Dave Choate: The change from Colin Kaepernick to Blaine Gabbert...good idea, terrible idea, and what does it mean for the team's QB situation going forward?
David Fucillo: I don't know if it's a good or terrible idea. It's just....an idea. Kap has not played well, so I get the idea that they are not happy with the production. The problem with that is they are still leaving some awful offensive linemen in the starting lineup, and potentially rolling out the same conservative game plan that has led to not much of anything. I don't anticipate an improvement with Gabbert.
As for the future? Jim Tomsula said this is just a one week decision, and it will be evaluated moving forward. My hunch is we have seen the last of Colin Kaepernick as the 49ers quarterback. I think he will either be released or traded in the offseason, and the franchise will start from square one.
Dave Choate: The Falcons like to run the ball, but haven't really been able to pass effectively outside of targeting Julio Jones and Jacob Tamme. How are the 49ers going to handle that?
David Fucillo: Poorly, I'd imagine! But seriously, they actually did fairly well against Todd Gurley, but gave up a few big plays. The 49ers problems against the run have come from poor tackling. Physical runners can do some damage, and I could see Devonta Freeman breaking off a couple big runs.
If the 49ers can contain the run, their work against the pass is not particularly great. Their pass rush is inconsistent at best. Aaron Lynch leads that unit, with Ahmad Brooks as the other primary pass rusher. The group can get heat, but not close the deal, which often leads to just enough time for QBs to make plays. The 49ers cornerbacks are talented, but if they are left on an island, bad things can happen. Kenneth Acker is the starter opposite Tramaine Brock, but Acker is in the concussion protocol after having some issues on Tuesday, so that unit is in flux.
As for tight ends? NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite are the linebackers that could get some work on Tamme. Both can cover tight ends, but Bowman is not where he used to be following his 2014 knee surgery, and Wilhoite is a decent but not particularly "plus" linebacker. The Falcons will look to take advantage of that.
Dave Choate: The ground game looks like it'll be shaky, given injuries, so it's going to be on the shoulders of Gabbert and the passing game to win. How do you expect the team to attack the Falcons' secondary?
David Fucillo: Again, poorly! Gabbert is not a guy who will beat teams deep. He hasn't started a game in a couple years, but in the preseason, his best work was dinking and dunking. Look for a lot of short stuff to the tight ends, and then maybe some crossing routes with his receivers. He's got a nice deep threat in Torrey Smith, but I really don't know how effectively Gabbert can take advantage of Smith's deep speed. We didn't see it in the preseason, so we are going off nothing but guesses right now. Your guess is as good as mine as to what Gabbert can do.
Dave Choate: Is Jim Tomsula a capable enough coach to come out of this difficult (perhaps I'm understating that) season and return the 49ers to relevance, or will the team be shopping around again in a year or two?
David Fucillo: I doubt it. He seems in over his head with this team and the huge turnover in talent and coaching. He seems like a really nice guy, and the players seem to generally like him, but this team would have been better off with more of a hard-ass. Someone who would kick them in the butt in training camp, and not coddle them, which it felt like Tomsula did to some extent.
My guess is he gets through this year, and gets a chance in 2016, but is fired at some point in 2016, and we spin the wheel again moving into 2017. Good times all around!
Dave Choate: How do you anticipate this game will go, and the rest of your season?
David Fucillo: This is an odd game. I mean the 49ers offense should be abysmal, but your Falcons have not exactly put together a lot of strong performances. I look primarily at the overtime win against Washington and the close win in Tennessee as reasons to think this game ends up closer than I would otherwise expect.
Of course, then I remember the 49ers are rolling out a running back group that includes Kendall Gaskins (spent first seven weeks of the season on the practice squad), Pierre Thomas (free agent signing this week) and Shaun Draughn (free agent signing this week), and could just as easily see a comfortable Falcons win.
The 49ers are currently 2-6, and I don't think they win more than four or five games. The back end of their schedule has some easier games, which could create a false sense of positive momentum. I'd honestly just prefer this team go 2-14, get the #1 pick and go from there. I'm sure they'll find a way to disappoint me