Randy Moss – Inside the 49ers http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com Updated news, opinions and discussion about the San Francisco 49ers and other pro football action from blogger Grant Cohn of The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, CA Wed, 16 May 2018 18:16:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 Vernon Davis on the 49ers’ final four plays of the Super Bowl: “I can’t even recall that situation.” http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/vernon-davis-on-the-49ers-final-four-plays-of-the-super-bowl-i-cant-even-recall-that-situation/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/vernon-davis-on-the-49ers-final-four-plays-of-the-super-bowl-i-cant-even-recall-that-situation/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 21:04:19 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=17234 SANTA CLARA – Vernon Davis spoke in the media tent Thursday afternoon. Here’s a transcript.

Q: You’re old teammate, Randy Moss, said he wasn’t sure about the rhythm or rapport you have with Colin Kaepernick. Do you feel like you guys have something beyond what you had last year?

VERNON DAVIS: I do. I feel like me and Colin are on a different level than we were last year. When a quarterback just steps in, it takes some time for him to learn his receivers. That’s all based on timing. But we’ve been through minicamp, OTAs and training camp. We’ve had more than enough time to build on what we started.

Q: Randy’s not here anymore. Are you surprised at his thoughts?

VERNON DAVIS: He’s an analyst. That’s his job. His job is to critique our offense and say whatever it is that he feels it right. But my opinion is totally different that what he is saying. I think that we’re on a different level, for sure.

ME: You caught five or six passes from Kaepernick in the Super Bowl, but on the final four plays near the goal line Kaepernick didn’t once look your way. Have you been able to work on that in practice, or is that something you can practice in a pressure situation only?

VERNON DAVIS: That’s last year. I can’t even recall that situation. All I can remember is the work we put in throughout training camp, the work that we put in throughout minicamp. That’s all I can remember at the moment. I don’t look back. I continue to look forward. I can only worry about right now because we do today will set us up for the future. I’m very confident in Colin Kaepernick as well as him connecting with the rest of the receivers as well as myself.

Q: If you were an analyst, would you agree with Moss’ assessment just based on last season?

VERNON DAVIS: I don’t think you can base everything on what happened last year. A lot can change in six months. We’re talking about a whole season. This is a while back. Colin is a different man. Some of the things I learned this training camp, I didn’t learn last training camp. So, we’re in different places right now.

Q: How did the Packers play you?

VERNON DAVIS: They tried to bang me up a little bit. They put Charles Woodson on me when they went man-to-man and they just tried to take me away downfield, they would have A.J. Hawk drop back and a DB looking at me. They switch it up.

Q: Without Woodson, what do you anticipate on Sunday?

VERNON DAVIS: Hmmm. Don’t know. Not sure. I’m pretty sure they’ll try anything. They’re very creative over there.

Q: What specifically did you learn this offseason that you didn’t learn last offseason?

VERNON DAVIS: Route running. Working with the wide receivers. They really challenged me this training camp. Whatever I see them do, I try to do it better. That’s how you grow. That’s how you become a better player. Last year, I didn’t really work the wide receivers as much, maybe five times during training camp.  But I’ve been working with them all training camp. I had a chance to really detail my routes and learn what they were doing.

Q: What’s your impression of Chris Harper?

VERNON DAVIS: He’s fast. He’s explosive. He seems like a really good route runner. Athletic. He definitely fits the mold of Delanie Walker. I’m excited to see what he can help us with.

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This won’t be a rehearsal, this is a game to shape the 49ers’ roster http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/this-wont-be-a-rehearsal-this-is-a-game-to-shape-the-49ers-roster/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/this-wont-be-a-rehearsal-this-is-a-game-to-shape-the-49ers-roster/#comments Sat, 24 Aug 2013 22:47:04 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16987 Here is my Saturday column previewing the 49ers’ Sunday preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.

If you expect the 49ers to treat Sunday’s preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings like a dress rehearsal for the regular season, you may be disappointed.

Most NFL teams treat the third exhibition game like a dress rehearsal. The 49ers did that last season – Alex Smith played the entire first half. But, I’ll be surprised if Colin Kaepernick plays the entire first quarter Sunday night against the Vikings.

That’s not to say Kaepernick doesn’t need the practice. Every quarterback needs the practice, especially when he has new receivers like the 49ers. That’s why Tom Brady played 46 snaps against the Lions and Joe Flacco played 61 snaps against the Panthers Thursday night. They were cramming for the regular season opener, trying to build chemistry with their new receivers at game speed as fast as possible.

The 49ers probably won’t have that luxury. I’ll be surprised if Kaepernick plays more than 10 snaps against the Vikings.

