49ers know questions, but can they find answers?

This is my Sunday column.

Remember dead week in college before finals?

This is dead six weeks for the San Francisco 49ers. They have the next month and a half off to prepare for the exam that will make or break their 2015 season.

What questions will be on that test when the Niners arrive for training camp?

In ascending order of importance, here are the top five questions the Niners must answer before the season begins.

5. Who will be the No. 3 receiver?

Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are the starters — no question about that. And there’s no question how good they’ll be, either. They’re a winning combination, the starters for the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, the team that beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

No wonder the Niners wanted Boldin and Smith. They are the best tandem of starting receivers the 49ers have had since Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice in 2000.

But who will be the Niners No. 3 receiver? That job is up for grabs. The top candidates seem to be veteran Jerome Simpson and undrafted rookie DeAndrew White.

White might have been the 49ers’ best receiver during the six practices open to the media this offseason — even better than Boldin and Smith. White never dropped a pass during team drills and quickly became a favorite target of every Niners quarterback. On the final day of minicamp, White was playing with the first-team offense.

White’s issue is durability — he suffered injury after injury during college at University of Alabama, meaning he may be injury prone. Will he play well when the hitting starts, or is he a flag-football superstar?

Simpson is a proven NFL receiver, starting 32 games since 2011. He didn’t play last season — the Minnesota Vikings cut him before he finished serving a three-game suspension at the beginning of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

But Simpson is only 29. His most recent season in the NFL (2013) he was an elite deep threat, making 10 catches of 20 or more yards — the same number of deep catches Torrey Smith made that season.

Simpson never has played with a quarterback as good as Colin Kaepernick. Will 2015 be Simpson’s best season yet?

4. How good are the linebackers?

The 49ers have a linebacker-oriented defense. When the defense was at its best a few seasons ago, they had four All-Pro caliber linebackers — Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith.

Willis retired this offseason, but the other three are still here. How good will they be in 2015?

Brooks was out of shape last season and lost his starting job to rookie fifth-round pick Aaron Lynch. If Brooks can get himself in shape, he may retake his starting job. He’s only 31.

Bowman tore his ACL and MCL in the 2014 NFC championship game, and he’s still recovering. He wears a knee brace during team drills which inhibits his ability to cut and change directions. He’s a liability in coverage with that brace. When will he be able to play without it?

And when will the real Aldon Smith show his face? The NFL suspended him for the first nine games last season. When he returned to the team, he seemed like just another guy. He recorded only two sacks. Teams shut him down easily.

Can he be the All-Pro player he used to be? If so, the Niners will be dangerous next season.

3. Which blocking scheme can the 49ers master?

Gap blocking and zone blocking — those are the only two blocking schemes.

Under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers primarily were a gap-blocking offense. This offseason, the Niners mostly practiced zone-blocking — the scheme Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak made famous.

According to 49ers quarterback coach Steve Logan, the new coaching staff wants to use both blocking schemes. “The ability to blend those, that’s where you’re going to find out how good you are,” he said.

Blending the schemes can be extremely difficult. Kubiak coaches only zone blocking because he wants to make sure his team masters it. When a team tries to use both schemes, they risk mastering neither.

The Niners don’t yet know which scheme will be more successful for them. They have to play full-speed tackle football during preseason and they need to experiment.

2. Can the offensive line protect Colin Kaepernick?

It certainly couldn’t last season, which is the main reason Kaepernick had his worst season as a starter. Defenses sacked him 52 times — more than three times per game.

The Niners had one of the poorest pass-blocking offensive lines in 2014. Will it improve next season? They lost Pro-Bowl guard Mike Iupati, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals, and premier right tackle Anthony Davis, who retired at the age of 25.

The Niners don’t seem to have upgrades for those two, who will be tough to replace. Both were former top-20 draft picks in 2010.

And both were great run blockers, but both struggled in pass protection. Iupati gave up seven sacks in 15 games last season, and Davis gave up three sacks in seven games — he missed the other nine due to injuries.

