And so, another largely pointless NFL preseason is about to end, another 65-game hamster wheel race that reveals next to nothing except our capacity for self-delusion when it comes to professional football.In other words, it all means something unless you dont want it to mean anything. Or it means nothing unless you want it to mean something. Neither matters as long as you keep tapping that vein.And yet, whats the alternative? Two more real games that serve mostly to keep people talking and increase the damage done to assets equipment . . . er, players bodies?Amazing, then, when you think of it. A month of valueless non-entertainment ends up being less valuable than two more games of time-bomb carnage, and the NFL wins either way. In fact, amazing doesnt even begin to cover it. Breathtaking comes closer to the truth. Yes, August is an important month for coaches who want answers to small questions and players on the fringe who are hoping to be those answers. But for the rest of America, at least the large segment that believes that any football at all is better than the best of anything else, this really is the shining monument to ones ability to want to be gulled.I once thought that the NFL was responsible for this morass of late summer nonsense, and maybe in a conspiratorial way it still is. In the last 10 years, it has performed a mind-meld with its customer base to convince that everything is hugely important even when the large percentage of it truly is not.Example: The Indianapolis combine. And dont even try to make an argument for it. Youre wrong, youve been wrong, and youll always be wrong. Its large young men in their underwear running, jumping and lifting heavy things, and thats all it is.But the practice game season has always been considered a joke to most folks that is, until we decided as a media-driven collective (providers and consumers alike) that trying to ferret out what is important from what isnt is not nearly as lucrative as throwing everything into the air, calling it all important and letting the blather fall where it may.In other words, feeding the beast. And not because there was a great demand for it from the customer, but because the technology allows us to make a bigger and more ravenous beast.The NFL didnt make this beast, but it saw what it could be when it was a mere beastlet. There was an information explosion coming, and the NFL leaped into the breach to convince people that it needed to be among the first in line to fill the crater.And so it is. And the proof is every August, and every time someone wants to engage in a discussion about which third-string quarterback would be a better fit for backup clipboard for Your Favorite Team. Twenty years ago, this debate either got you clocked in your favorite tavern, or got you your own end of the bar, away from everyone else.Now, you can get a spirited discussion on why the NFL blackout policy sucks in the preseason, even though no games are worth watching. Veterans now sit out entire preseasons without penalty, but everyone agrees that is prudent. Thus, we have games people want to see that are games veterans know are time-wasters. It is jaw-dropping.But after this weekend, mercifully, the worst month of the year will be over, and we can get down to the really important things that make the NFL what it is today.Namely, the five months of high speed collisions that will shape the events that help you prepare more comprehensively for the upcoming draft in April.And you could never truly have that with in 18-game regular season.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
The 49ers enter their first training camp under head coach Kyle Shanahan Thursday with plenty of questions to be answered.
But don't worry, one of the hardest-hitting questions already has its answer. On Monday, ratings for every first-round rookie were revealed for "Madden NFL 18."
Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who the 49ers traded back and took with the third pick in the draft, comes in at 79 overall. Thomas is tied with two others as the fourth-highest rated rookie in the game.
Over two seasons with Stanford, Thomas recorded 98 tackles, 24.5 for loss, and 12 sacks.
San Francisco traded back into the first round to add another piece to their defense in linebacker Reuben Foster with the No. 31 overall pick. The former Alabama star starts off his Madden career with a 76 overall rating. He is tied with five other rookies for the seventh-best rating.
In three years at Alabama, Foster racked up 211 tackles, 23 for loss, and seven sacks.
The 49ers report to training camp Thursday with 51 of the 90 players on their offseason roster coming to the organization since the arrivals of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.
So, yes, there are a lot of questions surrounding the 49ers, who finished last season 2-14 and the second-worst team in the league behind the Cleveland Browns.
Here are ten questions from followers on Facebook that seem to be most on the minds of 49ers fans on the eve of reporting day:
1. How much better is the coaching staff compared to last season's coaching staff? (Raymond Robles)
That remains to be seen, but there is little doubt Kyle Shanahan has in place a proven NFL offensive system. General manager Trent Baalke did not give Chip Kelly much talent with which to work last season, but there is plenty of doubt whether Kelly’s scheme can sustain success in the NFL.
Shanahan has installed a traditional NFL offense. The fullback position will be a key component. Long-time running backs coach Bobby Turner has routinely produced exceptional results.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was not Shanahan’s first choice. Shanahan wanted an experienced coach on that side of the ball, but could not land Gus Bradley or Vic Fangio. Saleh got high marks from players after the offseason program, but the true indication will be the results of the 49ers’ defense during the regular season.
