49ers hope better health, QB play leads to 2021 success

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-10)

New faces: QB Trey Lance, C Alex Mack, DE Samson Ebukam, DE Arden Key, DT Maurice Hurst, WR Trent Sherfield, DL Zach Kerr, RB Trey Sermon, G Aaron Banks, WR Mohamed Sanu, CB Deommodore Lenoir, CB Ambry Thomas.

Key losses: DC Robert Saleh, CB Richard Sherman, DE Kerry Hyder, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Jordan Reed, QB Nick Mullens.

Strengths: The front seven of the defense is one of the stoutest in the league with the return of 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa at edge rusher after missing most of last season with a knee injury, and All-Pro middle linebacker Fred Warner. There is plenty of depth up front with Dee Ford looking healthy after missing last season with a back injury, Arik Armstead, D.J. Jones, Ebukam and Dre Greenlaw.

Weaknesses: The Niners don't have much proven depth at cornerback, which could be a big concern if Jason Verrett can't stay healthy. Verrett has played more than six games just twice in seven NFL seasons but was in top form last season. Emmanuel Moseley will start on the other side with K'Waun Williams back in the slot. There isn't much behind those three with journeyman Dontae Johnson and rookies Lenoir and Thomas next in line.

Camp Development: The main question at camp was how long Lance will take to supplant Garoppolo as starter. All signs point to Garoppolo remaining in that role to start the season, but the Niners have been mixing in Lance in certain situations.

Fantasy Player To Watch: TE George Kittle. Kittle was limited to eight games last year because of injuries but once again should be one of the top options at tight end after back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2018-19.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 14-1. Over/under wins: 10 1/2.

Expectations: The Niners blamed injuries for their fall from NFC champs in 2019 to out of the playoffs in 2020. They head into this season in relatively good health and expect to contend once again in the NFC. The 49ers traded three first-round draft picks for Lance because they believed they needed more dynamic play at quarterback than Garoppolo provided. They kept Garoppolo and his $25 million salary because they believed the roster is deep enough to contend this year.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

The Associated Press

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