Thursday, October 27, 2011
By Alvin Cadman
October 26, 2011
While the San Francisco 49ers are not yet at the halfway mark of the 2011 season, it's not too early to highlight the impact players that have the Red and Gold at 5-1 entering Week 8.
Their early season success is due in large part to contributions from all sides of the ball playing at a Pro Bowl level. And even though they may not need such performances against their lowly NFC West rivals, they'll need to reach that lofty level of play against the likes of Baltimore in November and Pittsburgh in December to prove to theirNFL naysayers that the 49ers belong with the league's elite.
Defense has been the main story, as the Niners are second in the NFL in rushing defense and takeaway/giveaway differential. The front seven have lived up to their preseason billing, but the secondary has surprised many and remained stable even in difficult matchups.
The 49ers offense had many question marks before and at the start of the season, only to silence their critics with consistent play from quarterback Alex Smith and a rebound of sorts from tailback Frank Gore. Their effectiveness while minimizing mistakes has allowed head coach Jim Harbaugh the luxury of leaning on the defense when necessary.
Special teams has also provided many bright spots on the season, whether it be the accuracy and strength from kicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee, or the return success from Ted Ginn Jr.
Assuming their stellar play on the field continues, here are eight players that the San Francisco 49ers can plan to have in this season's Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Returner Ted Ginn Jr.
While Ted Ginn Jr. continues to learn and grow as a receiver, his kick and punt return specialties are unquestionable.
He's tops in the NFC in kickoff return yardage and punt return average. Ginn is also second in kickoff return average and 3rd in punt return yardage. He keeps the momentum going when the offense and defense has done their jobs, seemingly sparking the 49ers to continue battling in close games.