This is Grant Cohn, but some people call me Iggy. You can call me whatever you’d like. I’m your new 49ers blogger. I’ll be reporting and tweeting every day from training camp in Santa Clara as soon as it opens, whenever that may be. Until then, I’ll join Bob Padecky and Phil Barber in providing you with some blogging snack food to whet your appetite for the upcoming NFL season….
A word to the wise: Don’t challenge Phillip Adams to a game of old maid, or Risk, or dominoes, unless you plan to bring your A game.
“I want to win,” Adams said this week, laughing at his own expense. “My brother’s the same way, my sister. If we’re gonna do something, even if we’re playing a game of cards, man, we want to win. Me and my brother play spades all the time, and he gets mad at me because I play the wrong hand sometimes. We’re mad at each other. I’m mad at myself, too. We’re just a whole competitive family.”
First, the undeniable evidence that a solid-gold preseason record means absolutely nothing in the NFL.
The 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 in August, then proceeded to compile the only 0-16 record in league history. Two years earlier, Art Shell’s Raiders had started 4-0 in the preseason (they played in the Hall of Fame Game) before losing their final exhibition tilt to finish 4-1; Oakland went 2-14 that regular season and seemed even more futile than that to those of us who watched the team up close.
And now, a meek rebuttal.
Since the start of preseason games, the 49ers’ offense has been missing more parts than the Camaro permanently stashed in my neighbor’s driveway.
The regular season is just 12 days away, and we don’t really know what Jimmy Raye’s platoon will look like at full strength. RB Brian Westbrook joined the team late and finally saw some action against the Raiders on Saturday. TE Vernon Davis tweaked his knee in the first preseason game, at Indianapolis, and hasn’t practiced or played since. WR Michael Crabtree still has never played in an NFL exhibition game. And RB Frank Gore has touched the ball sparingly this preseason.
• After Mike Singletary urged him to do less dancing in the backfield, rookie running back Anthony Dixon (21 carries, 69 yards) appeared to get the message. At least on one third-quarter play.
As the former leader of one of the best defenses in NFL history, Mike Singletary’s standards for the Niners’ 11-man unit are slightly higher than most.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Samurai Mike looked personally insulted Saturday night after a reporter labeled last year’s defense, which ranked fourth in the NFL in points allowed, “good.”
Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree should play against the Raiders on Saturday night, according to coach Mike Singletary. Brian Westbrook probably will, too. Vernon Davis will not. Three out of four ain’t bad if you’re Alex Smith and the rest of the 49ers’ offense.
Smith was handicapped against the Vikings last week as many of his top skill-position players sat out the game. This week, we should all get a better picture of where the offense stands at the break of training camp.
Smith and his starting offensive line, by the way, should play the entire first half Saturday, and maybe into the second.
I got my answer.
As I wrote here yesterday, I was eager to ask Mike Singletary why Bobby Guillory got all the punt returns (six, including a fair catch) and kickoff returns (two) against the Vikings on Sunday.
Here is what the coach had to say in response today: “We brought the kid in. He’s a quick-twitch guy out here. He caught some punts and I just felt, you know what, why don’t we let him take it? Let’s see how he does, let’s see how he handles it. It was a lot to put on a young kid, but I thought he did a pretty decent job of it.”
Alex Smith is starting to get his weapons back. WR Michael Crabtree, who injured his neck on Aug. 11 and had been limited to individual work for about a week, was back on the field for team and 7-on-7 work today. And yes, the hands looked as reliable as ever.
TE Vernon Davis, who injured his knee against the Colts on Aug. 15, did not work with teammates. But Davis caught passes from a Jugs machine after practice, coach Mike Singletary made it sound as though he could resume work any day.
Mike Singletary talked for about 11 minutes after the 49ers beat the Vikings 15-10 last night. I sneaked in a question or two, like most of the other reporters in the interview room at Candlestick Park.
But the Niners cut short the press session before I could ask another question: Why didn’t Ted Ginn or Dominique Zeigler or anyone who isn’t named Bobby Guillory get any punt or kickoff returns?
Preseason games are supposed to answer questions for NFL teams. But they can just as easily create new questions.
The 49ers went into last night’s game against the Vikings hoping to shed some light on the situation at outside linebacker. Travis LaBoy and Diyral Briggs only clouded the issue with dual-core defensive excellence.
This team will probably carry seven or eight linebackers in 2010. Barring injury, the roster should include Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Matt Wilhelm and NaVorro Bowman. Assuming Ahmad Brooks hasn’t damaged his kidney more severely than anticipated – we could find out more this week – he should be there, too.
