The San Francisco 49ers are back and it’s looking a lot different than when the team last played in the Bay Area.
And that means that, even as the team’s fortunes have been upended in recent years, the Eagles have remained relatively consistent.
The 49ers had a 2-11 record in 2016 before winning four straight games in 2017.
Their record in 2018 is 6-4, and they have not dropped a single game since a 26-17 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.
“It’s not easy to say, ‘Well, you know, we’ll win again,'” said 49ers defensive end Alex Boone, who recorded seven sacks in a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I don’t know how you can look at this and say, You know what, we’ve been through a lot.
But, yeah, I’m excited about this opportunity to win again.”
For the 49ers, who have not won a game since October, the team is getting a new look, and that means a lot of new faces.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who helped lead the team to a Super Bowl appearance last season, is back as the starter, with veteran running back Frank Gore returning to the fold as well.
The offensive line will be revamped with the addition of veteran guard Alex Boone and guard Gabe Jackson, and the defense will look to find a new identity after losing cornerback Aqib Talib for the season with a neck injury.
In his first season in San Francisco, Kaepernick has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards and 11 touchdowns, while the 49er defense has allowed just five touchdowns in 13 games.
The team’s first win was a 34-24 victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 1.
The Eagles are in the midst of a four-game winning streak, and Kaepernick is coming off a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints.
The second-year signal-caller has completed 57.6 percent of passes for 917 yards and four touchdowns, with his longest touchdown pass of the season was a 58-yarder to tight end Zach Ertz.
Ertz has had a solid season in his first two years with the 49.1-percent completion rate.
Erts first touchdown pass against the Saints was a 53-yard drive in Week 6, and he caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in a 41-13 win.
After that, he caught four passes for 52 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14.
Ertiz has been on a tear over the past two seasons, with eight touchdown catches in his last eight games.
His completion percentage is also up from last year, when he completed 65.3.
“Colin is a very accurate quarterback, and we feel like we can make him look good,” said 49er offensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
“We’ve seen him make big throws.
He’s done a great job of making big plays on third down.
He’ll throw a perfect pass.
That’s really what it comes down to.
He can be a guy who makes big plays.
We have to get him to be consistent.
He makes a lot and he has to continue to make big plays.”
The 49er offense has been an interesting one this offseason.
The first-year head coach Chip Kelly made a name for himself with a diverse offensive approach, with many of his decisions coming after his offensive coordinator, Trent Baalke, was fired in February.
The quarterback who has led the team in interceptions in each of the past three seasons has been the quarterback most expected to play.
He has been under pressure in 2017, but the 49th-ranked passer has shown flashes of brilliance, completing 50 percent of the passes he has thrown in four games this season.
His most recent outing against the Cardinals was the last time he had to throw in his career.
“There are a lot more similarities than a year ago with Colin Kaepernick,” Tomsulas said.
“You can see the progression he’s made in the way he’s throwing the football.
He throws it more accurately.
He looks better in his routes.
You’re seeing his comfort level and the trust in his ability, which is what you need for a quarterback to win a Superbowl.”
The rest of the team has been improved, but this group still has some work to do before it’s ready to compete with the top teams in the league.
“They’re getting better, they’re still not perfect, but they’re getting closer to the elite level of the NFL,” said NFL Network analyst and former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
“The biggest thing for me as a fan, I want them to get better every year.
They have a lot to work on.”