Is it possible the losses of Iupati and Davis have improved the Niners’ ability to protect the quarterback?

1. Will Colin Kaepernick benefit from the new offensive system?

The 49ers are building their new offense around Kaepernick’s strengths, meaning his legs. We should see more rollout passes and read-option runs from him than we saw the past two seasons.

Which is all well and good, but the Niners also will expose him to more hits. That’s the tradeoff. The previous coaching staff protected Kaepernick during the regular season by rarely calling read options and mostly keeping him in the pocket. Kaepernick struggled with this style of offense, but at least he never got hurt.

Right now, opposing linebackers and safeties must be licking their chops. They know Kaepernick will run more next season, and they know they’ll get their shot to knock him out.

Can Kaepernick avoid the knockout blow? Can the coaching staff keep him alive?

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.

This article has 233 Comments

  1. Good questions, patton,Lynch will start with brooks being traded, I think our line will be better than last year, the play clock issues will slow down the pass rush and I Colin will flourish

    1. Dietrich,
      Not sure about the O line with the departure of Iuaoti and Davis retirement, although remaing optimistic.

    2. Great point about the play clock situation. If the coaches let the offense get the plays off in time, it will slow down the pass rush. I think that really hurt the team last year.

  2. The 49ers are building their new offense around Kaepernick’s strengths, meaning his legs.
    Awesome, if he’s our RB. When your QB’s biggest strength is his legs your in pretty poor shape.

    1. C4C….

      Once again…total agreement “…only as strong as the weakest link…”

    2. CFC,
      Many seem to forget that our QB’ legs almost won us Super Bowl.

      I don’t see CK running unless the line breaks down or it is a run by design.
      My thinking is that we have the best running QB to come into the league since M. Vic’ heyday. And the Packers would certainly second that point.

      Yet, I still believe that Kaep’s best days will come by way of the pocket. This is his next step to becoming a formidable and successful QB.

      From what I’ve heard, CK is back at Arizona to continue his QB tutelage under K. Warner. If he can become even slightly better in the pocket than he was last season this team might just be in the playoffs come January.

      This season will be filled with many questions that will be answered as the season progresses.

      1. CFC,
        Many seem to forget that our QB’ legs almost won us Super Bow
        No one is forgetting that it was his bad decision and pass to Crabtree that cost us the Superbowl. I don’t see “almost” as a consideration, there’s no second place to the Superbowl. Instead, we’re no longer a team with a perfect record at the event which used to be something that put us above the other teams with a similar amount of trophies. Waa waa waa, yea I know life isn’t fair. Still it used to be a pretty good card to have in your pocket when dealing with the obnoxious Steeler’s fan.

        Just wait until training camp starts. You’ll see a whole new me in regards to our QB. I think 10 games given all the turnover and change in the offense and coaching staff to prove that he’s improved is fair enough. By week 11 if he’s a new and improved QB then I’ll continue my support and eat my big plate of crow just like I said I would if he ever showed he could become a legitimate pocket passer. If he’s still the Colin I think he is by that point then the only thing to do is to start working on my 2016 mock drafts, with a focus on second or third round QB’s.

        1. CFC,

          No one is forgetting that it was his bad decision and pass to Crabtree that cost us the Superbowl. I don’t see “almost” as a consideration, there’s no second place to the Superbowl. Instead, we’re no longer a team with a perfect record at the event which used to be something that put us above the other teams with a similar amount of trophies. Waa waa waa, yea I know life isn’t fair. Still it used to be a pretty good card to have in your pocket when dealing with the obnoxious Steeler’s fan.

          So you blame one player for losing the SB? That says it all.

            1. That’s what it read like. If you don’t blame it all on him then why do you continue to single him out? It’s time to get over the fact they lost and move on. It was a number of reasons, and the only reason they were even in the game by that point was because Kap and the offense got them back in it and the power going out may have helped too.

        2. CFC,
          Last I looked the Steelers may have one more SB win over us but they certainly don’t have an unblemished record when it comes to winning SB’s.
          Same goes for Cowpokes and Patriots. Point, even the best teams going into the SB can lose ala the Patriots against the NYGiants.

