread though for the people that have and like to be far more in-depth specific.  :) 

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