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Will Blaine Gabbert be the 49ers' Starting QB to Begin 2016? Our Q&A With Niners Nation

David Fucillo from Niners Nation exchanged five questions with us, discussing the former Browns players Shaun Draughn and Phil Dawson, whether the 49ers miss Andy Lee, who their starting quarterback could be in 2016, and more.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to David Fucillo from Niners Nation and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!


Chris: "Shaun Draughn, previously a third- or fourth-string running back for the Browns earlier this year, has been the 49ers' starting running back for the past few weeks. How has he performed with the additional reps? Do you think his production is an indication of him, or do you think the 49ers pretty much have a plug-and-play system (for bare minimum production) at running back?"

David: "Draughn has been a capable running back, but certainly not any kind of star. He is averaging 3.3 yards per carry, but his real contributions have been as a receiver out of the backfield. Blaine Gabbert can get the ball downfield, but with serious offensive line problems, having a check-down option is a big plus. Draughn has 22 receptions for 163 yards in four starts. He is basically doing what the 49ers wanted out of Reggie Bush for a fraction of the price. But I think he is proving that depth at the running back position does not require extensive draft pick investment. It makes sense to invest in a significant starting option, but your depth can clear be found on the scrap-heap."


Chris: "Phil Dawson will return to Browns stadium for the first time since leaving the club this Sunday. Dawson was a hero to many Browns fans, and we still adore him to this day. Has he connected with the fans in San Francisco too, or is he just viewed as, "he's our current kicker."?"

David: "I think he's a guy that fans like, but it's not quite like it was with the Browns. He replaced David Akers, who struggled toward the end of his time in San Francisco, so having a consistent kicker made him an automatic fan favorite. He connected on some big playoff kicks in 2013, and that only added to it. The kicker is a guy you generally like when you don't hear his name a ton, and that's been the case for the 49ers. He gets plenty of work, but is a consistent, steady-eddie type of performer."


Chris: "The 49ers shipped Andy Lee to the Browns this offseason because they had a youngster they had invested in on their roster. Which punter would you take right now (considering performance and age)?"

David: "Andy Lee was probably our version of what Phil Dawson was to Browns fans. He was a punter who dominated even as the 49ers struggled. It was a bit of a shock to see them draft a younger punter and trade Lee, but for a team looking to rebuild it made sense. It was odd to spend a draft pick on a punter. Lee is averaging three more yards per punt on gross, and 0.5 on net, so the numbers are not hugely different. Pinion struggled early on, but he's come around the last couple weeks. I have accepted Andy Lee is gone, and I think long-term I can live with Pinion being the guy they look to for the future."


Chris: "I thought San Francisco's offseason was unprecedented in terms of how horrific it was -- just bad news after bad news. Now, Blaine Gabbert of all people is providing a spark to the 49ers. If we flash-forward to 2016 on opening day, how do you envision the 49ers' quarterback situation looking?"

David: "I expect the 49ers to trade or release Colin Kaepernick this coming spring before his 2016 salary becomes fully guaranteed on April 1. Blaine Gabbert has shown some things, and while I don't think he's ever going to be a "franchise quarterback", I do think the 49ers will have him as their starter Week 1 of the 2016 season. He is signed through next season, and it sets up well if the team drafts a quarterback next April to build around moving forward. I could see the team using a mid-round pick, rather than a first round pick, and having a guy who can sit for a season behind Gabbert."


Chris: "You got to see an advanced screening of Concussion, starring Will Smith. The Browns have been victimized by concussions more than any team in the NFL this year. Currently, Joe Haden, Andrew Hawkins, and Taylor Gabriel are out with concussion issues, and Haden has missed nearly a month of action after having multiple concussions in 2015. Was there a "wow" moment that you learned about concussions after having seen the movie?"

David: "There were several intense moments, but I would point to two in particular that really made the whole thing hit home:

1. At one point, Dr. Omalu is talking with neurosurgeons, explaining what concussions do to the human brain. He uses a comparison of the woodpecker. The woodpecker hammers away at a ridiculous rate, and yet never experiences brain damage, while football players hit each other and deal with brain trauma. Omaula explains that the reason woodpeckers do not traumatize their brains is because their tongues go back and actually wrap around the brain and connect to their nostril. This creates what Omalu describes as a shock absorber to protect the brain. This is something the human brain does not have, and if you watch it, it perfectly illustrates this.

2. Omalu brings home slides of Mike Webster's brain cells to figure out what the problem is. At one point, as the 'ah ha' moment is coming to him, his future wife is watching ESPN in the background, and they are playing the 'Jacked Up' segment of the NFL pre-game show. It's obviously pretty heavy-handed in hammering home the point, but it was very much a 'wow' moment for me. Obviously we know 'Jacked Up' was kind of a messed up segment on Sportscenter, but hearing Tom Jackson cackling as a player stumbles around after a ferocious hit, or as a player is knocked out on the field is very much a 'Wow' moment for the viewer.

It's an intense movie, but I highly recommend seeing it. If you've seen League of Denial, you'll know most of what's going on, but even still, it's worth a watch. It's obviously dramatized to some extent, but I think it does a great job providing the content in an understandable way without going overboard."


Thanks again to David for taking the time to answer my questions.