We are now into the only true "offseason" of the NFL calendar year. From now until July 27, players are off enjoying summer break, and we as football fans are left anxiously awaiting training camp. Here is this week's mailbag to help you get through the downtime. As always, thanks to all who participated!
I've always been impressed by Jeremy Kerley's ability to make contested catches. As a slot receiver, you've got to be tough enough to roam the middle of the field with defensive backs lurking in the shadows. Kerley caught a number of passes in traffic last year and was able to maintain possession after taking a big hit.
He also had arguably the two best catches of the season in 2016. The first came during a Week 12 road game against the Miami Dolphins. On the 49ers final drive, trailing by seven, Kerley made a full-extension grab on the right sideline and was somehow able to get both feet down. The play was initially ruled incomplete before being overturned. In Week 17, Kerley corralled a pass deep down the left seam after tipping it to himself. The throw initially looked out of reach, but Kerley was able to get a fingertip on it and haul in the 27-yard gain.
I think it's unfair to compare the beginning of any coach's tenure because there is always immediate positivity. That said, I've been impressed by how quickly Kyle Shanahan has been able to get everyone to buy in. Veterans and young players alike all seem in awe of Shanahan's knowledge of the game, and many have raved about his understanding of X's and O's. He's also done a great job of outlining what is expected of each player and is holding everyone accountable to that standard. The true test will be to see how this team handles in-season adversity, but so far all reports have been positive.
Solomon Thomas was able to return to the team last Thursday. Shanahan opted to only use two of the three practices afforded to him for mandatory minicamp, however, which means Thomas still hasn't practiced with the full team. He will have some catching up to do in training camp, but there's no reason to believe it will have any significant impact on his rookie season as a whole.
Like I mentioned above, every player seems genuinely excited and optimistic about the direction the team is headed. Guys will relish the opportunity to travel and spend time with family, but expect everyone to return for camp in shape and ready to work.
There are plenty of storylines that should have fans feeling excited for this season. Yes, the 49ers went 2-14 in 2016. But did you know that San Francisco was within one score during the fourth quarter in 12 games last year? Twelve.
Here are a few intriguing factors to consider ahead of 2017. John Lynch and Shanahan have overhauled nearly the entire roster. NaVorro Bowman and Eric Reid are back healthy. Pierre Garçon, the 49ers expected starting quarterback, has thrived in Shanahan's system before. Pierre Garçon provides a proven veteran presence at wide receiver. Marquise Goodwin's world-class speed will force defenses to keep track of him on every play. Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil should add stability to a young, talented front seven. Rashard Robinson has the tools/mindset to be a standout NFL corner.
It will be a process in San Francisco, but it should be mentioned that the margin between a majority of NFL teams is incredibly small.
Very good question. Stay tuned…