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Niners shore up defense; set sights on Super Bowl
Starting quarterback for the 49ers and Turlock native Colin Kaepernick throws a pass during Fridays training camp. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

Finally, after a long offseason, the 2014 San Francisco 49ers are officially in business.

The 49ers and starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick are eagerly awaiting the beginning of the regular season but before the big day in September rolls around the team must go through training camp and preseason.

Training camp officially began on July 24 for the Turlock-native and the rest of his teammates. Players will go through a number of drills and meetings during this year's training camp, but the end goal for the Niners is clear from the onset — get to the big game and win the Super Bowl.

With two new key additions to the receiving corps in Stevie Johnson and the return of Brandon Lloyd to the team that drafted him, things already look dangerous for the new year.

“I think we’re just working as a whole to make sure we're getting better and every day when we're out here we are competing against each other,” said Kaepernick. “We have what we feel is an elite offense and defense and we get to go head-to-head every day, and so it will make us better for this season and our goal is set on the Super Bowl.”

While the Super Bowl is a ways away — and perhaps a longshot considering the 49ers are in arguably the toughest division — the team has not been this confident since its last Super Bowl run and they are set to do all they can to dethrone the Seahawks.

Defense wins championships and that is one of the goals set for the team this upcoming year, despite NaVorro Bowman sustaining a lengthy injury, but the linebacker corps was something that head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff quickly addressed with key acquisitions in free agency and the draft.

Of those added, Shayne Skov, who is a former player for Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at the collegiate level, was brought on as an undrafted free agent from Stanford and after a stellar career with the Cardinals, he is excited to get an opportunity to fill those shoes left by Bowman.

“I think while [Bowman] is out the coaches and team are expecting guys to step up and deliver and I think I also get the opportunity to learn from some of the best linebackers in the game,” Skov said.

After nearly two weeks into training camp, the linebacker group could not look any stronger with the additions of Aaron Lynch and also Chase Borland, both were picked up in this year’s draft.

Skov has been consistently good, especially in the last week for the 49ers. Michael Wilhoite, however, continues to work with the first-team defense and has been solid as he showed during his stint as a starter in 2013.

Chase Thomas, former Stanford star for Harbaugh, was also brought on as a free agent and is fighting for a roster spot with a core group that has about eight potential starters, but only four can start.

The inside linebacker battle is one of the best of training camp and should be one of the more intriguing positions to watch in Thursday's preseason opener.

“I think it’s a learning experience for me and I’m also trying to see how I can contribute early on and help this team win games,” said Skov.

Behind the anchor in All-Pro Patrick Willis, things will look to be interesting without his partner in crime, Bowman, but by the end of the month it should be obvious what direction this team is heading.

So far the only thing still up in the air is the running back and defensive back unit with injuries really taking a toll on both sides.

Kendall Hunter was waived due to another season-ending ACL injury and LaMichael James is out for at least four weeks, already leaving the running back crew thin behind the future Hall of Fame running back Frank Gore, who is near the end of his career.

Carlos Hyde sustained a hand injury during the team’s first practice at Levi's Stadium on Monday. It should not be a factor for the regular season opener, but this leaves the team with only three backs, assuming Gore will not take any carries during the preseason.

Preseason play starts on Thursday with a rematch of Super Bowl 47 between the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens at 4:30 p.m. in Baltimore.