49ers’ fill-ins can’t come up blank

This is my Saturday column. Before we get to the 49ers’ upcoming preseason game, here’s a brief history lesson. In 2010, the 49ers’ defense was ordinary. It ranked 13th in yards allowed and 16th in points given up. Four current starters were key contributors on that 2010 defense – Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald. After the 2010 season, the 49ers drafted Aldon Smith and signed Carlos…

August 16, 2014

Why the 49ers need Vernon Davis

This is my Friday column. Forget about contracts and holdouts for a moment. Let’s focus on why Vernon Davis is vital to the 49ers’ offense. Before I hit you with a barrage of X’s and O’s, there’s one stat you should know about Davis. He scored a touchdown once every four catches last season — the best rate in the NFL. If he had played in an offense that didn’t…

June 20, 2014

49ers choose safety Ward in first round of NFL draft

Here is my news story on the 49ers’ first round selection, Jimmie Ward. SANTA CLARA — The 49ers had clear needs at cornerback and wide receiver coming into the draft. The 49ers chose to address strong safety in Round 1. With the 30th pick, the 49ers drafted Jimmie Ward, a 5-foot-11, 193-pound strong safety from Northern Illinois University. But he most likely will not play strong safety for the 49ers…

May 8, 2014

Baalke plays it cool

This is my Friday column on Trent Baalke. After Day 1 of free agency, I thought the 49ers’ moves were weak. Not bad, but weak. Trent Baalke didn’t really do anything. He cut Carlos Rogers, let Donte Whitner leave and replaced him with an older, cheaper safety – Antoine Bethea – traded a sixth-round pick for Blaine Gabbert, and traded a conditional seventh-round pick for Jonathan Martin. Woo hoo! Meanwhile,…

March 14, 2014

Report: 49ers will cut Carlos Rogers

According to ESPN, the 49ers will cut Carlos Rogers. That move will save the 49ers $5.1 million in cap space. Do you think this move increases the chances the 49ers will re-sign Donte Whitner? Why or why not? And who do you think will be the 49ers’ slot cornerback next season?

March 10, 2014

Baalke’s conundrum

It seems Trent Baalke is in a tight spot. The obvious move for him to make this offseason is to cut 6-foot-1 cornerback Carlos Rogers and replace him in the first round of the upcoming draft with a younger cornerback roughly the same size as Rogers. There are two problems with that move. 1. With the Seahawks’ defensive dominance last season and in the Super Bowl, imagine how many general…

February 11, 2014

49ers grades and projections

This is my Thursday column. Dear player or coach for the San Francisco 49ers, This is your final report card for the 2013 season. Show this to your mother and make sure she signs her name at the bottom. COLIN KAEPERNICK: C+. I assumed you would improve, but you got worse. Somehow you became a less accurate passer, only occasionally hitting a receiver in stride. How did you get less accurate…

February 6, 2014

49ers mock draft No.1

Let’s do a mock draft. I’m sticking to the first-three rounds this time. Round 1, Pick 30: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State. With so many juniors declaring for the draft this year, next year’s wide receiver class probably will be lean. The 49ers better grab a WR now. There’s a chance eight will get drafted in the first round this year — Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson, Marqise…

January 26, 2014

Harbaugh: “We have a lot of confidence in our secondary players.”

Here is a transcript of Jim Harbaugh’s Friday press conference courtesy of the 49ers.   As you prepared for this game, how much was the focus just on getting their bodies right and more mental than physical? “It was both, both those things.”   Just the fact that I know you kind of worked the schedule a little bit different for earlier practice times, you haven’t done that in the…

January 10, 2014

49ers’ weak pass rush gives Packers hope

Here is my Saturday column on the upcoming 49ers-Packers playoff game. GREEN BAY, Wis. — The 49ers can beat the Packers, have beaten the Packers, know how to beat the Packers, should beat the Packers and probably will beat the Packers on Sunday.But don’t count out the Packers just yet. A few factors work in their favor.The first factor is their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. That’s an easy one. He’s still…

January 4, 2014

Vic Fangio on Carlos Rogers: “This will be our first game without him as our nickel.”

SANTA CLARA — Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Thursday afternoon. Here is a transcript courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.   How has the Packers offense evolved since you faced them Week 1? “They really haven’t changed a whole lot. To me, that’s a credit to their coaches and the system that they have installed there. It’s a flexible system. And when they had lost their quarterback for…

January 2, 2014

Harbaugh says Carlos Rogers is getting an MRI on his hamstring

SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh spoke in the defensive meeting room Monday afternoon. Here is a transcript courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.   Just, health-wise, how did you come out of yesterday’s game, specifically CB Carlos Rogers? “Carlos is getting an MRI.”   Will you have to sign anybody as an insurance policy? “We signed [CB] Perrish Cox.”   You did? And, what was the corresponding move? “We had…

December 30, 2013

49ers 34, Falcons 24: Grades

SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my grades for the 49ers. They almost blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, but ended up beating the Falcons 34-24. KAEPERNICK: B. His passer rating was 108.6 and he ran for 51 yards and a touchdown against a terrible defense. He also completed just 13 passes, and only a few of his completions actually hit his intended receiver in stride. All night, receivers had to adjust…

December 23, 2013

In the NFL, hits to knees take back seat

Here is my Sunday article on hits to knees in the NFL. This article runs in the Press Democrat’s Sunday sports section. SANTA CLARA — Is it possible the NFL’s efforts to eliminate head-to-head hits have made the game more dangerous? If a defender hits someone in the head or even as low at the shoulder line, that’s a 15-yard penalty, probably a fine and maybe a suspension, too. But…

December 15, 2013

49ers 19, Seahawks 17: Grades

SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my grades for the 49ers’ 19-17 win over the Seahawks. KAEPERNICK: D+. He was pretty good in the first half and awful for most of the second half until his 8-yard run to seal the win on third-and-7 at the end of the fourth quarter. That’s why I give him the “plus.” He missed wide open receivers all game and completed just 52 percent of…

December 8, 2013

49ers 20, Saints 23: Grades

NEW ORLEANS – Here are my grades for the 49ers’ 23-20 loss to the Saints. KAEPERNICK: C-. Kaepernick passed the ball well. He was 6-for-15 on third down and 2-for-3 in the red zone. His worst pass was an interception, but it didn’t cost the team anything. Kaepernick ran down the defender and made him dive for the end zone and the defender fumbled the ball out of the back…

November 17, 2013

49ers 31, Titans 17: Grades

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Here are the grades for the 49ers’ 31-17 win over the Titans. KAEPERNICK: A-. He threw some extremely accurate passes and ran exceptionally well. His passer rating was 93.2 and his yards-per-carry average was 6.2 – the highest in the game. He gets an A- and not an A because he made two poor throws in the second quarter when the 49ers were up just 3-0. First,…

October 20, 2013

Harbaugh: “We didn’t get a fast start in terms of moving the football offensively.”

SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh spoke in the defensive meeting room Monday afternoon. Here is a transcript courtesy of the 49ers.   Were there a few more people getting treatment today after having such a physical game yesterday? “It was normal, a normal day.”   Did it seem like a more physical game than usual? “It was very physical.”   On the 18-play drive in the fourth quarter, how well-executed…

October 14, 2013

Fangio on the Cardinals: “They’ve got a very talented offense in the skill positions.”

SANTA CLARA — Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Thursday afternoon. Here’s a transcript courtesy of the 49ers.   How do you feel just about the way the defense has rallied these last few weeks with a couple very significant guys out of the lineup? “Well, the guys that have come in and replaced those guys have played well enough for us to keep playing the way we like…

October 10, 2013