With the start of the NFL season still more than two months away, projected scenarios for the 49ers are mostly negative.
After so many losses of key players and the promotion of Jim Tomsula to head coach to replace Jim Harbaugh, very few NFL analysts and Niners watchers are predicting big things.
The 49ers, in fact, this week have been given long odds (40-1) to win the Super Bowl and have been selected by a Las Vegas sports book as the team most likely to finish last in the NFC West in 2015.
Aside from losing so many high-performing players – such as Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Patrick Willis and Chris Borland – the 49ers also have players with big question marks attached to their names. Can inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman come back from injury? Can quarterback Colin Kaepernick and tight end Vernon Davis rebound from disappointing seasons?
What if all three – Bowman, Kaepernick and Davis – play at the levels they did in 2012 and 2013?
That’s actually one scenario put forward by Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, who included all three players this week on his list of Comeback Player of the Year candidates for 2015.
Wrote Wesseling, of Bowman: “After missing the entirety of the 2014 season, Bowman’s status was the great unknown entering the 2015 offseason. His arrow is now pointing up after wrecking the backfield during June practices. Bowman was our pick for Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 prior to shredding his knee in the NFC Championship Game.”
On Kaepernick and Davis: “Kaepernick is too talented to suffer through another season like last year’s, which featured severe growing pains as he was shoehorned into a pocket-passer role. Vernon Davis is another comeback candidate in San Francisco after disappearing over the final three months of the 2014 season.”
Certainly the return of Bowman – one of the NFL’s best inside linebackers -- to top form again would be a huge boost for a defense in transition. Tomsula anticipates that Bowman will be his old self, after watching him this spring.
“It’s great having him back on the field,” Tomsula told reporters. “Then also the road he’s traveled here in the last year and a half. It’s just awesome to have him out there and I think he’s really enjoying himself.”
Kaepernick – who refined his mechanics this offseason – and Davis, who was an energetic and enthusiastic participant in workouts this spring after holding out of some practices in 2014, both seem eager to regain their effectiveness.
There’s still much to prove. But if all three should perform at Comeback Player of the Year levels, the 49ers might be able to prove oddsmakers wrong about 2015.