          I’m not going to dismiss my team just because the lost the SB to the Ravens (and officials).
          Heck, if we’re going to throw shade why not blame Gore for not having the speed to run for a TD instead of being caught at the 5 yrd line?
          why not blame Randy Moss for not making an attempt at high pointing a pass by CK that went for an interception?
          Why not blame the safeties for getting crossed up on a pass in the middle of the field that ended up going for a TD?
          Anyway, I think you get my point (lol).

  3. WRT to the WRs, I understand how Simpson is listed as being one of the main candidates for the #3 spot right now, but suggesting the undrafted rookie White is the other main candidate just doesn’t seem likely at this point in time. The praise he has received so far reminds me of the praise Kyle Williams used to receive this time of year. Until we see him tearing it up in pads and pre-season he has to remain a long shot. Patton and Ellington are the forgotten men all of a sudden, but they’ll be tough to beat out for the #3 and #4 WR roles.

    I think how the D performs as a unit in Mangini’s defense is also a big question mark, and far more important than who the #3 WR will be.

    1. I’d agree that how the defense transitions under Mangini is more pressing then who our #3 is. I would throw in the idea that whomever is our #3 is likely to be our #2 when Boldin retires or leaves which could be as early as next season. So who our #3 is might be a double question of who will also be our #2 next season.

        1. Our 2016 lineup could be Smelter at X, Patton as the Z and Ellington as the slot. With Busta at the Y.

          Love it!

          1. Ha, that would certainly put pay to the idea that Baalke can’t draft offense! But something tells me they won’t be letting Torrey Smith go after just one season.

            1. But something tells me they won’t be letting Torrey Smith go after just one season.
              No that would take an unfortunate injury or a really bad season from Torrey.

              Ellington needs to get healthy before he can become the No.3 or No. 4 receiver.
              Well, I did say 2016. ;)

              Smelter taking over the X in 2016 is a bit premature but not impossible. I wouldn’t call it a projection as much as wishful thinking. As far as Patton and Ellington we’ll have to see if all this hype about White is for real or not, if so then sure you’d have to consider him for one of those two spots but until he’s on the 53 I won’t give it much credence.

              Busta being the starting tight end is also fanciful thought at this point, but it’s a hot Saturday in June so there’s not much else to do.

    2. White clearly outperformed Patton during OTAs and minicamp. Patton dropped two passes just last Thursday.

      Ellington needs to get healthy before he can become the No.3 or No. 4 receiver.

      1. C’mon Grant, you’re being just a tad premature on White. How’s his blocking?
        Sight adjustments? Run after catch? Can he break tackles? Until these guys get into pads and contact I don’t see how anyone can win a job.
        I too am encouraged by White’s early play and think he’s a strong candidate for the 53, but probably a longshot to be the #3 by Opening Day. It will be a very good thing if I’m wrong and you’re right.

        1. Probably, but I’ve seen two years of Patton, and White clearly is more explosive than him.

          1. Well, I admit, that’s not coachable.
            I do recall some outlier Niners who got faster through maniacle training; Roger, Jerry, and TO; but that’s an impossible bar to set.

          2. “White clearly is more explosive”. Something that was also often said about Kyle Williams at this time of year. The most explosive WR on the team, yada yada yada. Once the pads went on he was still explosive, but he wasn’t able to make much of an impact when it mattered.

            Not saying we shouldn’t be excited about White, but way too early to be anointing him as one of the main contenders for the #3 WR spot this year. He still has a lot to prove in TC and pre-season.

              1. Question for you Grant. If White is such a talent, why did he go undrafted? I understand he fought through a lot of injuries at Bama but not even drafted in the 7th! I’m not suggesting that he won’t be a stud and that he can’t fall through the cracks but I agree with others that it’s way to early to put him in the lead for the number 3 Wr.. I think Patton breaks out this year. He becomes a legit Wr this year.

