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Niners Nation pointed out that coach Jim Harbaugh likes his big backs to throw some bone-crushing blocks when they're in the backfield. Last year, Isaac Sopoaga answered that call for the 49ers most often.
But in the last preseason game, it was second-year, 6'4, 293-pound Will Tukuafu who showed why he got a lot of preseason playing time with a couple of huge blocks against the San Diego Chargers.
Tukuafu may be playing himself into the fullback conversation, which is great for the youngster, who hasn't seen a lot of minutes at defense. It would also allow Harbaugh to potentially use Sopoaga in a different fashion -- and having too many big bodies on a team can never be a bad thing in the NFL.
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The San Francisco 49ers have placed Parys Haralson on injured reserve, ending his 2012 season. The 49ers signed Clark Haggans to a one-year contract.
As further explained on Niners Nation, Haggans, a 12-year veteran, will add depth to the linebacking core that only kept three outside linebackers on the 53-man roster after the Niners' final roster cuts on Friday. The Niners got away with only three last season but Parys Haralson has already missed some practice time, so adding depth to the position makes sense.
Haggans does have a 2011 DUI lingering over his head and may still face league discipline.
On Saturday, we took a look at the San Francisco 49ers' 53-man roster, or at least, we took at look at the offense. That post can be found here, and the general gist is that the 49ers have more running backs and wide receivers than they know what to do with. So much so, that A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, the 49ers' first- and second-round picks, may not even be active each week.
And now we come to the defense. San Francisco's defense was the best in the NFL a season ago, and don't let anybody else to you differently. Justin Smith dominated as usual, NaVorro Bowman came into his own, and new additions Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner really stepped it up in the secondary. There are so many studs on this defense it's crazy.
That being said, there's been some changes, and we'll talk about each position below.
DeMarcus Dobbs is listed as a tight end because Jim Harbaugh is too stubborn to eat up more roster space on offense, so he's not listed here. Still, he might be above Tukuafu on the actual defensive depth chart. That's a lot of defensive linemen for a 3-4 team, especially given the insane versatility of Jean Francois. Still, the 49ers are well-equipped here. Nobody can doubt that.
That's a shockingly low number of outside linebackers, but the 49ers will make do. Haralson is a little banged up so there's still the question of whether or not the 49ers will make a move to bring in a fourth, but for now, they've got three players who are starting caliber. Aldon will be looking to stand up a bit more this year.
Not only do the 49ers have the best group of inside linebackers in the league, they have the No. 1 and No. 2 players at the position in Willis and Bowman. Grant also might be the best inside linebacker not named a starter, and he was retained as a restricted free agent this season. Last year, this included Blake Costanzo, but he was primarily a special teamer. No changes here.
Rogers went to the Pro Bowl a season ago and hopefully he can continue his career resurgence with a couple good years. He's getting up there in age though, so that's a worry. Still, Culliver is hoping for more playing time in his second year and Cox continues to seek redemption after a very strong preseason. He might force his way onto the field more and more this season if he can live up to his pre-draft hype at all.
San Francisco showed confidence in Spillman when they handed him a multi-year contract. Thought until recently to be a special teams player and nothing more, Spillman will be counted on as the primary backup at the strong safety position and perhaps even both at this point. San Francisco doesn't hand out multi-year deals to special teams players. Robinson is still developing as a late-round pick and McBath is the surprise inclusion on the roster with a very strong camp.
The San Francisco 49ers have announced their eight-man practice squad. The lineup is:
LB Cam Johnson
OT Al Netter
Niners Nation offers come comments on the squad, noting that the moves are not surprising.
Cam Johnson is not a surprise. He spent much of the preseason working back from some kind of knee surgery. He made his preseason debut on Thursday night but it seemed like the team figured they could hide him enough behind the injury to get him on the practice squad. Johnson is a guy who is reported to have a lot of talent, but has dealt with consistency and injury issues. Hopefully a year on the practice squad gets him ready for next year.
Check out the full post for more analysis on the 49ers practice squad.
On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers (and all teams in the NFL) cut down to the official regular season roster limit of 53 players. With these cuts did come a considerable amount of surprises. It was surprising to see the team keep Anthony Dixon over special teams ace Rock Cartwright, and it was certainly surprising to see them go so light on the linebackers this time around.
Many questions spring to mind - namely about who is going to actually be inactive on gamedays. There's six running backs on the official roster ... which one of them is inactive? Does LaMichael James ride the inactive list here and there, or do the 49ers use him, considering he cost a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft? Will first-round pick A.J. Jenkins be active the entire season, and will he get playing time?
The point is there are so many unanswered questions with this roster. There's positions that seem more like they're akin to a logjam than well-seated depth. Below, we'll take a look at the offensive side of the ball position-by-position.
No change in the depth chart here. Tolzien beat out Josh Johnson for a roster spot, presumably due to the fact that he's got more upside, because the battles were pretty even at this point. Alex is the unquestioned starter and Kaepernick showed some solid progression this year.
Gore, of course, is the starter going forward and he'll get the bulk of the carries. It's also very obvious that Hunter will get plenty of carries behind him. Then you have Dixon grabbing a carry or two and backing up Miller at the fullback position, and Jacobs grabbing short-yardage carries here and there. Where does that leave James? Nobody really knows at this point, but it's likely that one of these guys will have to spend some time inactive - a running back's worst nightmare.
When the 49ers took Jenkins, it was never a matter of forcing him into playing time sooner rather than later. The 49ers can afford to bring him up slow, but the fact remains that he needs to see the field this season to gain some seasoning. Receivers have to see the field, they're not like quarterbacks. Jenkins doesn't have many opportunities with this grouping, though if he shows some stuff early on, he could leap frog Ginn and Williams, given that they are the primary return specialists.
This is possibly the weirdest position on the team. Celek is a huge surprise given his camp struggles, but he has a lot of potential if he can stay healthy. He'll likely be inactive often, though. Dobbs is a player that isn't really a tight end but the 49ers are doing their damndest to not have three players who only play tight end active on gamedays. This will probably hurt them at some time during the season, but it does unquestionably give them some versatility here and there.
It's surprising to see that the 49ers aren't carrying nine offensive linemen, but they needed to cut some space somewhere on offense. Boone is the starting right guard but is also the backup tackle, so if a tackle goes down, Davis will step in at guard. Kilgore is likely the backup center, while Looney will almost always be inactive. It was surprising to see Jason Slowey released during the earlier roster cuts. Mike Person is a practice squad candidate.
Swain had a solid camp and has shown the ability to be a special teams contributor in the past, but there simply wasn't nearly enough room at the position with all the 49ers' offseason acquisitions. Swain also only has eight catches in 27 career games, but did catch six for 63 yards this preseason, which should help his cause on the open market.
The 49ers are now left with Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, Ted Ginn Jr. and 2012 first round pick A.J. Jenkins as the locks to make the roster at wide receiver. Nathan Palmer and Chris Owusu have done some good things this preseason but they'll likely be stashed on the practice squad with San Francisco's incredible depth.
For more 49ers news and roster updates, head on over to Niners Nation.
It looks like the San Francisco 49ers are going to gamble a little with their special teams coverage units in 2012. That isn't to say it's a huge gamble or anything, as they've got some excellent players. Still, after just trading special teamer Colin Jones to the Carolina Panthers for a seventh round pick, they've apparently told running back and special teams leader Rock Cartwright that he's getting released on Friday.
His release is not confirmed (though some reporters are citing their sources now), but Cartwright did have a revealing Tweet:
Wanna thank the 49ers for the opportunity..— Rock Cartwright (@Rockgotti25) August 31, 2012
Cartwright was pegged as the replacement for Blake Costanzo, who led the 49ers on special teams last season. Costanzo's unit was one of the, if not the best, units in the NFL. When the 49ers didn't pick up Costanzo when he hit free agency, there was a moment of panic. Now there's ... decidedly less panic.
And that's because of Anthony Dixon. He was a late-round pick a couple of years ago and hasn't done much else other than dance a lot and pump everyone up. He's been great in the locker room, but not on the field, leading many to think the crowded backfield would be his undoing. But Dixon has taken this preseason to absolutely step up and make things happen.
He re-dedicated himself to playing the fullback position to add to his value, and he's been doing his best to work hard on special teams. He's got the charisma, but he's still a young guy, and his spot on the roster still is not necessarily safe. If it is and he survives the final cuts, it's likely at the expense of Cartwright. And that's where he should be looking for inspiration: Cartwright.
Cartwright has made a 10-year career on special teams and being a great teammate. For awhile it seemed like Dixon might be too immature, but this could be a turning point for him, and if it is, then that spells great things for the 49ers. As it stands, he's got some big shoes to fill when it actually counts: the regular season.
Jones, who naturally plays safety, had six solo tackles in 13 games with the 49ers last season. David Fucillo of Niners Nation passed along the theory that this move could have been made for Darcel McBath or Michael Thomas to make the team as a special teamer. Both McBath and Thomas are still young and could possibly contribute more at safety than Jones would.
