With training camp just around the corner, it’s almost time for the NFL again. When the San Francisco 49ers report for training camp, there will be a lot of new faces, starting with the head coach. Jim Harbaugh left the team amid reports he was going to be fired and took the University of Michigan head coaching vacancy. Enter Jim Tomsula, former 49ers defensive line coach, now 49ers head coach. The team as a whole looks different as well.
On offense, longtime running back Frank Gore almost signed with the Philadelphia Eagles but eventually signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree signed with the Raiders and guard Mike Iupati signed with the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers did bring in wide receiver Torrey Smith from the Baltimore Ravens to play opposite of Anquan Boldin. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson lasted just 1 season with the team and signed with the San Diego Chargers following his release from San Francisco. With Gore’s departure, the 49ers signed Reggie Bush to help handle the load in the backfield with Carlos Hyde.
The defense took an even larger hit. All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis shockingly retired at the age of 30. You can’t speak to how big of a loss Willis is to a team. Regarded as one of the best linebackers in the game, you can’t just replace him with anyone. The 49ers also lost All-Pro defensive end Justin Smith. A phenomenal player, Smith retiring wasn’t as big of a shock being that he was turning 36 by the start of the 2015 season. Smith compiled 87 career sacks but provided a tremendous amount of run stuffing efforts that don’t make the stat book. Another player that retired was linebacker Chris Borland. Borland was just 24 years old and shocked not only the organization but the league with his announcement. They have added Darnell Dockett on the line but he is coming off an ACL tear from last August and is 33 years old.
There will be many new faces in the 49ers locker room this season. It’ll be interesting to see if the 49ers can keep up in the ultra competitive NFC West. They have a great dynamic duo now in Boldin and Smith that should provide Kaepernick with deep ball and short over the middle opportunities. Having Reggie Bush available out of the backfield on 3rd downs should provide a great safety net for Kaepernick when he’s in trouble.