When the 49ers lost offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy to become the Packers' head coach, coach Mike Nolan hired Norv Turner, who had recently been fired as Raiders head coach. Gone is the West Coast system and its excessive verbiage, replaced with Turner's number system that stresses a power-running game and down-field passing.
The system Turner brings to the 49ers is considered easier to learn than the complex West Coast system, but it means quarterback Alex Smith has been forced to study all offseason to learn a new offense. Most of his struggles from a year ago can be traced to directly to his being uncomfortable with is grasp of the system.
--The 49ers selected a much-needed offensive weapon with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft when they chose speedy tight end Vernon Davis of Maryland. Davis is the fastest player on the team, and gives the 49ers another viable option for Smith.
Davis should team with tight end Eric Johnson, who caught 82 passes in 2004 but missed all of last season with a foot injury, and wideouts Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle, who was healthy for about two games last season, to give the 49ers' offense a better arsenal of targets in the passing game.
--Outside linebacker Julian Peterson was the 49ers' most accomplished player remaining after former GM Terry Donahue's infamous roster purge following 2003 season. Peterson was twice named the club's franchise player, a tag he never really had a chance to live up to because of a torn Achilles' tendon six games into '04.
Peterson was slow to return to form last season, and he and his coaches never seemed to get a handle on how to best use his services in the club's new 3-4 defensive scheme. So when Peterson was again up for free agency, the 49ers made only a token effort to re-sign him, allowing him to skip to the intra-division Seahawks.
With the loss of Peterson, the 49ers lost a lot in the talent department. However, they hope to add something to their pass rush with the addition of first-round draft pick Manny Lawson, chosen with the No. 22 overall selection. Lawson will be asked to bring some heat to a pass rush that recorded one sack every 21.6 times an opposing quarterback dropped back.
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