Jones was a sixth round pick of the 49ers last season and quickly proved to be a valuable special teams asset with his straight line speed. The 49ers had spoken about possibly turning him into a wide receiver but he's still likely to have the same role with the Panthers that he had with San Francisco last season.
The San Francisco 49ers capped off their preseason on a high note Thursday night with a dominant win, 35-3, over the San Diego Chargers. With the win, the 49ers finished the preseason with a record of 3-1.
Although the starters didn't play much, coach John Harbaugh walked away with much to be happy about after the lopsided victory, namely the play of backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The second-year pro out of the University of Nevada finished with 158 yards on 12-for-18 passing with two touchdowns. He also led the 49ers to a 21-0 lead at halftime.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation detailed Kaepernick's performance after Thursday's game.
"The real story for the 49ers last night was on offense. Colin Kaepernick got the show started when he replaced Alex Smith five players into the game. After Alex Smith made five successful handoffs, the Colin Kaepernick show started. He was 12 of 18 for 158 yards and two touchdowns, with one rush for seven yards. The passing yards show plenty, but the highlight of Kaepernick's night might have been his ability to throw on the run. That is not something unexpected, but seeing it work to perfection is so sweet."
For more 49ers news, analysis and updates, make sure to check out Niners Nation.
Second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to a 21-0 lead at halftime. Kaepernick threw two touchdowns, completing 12-for-18 passes for 158 yards. The 49ers defense also impressed, forcing two turnovers in the first quarter and holding the Chargers to just one field goal in the entire game.
In the Chargers' opening drive, 49ers safety CJ Spillman stripped the football from Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, leading to an eventual 32-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Delanie Walker. The 49ers regained possession of the football on the subsequent drive after 49ers safety Darcel McBath intercepted a Phillip Rivers pass.ers Quarterback
Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore did not see any action on Thursday night.
The 49ers open up their season on September 9th against the Green Bay Packers.
For more on the San Francisco 49ers, make sure to check out Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers lead the San Diego Chargers 21-0 at halftime Thursday night at Candlestick Park. San Francisco drew first blood in the game's opening drive, concluding a 11-play, 66-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Anthony Dixon.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the star of the first half, throwing a pair of touchdowns to receivers Delanie Walker and A.J. Jenkins. He finished the first half going 12-for-18 for 158 yards, completing passes to seven different receivers.
The 49ers defense has also caused problems for the Chargers, forcing a fumble and an interception in the first half. San Francisco has also held the Chargers to only 43 total rushing yards so far.
For more on the San Francisco 49ers, please head over to Niners Nation. For theRaiders side of life, check out Silver and Black Pride. For more on the league in general, please make your way over to SB Nation's dedicated NFL hub.
The NFLPA and the NFL came to terms on some rule changes for the upcoming season on Thursday as they have agreed to extended the trade deadline by two weeks and have tweaked how teams can use the injured reserve.
Players who were placed on IR by September 4 will be eligible to return at some point during the season. The old rule kept any player put on IR before the season off the roster for the remainder of the year. Any player placed on IR later than that date can return that season as well.
As for the trade deadline, it has been moved to Week 8 of the season instead of Week 6, giving teams extra flexibility to make a trade for a playoff push or have a fire sale.
For more on the San Francisco 49ers, please head over to Niners Nation. For the Raiders side of life, check out Silver and Black Pride. For more on the league in general, please make your way over to SB Nation's dedicated NFL hub.
The 49ers will be without a number of playmakers, including wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Mario Manningham, running back Brandon Jacobs and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs. However, linebacker Aldon Smith should be making his return.
When: 7 p.m. PT, Thursday
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco
Local TV Coverage: (via the506.com)
KBCW 44 (CW; San Francisco)
KMAX 31 (CW; Sacramento)
KION 46 (CBS; Monterey)
KGPE 47 (CBS; Fresno)
KERO 23 (ABC; Bakersfield)
KSBY 6 (NBC; San Luis Obispo)
KCVU 20 (FOX; Chico CA)
KBVU 28 (FOX; Eureka CA)
KOLO 8 (ABC; Reno NV)
KFBI 48 (MyTV; Medford OR)
KVAL 13 (CBS; Eugene OR)
KFMB 8 (CBS; San Diego)
KCAL 9 (Los Angeles)
KLAS 8 (CBS; Las Vegas)
KBFX 58 (FOX; Bakersfield)
KKFX 11 (FOX; Santa Barbara)
Radio Coverage: Chargers- Rock 105.3 FM - San Diego, 49ers- KSAN 107.7 The Bone
For more on the San Francisco 49ers, make sure to check out Niners Nation. Chargers fan? We got you covered over at Bolts From The Blue. For more on the league in general, please check out SB Nation's dedicated NFL hub.
The San Francisco 49ers have updated their depth chart after the latest round of cuts.
The 49ers were required to trim the roster down to 75 this week. Niners Nation examined some of the cuts.
Seventh-round draft pick Cam Johnson seems ready to prove what he's capable of as a San Francisco 49er. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports that he finally practiced after missing most of training camp with a knee injury. Johnson has been out of action the first few exhibition contests. It's unknown if he's been practicing at full strength since the 49ers close their practices to the media.
Other updates from 49ers camp include the following.
Outside linebacker Parys Haralson didn't appear to practice today as he wasn't on the field. Fellow OLB Eric Bakhitari wore a non-contact black jersey after sustaining a concussion against the Broncos.
Players who didn't practice include DeMarcus Dobbs, who suffered a left leg injury; running back Brandon Jacobs had a left knee injury; receiver/returner Ted Ginn who has a right ankle issue; and Mario Manningham, who is on leave after the death of his grandfather.
Despite the San Francisco 49ers' defense giving up 122 passing yards and 17 points in the first three Denver Broncos possessions in Sunday's Week 3 preseason game, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is not worried.
"We just didn't play well enough on certain plays," said Fangio. "I think it was a great learning experience for us. Some of the plays we broke down, we definitely could've played better. And in some instances, they just beat us one-on-one."
The first-team defense has been through preseason woes before. Last season, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub lit up the 49ers for 180 yards and 24 points in the first half of the team's third preseason game.
The 49ers have forced just one punt in seven series in the preseason, with the opposition scoring 26 points on two field goals and four touchdowns.
For more on the 49ers, visit Niners Nation.
Monday was the first day of mandatory off-season cuts for NFL teams. The 49ers cut 12 players in order to get to the 75-player roster limit, which makes the final 53-man roster seem much more clear. Granted none of the cuts were huge surprises, but perhaps a few "roster long-shots" were removed from some projections.
As such, I'm going to throw my hat into the ring and try my hand at predicting the "final" (it's never final) 53-man roster. I doubt I'll shock anyone with my picks, but let's face it: It's a right of passage this time of year when the games haven't yet counted.
Here we go!
Some notable players not everyone may have:
Darcel McBath: I might be the only one, but I think his experience will be a good reason to keep him around, especially with Dashon Goldson's future up in the air, playing this year on the franchise tender.
Kyle Williams: The vitriol has gone on long enough. Time to start embracing the fact that Williams is entrenched as the backup punt returner (although that might make you cringe) and is explosive as a WR (evidenced vs. Denver with a huge gain on a short pass-and-run).
Scott Tolzien: The kid is a pure gamer and a real pocket-passer. He stands tall and has a gritty command of the huddle. I think he could work his way into challenging for a starting role in a few years, as unlikely as it may seem being he was an undrafted free-agent in 2011.
I left Ian Williams off, though that's looking like a tenuous conclusion. He has practice-squad eligibility but another team may likely snatch him up to play nose-tackle (as a backup at first) with the advent of the 3-4 defense.
I also think the 49ers try to stash Cam Johnson on the PS after a quiet pre-season where he was slowed by injuries. Parys Haralson isn't long for his spot as overpriced-backup at OLB and Johnson has flashed talent at times.
In the end, I think Josh Johnson ends up a Seahawk as they are not very comitted to their third-string QB Josh Portis at the moment, and just traded Tarvaris Jackson. We all know how they like to pick up the 49ers scraps, and Johnson has some experience as a backup...but won't command big money.
The San Francisco 49ers have made the next round of cuts they had to make for the Monday deadline. NFL league rules stipulate that the team must hit the 75-man roster limit by today at 1 PM Pacific, so the 49ers had to take 12 players off their team.
David Fucillo reports on the roster cuts at Niners Nation. The 12 players cut were defensive end Matthew Masifilo (one of Jim Harbaugh's players back at Stanford) defensive tackle Patrick Butrym, defensive backs Ben Hannula and Cory Nelms, wide receiver Joe Hastings, cornerback Deante Purvis, kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, tight end Joe Sawyer, offensive lineman Jason Slowey, fullback Cameron Bell, and wide receiver Brian Tyms.
The 49ers still have one more deadline to meet: The final roster cut that'll determine the 53 man roster. That move must be made before Opening Day. The 49ers will have to decide which 22 players will be left off the team and which ones will end up on the practice squad.
