The Green Bay Packers open the 2013 regular season against an NFC juggernaut the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. So what can we expect from the Niners this time around?
They beat the Packers in last year’s season opener, and they embarrassed the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs as Kaepernick ran all over the field and racked up 181 yards on the ground. So what do the 2013 49ers offer?
Enjoy what he has to say about one of the toughest opponents the Packers will face all season, and check out the Lombardi Ave response to Eric’s questions about the Packers on the Niner Noise site.
Packers vs 49ers Q&A
1) The 49ers made it all the way to the Super Bowl before coming up short. What are your expectations of them this season?
Super Bowl or bust! The Niners have a tough schedule, especially the first four games of the season. But with a majority of the starters on offense and defense from last season returning, many fans expect another NFC West championship and a trip to the Super Bowl. Niner fans are excited to see what Colin Kaepernick will accomplish this year as he will be playing in his first full season as a starting QB.
2) The 49ers are dealing with some injuries at wide receiver with both Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham out. Who is stepping up in the passing game to make up for these losses?
Losing Michael Crabtree, who will likely be out until December, was a big loss for the Niners offense. But with Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and the likely emergence of rookie receiver Quinton Patton, the offense should continue clicking like last season. In the preseason, Kaepernick and Boldin developed an on the field connection that an offense needs to with their QB and No. 1 receiver.
Boldin has taken over the No. 1 receiver spot, with Kyle Williams taking over his spot as the second receiver on the depth chart. Manningham is on the PUP list, so he will not be back until after the sixth game of the season, at the earliest. This is where many Niner fans expect Patton to step up for Manningham as the slot receiver.
3) Colin Kaepernick is one of the young rising stars in this league. What makes him such a special player? What area of his game do you think he needs to improve upon this season?
As Packer fans found out the last time the two teams played, Kaepernick’s speed and ability to run is what makes him a special player. On every play opposing defenses have to account for his legs, even if it looks like a passing play.
Where Kaepernick needs to improve this season is to know when to slide or go out of bounds after he tucks the football and runs. He didn’t get hurt last season or take any jarring hits, but opposing teams will be looking to hit him as often as they can to make him think twice about running again. Last season, he had the fourth highest percentage of hits taken on rush attempts in the league for quarterbacks. On 65 rushing attempts, he was hit 31 times (47.7 %).
4) What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the team heading into this season?
The strength for the Niners is their defense. The team had six defensive players make the Pro Bowl last season. Don’t be surprised if the Niners have more than that selected after the upcoming season. Another reason the defense is the strength of the team is because of the depth they have with their backups. The defense could replace most of their starters and still continue clicking and stopping offenses.
The weakness for the Niners would be at wide receiver because of the injuries already mentioned. Boldin is a solid receiver and Williams has shown he can be a reliable receiver. But with young and unproven receivers like Patton, Marlon Moore, Jon Baldwin and Chris Harper backing them up, the offense could be one injury away from having its passing game collapse.
5) Give us one player on defense and one player on offense that we may not know a lot about but could surprise people this year?
On defense, that player will be rookie safety Eric Reid. He is taking over as the starting safety for Dashon Goldson who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the offseason. In training camp and the preseason, Reid has played so well in coverage, making tackles and laying out jarring hits that Niner fans have already forgotten about losing Goldson.
Receiver Quinton Patton will have a breakout year as the Niners slot receiver. Kaepernick showed in the preseason games he trusts throwing to Patton and the receiver showed he was capable of making big plays. It will be interesting to see how he plays on the field in the regular season.
6) What are your expectations for the opener on Sunday?
Niners win in a close game, 27-24. Both defenses will dominate the game, but the Niners D will win the turnover battle, which means a victory for San Francisco.
7) Any other thoughts you’d like to leave with us about the 49ers?
Good luck stopping the gazelle that is Colin Kaepernick.