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The 49ers aren't doomed, but the 2015 season could be shaky

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The sky isn't quite falling for the 49ers, but fans shouldn't expect a winning season in 2015.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A window of greatness with three straight trips to the NFC Championship Game for the San Francisco 49ers came to a screeching halt after a 8-8 season in 2014 led into one of the worst offseasons imaginable.

In March, Louis Bien wrote that pity should be taken on 49ers fans for the string of bad news that hit the team. Somehow in the three months that followed, things got worse with the retirement of another key contributor and a trade that sent three-time Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee to the Cleveland Browns.

While the trade of Lee made sense given his age and salary, it is still another move that negatively affects the 49ers for the present. Yet, despite plenty of reasons to believe the 49ers will take a significant step back in the post-Jim Harbaugh era, there are a handful of newcomers to the team that insist the negativity is unfounded.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was never one to hold his tongue during his time with the Arizona Cardinals and things haven't changed since he signed with the 49ers in March. On Saturday, he sent a series of tweets insisting that the 49ers would be just fine.

Former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith also signed with the 49ers in March, and while fans want to feel bad for him for his decision to sign in San Francisco, he isn't hearing it:

With fans enduring a "sky is falling" spring, players maintaining positivity is a good thing, but that doesn't mean it'll translate to success in the fall. The 49ers have now lost 12 players that started six or more games in 2014 and all that roster turnover doesn't typically translate to success.

Why the 49ers will win in 2015

Despite all the bad news in the offseason, the 49ers still have some very good players in place to work with. Smith joins a roster that still has Colin Kaepernick, Joe Staley and Vernon Davis on offense and Dockett will be added to a defense that missed NaVorro Bowman for all of 2014 and Aldon Smith for nine games. Rookies Arik Armstead and Jaquiski Tartt could also positively impact a defense that finished fifth in yards allowed in 2014.

Are the 49ers really worse off at wide receiver by losing Michael Crabtree when he was replaced by Smith?

The success of the team will instead depend largely on the performance of Kaepernick, who is entering his third season as the team's full-time starter. The 49ers finished 25th in points scored and had the third-fewest passing yards in the NFL. But even that was largely due to a run-first mentality that will likely continue with Carlos Hyde at running back instead of Frank Gore.

Why the 49ers won't win in 2015

While the roster still has playmakers, it has taken a step back. If the 49ers really are better at wide receiver with Smith instead of Crabtree, that might be the only position group that is better in 2015.

The brunt of the team's success will now sit on the shoulders of Kaepernick, but with Gore gone as his safety blanket and Harbaugh gone as a mentor, that could spell trouble for the quarterback. Hyde has looked capable of taking over for Gore and being effective as a full-time back, but he's untested in that regard and will have to bulldoze for yardage without the aid of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, two of the team's best run blockers in 2014, on the offensive line.

Even the team's draft picks are unlikely to make a big impact for the team in 2015. While there's plenty of talent added with Armstead, Tartt and others, it's raw talent that could take some time to translate into success on the field. The 49ers seem to have drafted for the future and that requires patience.

Likelihood the 49ers finish better than 8-8: 2/10

It's the NFL, anything can happen and unpredictability is the name of the game. Armstead and Tartt should take some time to be big playmakers, but Aldon Smith was a raw talent expected to take some time to make an impact, too.

The bottom line is this, though: The 49ers had a better roster in 2014 than they do in 2015. It would be very surprising if the team managed to absorb the losses that it did and still escape with a winning record.

Instead fans should prepare for the worst and be patient while the team transitions to a new era.

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