The San Francisco 49ers have a host of injuries heading into their final preseason game, but one player they still hope to get back is their top rookie from last season, pass rush specialist Aldon Smith.
Smith has a deep hip bruise and missed Sunday's game against Denver. He did suit up before the game but the decision was made not to let him play, though that is a good sign he could see some time on Aug. 30 against San Diego.
The same goes for linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is dealing with a knee injury. He missed Sunday's game as well.
Wide receiver and return man Ted Ginn Jr. injured his right ankle being tackled in the third quarter Sunday. Ginn needed X-rays but they were negative, according to reports.
Other 49ers dealing with injuries include running backs Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James and cornerback Chris Culliver. Outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari appeared to suffer a concussion during the game, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Peyton Manning may have shredded the 49ers defense while he was on the field but David Akers still managed to personally outscore the veteran quarterback thanks to five field goals in San Francisco's 29-24 win over the Denver Broncos.
Akers looked about as sharp as a placekicker can look, nailing all five of his attempts including a 45-yarder. The 37-year-old Akers made nine straight points in the fourth quarter to give the 49ers a lead they'd never relinquish and outscored Manning 15-12 in the process.
The outcome might have been different though if Manning played more than a quarter. The new Broncos signal caller carefully tore apart a usually unyielding 49ers defense, completing 10 of his 12 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns to Eric Decker. San Francisco would eventually get a break when Caleb Hanie replaced Manning and threw an interception to former Bronco Perrish Cox on his first drive.
The only 49ers first-stringer touchdown would come on a 44-yard strike from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis in the waning seconds of the first quarter. Anthony Dixon also found pay dirt later in the third with a 26-yard touchdown scamper but Akers would do the rest of the damage.
Smith finished the day 5-of-7 for 69 yards and a touchdown and Colin Kaepernick continued to impress completing all four of his pass attempts for 80 yards. The 49ers would total 139 yards on the ground lead by Dixon's 58 yards on 13 carries.
For more 49ers preseason news, head on over to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers had one of the best defenses in the league last season, and yet, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning still looked like the Manning of old against them as he led the Broncos to a 17-7 lead over the Niners in the first quarter of their preseason game at Mile High Stadium.
Manning finished the first half 10 of 12 for 122 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver Eric Decker.
The Niners almost went into the second quarter without putting up a point but were able to get a late 44-yard touchdown from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis right before the quarter ended which cut the deficit to 10.
The Niners only managed 65 totals yards in the quarter, none on the ground and 44 yards coming from the touchdown pass to Davis as the Niners only managed 10 first quarter plays to the Broncos 22.
The Niners are 1-1 so far this preseason, the same record as the Broncos. Both teams have new pieces all over the field and are starting to let their starters get more time on the field as the preseason slowly comes to an end.
The 49ers were hoping Smith could get in some preseason action since suffering a deep hip bruise on the preseason opener on August 10. Both players dressed in uniforms and went through warm-ups with the first string defense, but eventually changed back into t-shirts and are now watching the game from the sideline.
Bowman is currently dealing with a knee injury he suffered in practice this week. He was reported walking around without a noticeable limp at the end of Thursday's practice.
As a rookie last season, Smith was a key cog in the San Francisco defense, as he recorded 14 sacks and 37 tackles. Judging from the fact he actually suited up, Smith should most likely see some action in the 49ers last preseason game against the San Diego Chargers on August 30 -- barring any further setbacks.
Moss will see more time at the receiver position with fellow wideout Mario Manningham not playing as he grieves the loss of someone close to him. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James will all be out with injuries and did not make the trip to Denver.
Moss returned to the NFL after briefly retiring and is searching for a rhythm with quarterback Alex Smith. Moss had three receptions for 24 yards in the 49ers' last exhibition game against the Houston Texas, a 20-9 loss.
Niners-Broncos will feature two future Hall of Famers whose careers were in question fairly recently, in Moss and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
As the San Francisco 49ers prepare to take on the Denver Broncos Sunday in their third preseason game of the year, they will unfortunately be without a number of playmakers. Wide receiver Mario Manningham and running backs Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James did not make the trip to Denver, according to the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows.
James suffered an ankle injury late in last week against Houston, while Jacobs has been nursing a knee injury since San Francisco's meeting with the Texans last week. As for Manningham, he simply sent out a one-word tweet on Saturday: "Hurting."
Barrows notes his apparent ailment is unknown at this time, although subsequent tweets suggested Manningham may have lost a friend or family member. Manningham did not miss any practice time this week, according to Barrows.
For more discussion and analysis of the San Francisco the 49ers, make sure to check out Niners Nation.
San Francisco is currently 1-1 in the preseason after losing 20-9 to the Houston Texans last week. The big news for the 49ers this week is the return of Aldon Smith. Smith injured his hip during the first preseason game and there was initially some concern that it would cause him to miss the rest of the preseason.
After sitting out the game against the Texans, Smith returned to practice Monday and could play Sunday against the Broncos. While San Francisco might get Smith back, they will be without running back Brandon Jacobs and cornerback Chris Culliver. Jacobs injured his knee against Houston and is out for the rest of the preseason while Culliver is also out with a knee injury.
The 49ers will face a Peyton Manning led Broncos offense which should provide a good test for San Francisco's defense. Denver is 1-1 during the preseason, but are coming off a 31-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, August 26; 4:00 p.m. ET
Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
TV Schedule: FOX
Running back Brandon Jacobs was absent from the San Francisco 49ers' practice on Wednesday after suffering a left knee injury during a preseason loss to the Houston Texans that figures to sideline him until at least Week 1.
Three other 49ers linebackers were no-shows as practice got underway -- Kourtnei Brown (hamstring), Cam Johnson (leg) and Darius Fleming (knee). Brown and Johnson were seen on the side field doing individual work and outdoor workouts at the weight facility.
The good news was that running back LaMichael James, the team's second-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, was present and active, fielding punts along with Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams and Deante Purvis. Offensive lineman Mike Person also returned to the practice field after missing a day.
Bowman's absence was the biggest surprise, and it still unknown why he was absent. According to the Mercury News' report, it does not appear to be injury-related.
For more on the 49ers, visit Niners Nation.
Heading into the third preseason game, the San Francisco 49ers will likely use their starters much longer than they have in the previous two contests, meaning the first real taste of extended play for players like guard Mike Iupati, who has come into his own in his third season in the league.
Along with Anthony Davis and Alex Boone, the trio of 2010 rookies have become a young, talented force to be reckoned with in the NFL, giving effort and punishing opposing defensive lines:
"All we do as an O-line is just try to play physical," Iupati said. "We play together, do our job and hope the holes open up. You have to be able to run the ball before you pass it."
San Francisco has already gained 378 yards on the ground in just two preseason games, but face a stiff test on Sunday when they take on the Denver Broncos, who will playing their starters most of the way, as well. But after falling just short of a trip to the Super Bowl last season, Iupati and the rest of the 49ers understand the importance of never resting and always striving to get better:
"We just have to play as a unit," Iupati said. "We are good right now. We just have to get better and better."
Hopefully, they will come Sunday against the Broncos.
For more on the San Francisco 49ers, make sure that you head on over to Niners Nation to get in on the action.
With most of the 49ers starters set, the true depth chart battles are coming for the backup spots in 2012.
San Francisco's Aldon Smith said that the hip injury that had him limping around the sidelines of practices is healing quickly, and he could return for one of the 49ers' two remaining preseason games, according to CSN Bay Area.
The outside linebacker was back at practice on Monday, and he said he's improving pretty quickly from a deep hip bruise that he suffered in the preseason opener on Aug. 10. The second-year pro could see time this Sunday against the Denver Broncos or Aug. 30 against the San Diego Chargers, should head coach Jim Harbaugh be willing to play him.
Smith was still limping on Monday, but that's a vast improvement considering he was walking with the help of a cane not long ago, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
As a rookie last season, Smith had a big role on San Francisco's hard-hitting defense. He recorded 14 sacks and 37 tackles in 2011.
The 49ers held a press conference Monday in Santa Clara where coach Jim Harbaugh and running back Frank Gore expressed enthusiasm for the upcoming season.
Gore, in particular, seemed extra eager to get back out onto the field. The star running back has been limited like most starters in the preseason, but his role is also changing a bit this year with LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs and Kendall Hunter backing him up.
When I got out there against the Houston Texans, you know, I wanted to keep going, especially after I got the first carry and it was a pretty good run. You know, get that rhythm and keep going but I got to listen to the coach, he knows what's best for me. Whenever it's time for me to go, hopefully against Green Bay, I'll be full speed.
Coach Harbaugh also had only nice things to say about Gore, who only had two carries in the 49ers 20-9 loss against the Texans on Saturday.
He looks spry, as you put it. Expectations are always really high for Frank. You know, we've got a lot of admiration for Frank and his abilities and respect for his game. He's looking good so far; so far so good.
Expectations are high all over for the 49ers after the team made its playoff run last year. Gore said the team is at an advantage because last year they were learning the winning ways as they went onto the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Now Gore says the team is just aiming to build on that success.