So far, he’s played just 17 snaps in two preseason games. Jim Harbaugh can’t get him off the field fast enough. He’s also making Kaepernick wear a black, non-contact jersey in practice for the first time. Alex Smith never wore one. The message is simple: “If you hurt Kaepernick, you sabotage our season.”

The 49ers already have lost two players for the significant portions of the season – Michael Crabtree and Chris Culliver. The 49ers can’t afford to lose Kaepernick. He has to carry the team to the playoffs. His backups probably are incapable of doing that this season.

Besides Kaepernick, there’s a long list of players the 49ers absolutely cannot afford to lose for an extended stretch this season: Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald, Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Counting Kaepernick, that’s 12 players.

So, don’t expect to see them very much Sunday night.

But here’s what you can expect to see:

1. The Battle of the Backup Quarterbacks: Colt McCoy vs. Scott Tolzien vs. Seneca Wallace vs. B.J. Daniels. Two stay, two go. In a sense, it doesn’t matter who stays or goes because, if any of these quarterbacks has to play more than a game or two this season, the 49ers are done for.

Colt McCoy most likely will take the field first after Kaepernick. McCoy has been firing blanks all this preseason. He’s completed just six passes, thrown two interceptions and his passer rating is a miniscule 25.3. Even though he’s been the favorite all offseason to win the No. 2 job, he may get cut. See if he has the arm strength to make all the throws in the 49ers’ offense.

Scott Tolzien has been bad, too. So far, his passer rating is 57, and his arm may be weaker than McCoy’s. Tolzien is a bright guy and could be a coach one day, but he probably is not an NFL quarterback, not even a backup.

The 49ers signed 33-year-old Seneca Wallace a few days ago. He didn’t play in the NFL last season, but he could instantly become the front-runner for the 49ers’ No. 2 QB job if he does anything against the Vikings. He has experience, is more mobile than McCoy and Tolzien and has a stronger arm.

The final contestant is rookie seventh-round pick B.J. Daniels. He played very well against the Chiefs last week, leading a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against fourth-stringers. The 49ers may want to put him on their practice squad, but another team probably would claim him off waivers if they try that move. So, if the 49ers like Daniels, they may have to put him on the final roster.

2. Tramaine Brock vs. Nnamdi Asomugha. One of these two cornerbacks will take the injured Chris Culliver’s place as the 49ers’ third cornerback in their nickel defense. Brock is younger and faster than Asomugha, but Brock has played just 183 snaps at cornerback in his three-year NFL career. That’s almost nothing.

Asomugha played 1,012 snaps at cornerback last season. But Asomugha is 32 years old and may be unable to cover explosive wide receivers. Against the Vikings, he’ll face one of the most explosive receivers in the league – rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. Watch how Asomugha and Brock match up with him.

3. Eric Reid and Jon Baldwin. Get to know the 49ers’ most recent first-round pick, Reid, and the guy the 49ers traded their 2012 first-rounder to get, Baldwin. The 49ers have to rely on both players this season. Are they reliable? Reid is replacing Dashon Goldson, and Baldwin is replacing Randy Moss.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Reid will start against the Vikings, and Harbaugh said Baldwin will play even though he’s been a 49er for less than a week. See if Baldwin can catch deep passes, and see if Reid is ready to take over the starting free safety job Week 1 against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

For all the players I just named, Game 3 isn’t a mere exhibition. It’s serious business.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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The Jim Harbaugh Game: The coach and his world of contradictions http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/the-jim-harbaugh-game-the-coach-and-his-world-of-contradictions/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/the-jim-harbaugh-game-the-coach-and-his-world-of-contradictions/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 21:57:25 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16633 Here is my Monday column on Jim Harbaugh.

SANTA CLARA – Here’s how you play The Jim Harbaugh Game:

Listen to his next interview. Write down the exact time he sets himself up for future contradiction. Then, predict how long it will take for the contradiction to occur – a year, a month, a day, an hour, a minute, etc.

Harbaugh most recently set himself up on June 11. One Bay Area reporter asked Harbaugh if the division rival Seattle Seahawks’ recent PED suspensions concerned him, and Harbaugh said he’s “definitely noticed it,” and wants the 49ers to be “above reproach.”

Thirty-eight days later, the 49ers’ traded for cornerback Eric Wright, whom the NFL suspended last season for four games because he violated the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. He also was arrested for a DUI the weekend before the 49ers traded for him. He failed his physical and the 49ers voided the trade.

So, if you had 38 days in your Jim Harbaugh Game office pool, congratulations, you win a set of steak knives.

Other examples abound of Harbaugh contradicting himself.

The 49ers have yet to discipline Ahmad Brooks for bashing teammate Lamar Divens in the head three times with a glass bottle. Above reproach, indeed.

Harbaugh insisted Alex Smith was the 49ers’ starting quarterback even when Smith sat on the bench watching Kaepernick start. That was Harbaugh contradicting himself and reality, an impressive head-body combo.

