2007 season recap
Key camp questions
Can Martz fix the offense?
The 49ers are on their fourth offensive coordinator in as many years, this time turning to veteran Mike Martz who figures to have an immediate impact on quarterback Alex Smith. Martz's teams have finished in the top-10 in passing yards every year since 2000. The 49ers finished last in passing last year. The first order of business will be to determine who is going to be the starting quarterback (more below). The team also has some concerns on the offensive line. Larry Allen's leadership is gone and Martz has some talent on the line, but needs to get them playing together as a unit.
Where will Justin Smith line up?
The 49ers signed Justin Smith to rush the quarterback. But he could do that at outside linebacker. Smith worked out at right outside linebacker during minicamp and could see significant action there in coach Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense. Smith played defensive end in seven years in Cincinnati.
What does Bruce have left?
The ageless one was one of the last links to the Los Angeles Rams, at least on the field. Now he will try to help long-time rival San Francisco get back to the top of the NFC West. Bruce had 55 receptions for injury-plagued St. Louis last season, which would have led the 49ers in 2007. The key might be Bryant Johnson who arrives from Arizona. Johnson was playing behind Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald with the Cardinals, now he gets a chance to establish himself as a starter.
Key position battle
QB Alex Smith vs. QB Shaun Hill: The 49ers used the first overall selection on Smith in 2005, but has yet to produce results. Of course, playing for four different offensive coordinators will have that effect on you. Smith has the tools, but you have to figure that this is his final chance to take the job. Waiting in the wings is Hill who had five touchdowns and a 68 percent completion percentage backing up Smith before a season-ending back injury. There are many who felt that Hill outplayed Smith last year and he should be the starter. Coach Mike Nolan told the San Francisco Chronicle that both quarterbacks will be given extended looks during the first two preseason games in hopes of having a starting quarterback determined by the third exhibition game.
T Chilo Rachal: The 49ers gave up a first-round pick this season (seventh overall) to take Joe Staley last year. And it worked out well for the 49ers. Staley started 16 games at right tackle last season and will move to the left side this year. Second-round pick Chilo Rachal will be expected to fill in Staley's vacated spot on the right side.
Player on the spot
TE Vernon Davis: Davis overcame an injury-shortened rookie season to finish second on the team with 52 receptions in 2007. Davis will be expected to build on those numbers this season. Martz hasn't utilized a tight end in the passing game before, so it should be interesting to see how he uses the former first-round pick.
RB Frank Gore: Running backs Marshall Faulk and Kevin Jones had career numbers under Mike Martz, especially catching the ball out of the backfield. Gore has already shown a knack for receptions, including a team-high 53 last season. Gore should be considered a top five running back in leagues that reward points for receptions.