2. Hoyer is the presumptive starter, but what chance do you think Beathard beats out Barkley for the backup spot? (James Bramow)
There has never been a question since the moment the 49ers signed Brian Hoyer that he steps in as the starting quarterback. After the 49ers could not land Matt Schaub, the 49ers lined up Matt Barkely as the backup.
Hoyer and Barkley open camp as the solid Nos. 1 and 2 on the roster. C.J. Beathard, whom the 49ers selected late in the third round, will likely remain as the No. 3. The plan is to bring him along slowly, so it seems unlikely he has much of a chance to move up the depth chart unless an injury forces some shuffling.
3. What's the future looking like for Carlos Hyde with San Francisco 49ers? (Steven James)
Hyde is the best running back on the 49ers’ roster. The only question is whether he is the best running back for the 49ers’ new scheme. Hyde enters the final year of his contract. The 49ers made the moves in the offseason to build more depth and line up his replacement for the 2018 season. Shanahan and Turner really wanted Joe Williams, and they convinced Lynch to draft him in the fourth round. The future of Hyde with the 49ers depends on how he performs once the pads go on. His physical style of play is what distinguishes him from the others.
4. Will Carlos Hyde and Vance McDonald open camp as the starters? (Joe Ruckus Marsh)
Hyde will certainly open camp as the starter. I’d assume McDonald will enter the first huddle of training camp with the No. 1 offense, too. But there is no question McDonald will face stiff challenges to maintain his role on the team.
5. Is George Kittle the real deal? (Israel Vasquez)
We will see when things start getting serious. But the first indication from Kittle during the offseason program is that he has a chance to be a significant contributor as a rookie. He was very active in the passing game, especially as a red-zone target. He also has good speed, which he showed to get down the field and make some plays. If his blocking holds up, he could easily win a starting job.
6. Who are gonna be the starting WRs? (John Tinsley)
Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin appear to be clear favorites to win the starting jobs on the outside. The 49ers have three solid starting options at slot receiver, led by veteran Jeremy Kerley, whom the new regime re-signed after he led the club in receptions and receiving yards last season. Draft pick Trent Taylor had a strong camp. Bruce Ellington is talented but he has been unable to remain healthy enough to show anything.
7. Who do you think has the inside track to start at center: Zuttah or Kilgore? (D.j. Byrd)
Jeremy Zuttah made the Pro Bowl last season with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has played well – when healthy – since taking over as the starter in 2014. Zuttah might actually be competing for two spots. There’s a decent chance that Kilgore assumes the starting role at center and Zuttah is moved to one of the guard spots. This way, they’re both winners.
8. The new 4-3 front seven with all the new faces, how's the rotation going to look like? (Eric Page)
The favorites to win the starting jobs along the line are big end Solomon Thomas, nose tackle Earl Mitchell, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and “Leo” Arik Armstead. Quinton Dial faces a stiff challenge to learn the new scheme, as he must develop the movement skills to play a one-gap scheme. Elvis Dumervil and Aaron Lynch will compete to work their way into pass-rush specialist roles. Chris Jones enters camp in good position to serve behind Buckner in a backup role. Tank Carradine and Ronald Blair will compete for spot duty behind Thomas.
9. Who will start along side NaVorro Bowman? (Daniel Velazquez)
The 49ers signed Malcolm Smith because of his knowledge and production within the new defensive system. Smith looked good in the offseason program. But the 49ers also fell in love with Reuben Foster and traded up to get him at the back of the first round.
When the 49ers last saw Foster, they expected him to be medically cleared for the opening of training camp. (Foster underwent offseason shoulder surgery that was widely reported as a condition that scared off some NFL teams.)
There is no rush to get Foster onto the field. But he is such a talent that it will be difficult to keep him on the sideline. My guess is that Smith opens as the starter and they add more and more to Foster’s plate until he is deemed ready for an every-down role. His understanding and execution of the defense will determine when he takes over on a full-time basis.
10. How much of a learning curve will there be for the defense going from a 3-4 to a 4-3? (David Hartless)
The 49ers plan to play a much more aggressive style of defense. The defensive linemen will be responsible for one gap, and they will be asked to charge up the field to disrupt plays in the backfield.
That sounds great, but it also leaves the defense susceptible to more big plays. Strong safety Eric Reid, stationed closer to the line of scrimmage, will have a key role in the run game. Free safety Jimmie Ward will be asked to make plays in the passing game.
Saleh’s defense, however, will be simple. Because of the limited number of calls, the defense should be more comfortable doing fewer things. The 49ers will likely have fewer blown assignments and gives them a chance to make a significant improvement over last season, when the club was the worst defense in the NFL.