Harbaugh always talks about “humble hearts.” Please. Humble is not the word to describe Harbaugh. His sideline etiquette is the opposite of humble. It is arrogant. He rants and raves at officials like a child throwing a tantrum because his parents took away his Schwinn Racer.

And what about his protégé, Colin Kaepernick? Kaepernick kisses his bicep after touchdowns. He showed up to a Fourth of July party shirtless wearing a green-billed Miami Dolphins hat to match his exposed green underwear, then scoffed at 49ers fans who didn’t appreciate the symbolism of his wearing of another NFL team’s logo. Then he posed nude for ESPN the Magazine. Then he went to the ESPY awards looking like a detective from Miami Vice: red blazer, light blue pants, unbuttoned undershirt and sunglasses indoors at night. But his heart was humble.

When Jim Harbaugh first took the job as the 49ers’ head coach in 2011, he didn’t put his foot in his mouth nearly as often. He used Bill Belichick’s style of media relations – never answer anything and say as few words as possible.

It’s not the media’s preference to work with this type of coach, obviously. But fans will put up with that style as long as the coach wins, and so far Harbaugh has won much more than he’s lost.

As long as he’s winning, he might want to go back to the Belichick-style because his current style, if you can call it a style, is getting him into trouble. It’s more like carelessness, a person unconcerned with the meaning of the words he uses. Or if you want to be less generous, you could call it disingenuousness.

We’re not even a week into training camp, and already Harbaugh has set himself up twice.

On Thursday, Harbaugh told reporters it’s his “desire” to re-sign strong safety Donte Whitner, who will be a free agent after this upcoming season. If you’ve kept track at home, Harbaugh publicly has stated a desire to re-sign three players in the past – Dashon Goldson, Randy Moss and Joshua Morgan – and the 49ers re-signed none of them.

In other words, you’re out, Donte.

On Sunday, Harbaugh announced he would “break a long-standing policy not to discuss contracts in the media” for the sake of Tarell Brown. At this point of the news conference, an experienced Jim Harbaugh Gamer should have marked down the time.

Brown lost $2 million of his 2013 base salary for not participating in the 49ers’ voluntary offseason workouts, a contractual technicality neither Brown nor his agent knew about. As a result, Brown, an excellent cornerback, will earn $925,000 this season.

Here’s what Harbaugh said about that: “I just think that there’s a solution there. Don’t know that it’s any one particular thing, but we’ll explore all of those options and find the solution. It’s there, we’ve just got to do some thinking and do some work.

“We’re very motivated to do that because he deserves it, he’s earned it. I don’t want to see him playing for the minimum when he’s a starting, top-end player.”

Oh, boy.

Did you have to say all of that, Jim? Did you gain anything by breaking your own policy?

If you’re going to find a solution for Brown, find it. Don’t tell us. It’s tough for a veteran Harbaugh Gamer to trust you.

We’re currently at Day 2 and counting.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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49ers facing a summer of questions http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/49ers-facing-a-summer-of-questions/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/49ers-facing-a-summer-of-questions/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 22:46:53 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16552 This is my Monday column on the top-five questions the 49ers face this summer.

Even though the 49ers are among the odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl, like any other team, they confront certain issues.

Two of their best players – Justin Smith and Frank Gore – are in their 30s and declining. The 49ers’ offensive MVP last season – Michael Crabtree – tore his Achilles tendon in OTAs. He could sit out the whole season. The 49ers’ schedule is brutal. Their division is the best in the NFL, and their three division rivals – the Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals – improved this offseason.

Five make-or-break questions face the 49ers right now. Here they are:

1. Is Justin Smith vulnerable? He was indestructible from 2002 to 2011, when he didn’t miss a single game. In 2011, he was the best defensive player in the NFL, almost single-handedly willing the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

Before he tore a tendon in his elbow in New England last season, the 49ers’ defense gave up a league-best 14.15 points per game. After his injury, the 49ers gave up a league-worst 29.67 points per game, including the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, Justin Smith was the worst 49ers defender on the field, according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens’ rookie left guard, Kelechi Osemele, manhandled Smith all game.

Smith is the 49ers’ most important player this season. He’s 34 and coming off the first major injury of his career. Is he vulnerable to tearing the ligament again?

If Smith can bounce back to his pre-injury form, the 49ers’ defense might be able to lead the team back to the Super Bowl. But if Smith continues his decline, the 49ers will be forced to win games with their offense.

2. Will Colin Kaepernick have a sophomore slump? Many teams didn’t know what to expect when they faced Kaepernick last season (for example, the Bears and the Packers). This season, teams will be prepared for him. They’ve spent the whole offseason figuring out a way to defend him and the read option. How will Kaepernick adjust to the defenses’ adjustments?

