What is your stance on Michael Crabtree right now?
I'm certainly annoyed that he's not in camp with the team and ready to make a contribution. He's an impact receiver, and while I like the 49ers receivers, a guy like Crabtree would take them to a whole new level. The problem at this point is that even if Michael Crabtree signs today, he's got a ton of ground to make-up. He hasn't done anything football-related since his broken foot was flaring up. In mini-camp and OTAs he was just doing some running. He caught some passes from Alex Smith at one point, but it was fairly limited. So you've got that, combined with the fact that he does not have a playbook at this point. Those are some tough mountains to climb in a league where first year receivers struggle fairly often.
At the same time, Mike Singletary has admitted he held out a short period his rookie year because he thought he should have been drafted higher, and thus was owed more money. At this point, I've almost forgotten about Crabtree on a day-to-day basis. The 49ers have some talented receivers and they're looking at a ball control offense anyways. It sucks to not have him, but the 49ers should definitely stick to their guns on this one.
If I offer you a one-for-one trade of Crabtree for Brandon Marshall, although you'd have to sign Marshall to a 6 year deal of top-5-WR money, would you take it?
In reality, the 49ers can no longer trade Crabtree's draft rights. However, if they could, I probably would make that deal given that Marshall has has shown what he can do in this league. Of course, if we're in the land of make-believe, does Marshall have the off-the-field concerns? After TO, most 49ers fans are certainly a bit skeptical about head-case type receivers, but talent certainly can be a trump card. Given that Isaac Bruce was the 49ers best receiver in 2008, it'd be nice to have a legit #1 in the house.
Was Shaun Hill your choice to be the starting QB?
I think so. I'd have loved to see Alex Smith blow everybody out of the water at camp and live up to the original expectations, but in reality I wasn't expecting that to happen. Shaun Hill has shown some spunk at the position and as some will argue, he's a "winner." Wins are not a legit QB stat, but it's easy to get carried away by the idea of a winner at QB. There was a certain air of negativity around Alex Smith. I don't blame Smith for that, but it was just there given the stench of Nolan that pervaded the whole thing. I think Alex Smith can turn into a decent NFL QB but I'm not holding my breath for it to happen in San Francisco.
Without an injury to Shaun Hill, does Alex Smith ever get on the field with the 49ers?
I could see ineffectiveness eventually costing Shaun Hill his job. He doesn't have the greatest physical skills in the world, so it wouldn't surprise me if defenses were eventually able to scheme against him fairly easily. Last season's 8-game run at the end of the season was the biggest stretch of playing time he'd ever seen. I'm curious how teams react to more of him, particularly division teams twice through. The 49ers offense is not built to be guided by a monster QB, so Hill really doesn't need to be all that great. Singletary certainly won't bench him early in the season, but it's something to keep an eye out for if the team struggles into October.
Glen Coffee is somebody that I really liked at Alabama last year. How many carries do you expect him to get in 2009?
It'd be nice to see Coffee get in the 5-10 carry range. Maybe finish with 100-125 carries this season give or take. Basically it's more a question of how many carries will be needed to keep Gore fresh. In his record-setting 2006 season, Gore had 312 carries, followed by 260 (missed 1 game) in 2007, then 240 (missed 2 games) in 2008. I'd like to see Gore in the 275 range, although even that number is just sort of spit-balling. The backfield situation will hopefully be more of a strength this year with Coffee, but also with undrafted Purdue rookie Kory Sheets potentially getting a chance to make some plays out of the backfield as well. Coffee won't be a home-run hitter for this team, but he'll definitely get a good dose of work.
Has Vernon Davis changed after being benched and publicly criticized by Coach Singletary?
Vernon Davis might be Mike Singletary's most vocal supporter at this point. While Mike Nolan ran a tight ship in terms of off-the-field shenanigans, he never could seem to control Vernon Davis's on-field and in-practice antics. Singletary made it clear right away that he wouldn't put up with it and I believe Davis respects that kind of attitude, and needs that kind of attitude. Now we'll see if he can turn that into production on the field.
What has Nate Davis looked like in the preseason?
There are people at Niners Nation who think he should be starting for this team right now. Davis has looked awfully impressive in his last two appearances, going 16/26 for 199 yards, 1 TD and a passer rating somewhere in the 90s. Of course, we also have to remember he's been playing against second and third string defensive players. If anything, Davis his shown that he definitely could be a long term answer for the 49ers at quarterback. However, it's definitely too soon to say with any kind of certainty at all.
Prior to the second preseason game, there were thoughts he might end up on the practice squad. However, two very solid performances have probably secured a 53-man roster position. If all goes according to plan, he won't touch the field this season, and instead spend time learning the pro game from the sidelines, which I'm perfectly fine seeing happen. The earliest I could see him starting is late 2010, but more likely 2011 (if he continues to develop).
As the Chargers stadium situation looms like a storm cloud over the 2009 season, give us an idea of what's going on with the 49ers new stadium. Where will it be? When will it be ready?
The 49ers have developed a plan to build the stadium in Santa Clara next to their practice facility, and in the parking lot of a Great America theme park. Santa Clara is south of San Francisco, but readily accessible by train and highway, so the people most likely to suffer are folks from up in Sacramento and other parts north. The goal is to open this thing around 2013 or 2014. It's hopefully going on the ballot in Santa Clara next March, after which it's a matter of getting the money and starting the building. The big issue at this point is whether or not the 49ers can get a naming rights deal. The Cowboys don't have naming rights money, but Jerry Jones is fine blowing his money on The Temple of Jerry. The 49ers are going to pay a vast majority of the cost of the stadium, with Santa Clara getting a solid deal on their end. At this point, nothing new will develop until it's put on the March ballot and voted on.
Which Niners players do you expect to sit out, or play very little, in Friday's game?
Most of the starters will likely only play a series or two I'd imagine, particularly on offense. This is for two reasons: 1) keep them healthy, and 2) get a look at young guys battling for those final couple of roster spots. The team is still trying to decide what to do at the #3 QB position between Nate Davis and Damon Huard, so I'd expect a lot of playing time for both of them. Elsewhere, SS Michael Lewis is out with a concussion and OLB Ahmad Brooks is out a few weeks after arthroscopic surgery on his knee. I'd imagine you'll see a decent amount of CBs Dre Bly and Tarell Brown who are supposedly battling to the wire for the #2 corner position. Although, I think Bly has it locked up and playing time on Friday could very well prove that.
In general, one guy to keep an eye on is WR/KR/Wildcat Micheal Spurlock. Spurlock is out of practice squad eligibility and is on the roster bubble at this point. I'd expect to see a lot of him at a variety of points in the game.