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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

Champs or chumps: Neither. San Francisco remains one of the league's glamour franchises, and the organization did an outstanding job of rebuilding on the fly. But that doesn't mean the current version is ready to challenge for a title this season. Don't be surprised if the 49ers stagnate or take a step back this season. The transition from Steve Mariucci to Dennis Erickson won't be as smooth as many expect, and the team has suffered some key losses in free agency the last two seasons that will begin to catch up with them. Just because San Francisco made the playoffs the last two years doesn't mean they will make it again in 2003. There are a few coaches and personnel people around the league who will tell you the 49ers did more the last two seasons than their talent would dictate. When teams that exceed expectations make a coaching change, it usually shows up in the won-loss record. Reasons for hope: The 49ers have made major strides on defense the last two years and remain one of the league's better offenses. The passing offense, however, has become rather conservative. It had become more functional than flamboyant. Erickson will try to return an explosive element to the 49ers offense by having quarterback Jeff Garcia throw deep more than he has in the past. This should maximize the skills of Terrell Owens, who is arguably the most dangerous receiver in the game because of his size and the ability to make yards after the catch. Don't get too excited: Just because the 49ers want to go deep doesn't mean they will. Do you think Mariucci wanted to eliminate the deep pass from his game plan, or do you think he called it less and less because Garcia doesn't have a particularly strong arm and is at his best dumping the ball off underneath? Garcia's strength is also a concern. San Francisco officials say no one should be concerned about the back problems that have limited Garcia in training camp. But he has taken a pounding since becoming a starter in 1999. If he's not right or struggles with injuries this season, San Francisco will feel his pain, in the loss column.
Meet the 2003
Projected offensive lineup

Projected defensive lineup

Projected special teams lineup

Scout's take on the 49ers
"The 49ers could have trouble generating a pass rush. Andre Carter is their only true threat off the perimeter. That exposes a secondary that has been erratic against the pass."
— Scouting insider Brian DeLucia

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  • Hello, my name is: Dennis Erickson. An exhaustive coaching search that resulted in Erickson's hiring left many scratching their heads. Mariucci's strained relationships with the front office didn't carry over to his players. He inspired confidence and respect in the 49ers locker room. Even Owens, grudgingly, will concede that. The players are in no mood to embrace Erickson, especially given his spotty NFL record in Seattle. The 49ers will have to win a lot early for him to win over the locker room. Otherwise, it will fuel the perception that a change never should have been made. Revolving door: Mariucci is the biggest loss. But San Francisco also lost two starters in the defensive line, tackle Dana Stubblefield and end Chike Okeafor, that it couldn't afford to lose. Veteran Jim Flanigan and second- round pick Anthony Adams will rotate in for Stubblefield. John Engleberger will take over for Okeafor. Even with Stubblefield and Okeafor, this was a small defensive line that wore down as the game went on. San Francisco hasn't helped itself here in terms of talent or depth. Ones to watch: Mariucci returns to 3Com Park on Oct. 5 when Detroit faces his old team. Erickson goes against his former employer, Seattle, on Oct. 12 and Dec. 27. San Francisco's games with St. Louis are always entertaining affairs. These teams meet on Sept. 14 and Nov. 2. The forecast: Only three teams in the NFL have an easier schedule than San Francisco entering this season. But in this upside-down league, looks can be deceiving. A 49ers team that won the division by default last season can't expect a pass this time around. The Rams and Seahawks are on the rise. The 49ers appear to be treading water. Can San Francisco hold onto the division title? Probably not. Look for the 49ers to be fighting for their playoff lives entering the final weekend of the regular season. Veteran NFL correspondent David Moore is a regular contributor to
    Tagged: 49ers, Cardinals, Tony Parrish, Leonard Davis, Ahmed Plummer, Julian Peterson, Jeff Ulbrich, Brian Jennings, Jeff Garcia, Jason Webster, Andre Carter, Scott Gragg, Terrell Owens, Derrick Deese, Eric Heitmann, Jeff Chandler

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