In the Super Bowl, the Ravens hit Kaepernick every time he handed the ball to a running back on a read-option play. There’s a good chance other defenses will adopt that strategy this season. How will Kaepernick respond to the licks? Will the 49ers use a more traditional offense this season to protect him? Will he have to operate more often as a drop-back passer who has to go through his reads and find the open receiver? Can he excel playing that style for a full season?

He also has areas of his game he needs to clean up. Call it game management, the stuff Alex Smith was good at. Kaepernick needs to improve his pre-snap reads – identifying the defense and choosing the correct plat at the line of scrimmage. He also needs to call the plays quicker. The 49ers had to burn far too many timeouts to prevent delay-of-game penalties. And Kaepernick needs to stop fumbling snaps when he’s lined up under center. He fumbled nine times last regular season.

To make things even tougher for Kaepernick, he’ll be without four of his main receivers to start the season. Delanie Walker signed with the Titans. Randy Moss is gone. Mario Manningham probably will miss training camp and start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List as he rehabs a torn ACL and PCL. And you already know about Crabtree’s Achilles. That leaves Kaepernick with a bunch of unproven youngsters, plus Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.

Kaepernick has to develop chemistry with all of these receivers, including Davis. Those two did not develop a strong on-field connection last season. Kaepernick never even looked his way during the 49ers’ final-five offensive plays in the Super Bowl.

3. How strong is the running back corps? The 49ers’ have the best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL, but how good are the running backs? Frank Gore was very good last season, but he’s slowing down. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry between the tackles, but just 3.8 yards per carry outside the tackles. And he has worn down the past two regular seasons, failing to register a 100-yard rushing game in the regular season after Week 8 in 2011 and 2012. The 49ers have to keep him fresh for the playoffs, so he can’t carry the load in the regular season. He needs help.

Kendall Hunter helped carry the load last season. He was the only 49ers running back who could run inside and outside effectively. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and was one of the best change-of-pace backs in the NFL. He even looked like he could eventually become a featured-back before he tore his Achilles in New Orleans Week 12. Now, he’s starting training camp on the PUP list.

He’s a small running back who relies on quickness and explosion. Hunter may not regain 100 percent of his explosion until the second half of this season or next season.

The 49ers’ other change-of-pace running back is LaMichael James. Last season, he was not an effective inside runner, but he’s gained 10 pounds since then. If he can give the offense what Hunter gave them last season, the 49ers should once again have an elite running game. If James cannot establish himself as an inside threat, the 49ers’ running game could be predictable – Gore up the middle and James around the outside.

4. Who will emerge as a deep threat? The 49ers currently have just one – Vernon Davis. They need one more. Last season they typically had at least two on the field at a time with Davis, Walker, Manningham and Moss. Those deep threats made opposing safeties play deeper, which helped the 49ers’ running game. The deep threats also complemented Kaepernick’s rocket arm and aggressive style. He threw the ball 20 or more yards downfield 30 percent of the time last season, more than any other quarterback.

Besides Davis, who is Kaepernick going to throw to downfield this season?

Probably not Anquan Boldin. He’s a possession receiver.

Last year’s first round pick, A.J. Jenkins, is fast, but was not a deep threat at the University of Illinois. He was a possession receiver.

The 49ers’ fourth-round pick this offseason, Quinton Patton, was a deep threat at Louisiana Tech, but he may not be fast enough to run past NFL cornerbacks.

Kyle Williams is on the PUP list. He’s injury prone and unproven.

The best candidate to become the 49ers’ second deep threat may not be a wide receiver at all. He may be a rookie tight end. Vance McDonald, a second-round pick, could be deep threat No.2 like Delanie Walker last season.

McDonald isn’t as fast as Walker, but he’s big and fast for his size and can outrun some safeties. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman like to use tight ends as deep threats. At Stanford they used Coby Fleener, a tight end, as their primary deep threat.

If McDonald or someone else does not emerge as a deep threat, opposing defenses will play closer to the line of scrimmage to try to take away the 49ers’ strength, their running game.

5. Can Greg Roman improve his play-calling? Roman’s offense averaged 6.0 yards per play last season, third-best in the NFL. But he faces a tougher task this season. Without Crabtree, Roman will have to proactively get the ball to Vernon Davis in the passing game. Roman primarily used Davis as a decoy to get other receivers open the past two seasons. This season, Davis has to be a consistent weapon, not a mere decoy. Roman should script at least one pass to Davis in the first 10 to 15 plays of every game. That’s what Bill Walsh would do.

If the 49ers can solve each of these five issues, they should return to the Super Bowl. If they cannot find the solutions, they could miss the playoffs altogether.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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Ranking the 49ers’ offensive skill players against the rest of the NFL http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/ranking-the-49ers-offensive-skill-players/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/ranking-the-49ers-offensive-skill-players/#comments Sun, 07 Jul 2013 18:08:26 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16484 We know Colin Kaepernick is a rising star at quarterback, and we know the 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in football.

