Adam Rank this week posted an interesting article to NFL.com, titled, "Will 49ers slay feared Super Bowl hangover?" -- which is a fair question to ask. However, if the 49ers don't make it back to the Super Bowl, that doesn't necessarily mean that they fell victim to a hangover either. Avoiding this comes down to two things you can control: motivation and roster talent.
Let's look at which units are set up well for success in 2020, and explore the two units I have concerns about.
The units that I'm not worried about
WR - With two draft picks, and two guys returning from IR, the competition/motivation is here.
TE - Set with George Kittle and Ross Dwelley, and rookie Charlie Woerner will immediately fill the Toilolo role.
RB - Possibly too much depth here (including UDFA), but that will get sorted out during camp.
QB - Jimmy Garoppolo is the 49ers' guy, and they're set with Nick Mullens at backup.
DL - Even with the loss of DeForest Buckner, there's enough depth and competition for snaps.
LB - This the best group of linebackers in the league, period. Zero concern here.
S - Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt shored up this position well last year, while Tarvarius Moore and Marcell Harris are solid depth.
The units that could be susceptible to a hangover
Offensive Line - Although John Lynch did a masterful job in acquiring Trent Williams, I have concerns about how this O-line was built, and that specifically the IOL wasn't addressed in the offseason. This OL was built with run blocking in mind, not pass protection. Pass blocking suffered for most of the season, but the pass-protection wheels came off after center Weston Richburg got hurt in New Orleans. The next three games vs. the Falcons, Rams, and Seahawks showed how susceptible they were to the pass rush, specifically on the interior. This weakness was able to be hidden in the Vikings and Packers games, but when it came time to pass in the Super Bowl, it reared its ugly head. Richburg's health makes the OL manageable, but his health is a question mark. The plan seems to be Daniel Brunskill at RG, and although he played well at tackle, I don't think OL are as easily maneuverable as people think. Between lack of depth, 2019 injuries, and how this OL was built with run blocking as the preferred skill set, I have major concerns about this unit for 2020.
Cornerback - I love Richard Sherman, what he brings to this team is invaluable, and I will never make the mistake of doubting him. Even if Father Time doesn't become an issue this year, he will be a free agent after the season. But knowing Sherman, both of those things serve as motivation to him. As long as he stays healthy, the 49ers are set at one CB spot. The other CB position, and the depth behind it, is a major concern. Everyone seems to think Moseley is the answer, and he absolutely deserved the job over Ahkello Witherspoon, but opposing QBs weren't only not scared to throw at him, they went right at him. Especially in the last drive of the final Seattle game, he was the target. With Witherspoon, you just don't know what you're going to get. His inconsistency was maddening, but hopefully, he found all the motivation needed after losing his job to make this a real camp battle. Tim Harris will be healthy, so he's one to keep an eye on in training camp. Thankfully having one of the best slot CBs in K'Wuan Williams helps a lot as well, not to mention D.J. Reed's versatility. The battle for CB2, and Sherman's play/health will dictate the success for this unit in 2020. But one thing we know for sure, Sherman will be as motivated as ever, and that should be infectious to the rest of the CB corps.
Due to the moves Lynch made, and maybe even more so due to the players returning from injury (D.J. Jones, Ronald Blair, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, Weston Richburg, Jerrick McKinnon), the 49ers are as prepared as they could be to avoid the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, and they should be extremely motivated after coming off a Super Bowl loss. The talent is there, the stability is there, and the desire to finish the job is there, but the lack of depth at IOL, and uncertainty at CB, are legitimate concerns heading into the 2020 season.
Media courtesy AP Images