Jim Tomsula’s first offseason as 49ers head coach begins on Tuesday, but he will have to wait two weeks before he and his coaches are allowed on the field to work with their players.
During the first two weeks of the NFL’s offseason program, only strength and conditioning coaches are allowed on the field. The general coaching staff is not allowed on the field to oversee or observe any activity until Week 3.
But with the official beginning of the offseason program, here’s a look at the top five storylines for the club as they gather together for the first time in Santa Clara since the end of last season:
1. Tomsula’s rule: The 49ers’ ownership and management side were clearly eager for a change from Jim Harbaugh, who guided the team to at least the NFC Championship game in his first three seasons before sliding to an 8-8 record last season.
Tomsula is thought to be a popular figure among the players, too. Favorable initial reviews can be expected from the players, as Tomsula gets the team together and starts to implement his offseason program. The team will gather in one locker room, and it will be notable to observe what differences Tomsula will implement in his first offseason as coach.
2. Kaepernick’s mechanics: Independent quarterbacks coach Dennis Gile, with whom Kaepernick worked during the offseason, touted some major mechanical changes to Kaepernick’s throwing motion. That is undoubtedly a cause for concern among the 49ers’ coaching staff.
But 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chyrst and quarterbacks coach Steve Logan will have to wait a couple of weeks before providing their own input into Kaepernick’s mechanics. During the first two weeks of the offseason program, footballs may only be used if quarterbacks elect to throw to receivers, as the pass-catchers are not covered and the coaches remain behind closed doors.
3. Cornerback competition: Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox signed free-agent contracts with Washington and Tennessee, respectively. That leaves Tramaine Brock as the presumptive No. 1 cornerback, and someone who might be used to shadow the opposition’s No. 1 wide receiver.
On the other side, the 49ers have Shareece Wright, Dontae Johnson, Chris Cook, Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser. And they can be expected to add a draft pick, too.
The 49ers will have a three-day minicamp that wraps up on April 30, the opening day of the draft. The competition to start opposite of Brock will not begin until Week 6 of the offseason program when offense-vs.-defense drills can be introduced.
4. Vernon Davis: His worst NFL season was foreshadowed during the offseason program when the 49ers’ starting tight end was a no-show. He did not take part in the 49ers' offseason program and he looked to build his brand and angle for a new contract. The moment the 49ers announced Tomsula as head coach, Davis promised to be a full participant in this year's offseason program. Davis plays such a huge part of the 49ers’ offense – run and pass. The organization needs him fully invested in this season for the offense to show the kind of marked improvements needed for the team to be a contender.
5. Interior offensive line: Left guard Mike Iupati was a huge part of the 49ers’ success in the run game since his arrival in 2010. So how do the 49ers replace him? Veteran Erik Pears and first-year player Brandon Thomas are the two most-likely candidates. And if Daniel Kilgore wins the job at center, Marcus Martin can switch to guard to join the competition, too.