September 05 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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19 hours, 36 minutes, 26 seconds, (at the time of writing this) until the 49ers and Giants kickoff the 2002 NFL season in the first ever Thursday Kick Off Game. The 2002-3 season is being hyped as one of the most exciting NFL seasonís in history. Parity throughout the league means anyone can win the Big Game this season. Powerhouse teams obviously lead the pack, but like in years past, itís anybodyís season.
The 49ers are on the quest for an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl Championship, and they really do have the potential talent to go all the way. Obviously health and luck weigh heaving on any team, but providing the 49ers are on the upper end of both those areas, they really do have a shot at their sixth Championship.
The offense is loaded with weapons. Terrell Owens is perhaps the biggest offensive threat in the league, and Jeff Garcia does a very good job of finding Owens, even in double and triple coverage. Of course, the backfield which features one of the best groups of running backs will have a large part in the 49ers offense too. Garrison Hearst, Kevan Barlow, Fred Beasley, Paul Smith, Terry Jackson and Jamal Robertson all bring a unique style to the field. The 49ers have found a tight end that can make plays in Eric Johnson. Somewhere in all this talent, at least one of: JJ Stokes, Tai Streets and Cedrick Wilson are bound to show up big. The offensive line will be key in winning battles in the trenches. Thought this group is not regarded as the best in the league, if they can perform as well, or better than last year, the 49ers offense should be in great shape.
Defensively the 49ers believe that shuffling through eight defensive lineman is the key to a better pass rush. Really I think the rush will come from Tony Parrish, the newly acquired strong safety playing up at the line of scrimmage. The linebacking core is solid and will be on the upswing as the season progresses and Jeff Ulbrich and Saleem Rasheed return. The defensive backfield should be better than last year. Webster and Plummer still man the corner positions, but rookie Mike Rumph and an extra year for Rashad Holman and Jimmy Williams should help the 49ers match up against explosive offenses.
Special teams is still a bit of a question mark. The 49ers need to be able to win the field position battle if they want to be real contenders in this league. The team will turn to Jimmy Williams for that. The team also needs stability at place kicker, and they hope that Jose Cortez can bring the team that.
The coaching staff is among the best in the league. Marriucci at the helm with Greg Knapp and Jim Mora manning the offensive and defensive coordinator positions. The team has some of the best coaches from top to bottom and that should make for a well disciplined and focused football team.
Get excited. NFL 2002-3 is finally here!