Let’s take stock of the 49ers’ offensive skill players – wide receivers, tight ends and running backs – now that they’ve lost Delanie Walker and Randy Moss, and Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured.

I count 18 teams having better offensive skill players than the 49ers this season.

Those teams are the Falcons, the Texans, the Cowboys, the Seahawks, the Ravens, the Packers, the Bengals, the Broncos, the Saints, the Lions, the Giants, the Buccaneers, the Eagles, the Chargers, the Chiefs, the Vikings, the Dolphins and the Colts.

I rank the 49ers’ offensive skill players (Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, etc.) in the same tier as the Bears’ offensive skill players (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, etc.), the Browns’ offensive skill players (Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Greg Little, etc.), the Redskins’ offensive skill players (Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, etc.), the Panthers’ offensive skill players (Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, Brandon LaFell, Greg Olsen, etc.), and the Rams’ offensive skill players (Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Jared Cook, Daryl Richardson, etc.).

How do you rank the 49ers’ offensive skill players?

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Could Vernon Davis play more wide receiver this season? http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/could-vernon-davis-play-more-wide-receiver-this-season/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/could-vernon-davis-play-more-wide-receiver-this-season/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 18:20:30 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16395 It’s worth noting that Vernon Davis participated exclusively with the wide receivers, not the tight ends, during the 49ers’ past mini-camp.

Do you think that means Davis will play more wide receiver this year?

The Niners probably need him to play more wide out because their best receiver, Anquan Boldin, is a much better slot receiver than outside receiver at this stage in his career. During team drills, Boldin lined up in the slot the vast majority of the time.

The 49ers need an outside receiver who can stretch the field, like Randy Moss and Mario Manningham did last season. Davis may be the best candidate on the roster to fill that role this season.

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A.J. Jenkins: “In college, you’re wide open all the time. In the league, you’ve really got to have strong hands.” http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/a-j-jenkins-in-college-youre-wide-open-all-the-time-in-the-league-youve-really-got-to-have-strong-hands/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/a-j-jenkins-in-college-youre-wide-open-all-the-time-in-the-league-youve-really-got-to-have-strong-hands/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 20:37:04 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16342 SANTA CLARA – Here’s what A.J. Jenkins said Tuesday afternoon.

Q: Did your mindset change when Michael Crabtree got hurt?

JENKINS: My mindset going into this offseason was just trying to play more, regardless of whether Crabtree was hurt or not. It’ s unfortunate that he got an injury, but my mindset didn’t waver at all because he got hurt.

Q: Roman said last week was the best you’ve practiced since you’ve been here?

JENKINS: Yeah, I feel like I have up to this point, but I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve been doing and be more consistent.

Q: Is there anything that clicked for you?

JENKINS: I don’t know. I just pretty much had my head in the playbook last week a lot, and I knew what I had to do and I played fast.

Q: What’s it been like working with Anquan Boldin so far?

JENKINS: It’s been great. He’s a 10-year vet. He knows all the assignments and routes and everything. He’s taught me and all the young receivers great things about playing the position.

Q: What did you get out of your experience with Colin Kaepernick in Atlanta this offseason?

JENKINS: Just classroom stuff, kind of just being around him. I had never really hung out with him outside of football, so I was just going down there with him, chilling with him, staying with him, getting to know who he is and who I am as a person.

Q: Do you think that off-the-field stuff helps on the field.

JENKINS: Yeah, it definitely does.

Q: How so?

JENKINS: Just because the chemistry, the bond you have. It’s great to be teammates off the field because you know each other personally.

Q: Greg said you made a lot of plays last week. Can you take us through any of them that might have caught the coach’s eye?

JENKINS: It was just a couple catches. It wasn’t that big of a deal. Kap made great throws. Colt made great throws, and Scott Tolzien. I was just out there making plays. That was it.

Q: There’s a lot of expectation that comes with being a first-round pick. How do you handle those expectations?

JENKINS: You’ve got to just tune everybody else out. You’ve got to just go into the season and just think about your job. Media comes with everything, being a first-round draft pick, they all want to put this label on you, call you all kinds of things, but you’ve got to just be focused and not worry about it.

Q: What do you weigh now?

JENKINS: Almost 200.

Q: What was the learning experience like for you last year?

JENKINS: It was great having Randy Moss and Ted Ginn here and Crab and everybody else here. I learned a lot on the sideline.

Q: What do you know about how the NFL operates now versus what you knew when you came in?

