The 49ers rebuild is over: It is time to win

October 9, 2019 — by Leo Cao

The 49ers finished with the second worst record in the NFL last year at 4-12, but with head coach Kyle Shanahan entering his third season in charge and with powerful offseason acquisitions, the team is poised for a deep playoff run. 

The team is off to an impressive start, staying undefeated through the first four games, including a convincing 31-3 win against a young and talented Cleveland Browns team.  A major reason for this is the added talent from free agency and the draft that eliminated many of the weaknesses in the roster. Additionally, a host of veteran players are returning from injuries, including franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who missed the majority of the past season with a knee injury.

After the 49ers traded a second-round pick for Garoppolo in the middle of the 2017 season, he closed out the year with a five-game winning streak. Expectations were high in 2018, but his season was cut short by an ACL tear. If Garoppolo proves to be the exceptional franchise quarterback that people are expecting, the 49ers will be in the mix for a deep playoff run. 

Regardless of Garoppolo’s performance, the 49ers have one of the most dangerous defensive lines in the league. They drafted defensive end Nick Bosa with the second pick this offseason and signed Pro-Bowl defensive end Dee Ford. In addition, 49ers 2016 first-round draft pick Deforest Buckner has already proven himself as one of the best interior rushers in football, meaning that the 49ers have three Pro-Bowl caliber players on their defensive line alone. 

With a consistent pass rush, the defense will generate turnovers and relieve pressures from the relatively weaker secondary. While the safety position has been one of the biggest questions for the team for the past few years, 2018 third-round pick Tavarius Moore, who has all the size and athleticism to be an elite player, can fill this need.

Moreover, the team’s offense is filled with versatile weapons. George Kittle is arguably the best tight end in football because of his rare ability gain big yards after the catch. Running back Matt Breida has serious big-play potential and has improved his hands from last season. Offseason acquisition Tevin Coleman has been one of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL for the past few years. With Kyle Juszczyk, who remains one of the league’s top fullbacks, the backfield is more than solid (though he was injured in the Browns game and will be out for at least a month). 

There aren’t any clear receiving weapons outside of Kittle yet, but there is a lot of potential. Second-year wide receiver Dante Pettis had a strong finish to last season, flashing the footwork and speed to be a consistent player. 2019 draft pick Deebo Samuel had a strong preseason and has been steadily involved in the offense.

In the competitive division of NFC West, the 49ers will need to stay consistent and get lucky. But if things go their way, don’t be surprised by a deep playoff run by a young and talented team.

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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