Buoyed by a midseason trade, the San Francisco 49ers closed 2017 with five straight wins. But what can the team do to escape the NFC West basement?
It is very interesting to note that the last three NFC teams to reach the Super Bowl all failed to finish with a winning record the year before appearing in the “Big Game.” That includes the reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles. After a 7-9 debut season for head coach Doug Pederson, the team rose from the basement of the NFC East to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.
So could the San Francisco 49ers keep that trend alive? A 6-10 finish was highlighted by five straight wins to close 2017. General manager John Lynch has been busy getting players re-signed (Cassius Marsh, Daniel Kilgore and Garry Gilliam) prior to the start of free agency and the club has its share of high draft choices to bolster its roster. So what areas should this team address over the next few months in an attempt to escape the bottom of the NFC West?
5. Add depth at defensive end
As has been duly noted in recent years, the San Francisco 49ers have used first-round draft choices to bolster their defensive front. In 2015, the franchise added Eric Armstead and one year later, it was DeForest Buckner – both from the University of Oregon. This past April, it was Stanford’s Solomon Thomas. Combined with veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, this is a group to build on.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh still has some work to do with this young core. All told, the Niners finished 24th in the NFL in total defense this past season and were 22nd in the league against both the run and the pass. Of course, there was some improvement made from the previous year when the team finished dead-last in both yards allowed per game and rushing defense.
Yes, there’s a lot of potential with this front four. But the club could be a little thin at defensive front if “Tank” Carradine, Leger Douzable and Aaron Lynch are all allowed to test the free-agent market later this month. As previously mentioned, the Niners did re-sign Cassius Marsh. And 2017 team sack leader Elvis Dumervil returns as well. But John Lynch could look for a few more reinforcements.