2023 NFL West Preview: Deep 49ers Loaded with Weapons

San Francisco is a preseason Super Bowl favorite despite the departure of two quarterbacks

Posted on August 30, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

Fifteen of the last 16 NFL MVPs have been QBs. Last season, the 49ers went through three of them and still managed a 13-4 season and trip to the NFC Championship game.

In their season-ending loss to the Eagles, the Niners finished the game without a single healthy QB. It is the most important position in the NFL and based on the season San Francisco had it plays out.

Brock Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant and stepped in to lead the 49ers after injuries to both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance.

It was a feel-good story as the underdog QB performed well and San Fran kept winning.

This season, both of the other QBs are gone, and Purdy is unquestionably QB1. The question is, How has he recovered from his own injury suffered against Philadelphia last January?

Purdy has been put in charge of an offense that is loaded with weapons.

The fact that the team could get rid of the other two QBs even with the presumed starter coming off an elbow injury and the team is still a preseason Super Bowl favorite speaks volumes to the talent surrounding that position.

The second-year QB is expected to be ready to go in Week 1, but should there be any issues, former USC signal-caller Sam Darnold has been brought in to be the backup.

Christian McCaffrey, another Pac-12 product, out of Stanford, is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

The most versatile back in the NFL can turn any run into a long score and is skilled enough as a pass catcher that he could probably start on the outside for a lot of teams in the league.

49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel | NFL.com

We could be talking about Deebo Samuel as the most versatile player in the NFL outside of his teammates.

The star WR had a dip in his production in 2022 compared to 2021, but there was also more competition for touches with the addition of McCaffrey.

Samuel is another multiple threat who can make a big play with his feet in a designed run or receiving.

Teamed with Brandon Aiyuk, the Niners could have a WR duo on par with any in the NFL. Jauan Jennings is a great third option to have outside.

The part of the equation that really separates San Francisco’s pass catchers from the rest of the NFL is George Kittle. He has the skill set of a WR while playing TE.

Purdy and Kittle had an obvious connection in 2022 with seven TD connections over the course of the seven games they completed together.

Kittle needs to find a way to stay healthy as he has missed starts in each of the last four seasons. And for good measure, the Niners also have arguably the best FB in the game in Kyle Juszczyk.

To complete this team, the 49ers defense was the best in the NFL in 2022.

DeMeco Ryans is gone as defensive coordinator with Steve Wilks stepping in. Ryans replaced Robert Saleh and the unit did not miss a beat. I don’t expect to see much change with the transition to Wilks.

The base concepts they have will remain. Get pressure from the line, play plenty of zone defense, and force turnovers.

49ers defensive end Nick Bosa | Scot Tucker/AP

The front seven is elite with Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave on the line and Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw at the linebackers. Bosa and Hargrave can disrupt any play.

(Bosa is currently holding out for a more lucrative contract; it has been rumored that he might be traded, but he is expected to sign by Week One.)

Warner and Greenlaw are both good at plugging the middle and dropping into coverage. Talano Hufanga can do damage at the safety spot.

As a unit, they led the NFL in yards allowed and points allowed. This defense will be a Top 5 unit once again in 2023.

2023 Outlook
Nothing in the NFL is guaranteed, but at the onset of the season, the 49ers schedule is ranked as one of the easiest in the league.

The team is loaded with playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

Couple that with one of the best defensive units in the NFL and a really good head coach in Kyle Shanahan, and the sky is the limit for San Francisco.

While Seattle should pose a threat to the division, I think the NFC West crown runs through the Bay Area.

Whether or not they can lift the Lombardi Trophy in February may well come down to quarterback play and the ability to stay healthy as a team.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—