              2. That may well be the case Grant, but my point is just that guys can look great at this time of the year then fizzle when it gets real. Guys that rely on speed and quickness in particular tend to look great in non-padded practices, which is exactly where White wins. Once the pads go on and they need to rely more on technique in their route running and strength to match up against DBs there are a lot of those quicker guys that come crashing back to earth.

              3. White is more than just fast and quick. He’s bigger than Ellington and he has much better hands than Patton.

              4. He’s a bit taller than Ellington, but he’s still sub 6’0″, and a shade over 190lbs. That’s AJ Jenkins size. Speed/ quickness are his strengths. He may well have fantastic hands, everything I’ve read about this off-season indicates he’s shown off great hands in OTAs and minicamp.

                Time will tell whether he can translate his speed/ quickness and good hands into production in the NFL. He’ll need to be more than just quick with good hands to make it. Good news for him is he gets to be taught by a WR coach that recently coached another 5’11”, ~195lbs WR with good quickness and fantastic hands that become one of the most productive rookie WRs ever last year.

              5. Technically, Ellington is the bigger guy, coming in at 197 at the combine to White’s 193. But White has two inches on him. Ellington was showing some promise as a slot receiver toward the end of last year, so I wouldn’t write him off at this point, but there’s no doubt there’s an opening for that third spot.

                I will say, when Ronald Curry was quoted last week as saying all Patton was had been missing to date was opportunity, I very nearly laughed out loud. He’s had nothing but opportunity, with nothing resembling a second WR for much of 2014, and some real opportunity for the third spot, particularly late, in 2015. I suppose Patton was behind Stevie Johnson most of last year, and doesn’t profile as a slot receiver as much as say Ellington does, but it’s not like we had three or four WR slots locked down last year.

              6. Crimson, you’ve got your years mixed up WRT to Patton. In 2013 the team struggled with WRs, but the opportunity you are associating with Patton receiving was ruined by his own injuries. First a broken finger, then a broken foot. Despite being a rookie, and barely seeing the field or being able to practice full go, when he came back from his broken finger he actually did manage to earn the #2 role until he broke his foot.

                Last year (2014) he stuck behind Boldin, Crabtree, Johnson and Lloyd. And with Ellington the PR he never had a chance to suit up until late in the year. He wasn’t really afforded much of an opportunity as the coaching staff preferred to go with the vets.

              7. Patton earned his lack of playing time last season. He was awful during the preseason–two catches for 22 receiving yards on nine targets.

              8. Yes, I recall. It was a rough pre-season for him. But I also recall some of those throws to him were awful, and that he got open a few times but the ball didn’t go his way. I also recall that the guys competing with him for the #3 WR gig didn’t produce a whole either (Johnson and Lloyd). The guys that were the big producers in pre-season that made the final roster (Ellington and McDonald) went on to not do a whole lot in the regular season.

            1. Totally agree. If you look at the past history of WRs. many of them did not become productive until their third season. Even JR started off slowly.
              Many of the first round WRs have become injured when thrown into the first string. There are of course, exceptions, but many WRs need to gain muscle mass to be able to endure the punishing hits that pro DBs can deliver.
              In my book, Patton will shine when given a chance. He cannot prove his worth by sitting on the bench. I hope JT rotates the WRs so they stay fresh and can wear down the opposing DBs.

      2. If White proved himself to the point that the team had to make a decision between him and Patton then I would think White’s contribution as a return man would give him the nod.

        White sounds like a taller version of Ellington to me.

        1. Something seems to be missing in TC and OTA’s this year….Perhaps I just missed it, but I haven’t heard “Every position will be up for competetion”. Does this mean that no one wants to answer why Patton won’t get an equal amount of targets…or that Ellington and McDonald will get shuffled to the bottom of the deck…or that Blaine Gabbert and Dylan Thompson will get no ‘reps’ w/ the Oline ‘ones’…or that Carridine and the other youngsters in the Dline will only be seen with field glasses…

          or will we see REAL competition for WR, RB, QB, Oline, Dline, and Dback ? I for one, am sick and tired of seeing our draftees waived and picked up by other teams and GETTING PLAYING TIME with other teams, while we field a mediocre team of ‘leftovers,’ and dead wood.
          JT … Harbaugh is Gone….you no longer answer to him…show us your stuff for real

          1. Oregon

            Didn’t Harbaugh SAY everything would be about competition? Your comment fits the Harbaugh Niners to a tee, but there’s no reason to believe Tom Shuler’s team will be the same.