Like I said before, everybody was learning last year, so there was a lot of thinking. Now, we know what we got to do, we know the looks and we can just play football, so that's why I think we look so much better this year at this point.
The 49ers next play the Denver Broncos in an exhibition game on Sunday, August 26.
Smith sustained a right hip bruise in the 49ers' exhibition opener Aug. 10. He spent much of last week watching from the sidelines in crutches and there is a strong chance he will be available to play in Sunday's exhibition game against the Denver Broncos.
Walker has been out of practice for the past week after sustaining a right knee injury during the team's open practice at Candlestick Park Aug. 12.
Running back LaMichael James attended Monday's practice but was not in pads after suffering a left ankle sprain on Saturday night against the Houston Texans. Fellow running back Brandon Jacobs was standing in crutches on Monday after also sustaining a knee injury against the Texans. Coach Jim Harbaugh is hoping Jacobs will be ready by the season opener Sept. 9.
Smith had a stellar rookie season last year and set a 49ers record for most sacks by a rookie, with 14.0.
For any and all information on the 49ers, head to the team page at Niners Nation.
Patrick Willis (No. 12) and Justin Smith (No.10) headline 10 San Francisco 49ers' players that graced the Scouts, Inc. Top 200 player rankings in 2012. Of the 10, six of the players came from the defensive side of the ball, four were on offense, and one on special teams.
Smith made the jump from No. 25 in 2011 all the way to cracking the top ten in 2012. Other 49ers who made the rankings were Aldon Smith (51st), Vernon Davis, (65th, up from 111th), NaVorro Bowman (80th), Mike Iupati (103rd), Carlos Rogers (175th), Joe Staley (176th), Andy Lee (183rd), and DaShon Goldson (184th). Notably absent from the list was running back Frank Gore, who was 114th last season. Making the biggest leap on the list for the 49ers was Aldon Smith, who went from unranked to No. 51.
The NFC West has three of the top 12 players, which is significant because the NFC has only eight divisions. It all amounts to more proof that the 49ers have one of the most talented teams in the league. For more on the 49ers, visit Niners Nation.
For additional coverage, visit Niners Nation.
Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James both went down with injuries in the San Francisco 49ers preseason game against the Houston Texans. Currently, neither of their injuries are considered to be serious.
The San Francisco 49ers received a scare as running back Brandon Jacobs appeared to injure his left knee in their last preseason game. Fortunately for the franchise an MRI has shown there is no structural damage. There is no timetable set for Jacobs' return, but there is still a chance he is able to return for the season opener.
Here is the latest news on Jacobs:
Really good news for— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 20, 2012
#49ers: RB Brandon Jacobs has "no major damage," source says after MRI. No timetable yet.
The 49ers have to be thrilled with the results. Jacobs is expected to be a key member of the backfield along with Frank Gore, and the very last thing you want for a running back to have is a knee problem. Look for San Francisco to take every precaution with the veteran tailback in the coming weeks as he recovers from the injury.
For more on Jacobs and the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.
"Most of it was self-inflicted by me," Smith told Comcast Sports Bay Area. "The O-Line played good. ... It's tough to explain. Stupidity."
Smith attempted just nine passes on Saturday, going 5-for-9 for 49 yards against the Houston Texans defense. Over the course of two drives, Smith led the 49ers to a David Akers field goal on his first drive. His second drive was cut short when an Anthony Dixon rush was stopped for no gain on fourth down after 53 yards in 12 plays.
Smith did not end up leading the 49ers in passing on Saturday, that honor went to Josh Johnson, who completed four passes for 64 yards. Rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick also completed four passes for 19 yards. No other 49ers quarterback was sacked on the night.
For more Niners coverage, visit Niners Nation.
In the San Francisco 49ers' deep stable of running backs, second-year back Kendall Hunter was able to separate his performance from the rest of the pack Saturday night, rushing for 46 yards on six carries during the Niners' 20-9 loss to the Houston Texans.
Hunter was among a few players who used Saturday night's preseason action to make a name for themselves. Hunter has generated some buzz in San Francisco after rushing for 473 yards and two touchdowns in 2011.
Linebacker Eric Bakhtiari has similarly seen his performances during the preseason speak volumes about his potential. Bakhtiari led San Francisco with seven tackles against Houston, after claiming two sacks last week against the Vikings in preseason action.
Bakhtiari's strong performance takes a little weight off the defense as a whole, which was exposed at times against quarterback Matt Schaub and the Texans' offense during the Niners' loss.
For more 49ers football, visit Niners Nation.
Brandon Jacobs gained eight yards on his first carry of the San Francisco 49ers preseason loss to the Houston Texans. But after those eight yards were gained, Jacobs needed help getting off the field due to a knee injury that was preventing him from putting any weight on his leg. An MRI is scheduled for Sunday.
According to the San Francisco 49ers twitter feed, head coach Jim Harbaugh says that Jacobs will miss some time but that the injury is one that you can come back from.
Jacobs and rookie running back LaMichael James are both hurt at the moment, but James will be back at practice on Monday. The 49ers loaded up on backfield depth this summer, and it will pay off if James and Jacobs miss any time. Rock Cartwright and Anthony Dixon are still available behind Frank Gore.
For more on Jacobs and other injury updates, check out Niners Nation.
Comcast Sports Network's Matt Maiocco reported that despite the apparent severity of the twisted ankle, James says he will be ready to participate in team drills when team practices resume.
The rookie running back injured his ankle during the fourth quarter of San Francisco's preseason game with the Houston Texans. James was filling in for Brandon Jacobs, who had suffered an injury during the game in the first quarter.
James, who was the 49ers' second-round pick out of Oregon in the 2012 draft, was taken down awkwardly in a pileup and had to leave the game that the 49ers eventually lost, 20-9.
Before sustaining the ankle injury, James had rushed for 19 yards on four carries for the 49ers.
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers fell 20-9 in their second preseason game on Saturday night to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston. But the bigger loss might be running back Brandon Jacobs, who hurt his left knee.
After his first carry of the game for eight yards, Jacobs injured his knee and needed help getting off the field. He was unable to put any weight on his leg while on the sidelines. X-rays are negative for Jacobs; however, he will have an MRI on Sunday as a precaution. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed the running back's injury and that he will miss time. According to Harbaugh, the injury is not considered to be season-ending.
The 49ers welcomed back once-retired wide receiver Randy Moss, who had three catches tonight for 24 yards.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub went 11-for-14 with 129 yards and one touchdown. Another player affected by injuries last season was star running back Arian Foster. Like his teammate Schaub, he looks to be back in form with 10 carries for 47 yards.
For more on this game, head over to Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area.
It might just be a lousy, meaningless preseason game but this lousy, meaningless preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans is a very realistic potential Super Bowl matchup.
Both teams had breakout seasons last year, with the Niners earning a first round bye and the Texans securing their first playoff birth in the history of the franchise. And oddly enough, both teams did it with similar formulas: control the ball with a pounding run game then unleash an aggressive attacking defense on unsuspecting offenses.
For this go around though, don't expect to see a lot of star power. Houston my try to test San Francisco's line with a blitz or two but ultimately, they're not going to risk much with J.J. Watt still recovering from an elbow injury and Shaun Cody owning a back ailment of his own.
The Niners' will be without their star pass-rusher, Aldon Smith, as well. Smith will most likely miss the remainder of the preseason with a hip bruise as head coach Jim Harbaugh looks to play it safe with last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up.
Other than that, fans can expect to see their favorite players on the field for about one and a half quarters of action. Yipee!
Game Date/Time: Saturday, August 18 at 8:00 pm EDT
Location: Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas
Where To Watch: NFL Preseason Live
Texans: 610 AM/100.3 FM/1010 AM
49ers: KGO/107.7 THE BONE
Even with the news that 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox will not be suspended by the NFL for his sexual assault case that occurred over 2010-2012, the second-year defender is still fighting an uphill battle to make San Francisco's final roster.
The most recent team depth chart had Cox as the third-string left corner behind Carlos Rogers and Tramaine Brock. While this may seem discouraging, Niners Nation is quick to point out that this list doesn't have a spot for the slot receiver coverage man when San Fran switches to their nickel formations. This is most likely where Cox will make his presence felt and luckily enough, it seems he's been able to catch the eye of the coaching staff so far.
There's no doubt Cox is talented enough to make the team. As a fifth-round rookie in 2010, Cox started nine games and showed some serious flashes of potential with 14 passes defended. Then again, there could be some rust with Cox sitting out all of the 2011-2012 season while battling his legal issues.
But as long as the former Oklahoma State Cowboy keeps his head down and learns a thing or two from Pro Bowler Carlos Rogers, he should have more than enough natural ability to find his niche in San Francisco.
A league source said that San Francisco 49ers CB Perrish Cox will not be disciplined in relation to a sexual assault case against Cox in 2010. Cox was signed by the 49ers after being found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in his apartment while with the Denver Broncos in 2010.
