With the Arizona Cardinals taking on the San Francisco 49ers this weekend in an NFC West divisional battle, it was naturally necessary to get together with Niners Nation for some game previews and interaction between the two blogs. David Fucillo and I exchanged questions as a way to preview the game. Here is how he responded to my questions.
So what happened to cause Colin Kaepernick to have his season end? There is a ton of speculation, but do you expect to see him back in San Fran next year? If so...then what?
It's been kind of a disaster this season. Kap had some solid moments against Baltimore and New York, but he struggled in a big way. The last time these two teams faced off, he threw a pair of pick-sixes and that was really the beginning of the end for him. It does not help that he has a questionable coaching staff and a bad offensive line, but we've seen Blaine Gabbert do enough that some of the blame belongs on Kap's shoulders. There was talk he might end up the next scapegoat in all this. Some of that has come true, but it's not like he wow'd anybody with his performances this season.
I do not expect him back in 2016. The 49ers will either release or trade him this coming offseason. He just had surgery for a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, which puts in question an April 1 deadline when his 2016 salary becomes fully guaranteed. That will impact how soon he is traded or released.
Now on to Blaine Gabbert. We all like to laugh at the fact Gabbert is starting because all the previous times we saw him, he was terrible. But he hasn't been now. What do you think of him right now, and what is his future with the team?
It's tough to get a bede on Gabbert. He has not been bad in his two starts, putting together a great first half against the Falcons, and looking sharp in the second and third quarters against the Seahawks. I look at him as having a ceiling of 2011 Alex Smith. You can win games with him as your quarterback, but you do not want to have to put everything on his shoulders. That's good enough in this league.
Gabbert is signed through next season. My tentative guess is the 49ers draft a QB, and sit him behind Gabbert next season. I could see them bringing in a veteran to compete with Gabbert, but it would not surprise me if Gabbert gets a chance into next season. That will depend in part, of course, on how he finishes up this season.
Since the Niners season is not about playoff contention at this point, who are the players who are having good individual seasons and who are those who have underperformed?
Aaron Lynch is having a strong season, sitting among the league leaders in QB pressures, and leading the 49ers in sacks. Anquan Boldin had a strong game for the 49ers last week after missing two games with a hamstring strain. He had five catches for 93 yards, and is a guy Gabbert will look to. And of course, NaVorro Bowman has returned to action following his knee injury almost two years ago. He leads the team in tackles and is slowly working back into his pre-injury form. He is still showing signs of the injury, but his return is a nice story for 49ers fans.
Torrey Smith is underperforming given the contract he signed this offseason, but the offense as a whole has struggled, so it is not all on him. The offensive line has been dreadful. The team finally benched right guard Jordan Devey, replacing him with Andrew Tiller, who has a future in this league. The Cardinals pass rush seems a little less than stellar, which could allow this offensive line to maybe look decent this week. On defense, the pass coverage is fairly abysmal over the middle of the field. Opposing passing attacks have had their way with the 49ers in that area, and I imagine the Cardinals will attack it regularly on Sunday.
Will Jim Tomsula be around next year? Should he?
Will he? Yes, I think so. Should he? No, I don't think so. If the 49ers get blown out the rest of the season, Tomsula could be fired. But if the team is remotely competitive, I think he sticks around because Jed York and Trent Baalke have put a lot of cache into using him to replace Jim Harbaugh. He seems in over his head quite frequently, and has the appearance of a yes-man for the front office. The coaching staff as a whole seems unprepared at times. They do have some positive moments, but the huge inconsistency is frustrating.
The Cards haven't beaten the 49ers on the road since 2008. Why is that and what will it take from San Fran to keep the streak going?
The 49ers obviously were good during the Harbaugh years from 2011 to 2013, and still solid in his final season last year. But even when the 49ers were struggling, they had a solid enough defense to keep Arizona in check. That gave the offense enough wiggle room for wins. If the 49ers are going to swing what would be a sizable upset at home, they will need their defense to bounce back from last week's embarrassing performance against the Seahawks. Thomas Rawls rushed for over 200 yards, and Russell Wilson and the passing game had a fairly easy go of it. The 49ers offense is not going to blow the doors off anybody, but if this team falls behind by a couple touchdowns, they generally are not going to come back. The defense just needs to contain this Cardinals offense.