1. The 49ers defense is obviously elite. Are there any areas of weakness? If you were the Chiefs, what would you attack?
Fooch: The 49ers defense has been strong under Jim Harbaugh, and the team added some quality talent this offseason. That being said, the secondary features some new faces, including rookie free safety Eric Reid. The 49ers let Dashon Goldson walk, leaving them with a hole next to Donte Whitner. There is no word on which of the 49ers free safeties will get the start Friday, as the team is rotating Reid, C.J. Spillman, Craig Dahl and Trenton Robinson.
Whichever safety is back there with Donte Whitner, I'd recommend the Chiefs attack the 49ers over the top. Reid is athletic and a hard worker, but he's still got plenty to learn about being an NFL safety.
Of course, in order to do that, the Chiefs will need to withstand the 49ers improved pass rush. The team has added depth at outside linebacker, so they can rotate more guys in with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Alex Smith is not one to take a ton of chances deep, but this early in the preseason, if the Chiefs can get the necessary pass protection, it makes sense to go deep.
2. How's our guy Glenn Dorsey doing? Where is he lining up and what is his role expected to be?
Fooch: Dorsey is coming along well. According to Dorsey, he is learning all new techniques in the 49ers version of the 3-4, but all indications are that he is picking it up well. While part of his job will be to occupy blockers, in the 49ers 3-4, the defensive ends also have some opportunities to disrupt and go after the quarterback. They are not in the mold of 4-3 pass rushers, but they get a bit more freedom.
Right now, he is listed on the depth chart as the backup nose tackle. However, while he will rotate with Ian Williams at nose tackle, he is also getting work along the entire line. It appears he will be the primary backup along the entire defensive line. Aside from coming in if injuries occur, it gives the 49ers an opportunity to rotate him in when Justin Smith or Ray McDonald is starting to get a little worn down.
3. What's the feeling in San Francisco about this year's 49ers? Can it be a successful season without a Super Bowl win?
Fooch: For fans, it is definitely Super Bowl or bust. A deep playoff run without a Super Bowl is certainly a good thing, but with the amount of talent on the roster, and back-to-back seasons coming up just short, this team is built to win a Super Bowl.
That being said, this team does have its share of question marks heading into the season. Aside from the new free safety, the cornerback depth chart is in a bit of flux after Tarell Brown. Even returning veteran Carlos Rogers is not guaranteed anything. The loss of Chris Culliver has thrown things for a bit of a loop in part because Nnamdi Asomugha has generally played right cornerback his entire career. He has played some left cornerback, but it seems like the team is left trying to figure out other options at LCB when the team goes into the nickel. The last two years, the 49ers have been in their nickel more than their base defense, so that is a rather prominent issue.
On the offensive side of the ball, we're talking about a quarterback with only 10 career starts. Colin Kaepernick looked strong in those starts, but for some fans there is that potential nagging doubt about his first full season as a starter. His potential is as high as any quarterback in the league, but the two big questions facing him are how defenses adjust to him this season, and how he in turns adjusts to them. That could dictate a lot about the 49ers success or failure in 2013.
4. How far do you think the 49ers would have gone last year if Alex Smith remained the starting QB?
Fooch: I think the 49ers could have gone just as far with Alex Smith, but getting to the Super Bowl would probably have been a bit more difficult. The problem in trying to compare what it would have been like is that the 49ers game plan would have changed so drastically. Alex Smith is an athletic quarterback, and in fact, I believe is underrated in that regard.
That being said, while he did run Urban Meyer's offense at Utah before Tim Tebow, he is not nearly the same threat on the ground as Colin Kaepernick. Smith can scramble and even in designed runs he can find success, but Kap is on a whole other level when it comes to his ground game. Add in Kap's arm strength (arguably as strong as anybody in the league), and we would have seen some differences in how the 49ers approached each game the rest of the way.
5. What worries you about playing Alex Smith? Can he take advantage of the 49ers defense anywhere?
Fooch: Alex Smith's strength is taking what defenses give him. He is a very smart quarterback, and combined with Andy Reid's offensive acumen, I am curious to see what Smith does against the dynamic 49ers defense. One area where the 49ers can sometimes struggle is on screen passes. The 49ers have a generally disciplined defense, but against screen passes they sometimes can get a little ahead of themselves.
As I mentioned earlier, I do think there is a chance to make some plays over the top against the 49ers safeties. Eric Reid is a rookie who sometimes in college would go for the big hit over the smart play. Donte Whitner is a great mop-up man, but if you go at him directly, the passing attack can succeed. But really it will come down to giving Alex Smith the protection to have time to go through his reads and make his decisions. I think he can find success against the 49ers defense, but if the pass rush plays like it did against the Broncos, it could make for a long couple series for Alex.