In an ongoing offseason series, experts from The 33rd Team offer three things each team can do to improve in 2023.
AFC: BAL | CIN | CLE | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LAC | LV | MIA | NE | NYJ | PIT | TEN
NFC: ATL | CAR | DAL | DET | GB | LAR | MIN | NYG | PHI | SEA | TB
I don’t want to get too crazy with this because the San Francisco 49ers are a team that lost in the conference championship game two years in a row. This is a really great football team.
If you look at the skill players they have at running back, wide receiver and tight end, they have some dogs out there who are well-rounded and versatile. And when you look at the defensive side of the ball, Nick Bosa’s that dude, reigning Defensive Player of the Year right now. Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, they’re those guys at linebacker.
Still, there are three things the 49ers can clean up in order to get over the hump.
3 Ways to Improve 49ers
1. No More Quarterback Drama
The first thing I believe they need to do is eliminate all the drama at the quarterback position. One, that’s figuring out who their quarterback is going to be. Obviously they had Jimmy Garoppolo in place for awhile. He wasn’t able to get it done in the big games, he had some moments where he may have a turnover or a fumble, so the 49ers decided to move on. So what happened? You insert Trey Lance as quarterback. He gets injured. Jimmy G comes back. He gets injured. You have Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson that get hurt during this year’s conference championship game.
The one thing that the 49ers need is consistency at quarterback, but more importantly than anything else, they just need somebody to stay healthy. They have everything in place on offense; they are near the bottom of the league in sacks given up, they run the ball as well as most of the teams in the league. We already talked about the dogs at most of the skill positions. Just have a quarterback who can stay healthy, run the offense efficiently and not have any game-changing turnovers, and they’ll be good on the offensive side of the ball.
>> READ: Early 2023 Starting Quarterback Rankings
2. Stop the Splash Plays
Flipping it over to the defense, one thing that kind of popped up for me on a consistent basis throughout the year is giving up the slash plays in the pass game. Dante Pettis caught a big pass against the 49ers in Week 1, and that led to the Chicago Bears winning that game. Then you can look to the Miami Dolphins in the middle of the season where Trent Sherfield caught a seam route in the slot and took it the distance against the 49ers’ defense. Then you can look at Davante Adams going wild with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback with the Las Vegas Raiders. Then you can see DK Metcalf having himself a game in the Wild Card round.
There’s this consistent theme of them giving up splash plays in the pass game, so I think they need to shore it up at the back end. I really like what they’re getting from the safety position, even though I think Jimmie Ward may be gone this year because his contract is up. I really like what they’re getting out of Talanoa Hufanga. The cornerbacks are playing well, they got good play out of Charvarius Ward, and Deommodore Lenoir, he stepped up even though he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, he made some big plays for them as well. They just need to limit those big plays over the top, and I think the one thing that would help them do that is my third key …
3. Get Bosa Some Help
Bosa had 18.5 sacks this season, but it seemed like no one stepped up and gave him this other threat on the opposite side of the line. You look at the Philadelphia Eagles for example – and that’s a really unfair example – but they have four guys that had double-digit sacks. If you look at Chris Jones, he was the leading sack-getter for the Kansas City Chiefs, but they had other guys who had six, eight, close to double-digit sacks. The 49ers, if they had another threat opposite Bosa, that would help the back end of the defense as well.
Arik Armstead playing only nine games this season may have had a little bit to do with it, but I think if you get some help for Bosa, create a little more pressure from that position, that would help the back end, which improves the defense that’s already one of the better ones in the league. You combine that with some consistent, healthy offensive play, and the 49ers may finally be able to get over that hump and secure that Super Bowl ring they’ve been chasing for the past few years.
Tank Williams played five seasons in the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @TankWilliams13