JENKINS: It’s a lot faster. The windows are a lot smaller than in college, and the DBs are a lot quicker and faster. Every catch is going to be more of a contested catch. In college, you’re wide open all the time. In the league, you’ve really got to have strong hands because the DB’s going to be right on you every time.

Q: Have you been in touch with Moss since the season ended?

JENKINS: I have.

Q: What’s he been up to?

JENKINS: He was chilling with the family last time I talked to him. That was in February, though. I don’t know what he’s doing right now.

Q: Were you frustrated last season?

JENKINS: Not really. I was being patient, knowing my opportunity ain’t going to be this year, it’s going to be next year. That’s the mindset I had with it.

Q: You had a breakout year your senior season of college. What changed for you before that season?

JENKINS: I don’t know. Just hard work, I guess.

Q: How long did it take you to fully grasp the 49ers’ playbook?

JENKINS: It took me a while because I wasn’t so used to so many plays. They install every single day. It’s the constant install. If you don’t know what’s going on the previous day, the next install is the very next day, so you’re behind because you don’t know what’s going on. Your mind kind of wanders off a little bit. It’s kind of like school all over again. You’ve got to constantly study the playbook.

Q: Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are good at contested catches. Do you seek advice from them, do you watch what they do, and what do you think it is that makes them good at that in particular?

JENKINS: I watch everybody. I think Mario Manningham is also good at catching the ball, Kyle Williams is – catching means doing what you’re supposed to do. Catching the JUGS every day, it’s nothing to over think. Just catch the ball.

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Boldin’s good work adds to Davis puzzle http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/boldins-good-work-adds-to-davis-puzzle/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/boldins-good-work-adds-to-davis-puzzle/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 01:30:30 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16283 Here is my Thursday column on the 49ers’ offense, sans Michael Crabtree.

SANTA CLARA –Without Michael Crabtree, the focal point of the San Francisco 49ers’ passing attack last season, the 49ers need all of their receivers to step up – Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, A.J. Jenkins and anyone else who can run and catch and breathe.

At an afternoon OTA session this week, Boldin stepped up. He was unstoppable. He caught 10 passes in 45-minutes worth of team drills – offense vs. defense. Colin Kaepernick and Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien couldn’t resist passing to him. It didn’t matter if Boldin was open or not. Often he was not. Still, each quarterback would drop back, find Boldin and throw to him, and he’d snatch the ball out of the air before the defender knew what happened.

Vernon Davis, on the other hand, caught one pass in team drills – a five-yarder from the fourth-string quarterback, B.J. Daniels. The other three quarterbacks never threw it to Davis, who may be the best tight end in the NFL. He was a complete afterthought in the offense, as he’s been for many stretches the past two seasons under Jim Harbaugh. That must change this year.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has explained his inability to consistently get Davis the ball. Davis is so good that defenses try to take him away. So, Roman uses Davis as a decoy and takes what the defense gives him.

If Bill Walsh or Al Davis heard Roman say that, they’d spin in their graves. Walsh learned offensive strategy from Davis, and Davis learned it from Sid Gillman. It’s a direct line. All three believed in taking what they wanted from the defense and forcing the defense to react to them. They would have scoffed at the idea of taking what the defense gives you.

You’d like to think the 49ers realize Davis must be more than a decoy this season. You’d like to think Kaepernick has been throwing dozens of passes to Davis in the practices closed to the media.

Recently, Davis described his relationship with Kaepernick to the San Jose Mercury News: “We joke away from the field,” Davis said. “That’s very important, especially when it comes to having a relationship with your quarterback. You want to be able to joke with this guy. It’s about what you do away from here.”

When did jokes win a Super Bowl? You’d rather Davis and Kaepernick not speak to each other and go crazy on the field together. But they have not yet developed on-field chemistry, and so they resort to upside-down logic.

But no one on the 49ers’ seems concerned about the Kaepernick-Davis connection, yet. After this week’s practice, Harbaugh was focused on Boldin: “Today, you got a look at what he’s been doing,” Harbaugh said with a smile.

Harbaugh was so enthusiastic about Boldin, he named him the starting flanker – Crabtree’s position. Harbaugh rarely names starters this early in the offseason, because he says he’s all about competition. It seems Harbaugh believes or hopes Boldin can replace most or all of Crabtree’s 2012 production.

Boldin may or may not do that, but if he does, he almost certainly will not do it from the flanker position. Putting Boldin at flanker to start the season is a bad idea.

Let me explain why.

The flanker is on the right side of the offense’s formation, or the strong side. The tight end is on the right side, too. I know I’m asking you to visualize. If you’re like me, you have problems with spatial relations. Just imagine two guys on the same side of the field.

