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Five Good Questions with Niners Nation

Fooch, the head blogger over at Niners Nation, and I have exchanged the standard Five Questions about our respective teams.  Fooch is in the middle of finals at the moment, so his answers to my questions will be going up here later on.

In the meantime, you can read my answers to Fooch's questions by heading on over to Niners Nation via this link here.

Update [2007-12-8 0:34:51 by Gonzo]:

Here are Fooch's answers to my questions. Enjoy!

1) The Niners were a chic pick by many to make the leap to the post-season in 2007 after a strong finish in 2006. What's happened this season to keep the Niners from reaching that next plateau?

Well, an assortment of things combined to doom the 49ers season. Even after a 2-0 start, most of the readers of Niners Nation were happy to be 2-0, but we all could see the signs of their eventual demise. The offensive line was a strength last year, but apparently hit the wall at the same time. Larry Allen seems to be quickly approaching the end of his Hall of Fame career, Jonas Jennings has been banged up all year and Eric Heitmann took more time than expected to recover from his broken leg. While the offensive line has shown improvement in some games, the play-calling has been up and down all year and many fans and pundits are calling for OC Jim Hostler's head sooner rather than later. Mike Nolan and company have shown great skill in the draft and in free agency. However, Nolan has definitely had game day issues that seem to manifest in his timeout calling and his delegation of authority. The best description of this season would probably be confusion. Fans are confused at the play-calling and the coaches seem confused amongst themselves.

2) I know he's hurt and probably won't play the rest of the season, but do you believe that Alex Smith is the answer for the Niners at quarterback, or do they need to go a different direction?

I think Alex Smith could be the answer at QB for the 49ers. His injury issues are one of many things that have been troublesome for Smith. I'm still confused Smith has the physical tools to be a good NFL quarterback. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, but I don't think Smith will be a superstar in the mold of a Dan Marino or Peyton Manning. Of course when your receivers lead the NFL in drops, it's certainly difficult to take the next step. Even though this is Smith's third year in the NFL, he is still the youngest starting quarterback due to his graduation from Utah at 20. I believe he deserves another two seasons before it becomes time to fish or cut bait. In the meantime, the 49ers need to bring in a veteran that can bring more to the table on the field than Trent Dilfer. Dilfer has been a phenomenal mentor for Smith, but Dilfer is clearly not the answer once Smith got hurt. I don't expect the 49ers to use a high draft pick on a quarterback, but if they don't go after a veteran, maybe a later pick on a project QB.

3) Rookie Patrick Willis leads the NFL in tackles though the first 12 weeks of his rookie season. Tell us a little more about him and just how good he's been for the Niners.

Patrick Willis has been absolutely ridiculous in his first year. I haven't checked but I'm doubting a rookie has led the league in tackles. Of course part of that is due to the fact that he spends more time on the field than many of those behind him. I believe Ray Lewis has the best ratio of tackles compared to time on the field, although Willis is not too far back. And while tackles are certainly not the best measure of a linebacker, or any defender for that matter, it starts to paint the picture of Patrick Willis.

Willis has a speed that is very uncommon in linebackers. The national audience got a chance to see this two weeks ago when Willis ran down Morey in overtime eventually leading to a Neil Rackers missed field goal. That single play shows the athleticism AND determination of Willis. At the same time, he's been making filthy plays all season long. At least once a game, the opposing running back will be closing in on turning the corner to turn a 2 or 3 yard loss into an 8 or 9 yard gain, if not longer. All of a sudden you'll see Willis flash across the screen and down goes the running back in the backfield. I certainly can't wait to see the AP-PW matchup on Sunday. I'm sure Peterson will have plenty of big plays, but do not be surprised to see Willis take him down on a spectacular play in the backfield.

4) What do you think we can expect to see from the Niners this Sunday on both sides of the ball?

On offense, the 49ers will do their best to establish Frank Gore as a viable threat. If the offensive line can get any sort of push, Gore will make things happen. Additionally, Gore has turned into Trent Dilfer's favorite weapon, primarily coming out of the back field as a check down option over the middle. If Gore gets established early, the passing game can open up. In the passing game, Vernon Davis is the most versatile threat as he has been lined up anywhere from wide out, on the line to in the backfield. While Gore is the guy for the running game, Vernon Davis is the guy who can turn the passing game into a success.

On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers have been given short shrift lately. Statistically the defense is buried in the rankings, but that is due in large part to the insane amount of time (35-40+ minutes a game) that they seem to spend on the field. Nate Clements and Walt Harris have had their fair share of quality performances this season. I would expect a pick or two against Tavaris Jackson if he tries to force anything against them. Against the run the 49ers have been pretty inconsistent, turning in a solid performance one week and getting shredded the next. I don't think Peterson will shatter records against the 49ers, but I'd expect a decent performance.

5) If you could add one Viking not named Adrian Peterson to the Niners' roster, who would you select and why?

If I had to pick a Viking besides Adrian Peterson, I'd probably go with Steve Hutchinson or Sidney Rice. Larry Allen has hit the wall that is not shocking considering he's 36. I think a guy like Hutchinson would definitely help anchor the offensive line and I'm guessing Alex Smith wouldn't be on the shelf. Allen has certainly been able to be a mentor to a guy like Joe Staley, but the offensive line needs a guy who can still produce at a top, Pro Bowl-level.

I'd also enjoy seeing a youngster like Sidney Rice in a 49ers uniform as a sign of a decent receiving corp going forward. The 49ers drafted Jason Hill in the third round and while he has some great potential, this year has been a waste as he has been injured almost the entire season. Rice has shown some quality talent that could be beneficial to the 49ers receiving corp. Darrell Jackson can't catch anything, Ashley Lelie is virtually non-existent, and while I am a big Arnaz Battle fan, he can't carry the WRs on his own.