The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Report date: July 27 for rookies and veterans
Where: Santa Clara, California
1. Can Carlos Hyde take the next step?
Hyde, the former Ohio state standout and 2014 second-round pick, has shown plenty of ability during his first three seasons. It’s just a matter of consistently being on the field – he’s already missed 14 games out of a possible 48 – and not suffering mental lapses. He tied a league-worst (for running backs) with five fumbles last year. Make no mistake though: Hyde has the power and enough wiggle to be a star. Last year, he amassed career highs in yards (988), yards per carry (4.6) and touchdowns (nine). It’s simply a matter of putting it all together. New coach Kyle Shanahan will have to figure out in camp if Hyde is a good fit for his zone-blocking scheme.
2. Is Brian Hoyer a capable stop-gap?
At $12 million for two years, Hoyer is a fine bargain. A quality veteran with plenty of starting experience, the 31-year-old has amassed a career 16-15 record as a starter. Better yet, he enjoyed success with Kyle Shanahan back in 2014 when the current 49ers coach was calling plays in Cleveland. To be sure, San Francisco doesn’t have any delusional expectations for this season, but if Hoyer – running Shanahan’s West Coast-based offense – can muster a good year, it certainly would help this franchise as it tries to take a step forward after its utter string of mediocrity.
[Pressing Questions: Fantasy outlook on the 49ers]
3. Is this defense ready to make the jump we think it can?
Expectations are robust for a 49ers unit that ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed last season. Newly minted defensive coordinator Robert Saleh brings with him the 4-3 and perhaps that will help former first-round picks DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, both of whom are in line for breakout campaigns on the defensive line. But scheme only matters so much. Personnel rules in this league, and a talented duo of safeties in Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid have to make a boatload of plays, particularly if the line isn’t getting into the opposing backfield. Don’t forget about Solomon Thomas either. The third pick in April’s draft has all of the tools to become a dominant two-way defensive end. Getting comfortable with Saleh’s new defense will be a big priority as camp begins.
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