If the 49ers align this way, here’s what an opposing defensive coordinator might say: “I see 772 career catches at flanker, and next to him I see 345 career catches at tight end. On the other side of the field – the offense’s left side – I see zero catches at split end. So, I’m going to rotate my coverage to the offense’s right side and have three defenders cover Davis and Boldin. I’ll use one-on-one coverage on Jenkins or Quinton Patton or Kyle Williams or whoever the 49ers’ put at split end, and force the 49ers to operate their passing game through that unproven player.”

The 49ers don’t want to operate their passing game through an unproven player. They want Boldin and Davis to be the primary receivers, and Jenkins and Patton and Williams to be the complementary guys.

So, Boldin and Davis must line up on opposite sides of the field until a third receiver establishes himself. If Davis lines up at tight end, Boldin needs to line up at split end or in the left slot. If Boldin lines up at flanker, Davis needs to line up somewhere on the other side of the field.

Last season, the 49ers frequently lined up Crabtree and Davis on the same side of the field. This worked because they had proven threats on the other side of the field – Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. Defensive coordinators didn’t feel comfortable leaving those two players alone in single coverage without a safety over the top.

This allowed the 49ers’ passing attack to be quite simple most of the time – line up Crabtree at flanker and throw him the ball.

The 49ers’ passing game must become much more creative and complex without Crabtree. The pressure is on Harbaugh and Roman to get one-percent more creative every day.

 

 

Grant Cohn writes two sports columns per week for the Press Democrat’s website. He also writes the “Inside the 49ers” blog. Follow him on Twitter @grantcohn.

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Putting Michael Crabtree’s 2012 production into perspective http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/putting-michael-crabtrees-2012-production-into-perspective/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/putting-michael-crabtrees-2012-production-into-perspective/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 18:16:53 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=16237 There’s been a great deal of debate over how big of a loss of Michael Crabtree is to the 49ers. Some people say the loss is no big deal, others say it’s quite a big deal.

To inform the debate, let’s look closely at Crabtree’s 2012 stats.

 

Michael Crabtree

Catches: 85 (tied for 13th best in the NFL)

Yards: 1,105 (14th)

Touchdowns: 9 (tied for 11th)

Deep catches (passes traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage): 5 (tied for 42nd)

First downs: 57 (13th)

Third down conversions: 22 (5th)

Third down conversions on third-and-more-than-seven-yards: 11 (2nd, Reggie Wayne was No.1 with 12 third-and-long conversions)

YAC (yards after the catch): 543 (4th)

YAC/reception: 6.4 (12th, Percy Harvin was No.1 with 8.7 YAC)

 

Notice Crabtree was one of the best receivers running after the catch, and arguably the best receiver in the entire league on third down.

Now, let’s compare his numbers to the 49ers’ other receivers’ 2012 stats:

 

Anquan Boldin

Catches: 65

Yards: 921

TDs: 4

Deep catches: 10

First downs: 45

Third down conversions: 16

Third-and-long conversions: 8

YAC: 276

YAC/reception: 4.2

 

Vernon Davis

Catches: 41

Yards: 548

TDs: 5

Deep catches: 6

First downs: 26

Third down conversions: 4

Third-and-long conversions: 1

YAC: 164

YAC/reception: 4.0

 

Mario Manningham

Catches: 42

Yards: 449

TDs: 1

Deep catches: 3

First downs: 21

Third down conversions: 2

Third-and-long conversions: 1

YAC: 187

YAC/reception: 4.5

 

Kyle Williams

Catches: 14

Yards: 212

TDs: 1

Deep catches: 2

First downs: 10

Third down conversions: 3

Third-and-long conversions: 0

YAC: 76 yards

YAC/reception: 5.4

 

Delanie Walker

Catches: 21

Yards: 344

Touchdowns: 3

Deep catches: 8 (Best among tight ends)

First downs: 14

Third down conversions: 3

Third-and-long conversions: 1

YAC: 60

YAC/reception: 2.9

 

Randy Moss

Catches: 28

Yards: 434

TDs: 3

Deep catches: 3

First downs: 22

Third down conversions: 4

Third-and-long conversions: 1

YAC: 82

YAC/reception: 2.9

 

In addition to Crabtree, the 49ers will not have Walker or Moss this season, and who knows when Manningham will return from his knee injury. Those four players combined last season for 176 catches, 2332 receiving yards, 16 TD catches; 872 YAC, 19 deep catches; 114 first down catches, 31 third down conversions and 14 third-and-long conversions.

Do you think the 49ers can make up all of that production this upcoming season? If so, how?

Here’s another question for you: How good do you think the 49ers will be on third down this season without Crabtree? The 49ers converted 36.62 percent of their third downs last season, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. Keep in mind, in 2011 – before Crabtree emerged as a dominant third down receiver – the 49ers converted 28.11 percent of their third downs, which ranked 31st.

Anquan Boldin was a good third down receiver for the Ravens last year. Who else on the 49ers do you think could emerge as a solid third down target for Colin Kaepernick?

