Training camp is quickly approaching, which means it's time to preview the most exciting part of the summer. Over the next month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr will break down all 32 teams and give us something to look for in late July.
Training camp report dates: Rookies and veterans July 30.
Training camp location: SAP Performance Facility, Santa Clara, Calif.
Offseason in a nutshell: Chip Kelly! The hope is that Kelly, who is a good coach, stops being considered some type of mad scientist in San Francisco -- a moniker that overshadows the purpose of what he's actually trying to accomplish. Good offenses win with simple strategies that can be quickly absorbed and, with time, customized to suit the strengths of the team's best players. This is not breaking news, just ask Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Just ask Peyton Manning, Bruce Arians and Tom Moore. Just ask Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Vicente del Bosque. Kelly is the kind of coach the talent-starved 49ers need right now and, more than any other coach available this offseason, he can maximize a roster that few coaches wanted to touch with a focus on running the football, spacing out defenses and creating open wide receivers via play action.
Player to watch: Defensive end DeForest Buckner. The 49ers have a chance to start a formidable pair of bookends in their 3-4 defense this season if Buckner can be even half as disruptive as advertised. However, we should really say the person to watch in camp is defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil. O'Neil is an interesting case -- finally out from under the Mike Pettine umbrella, this is really the first time he has the chance to mold the philosophies of Rex Ryan and Pettine. O'Neil was a surprising choice given the behind-the-scenes defensive struggle in Cleveland, which was thankfully overshadowed by the very public struggle between the club's front office and coaching staff. O'Neil's saving grace is that he has two players both projected as young versions of Calais Campbell to work with.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS:
Occam's razor suggests that we should have been wary of a Kaepernick-Kelly resurgence the moment we first typed the sentence Colin seems to be the perfect fit in Kelly's system. We want to believe this because we still associate Kelly's offense with a mobile quarterback. We also want to see Kaepernick's career revived in the worst way after being treated to one hell of a run during the Jim Harbaugh era. But the reality is that Kelly has three quarterbacks -- Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Jeff Driskel -- with a relatively similar skillset at his disposal and will end up riding the hottest hand.
Kelly sure as heck hopes so. Rogers has prototypical size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and stood out during minicamp, as fast, tall wide receivers tend to do. Our interest level is high, though, because Kelly contacted him almost immediately after getting the job. The argument for Rogers, a former California Lutheran University standout, is that he got the proper seasoning over two years in the Canadian Football League and is perhaps ready to contribute at the NFL level. At the moment, Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton seem to be battling it out for the No. 2 spot opposite Torrey Smith.
Niners fans have been discussing the possibility of ditching Brooks' balky contract ever since he signed it, and this might finally be the time to do it. Kelly is going to need a fresh, young rotation on defense and the team already has players like Eli Harold and Tank Carradine, who reportedly is meshing well with his new(ish) responsibilities as a stand-up edge rusher, in the queue.
Way-too-early season prediction: Minor Chip Kelly obsession aside, this is a team lucky to win seven games in 2016, but one that will hopefully show enough flashes to merit Kelly staying another season. Two bridge coaches would sink this franchise into pre-Gus Bradley Jaguars territory.