Cox was out of football for the entire 2011 season while defending himself against these charges, but has fit in nicely since signing with San Francisco. Cox has been playing with the second unit and will see significant time on the field in three- and four-receiver sets. In Friday's preseason opener, Cox got the 49ers' only interception of the game.
The woman has filed a civil suit against Cox that is still pending. If Cox is found liable in civil court, the NFL could still go back and decide to hand out a suspension.
49ers fans are hoping he can keep up his laser accuracy in the regular season.
Smith is obviously the key to the 49ers' success on offense and any improvement he brings upon 2011's campaign will make 49ers' fans happy. Rookie LaMichael James and newcomers Mario Manningham and veteran Randy Moss combined with a year of experience under head coach Jim Harbaugh could potentially lead to more success for Smith.
49ers left tackle Joe Staley emphasized the effect of having playmakers on the team's potential offensive output:
"The passing game went through Vernon and Crabtree. The running game was Frank [Gore] and Kendall [Hunter]. We've added a lot of talent. The more weapons you have, the more versatile you can be. Our coaches are very creative." (Via: ESPN.com)
One point is clear at the end of training camp: Smith has more weapons. Now that he has more weapons, it's his opportunity to take advantage of them. If he doesn't eclipse his 2011 campaign this season, fans will consider it a massive step back.
The San Francisco 49ers have waived tight end Nate Byham, according to a report from training camp. The news comes as a bit of a surprise; Byham really impressed after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, but he suffered a knee injury and missed the entire season.
By the time he returned a new coaching staff had taken over, burying him a bit on the depth chart. The two sides have now parted ways.
— Janie McCauley (@JanieMcCAP) August 16, 2012
#49ers have waived/injured TE Nate Byham, a sixth-round pick in 2010 who missed all of last year recovering from ACL surgery on his knee.
Despite his history with injury, many around the 49ers believed Byham could make the team as the third tight end. That is no longer the case, and now he'll continue his football career outside of San Francisco.
Alama-Francis is entering his fifth season in the NFL, and comes to San Francisco after last playing with the Miami Dolphins.
Drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft by the Detroit Lions, Alama-Francis has struggled to find a solid role on an NFL team. His most productive season was in 2008, when he played in 13 games with Detroit and contributed 23 tackles and one sack.
From Kane'ohe, Hawaii, Alama-Francis played two years in college for the Hawaii Warriors.
Gijon Robinson, who has spent three NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts after playing college ball at Missouri Western State, has 31 career receptions for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Harbaugh, however, made sure to point out that nothing was "set in stone."
The dual-threat quarterback out of Nevada shined in this week's preseason game, where he ran for 92 yards on three carries, including one touchdown run of 78 yards. He went for 40 yards on 5-of-9 passing on Friday, a 17-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
In his rookie season with San Francisco, Kaepernick played in three games and only threw five passes.
Kaepernick has now separated himself from Scott Tolzien and Josh Johnson, who were also vying for the second-string spot. Harbaugh said that all four quarterbacks will play on Saturday, when the 49ers face the Houston Texans.
Continuing our looks at each starter on the 49ers' roster, we're going to look at the left side of the offensive line next. Today, we'll take a look at Joe Staley, and then we'll examine Mike Iupati (and go down the line, skipping right guard, because who knows who will be starting there? It's the only unsettled starting position on the roster, strictly speaking). Staley is the team's left tackle and he's signed for the next century or so, last we checked.
Last Season: Staley started slowly, as is par the course for him, but really solidified through the second half of the season. The offensive line as a whole struggled early on, but by the end, the 49ers had themselves a very solid line, and though many think he didn't quite deserve it, Staley was sent to the Pro Bowl. Maybe what he had wasn't strictly a Pro Bowl season, but it was pretty darn good.
Big Question: Will he be mature? Staley is a funny guy - and that is just fine. He can be the clown and he can be immature off the field. He'll always be well-respected by his teammates. But on the field, he makes those rookie mistakes like you'd expect ... from a rookie. It's frustrating for 49ers fans to see Staley get called on a false start three times in a game, and it's frustrating to see him make the fundamental mistakes. He needs to mature and stop playing like a strong left tackle only 70 percent of the time.
Projection: Staley didn't necessarily improve from the season before last to last season, but he did get better as each season progressed. Maybe the offseason gave him some fits and he can build on a full offseason this time around. Still, Staley made the Pro Bowl without really ... earning it, in most peoples' eyes. Smart money is on him not making it this time around, though he's not necessarily in for a poor season.
The last thing the San Francisco 49ers need right now is second-year linebacker Aldon Smith missing extended time with a leg injury. His rookie season had a ton of silver linings, with the big take-away being that this man is going to be a pass-rushing monster for a long time. Initial quickness, a killer instinct and monster length make him a guy you want to send on every down in every situation.
It would be a shame for him to lose any of that initial burst due to a leg injury or something similar. But what would be the biggest shame is him being put on the shelf for an extended period of time during the regular season due to being rushed back in the preseason.
There aren't many players who enter there second year in the NFL and don't require some looks in the preseason. If the 49ers have ever had such a player, it's Smith. For the first couple snaps against the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason opener, Smith looked a step ahead of every player on the field. He tossed aside left tackle Matt Kalil and made Christian Ponder run for his life. He made the other players on the 49ers' defense look slow in comparison as he got a jump on the snap every time.
Sure, San Francisco would love to evaluate how Smith is doing standing up and not just rushing the passer, but in the end, he's a guy you want going after the quarterback more often than naught. The 49ers know he's good for rushing the passer and should not even consider bringing him back at all this preseason if there's any doubts about his leg injury.
See this tweet from CBS Sports 49ers correspondent Kyle Bonagura, who says he noticed Smith at the team facility Monday, using a cane and definitely limping.
Smith was injured in Friday night's preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings. He's expected to miss at least the next two preseason games, and with starters held out in the fourth game, would be ready for the regular-season opener next month.
All of that could still be the case, however it certainly has to be unsettling to see a pass-rush specialist that was key to the 49ers' defensive success last season limping and using a cane. Even if it might look kind of cool.
Smith had 14 sacks last season for the Niners, and added two more in the playoffs.
Apparently Jets head coach Rex Ryan hasn't had his fill of Wildcat quarterbacks after publicly admitting his regret for not drafting 49ers' backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick Sunday, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.
Despite having already having a full blown quarterback controversy on his hands with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, Ryan went out of his way to share with the NFL that the Jets had legitimate interest in drafting Kaepernick back in 2011.
"Again, some people think the Wildcat has come and gone. No, it hasn't. If anything, it's just the opposite. I saw the kid from San Francisco, Kaepernick," Ryan said, via comments distributed by the team. "He runs a 4.4 or something. I was really intrigued by him when he came out because I thought we were going to lose Brad. [The 49ers] drafted him before we could, but I was interested in him. He went for a 70-yard touchdown run the other day. You're seeing these guys and it's hard to defend some of that stuff. When you have the ability to throw, as well as run, it makes it tough."
With Ryan being the character he is, it's difficult to determine if this was the fourth year head coach's way of setting trade discussions in motion or if it was just a moment of borderline-tampering honesty. Regardless, San Francisco has to love the fact that Ryan was this public with his love of the 6-foot-4 quarterback. It certainly can't hurt his trade value if that's a route they decide to consider down the road.
While Aldon Smith's bruised hip injury wasn't nearly as severe as first estimated, the second year pass-rusher is still expected to miss the 49ers' final three preseason games, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has already ruled to keep Smith out of Saturday's game against the Houston Texans and it also seems "unlikely" that he'll play in the August 26 exhibition against the Denver Broncos. And with the final game of the preseason commonly being the one in which coaches tend to rest all if not most of their starters, it seems like San Francisco may just choose to play if safe with the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year runner up.
Tight end Delanie Walker was also bit by the injury bug Sunday afternoon, sustaining a right knee injury that forced him to spend most of practice riding the pine while he iced the ailment. Harbaugh suggested that Walker's injury wont keep him out for any sort of extended period of time and was confident again that the team had dodged "another bullet."
For more information on the 49ers and all your injury updates, head over to Niners Nation.
Is it time to overreact yet? Well, the San Francisco 49ers just played a preseason game - so of course it is! Unlike past years, most overreactions related to this 49ers team will be positive ones, not built from desperation. Sure, over at Niners Nation we joke around about "Player X Was Our Future!" after said player is cut following a stellar preseason performance, but in reality, posts like those are born of desperation. Looking for the savior of the franchise - trying to find that diamond in the rough to lead a troubled team to the promised land.
San Francisco doesn't need that, because Jim Harbaugh is a badass. So without further ado (first person to try and correct me and say it's "adieu" gets a palm strike), let's get some glorious overreactions based on what we saw in the 49ers' 17-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday:
What do you mean half of those weren't overreactions and that most of them were just idiotic rants penned at 2:00 in the morning? What do you mean that's not what you just said at all? I DON'T CARE LEAVE ME ALONE! Thanks for reading, ya'll.
The San Francisco 49ers hosted the Minnesota Vikings on Friday in the preseason opener for both teams. The Niners managed to get their preseason started on the right foot as they picked up a 17-6 win.