Final question: Which 49er can replace Crabtree’s YAC? Kyle Williams? Vance McDonald? Neither Anquan Boldin nor Vernon David is a big YAC threat.

Double Bonus question: Delanie Walker was the most productive deep-threat tight end in the NFL last season. The 49ers always had two deep-threats on the field with him and Vernon Davis. Who will be the 49ers’ second deep-threat this season? Kyle Williams? Quinton Patton? A.J. Jenkins? Ricardo Lockette?

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Trent Baalke’s mid-offseason progress report http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/trent-baalkes-mid-offseason-progress-report/ http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/trent-baalkes-mid-offseason-progress-report/#comments Sun, 24 Mar 2013 22:09:55 +0000 http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/?p=15571 In my humble opinion, you’re doing pretty well so far this offseason, Trent.

I’m not going to give you a final grade today. That wouldn’t be fair. You still have the draft in a few weeks, and that’s when you need to perform your best.

You have 14 picks. You may feel this year’s rookies will be better and cheaper long term than what’s available on the free agent market, and I’d agree with that. Without knowing whom you’re targeting in the draft and what potential trades up or down you may be cultivating, I can’t give you a grade that’s etched in stone.

What I can give you is a mid-offseason progress report. I’ll explain where your team has taken steps forward, where it’s taken steps backward and what you need to accomplish in the draft. If you have any questions at all, Trent, please call me at home or text my cell. Tuesdays are good for me.

Let me start by saying I really like the 38-year-old kicker you signed, Phil Dawson. As long as he kicks like he has his entire career (84-percent field goal percentage), and does not kick like David Akers did last season, the 49ers will be better. Good job, Trent.

But I can’t say you’ve improved the entire Special Teams unit. You lost Delanie Walker – a key Special Teams player (more on him shortly). You’ve added some bodies to Special Teams – Dan Skuta and Marlon Moore. Does their talent compensate for the loss of Walker, or are they merely bodies?

I can see why you signed DT Glenn Dorsey, and I can see why you’re optimistic about him. He was a top-five talent in the 2008 draft. The Chiefs used him in a two-gap scheme. Now that the 49ers will use him correctly in a one-gap scheme, he just might blossom into the player he was projected to be when he came out of college.

You were smart not to give Dashon Goldson the five-year, $40 million contract he wanted. He’s not worth that to your club. But now he’s on the Bucs and you have a crater at free safety. You signed Craig Dahl but he’s a backup. You need to draft a free safety. I’m sure you know all of that.

Delanie Walker is a big loss. I understand you didn’t want to pay a No.2 tight end starter’s money. The Titans did, so you let him walk. Understand you lost a key player.

He was the designated “move-man,” the guy who can line up everywhere, the jack of all trades in Greg Roman’s offensive packages. You do not currently have a player on your roster who can fill all of the roles Walker did.

You traded for Anquan Boldin, and he will add punch and seniority to your wide receiving corps, but he is not going to be the blocker and the backfield player Walker was in the Diamond formation.

Which player will fill that role, Trent? I don’t think your offensive coordinator wants to eliminate that role from his offensive attack. Is there a tight end in the draft with Walker’s athleticism and versatility? I’m sure you will address this.

Boldin gives the offense a slot receiver for third-down plays, but who is the outside receiver to finish the three-receiver set? You didn’t re-sign Randy Moss, a wise move, and Mario Manningham probably will be out for the majority of the regular season, so who, other than Michael Crabtree and Boldin, has caught any passes in regular or post-season competition?

Somebody must emerge from the rest of your returning wide outs. Who has that capability? Kyle Williams? A.J. Jenkins?

Even if you draft a wide receiver, Trent, will he be able to step on the field his first season? The last receiver you drafted could not.

Allow me to list two more things you know you need – a big-bodied cornerback who can match up with the Falcons’ Julio Jones in the playoffs, and a fast slot cornerback who can match up with the Seahawk’s newest receiver, Percy Harvin. You must draft those two defensive backs, or get them any way you can.

I’ve got one more move to go over with you, and then you can get back to work. Alex Smith. Good job trading him for a second and third round pick. That’s more than I thought you’d get.

But now, backup quarterback is more of an issue than you may be willing to admit. Scott Tolzien is a far cry from being to Colin Kaepernick what Kaepernick was to Alex Smith.

Will you draft a quarterback, or will you wait until after the draft to sign a journeyman?

Will the lack of a viable No.2 QB impact how often you can run the Pistol option package? If so, that would be a shame.

I hope you don’t think I’m being brazen, giving you all these suggestions, Trent. Yes, your team took a step backward in free agency, but you couldn’t avoid that. All you have to do is knock the draft out of the park, and I’ll give you an A on your final report card.

Good luck, Trent.

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