When the 49ers 2012 season is re-told, it will start and end at the quarterback position. There have been plenty of big stories for the 49ers, but none match the drama of the QB position. Alex Smith entered the season as the start, coming off his best year in leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game. He was off to a career year when he suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams
. The 49ers turned to second year QB Colin Kaepernick, and the rest is history.
Kaepernick had his national break out game against the Green Bay Packers
in the divisional round, and followed that up with a solid performance against the Atlanta Falcons
in the NFC Championship Game. He used his legs against the Packers, but settled into a slightly more traditional QB role against the Falcons, who sold out against the QB keeper from the read option.
Frank Gore is having a throw-back season thanks in part to having great blocking from his offensive line, and having a steady change of pace backup. Kendall Hunter
was the primary backup before tearing his Achilles. Rookie LaMichael James has been a revelation in only a few short weeks, providing great moves when he can get out in space. Gore will get the bulk of the work as a between the tackles guy, but James is a guy to watch from the pistol. Fullback Bruce Miller is a very solid blocker, and will likely make several appearances on Sunday.
The big story is the breakout of Michael Crabtree, who is having a career year. He was having a very solid season with Alex Smith, but it has taken a big turn with Colin Kaepernick at QB. Crabtree is the guy Kap looks to on third down in particular. Randy Moss is not putting up big numbers, but teams still pay him plenty of respect, which often opens things underneath. He still has solid speed deep, so if a DB gets him in single coverage, the 49ers are willing to go up top with him. The 49ers lost Mario Manningham
and Kyle Williams to season-ending injuries, and A.J. Jenkins and Ted Ginn have been relative non-factors this year. Chad Hall was added off the practice squad a couple days before the NFC title game.
The 49ers use a lot of two tight end sets, so really, Walker is a co-starter of sorts alongside Davis. Colin Kaepernick has not looked to Davis nearly as much as Alex Smith did, but that changed in the NFC title game where he caught five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Prior to that, Walker had often been a bigger target for Kap, although he struggles with drops. Walker is a sort of do-it all guy who will get his looks, particularly if the Ravens
double up on Davis.
Starters: LT Joe Staley (74), LG Mike Iupati (77), C Jonathan Goodwin (59), RG Alex Boone (75), RT Anthony Davis (76)