The game was interesting in that the entirety of the scoring for both teams was done in the first half. The Niners scored seven points in the first quarter and 10 in the second. After halftime, the game was a stalemate. From the outset, however, the 49ers controlled the tempo. Alex Smith capped off San Francisco's opening possession with a four-yard touchdown pass to Brett Swan and the Niners never looked back.
Colin Kaepernick had a rushing touchdown for the other six-point play in the game.
The game was far from all good news for the 49ers, however. Aldon Smith needed to leave the game after suffering an injury and has been diagnosed with a bruised hip.
The San Francisco 49ers received a scare on Friday night as linebacker Aldon Smith exited the game with an injury. He hobbled off the field and was carted into the locker room, but after an evaluation he has been diagnosed with a bruised hip. As expected, Smith will not return to tonight's preseason game with the Vikings.
Aldon Smith has been diagnosed with a hip bruise and will not return— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 11, 2012
The injury is not believed to be serious, although it'll take some time for Smith to recover. The diagnosis is not nearly as bad as it could have been, especially when some were wondering if he could have fractured a bone or dislocated something.
Do not look for the 49ers to rush Smith back onto the playing field. With nearly four weeks remaining before the start of the regular season, it would be silly to have their star linebacker practicing while not 100%.
For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.
The biggest fear for NFL teams every August is that they'll lose a star player to injury during training camp. Not more than an hour into the San Francisco 49ers' first preseason game of the season, linebacker Aldon Smith began limping badly and was carted into the locker room.
Not a whole lot is known about the injury at this time, although many are speculating it is a hip issue. Smith broke his leg at Mizzou during the 2010 college season, but he's been relatively healthy other than that.
Aldon Smith getting on a cart and being taken to the locker room. He is limping very badly.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) August 11, 2012
It goes without saying that losing Smith for any period of time would be a huge blow to the 49ers defense. He emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the game last season as a rookie, and the sky is the limit as far as his potential goes.
We will keep you updated here on SB Nation Bay Area as more information is released.
For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.
A preview of the 49ers first preseason game of 2012.
On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park to get their preseason underway. Alex Smith and the first team offense is looking to come out and make sure they're on the same page, while the guys behind him will be trying to get first dibs at taking his job should he relinquish it.
Which is a wholly interesting proposition.
We've talked a little bit about Alex Smith and his "leash." Sure, he had a great year last year, and were it not for the fact that this league was so absolutely stacked at the quarterback position, he'd have been among the best. He didn't produce the raw numbers you generally expect, but he had an admirable plus/minus and he came through in the clutch time and time again.
But the man is only one season removed from several years of turmoil and missed expectations. His career, to this point, has been defined by mismanagement and disappointment. This coming season can see Smith lead San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and though it will earn him self satisfaction, a bonus check and some sizable bling, it will hardly earn him any fan confidence heading into the 2013 season.
That's just how bad it's been for him since being made the No. 1 overall pick in 2005. That's why the battle for the backup quarterback position is such an interesting one. To think, the 49ers made it to the NFC Championship game last year and didn't lose because of the offense, and the backup quarterback position still is this important says a lot about Smith's career thus far.
Fortunately, that's one of the most relevant things you'll find in the preseason. Quarterback battles are won in the preseason, and instead of watching for the next unknown guy to come in and hopefully save this franchise, fans can bank on an entertaining battle between Colin Kaepernick and Josh Johnson to see who is the No. 2 guy behind Smith.
Again though, that battle has significance. If Smith falters and the 49ers are clearly in a downward spiral and it's because of him, we could legitimately see one of those two guys under center during the regular season. Clearly, the 49ers would be a better team if we don't have to see any of Kaepernick or Johnson in 2012 during the regular season, but it's clearly a significant battle worth paying attention to.
No one has ever questioned Michael Crabtree's ability on a football field when he's healthy. Unfortunately for the San Francisco 49ers over the years, that hasn't always been the case and they're yet to see just how good their wide receiver can be over the course of a long season.
After missing all of last year's preseason camp with a foot injury, Crabtree is healthy and ready to go this time around. According to this report from CSN Bay Area, Crabtree will be a starter at wideout on Friday night as the Vikings come to town.
"The starting receivers will be Ted Ginn and Michael Crabtree," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday.
Coach Harbaugh also said Randy Moss will see some time on the field, as will Kyle Williams.
It seems unlikely that Crabtree will play more than a series or two with it only being the first preseason game, but it'll be good for the 49ers to see their young receiver healthy and out on the field. If he becomes the player he is capable of being, you really have to like San Francisco's chances in 2012.
Kickoff from Candlestick Park is scheduled for 6 p.m. PT on Friday.
For more on Crabtree and the 49ers throughout the season, check out Niners Nation.
As the 49ers prepare to play the Minnesota Vikings in their first preseason game of the 2012 season, I have a few things that I'll be watching during the game. Many people aren't interested in the preseason or wonder why people even watch the games.
For me it's a matter of answering some questions about players, not to mention getting to see my beloved team in their game-day uniforms in an NFL stadium...yeah, I'm a sports-nerd like that.
Here are a few things that I'll be watching closely and, if you need an excuse to be interested...you can steal my reasons.
The San Francisco 49ers announced on Thursday that they have released cornerback Curtis Holcomb from the team
Holcomb, a seventh-round draft pick last year, missed his rookie season with an Achilles tendon injury, missing even more time this year in training camp with a leg injury.
Holcomb returned to team drills on Wednesday with the 49ers, making a nice play to push Delanie Walker out of bounds at the 1-yard line on a series in the red-zone. Nevertheless, it was not enough to save him.
Holcomb was trying to earn himself a a spot in a cornerback unit that returned its top four players from the 2011-12 season, inlcuding Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock. Perrish Cox has also had a good showing in camp thus far as well. All will be in action in Friday night's preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park.
For more in depth discussion and analysis of the San Francisco 49ers, make sure to check out Niners Nation.
We'll continue our run of looking at the projected starters on the San Francisco 49ers this coming season, and today we'll be looking at wide receiver Michael Crabtree. The wide receiver depth chart isn't yet set, with new faces like A.J. Jenkins, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham vying for playing time, but it's a pretty safe bet that Crabtree, who has a leg-up on the competition, will be one of the starters.
Last Season: Crabtree started out poor, as always since he has yet to play in a preseason game in the NFL, but he did get a lot better as the season went on. He, like many players on the offense, had a little trouble devouring the entirety of Jim Harbaugh's playbook, and as such was part of a limited offense. Perhaps the best sign in 2011 was the fact that he wasn't dropping footballs - when he got his hands on them, he made some pretty spectacular passes. That being said, he still has yet to break 1,000 yards.
Big Question: Will he play in the preseason and, if so, will he look good right out of the gate? The 49ers need a No. 1 receiver, and being that Crabtree was drafted in the top ten and felt he deserved top five money, he's the likely candidate to fill that roll. But as it happens, it's not looking entirely likely. Crabtree has a lot of work to do, and that starts with his own preparation. San Francisco doesn't need a guy who turns it on mid-way through the season.
Projection: Smart money is on Crabtree flourishing as Harbaugh's system really takes hold and all the ins-and-outs are revealed. That isn't to say that he'll be a No. 1 guy and one of the best receivers in the league, but there's too much natural talent there, and too many potential 10-yard slant routes to ignore. The guy just has that kind of skillset to do well once he has the ball in his hands and if it all doesn't come together this season, it probably won't ever. Luckily, there's a good chance it does.
The San Francisco 49ers have yet to make any significant changes in their quarterback depth chart. Alex Smith is of course still the starter. Colin Kaepernick remains solidly entrenched in the second spot. David Fucillo has the story from Niners Nation.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media today and he confirmed that Colin Kaepernick remains the number two quarterback even with the competition still ongoing. All four quarterbacks will get playing time, but Coach Harbaugh would not provide specifics on how many series each would play, other than to say they would all play "a good amount."
Kaepernick staying at the two-spot might mean many things for the 49ers. They might believe he's truly the best backup QB and the next best option to Smith It could also mean he sees the field as part of special offensive packages to try and be utilized for his running ability and athleticism to give the 49ers a different look under center. But right now he remains entrenched at the second spot ahead of Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien.
Talk about Kaepernick with 49ers fans by heading on over to Niners Nation.
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We continue our run of looks at the projected starters for the San Francisco 49ers - we're getting through them before the start of the regular season. Today, we'll take a look at running back Frank Gore, who spent most of his career suffering as the best player on a hopeless team. He's been the bell cow of the 49ers' offense for years, and now, seemingly at the tail-end of his career, his hoping to win a Super Bowl with a team that's better than it's ever been since he's been a pro.
Last Season: Gore had a down year in 2010, missing five games, but he bounced back with a vengeance in 2011, finishing with his second-highest yardage total for his career. How's that for a running back in "decline"? Gore rushed for 1,211 yards with eight touchdowns, and about 100 yards receiving as well. He played big in big games and got his yardage in chunks, but it was a strong season, regardless.
