The San Francisco 49ers missed the playoffs last season, and that resulted in a coaching change. The 49ers are hoping Chip Kelly will help turn things around this season, but need a few players to step up this season for that to happen.
Each year, teams expect players to step up and play key roles. Sometimes, the player in question makes the leap from backup to role player, or even to starter. Sometimes, a player goes from role player to key starter or borderline star. So which players are the 49ers counting on this year to step up? We've put together four of the most likely candidates below.
4. S Jaquiski Tartt
The 49ers spent a second round on Tartt last year, and he played sparingly. He recorded 65 tackles a pick and a forced fumble, but also looked lost at times. This year, the 49ers are hoping for improvement. Ideally, he takes over the starting job at strong safety from Antonie Bethea. If not, the 49ers could try playing Tartt at MLB on passing downs. He'd become their version of Deone Bucannon, a safety who plays linebacker on passing downs. No matter the case is, the 49ers need Tartt to take the next step forward this year.
3. WR Quinton Patton
Anquan Boldin is likely gone, leaving a big hole at WR. Sure, there's Torrey Smith, but he's a deep threat only. Patton is one of several WRs the 49ers are hoping steps up (Bruce Ellington, DeAndre Smelter), but he's the most likely to actually follow through. A fourth round pick in 2013, Patton is coming off his best season. He caught 30 passes for 394 yards and a score. But the 49ers need a lot more from him this year, and doubling his numbers would be a great start. Better QB play would greatly help Patton and the 49ers, but we'll get to that.
2. DB Jimmie Ward
After hardly contributing his rookie year, Ward played more last year. He recorded 57 tackles, picking off one pass and breaking up six more. But the 49ers need their former first round pick to do even more this year. CB is a major need and even if Ward just stays at nickel, they need him to be better than he was last year. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't good enough either.
1. QB Colin Kaepernick
You can make an argument Blaine Gabbert could take this spot, but the 49ers are hoping it's Kaepernick who wins the starting QB gig. After all, they're paying him nearly $16 million this year. Kaepernick appears to be a good fit for Chip Kelly's offense, and he's shown flashes of his ability in the past, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth. The 49ers need Kaepernick to look like the franchise QB he appeared to be earlier in his career. If not, the 49ers might cut ties with him next offseason.Back to the San Francisco 49ers Newsfeed