Article Title: Kick Off 2003-4!
Ah… The season opener is just days a way, and I am literally shivering with anticipation. The 49ers are scheduled to open the season the Sunday against the Chicago Bears. On paper at least, this game tends to lean heavily in favour of our beloved 49ers, but if I may loosely quote a wise member of the 49ers Paradise community, all that means is that this game should be a tight one on the field.
49ers fans across the globe are of course awaiting the true debut of new head coach Dennis Erickson. After harshly dismissing Steve Mariucci in the off-season, the 49ers took their time to arrive at, what they hope is the next great coach of this football club. Erickson has looked capable this off-season, and vows to be more aggressive. While some fans have already jumped on his bandwagon, many others are waiting to see him put his money where his mouth is. We will not have to wait much longer. The revamped coaching staff has two extra members from last year, but is comprised of a healthy mix of new and old coaches. Gregg Knapp still is in charge of the offence, while Jim Mora Jr still coordinates the defence. Both coaches have a large arsenal of experience on their staff to work with.
Neither the Bears nor the 49ers appear to have solid players in the trench. The Bears seem to lack the players, where as the 49ers continue to be banged up. Given that this is where games are won and lost, it should make for an interesting four quarters of football. 49ers center Jeremy Newberry is expected to play despite awesome pain. Fellow offensive lineman Scott Gragg, however, is more likely to sit out giving way to Kosier or Harris. Defensively Bryant Young is expected to return to defensive tackle despite injury.
Jeff Garcia will again start at quarterback for the club. He’ll be backed up by an improving Tim Rattay and a dynamite up and comer in rookie Ken Dorsey. The biggest change on offence may be at receiver where JJ Stokes is officially gone. Terrell Owens will start though his groin injury is nagging, and Tai Streets who is also recovering from injury will man the other position. Cederick Wilson and Brandon Lloyd round out the top four with Arnaz Battle and Arland Bruce finishing the group. Tight end Eric Johnson will miss most of the start of season, as such Jed Weaver a veteran acquisition will be the starter. Garrison Hearst continues to get the nod as the starting running back, but Kevan Barlow is bound to see lots of time on the field. The 49ers will have to find a way to get youngster Jamal Robertson on the field because he is simply explosive. Fred Beasley continues to be the starting fullback and is expected to see the ball more this season. His backup Terry Jackson excels on special teams and is a very versatile back.
On defence the 49ers are still battling injuries at cornerback. Jason Webster is just getting off his crutches which means Mike Rumph will have to step up big time into the starting position. The depth behind them is filled with Rashad Holman and Jimmy Williams. Safeties Zack Bronson and Tony Parrish are expected to be a bright spot of this defence. Ronnie Heard and newcomer Dwaine Carpenter round out the depth in the defensive backfield.
The 49ers are loaded at talent at linebacker. Derek Smith, Jeff Ulbrich and Julian Peterson will get the starting spots. Jamie Winborn will be on the field as much as humanly possible though. Backups Saleem Rasheed and Brandon Moore, are injury but are very solid in their own rights.
On special teams the 49ers are still hurting at kicker and punter. One has to wonder whether that will ever change. At return positions Arland Bruce, Jamal Robertson, and Jimmy Williams should bring some excitement to a dire squad.
Game day is just days away and the 49ers are really beginning to kick it up. This year’s squad looks to be a very strong one especially if they can stay healthy. A huge key will be protecting Jeff Garcia, improving the pass rush, and of course third down and red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball. Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s to an exciting 2003-4 season!