Big Question: How much can he possibly have left at this point? People were talking trade and decline in 2009, and yet he delivered a 1,000-yard season then. It's all about whether or not a wrench is thrown in the works for Gore, who needs to avoid an injury. He's not necessarily brittle, but he does appear to be a little injury prone. How much does he have left heading into his eighth season, approaching 30 years of age?
Projection: Gore will need to avoid injury like never before. It's hard to imagine him playing behind another player, but if there was ever a 49ers roster in which he has to worry about losing his spot, it's this one. Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs and Anthony Dixon are all hoping for roster spots and playing time. They likely won't out-play Gore to take his job, but if he falters through injury, someone else could get a chance to shine. Still, Gore looked great a season ago and most signs point to him having another strong year.
Could the 49ers finally get a preseason sighting of wide receiver Michael Crabtree? After missing the previous three preseasons due to a contract dispute (2009), a neck injury (2010) and a broken foot (2011), Crabtree may see the field this time around.
Crabtree suffered a calf injury during the 49ers opening practice on July 27 and has been rehabbing since then. On Monday morning, according to the Sacramento Bee, Crabtree joined his fellow wide receivers on the practice field for individual drills. Shoulder pads, helmet, the whole nine. It actually looked like, you know, that he was on the team and whatnot.
The 49ers start their preseason on Friday at home against Minnesota. Will Crabtree be in the lineup? We don't know yet. But it looks like this could be the closest he has been to joining the festivities in four years and that's a good sign, if anything.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has just missed another day of training camp, and he's "working through something." That's the official word on his status, though our hawk-eyed beat writers have noticed that it's a foot injury of some kind. Crabtree has had foot problems since coming into the NFL, and they've kept him out of the preseason. Usually, he comes back right after the end of the preseason, but doesn't partake in any of it.
And as such, he's usually really, really bad at the start of the season. Crabtree has been so laughably bad in weeks one and two in the past, and that's probably due to the fact that he's never a participant in preseason. Now, nobody is going to make the claim that he's a diva at this point or that he's faking injuries.
But come on.
At any rate, this is all just a little posturing at this point, as it's likely Crabtree will come back prior to the end of this preseason, which gets started on Aug. 10. Or will he? The issue with what's going on right now is that there's no official word on what his injury is.
All that we know is a statement from Trent Baalke saying "absolutely not" in regards to whether or not his current injury is in relation to the past injuries with his foot. That in itself is somewhat worrying when it comes to Crabtree. Sure, the 49ers aren't keen on sharing most information with the media, but we generally know what is ailing a player and to what extent said player is ailed.
Who knows what's going on at this point?
On Sunday, we took a look at the leader of the offense: quarterback Alex Smith. We're previewing all the starters on both sides of the ball for the San Francisco 49ers, and what better way to continue than taking a look at the leader on defense: linebacker Patrick Willis.
Last Season: Willis was slightly overshadowed by the insane performance from fellow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, but all the same, Willis had another great year. He did show certain lapses in coverage, if we're trying to find some fault with him. It seems as he was asked to get a bit more aggressive, his coverage skills suffered, especially when dealing with athletic tight ends. Still, Willis saw another trip to the Pro Bowl and was, at worst, one of the top two linebackers in the NFL.
Big Question: We had a big question for Alex, but there's not a whole lot surrounding Willis. It seems like Bowman caught everyone by surprise, including the 49ers. There's a chance Willis may be asked to keep up the aggression as Bowman settles into that "all over the field" role that Willis has been so good at all these years. Willis might just become a player who either blitzes or covers an athletic tight end, as opposed to being that general patrolling the middle of the field.
Projection: Will Willis ever miss the Pro Bowl at this point? There's a chance, of course, but smart money isn't on him slowing down one bit. If Bowman gets even better than he was last year, then Willis may be overshadowed again, but make no mistake: Willis is set to have a great year, especially if he can avoid the nagging injuries he's had. There's really no safer projection in the NFL at this point.
The 2012 NFL season is right around the corner, with the first preseason game being less-than two weeks away now. We're going to take this time to take a look at each of the projected starters of the San Francisco 49ers and give them a quick breakdown, with one player per day. We'll start with the offense, and if we're starting there, we can only begin with one player: quarterback Alex Smith.
Last Season: Jim Harbaugh took flattery to new levels with the windy prose he spouted to the media during the NFL lockout. Smith wasn't even signed at that point, but Harbaugh laid it on thick with the praise and put his trust in Smith early on by giving him a playbook before he was under contract. Maybe this was because Harbaugh actually had faith, or maybe it was because Smith was simply his best option, but that's how it went down.
And it worked out incredibly well. Smith didn't necessarily have a Pro Bowl year, but that's mostly because the quarterbacks in the NFL today are so good, and the bar is set pretty high. He started, getting his umpteenth chance to do so, and had the best year of his career. He controlled the ball and didn't turn it over, which was excellent in lieu of those big numbers. Smith did nothing other than cement his place as the starter.
Big Question: With only a small portion of Harbaugh's playbook exercised in 2011, will Smith "open up" the offense with more comfort and new toys to play with such as Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and LaMichael James? Preventing turnovers will surely be his biggest assignment once again, but many are wondering if he comes out guns blazing in 2012.
Smith's Leash: San Francisco wants that ball control/field position offense to work in much the same way it did a year ago. What happens if Smith comes out of the gate throwing interceptions and generally looking poor? His career thus far has been defined by quarterback battles - and it would be interesting to see if Colin Kaepernick or Josh Johnson got in on the action if San Francisco is losing games. Just some food for thought.
Projection: It's hard to imagine Smith regressing, given just how he's conducted himself recently. He looks the part of a mature quarterback who knows what he's doing, and he's got the intelligence to devour that playbook with a full offseason of learning. Will San Francisco get 10+ wins again with him at the helm? Who knows - but smart money is on his performance continuing to walk that middle ground between safe football and top-flight football.
Yesterday, we took note of the fact that the San Francisco 49ers would be a much better team in 2012-13 if Alex Boone won the starting job at the right guard position, beating out recent signee and veteran of 150-plus games, Leonard Davis. Boone, with more upside and athleticism, would have to show a technical understanding of the position to beat out a veteran like Davis, regardless of how far past his prime he may be. This in itself would be huge for the 49ers, who are searching for an answer at the position.
Now we'll look at another player who is new to the team and what it would mean if he catches on: cornerback Perrish Cox. Unlike Davis, the 49ers would be very well off if Cox won himself some playing time to go on top of that roster spot he's not yet guaranteed and is presently fighting for.
Cox's primary competition is Tramaine Brock and, let's be honest, he's been less-than inspiring since he mysteriously rode the roster with no real purpose when Mike Singletary was in charge. This was at the expense of some promising guys, most notably linebacker Diyral Briggs. Of course, he didn't go on to be anything special (though he does have a Super Bowl ring as a special teamer with the Green Bay Packers), but the point stands.
Brock is just not a technically sound cornerback. It seems as though he's kept his place on the roster due the fact that he's good in practice, but when he actually plays in games, he's routinely bested by wide receivers. Obviously, if Cox beats him for the nickel cornerback spot, then the 49ers are getting the better player, but Cox winning such a battle also could say some things about the future of the position for San Francisco.
Fans shouldn't forget the fact that Cox was considered something like late first- to second-round talent when he was drafted. A number of off-the-field issues have marred his career thus far, and he's only just not coming back into the NFL. But he's still a young player, and if he can even begin realizing that potential that had Denver Broncos fans deeming him the replacement to Champ Bailey, then the 49ers are in good shape.
So much like the promising Boone, San Francisco would be in a great position if Cox were to step it up, earn a spot on the roster and playing time in the lineup at the nickel position. It'd be nice if he contributed more than special teams help in general, really - but for now, the potential is still there.
San Francisco 49ers training camp for 2012 is underway and one of the more intriguing storylines to watch over the next few weeks will be the performance of free agent signee Randy Moss. Will he make the roster? Will he find the form that once made him one of the premiere deep threats in the game? We shall see, but he gave fans an idea of how things were going with his first comments since being signed on March 12th.
MercuryNews' Cam Inman shares some of his comments. "By me signing here, being around a great group of guys young and enthusiastic, makes me feel young," said Moss. He went on to talk about his motivation, noting, "I'm not an individual. I've never been an individual through the course of my career. I'm not about breaking records. They come and go. I love being around the game of football and being in the locker room. These guys are young and enthusiastic, and I feel young. Coach Harbaugh, he came in fired up from Day 1."
As for how things are going with Alex Smith, the latest quarterback he'll be catching passes from?
"It's a work in progress. I look forward to going out and competing every day. I feel pretty good physically. ... It's a feeling I haven't felt in a while, being around young guys. Makes me feel good. I've got a little pep in my step."
Recently, we touched up on the fact that the San Francisco 49ers are taking a big gamble with their right guard position. The offensive line is perhaps the most important group of positions in football, and going in without a real right guard to actually battle for a starting spot is dangerous stuff when you're a team that was one game away from the Super Bowl a season ago.