In terms of getting out of the starting gate, the 49ers went from Mr. Ed to Secretariat in a week.
On Aug. 15, the first exhibition game at Indianapolis had begun comically with Michael Robinson’s lost fumble, a miscue that immediately led to a 3-0 deficit. Sunday was a stark contrast. Alex Smith and the first offense coolly marched 70 yards in a 12 plays to begin a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park, finishing the drive on rookie Anthony Dixon’s four-yard touchdown run.
Asked about Brett Favre’s return to the NFL for a 20th season, 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye upped the ante.
“I’m coming back!” Raye told reporters this week between 49ers practices.
True, Raye hasn’t played quarterback since he was a Michigan State senior in 1968, two years after he piloted the Spartans against Notre Dame in the epic “Game of the Century.”
But aren’t we already nestled comfortably in the theater of the absurd at this point? After dominating the sports tabloids for the third straight offseason, Favre – the Waffle King, the Drama Quarterback – found an even more sensational way to return to the game.
With Ahmad Brooks out for gosh-knows-how-long with a lacerated kidney, and with no clear-cut backups to starting outside linebackers Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson, it would seem that veteran Travis LaBoy has a pretty good shot of making the 49ers’ 53-man roster.
So why does LaBoy sound so resigned?
Thursday I asked the Larkspur native how he saw himself fitting into the 49ers’ plans on defense, and this was his reply: “Honestly, to me, it don’t really matter. I’m gonna do the best I can for the time they give me. Whether they keep me or not in the end, I really don’t worry about that.”
They say the most popular player on every NFL team is the second-string quarterback. Or the third-stringer.
Nate Davis has yet to play in an NFL regular-season game, and his performance during offseason practices and mini-camps was spotty. But Davis remains an intriguing figure to a lot of 49ers fans who remember the strong arm and daring instincts he displayed at Ball State. And let’s face it, the jury is still deliberating on starter Alex Smith.
Davis completed 5 of 6 passes for 84 yards at Indianapolis last Sunday after entering the game in the fourth quarter. Afterward, he admitted that he might be a better game quarterback than a practice quarterback.
If Anthony Dixon created the most buzz among the 49er Faithful yesterday, safety Reggie Smith was right behind him.
Smith made the single biggest play of the 49ers’ 37-17 victory over Indianapolis. On the third snap of the second quarter, with the Colts driving, he found a tipped pass coming his way. Smith secured it and took off for a 91-yard touchdown that cut into the Colts’ 10-0 lead and began the Niners’ onslaught.
They were two of the hottest players in training camp this past week, making numerous plays on either side of the ball. And now they’re both dealing with injuries. WR Kyle Williams sprained his right big toe on a second-quarter punt return, while CB Will James sprained his right ankle with about five minutes to play in the game.
James’ situation looked worse at the time. He stayed on the field for several minutes and eventually left on a cart. Williams exited the game more quietly, but was limping noticeably in the locker room afterward and seemed a bit glum.
Just three days after running back Glen Coffee unexpectedly left the team to devote his life to Jesus, Anthony Dixon may have gained on Robinson in the competition to back up Frank Gore.
Robinson started and had a touchdown in place of Gore, who sat this one out, but he fumbled on the first play from scrimmage when safety Antoine Bethea hit the ball with his helmet. Indy’s Robert Mathis recovered, setting up an easy field goal for Adam Vinatieri.
Dixon didn’t get a snap until the 49ers’ first possession of the second quarter, but he managed to steal the show. On one run, he shed one Colt in the backfield and juked two others on the way to a 23-yard gain. On his fourth-quarter touchdown run, he bounced outside and flattened defensive back Mike Newton with a stiff arm.
Whatever life permeated Lucas Oil Stadium in the first half slowly drained away in the second as the 49ers’ backups beat up on the Colts’ backups.
As Curtis Painter and Tom Brandstater were slogging along in place of Peyton Manning, rookie running back Anthony Dixon was stealing the show for the 49ers. On one run, he juked three Colts on the way to a 23-yard gain. A little later, he took off around the left edge and absolutely threw Indy safety Mike Newton to the ground before scoring on a 5-yard run. Dixon finished with 98 yards on 20 carries.
When Glen Coffee walked away from the 49ers three days ago, the news was shocking. Now it’s downright alarming.
With Frank Gore being rested in the preseason opener, Michael Robinson got the call at halfback, and things couldn’t have started worse. On the 49ers’ first play from scrimmage in 2010, Indy safety Antoine Bethea stuck his helmet on the ball and forced Robinson to fumble. Robert Mathis recovered for the Colts, and seven plays later the home team had a 3-0 lead.