Niners offence finally ready to roll

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

These are not the San Francisco 49ers of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Mike Singletary is no Joe Walsh. Yet.

But this weekend, the real 49ers will get it together for the first time this pre-season and, for the first time in years, there is real optimism. This is no longer a franchise with that deer-in-the-headlights look.

Nobody is predicting greatness.

Consistency would be just fine, and maybe a playoff spot.

The 49ers are coming off an 8-8 season thanks largely to one of the best defensive units in the league that allowed just 17.3 points a game. Patrick Willis, for the second time in his first three seasons in the league, led the NFL with 152 tackles.

But through much of pre-season, the 49ers have been playing with a team of pretenders. This weekend, the offence is finally getting it together, at least in name.

Singletary will get to see two of his youngest stars for the first time this pre-season when wideout Michael Crabtree, sidelined with a neck strain, and running back Frank Gore, return to the starting lineup.

Also making his debut is Brian Westbrook, the former Philadelphia Eagles standout running back, while the starting offensive line (the team's weak spot last year) will play together for the first half.

Pundits have been picking the 49ers as a team on the rise but to accomplish that, Alex Smith will finally have to prove worthy of being an overall No. 1 draft choice.

Last year, he was benched for five games but he has completed 60% of his passes (not bad behind a wonky offensive line).

He also threw 18 touchdown passes and had 12 interceptions, which isn't bad either.

It's just not great, and in San Francisco that's what they're hoping to get back to. Eventually (read this year) Smith will run out of time and chances.

This weekend, Crabtree gives him someone with whom to play catch and Gore should be good for another 1,000 yards this season. Throw in Westbrook and a more seasoned Smith and maybe, just maybe, the 49ers can start to make fans look ahead at what might be instead of back at what once was.


Videos

Photos