When push comes to shove in the NFC Championship game, there's a good chance it comes down to small imperfections. Having a right guard who is new to the position or simply isn't good at it could be devastating to the entire flow of a game, let alone an entire season.
On Thursday, the 49ers signed veteran guard Leonard Davis, presumably to come in and compete with converted offensive tackle Alex Boone. It's an interesting development, given Davis' pedigree. The man has started over 150 games at guard in his career, while Boone has only done light work as a backup swing tackle. Granted, many were excited about his ability at swing tackle, but he wasn't anything near what Davis has been.
There's also the prevailing theory that Boone just isn't suited for RG. The man is 6-foot-8 and - let's stress this one more time - hasn't played the position before. Davis is a couple inches shorter and a quarter short of a 100 pounds heavier.
All of that being said, it would still be better for the 49ers is Boone won the starting job. If Boone won the starting job, that means he's more fundamentally sound than the aging Davis. He's certainly more strong and athletic at this point in their careers (at least over a season that could run 19 games). Boone needs to go out there and win this starting job, so the 49ers don't have to rely on a guy that they didn't sign months ago when they were able to.
Boone is their first option at the position. Moving to a guy like Davis doesn't mean that Davis showed something truly awesome out there on the practice field, it means Boone failed. If Boone doesn't start in 2012-13, that means he failed. It doesn't mean anything about Davis other than that he's familiar enough to be put into the role until all of his bones are broken. San Francisco would surely be a better team next year if Boone wins this battle.
As the veterans of the San Francisco 49ers get set to join the rest of the youngsters at training camp on Thursday, there will be one more vet taking the field with them as safety Dashon Goldson has signed his one-year franchise tender to remain in the Bay for at least one more season.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the signing on Twitter, which came at the perfect time for San Francisco. Even though he claimed he wouldn't have any form of holdout, his signing came down to the wire before camp.
Goldson was a force to be reckoned with for the 49ers last season, racking up 67 tackles, one forced fumble and six interceptions. The hard hitting safety will join the rest of his defensive unit at training camp, a far cry from last year's lockout-riddled semi-practices at San Jose State.
For more on the 49ers, make sure to check out Niners Nation.
So, I've been no small critic of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss. From the very moment he was signed I've been talking about how I don't expect him to make the roster or if he does, how I don't expect much out of him when it all comes down to it. The tape on Moss is long and, quite honestly, brilliant. But you're only as good as the last time you were out on the field, and Moss can't even say that was an outlier, given the frequency at which these things have been happening.
These things being the fact that he gives up and doesn't care the moment he's not catching 60-yard touchdown passes. Actually, that's not fair ... he's probably cool with touchdown passes of any yardage, providing he doesn't have to go over the middle or do anything other than run a streak route. To his credit, he can pull out some mad hops and make a two-yard streak route into an actual thing and a touchdown.
Training camp has just started for rookies and select veterans, while everyone is set to report very soon. There's battles at running back, safety, cornerback, quarterback and, of course, wide receiver. Moss will be looking to strut his stuff in training camp and probably even preseason. He'll work hard and maybe even earn a spot in the starting lineup as one of the top three.
Hell, he could even be the No. 1 receiver.
But you know something? You're not going to find many "Moss impresses in practice again," or "Moss is back!" pieces from me. Nothing Moss can do in preseason should convince you that this won't all end in shambles. There's a difference between optimism and total delusion. 49ers fans have crossed it at this point. Nothing he does should make you think that he'll have a 1,000 yard season, because Moss before the season begins and Moss after he sees action in the regular season are two different people.
Maybe I'll be wrong and Moss will have a great year. Outside of Moss himself and possibly the always-obsessive Jim Harbaugh, nobody will be as happy as I will. Here's to hoping there's a career resurgence and he ends up with two excellent years before he calls it quits. But this writer knows there's about to be an awful lot of fluff written about him and a decidedly lacking bit of rational skepticism from everyone involved.
In short, let's not get carried away and make too much of the fact that a ton of articles about Moss looking as good as he ever has are about to be published. And let's all cross our fingers and hope that all that confidence and desire to turn things around isn't the first thing out the window when the first ball is kicked off in week one.
When the San Francisco 49ers made defensive end/linebacker Aldon Smith the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, there was a lot of head-scratching. Not many had considered him a possibility at that point, considering guys like Robert Quinn were slated to go much higher. But the 49ers went with their guy and fans warmed up pretty quickly once DeMarcus Ware's name was being thrown around as a point of comparison.
The biggest issue with Smith was the same thing that plagues many players who wish to play the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense at the NFL level: standing up. Not only had Smith not done it much at all in the college ranks, the lockout prevented him from having any kind of offseason to really learn the position.
So when the 49ers started using him, it was solely as a pass-rusher. Now, if Smith plays the rest of his career and only does that, there won't be too much of an issue. He's damn good at what he does - already one of the best in the league in that regard. That being said, a 3-4 needs a functional guy that can do the kinds of things that, say, Parys Haralson does.
Which begs the question: is Smith going to stand up at all this season?
Again, if he doesn't, it's all gravy because he's so great at what he already does. But is it likely that he stands? This writer thinks so. Smith is terribly athletic, and the 49ers absolutely love it when they get linebackers who can run down receivers and running backs. Getting Smith to that sideline-to-sideline level that guys like Haralson and Manny Lawson are at would make him one helluva player and then some.
Some feel that standing Smith up is a little silly given how great he is at rushing the passer. But there's value in a player being able to do multiple things and there's always the surprise element. Say the 49ers only use Smith to rush the passer for an entire game. Next week, the opposing team would be, you know, preparing for him to rush the passer.
What better time for Smith to drop back and pick off a pass? Ware does much the same thing for the Dallas Cowboys. He can drop back and make things happen, but more often than naught, he's trying to maim him a quarterback or two. That was the comparison out of college and that's the model right now for Smith. He needs to be Ware. He's halfway there, at this point.
It's always seemed to be a generally easy proposition to predict the 53-man roster for the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, "always" here is relative to the time I've spent as a writer. Being relatively new to the game at just under five years of work, examining the potential bubble players and shoe-ins has seemed an easier prospect due to the fact that they've been ... well ... not very good.
When it comes to "for sure" players, you had the core group of players universally recognized as not sucking something awful, and the rest was usually simply hoping one player or another actually panned out. Favoritism used to play a big part in it because guys like Kory Sheets, Diyral Briggs and Dominique Zeigler were, you know, potential stars on those teams.
It was all an exercise in futility for those reasons. Now, the 49ers are coming off a season in which they were one game from the Super Bowl and roster spots are at an absolute premium. Any roster projections made now are sure to be put to shame by the actual results in mock-draft fashion, but let's give it a go anyway, shall we?
QB (3): Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson
RB (5): Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs, Rock Cartwright
FB (1): Bruce Miller
WR (6): Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, A.J. Jenkins, Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams
TE (3): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Nate Byham
OT (3): Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Mike Person
OG (3): Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, Joe Looney
C (2): Jonathan Goodwin, Daniel Kilgore
DE (4): Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu
NT (2): Isaac Sopoaga, Ricky Jean Francois
OLB (4): Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson, Cam Johnson
ILB (4): Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden
S (4): Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner, C.J. Spillman, Colin Jones, Trenton Robinson
CB (5): Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Tramaine Brock
Some quick bullet points to note ...
As training camp kicks off for the San Francisco 49ers, there's plenty going on behind the starting 22 when it comes to positions up for grabs. Battles for playing time are set to heat up at the running back position, wide receiver position, cornerback position, and of course, there is the backup quarterback battle between Colin Kaepernick and Josh Johnson.
And for the first time in what seems like forever, the 49ers don't have a myriad of spots open in the starting lineup. The quarterback situation is settled, there's plenty of receivers that can start, they're not looking to replace any linebackers or defensive backs ... which just leaves the offensive line.
It's a pretty big caveat, as it happens.
The reason it's a big issue for the 49ers isn't just that the right guard doesn't presently have a starter, it's that the right guard spot presently doesn't have ... well, a right guard. There is nobody with starting experience in the NFL available to start at the position. There's rookies Jason Slowey and Joe Looney, and then there's second-year player Daniel Kilgore and Alex Boone.
None of them have any experience at right guard in the NFL. Boone has played at the tackle position his entire career, and seems far too large to play right guard at 6-foot-8, but it seems like that's what the 49ers are going with. Boone has been given the first team reps at the position thus far and Kilgore is looking more and more like he's going to simply be a multi-tool backup.
So aside from the fact that Boone starting at right guard means the 49ers now have no real backup tackle either, it's just not a confidence-inspiring situation. If there were two guard battling it out, that'd be one thing. But right now the 49ers are in a position where they're depending on an over-sized tackle to fill a spot he's never played before. On top of that, the depth on the offensive line is startlingly thin.
Hopefully, it all works out the way Jim Harbaugh has planned it. Nobody quite understands what goes on in that head of his, but he's had plans backfire on him before - it's just the fact that they work more often than naught that has made him such a great coach. Here's to hoping this is one of those times.
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