            Boldin and Smith are starting, and should be. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. The OL is a total mystery, whatwith guys like Martin, Kilgore, Thomas, and Brown fighting for staring jobs. There’s plenty of thought out there that the DL will be rotated a helluva lot more than under Fangio, and that’s a good thing, and it also means that whomever starts, all the talent will see field action.

          2. Oregon,

            I for one, am sick and tired of seeing our draftees waived and picked up by other teams and GETTING PLAYING TIME with other teams, while we field a mediocre team of ‘leftovers,’ and dead wood.

            What players are you referring too exactly? Playing time is not the same as impact and the players they have released have not been better than those they’ve kept for the most part from my recollection. Just another misguided shot at the HC who is no longer here. It’s also not Harbaugh you should be directing your venom at as Baalke was in charge of the final roster.

            1. Rocket…

              That we had some agreement on something awhile back is almost unbelieveable to me….it seems that every post I make, you want to challenge no matter what. To keep this within the bounderies of lingth, here are some of the players I was referring to : ‘Boobie’ Dixon, AJJenkens, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Dante Whitner, Mcleod Bethel Thompson, Cam Johnson, Costanzo, Mike Adams, LaMichael James, Marcus Cooper, Crabtree, Iupati, Tukuafu, Lockette, Dobbs, BJ Daniels, Michael Robinson, and everyone’s favorite Jonathon Martin.

              Impact…pretty tough to be an impact player without leaving the bench (which equates to ) playing time. Baalke is in charge of the final roster as far as it goes that if the head coach doesn’t put the players into the game…just what do you have…JH had a lot to say about who is on the roster…don’t be fooled. If all you want is to argue (disagree) say so, and we can debate ping- pong.

              1. Yes I agree it does seem like a long time ago Oregon. I’m not attacking you or arguing for the sake of arguing either. You just seem to state something every now and then that makes no sense to me. This is a good example:

                I for one, am sick and tired of seeing our draftees waived and picked up by other teams and GETTING PLAYING TIME with other teams, while we field a mediocre team of ‘leftovers,’ and dead wood.

                This statement is not backed up by the facts Oregon. The Niners haven’t waived anybody who has gone on to play a prominent role with another team or been better than what they have very often The one time you could have made a case for that is when they kept Asomugah over Cooper, but as we’ve come to realize, Cooper wasn’t able to continue his initial success and is now a backup who gets little playing time. A number of those players you mentioned also weren’t draftee’s who were waived either. The statement is just complete nonsense which is why I questioned you on it. You also used it as a chance to take a shot at Harbaugh which is also wrong considering Baalke had final say on the roster. You can question that all you like, but that is the truth backed up by both Harbaugh and Baalke on multiple occasions. If you don’t like the roster moves ( and I have no idea why you wouldn’t) then blame the guy responsible instead of continuing on this anti Harbaugh agenda you’ve developed to go along with your anti Kap agenda.

                You and E are also on this tangent about young players not getting playing time and that is also incorrect. First off, there weren’t many spots open on this team during Harbaugh’s time, as the starting spots were filled by very good players. That will hinder playing time for young players right out of the gate, but a number of players still saw playing time like: Vance McDonald, Marcus Martin, Eric Reid, Bruce Ellington, Carlos Hyde, Quinton Dial, Chris Borland and that’s just the past couple of years. There is no substance to the accusation that young players never received playing time under Harbaugh. Some did some didn’t, and it was dependent on the circumstance much like it is with any team that is a SB contender.

                This year more young players will get a chance to play and the reason is all the vets who have left the roster due to the mass exodus of FA’s/Retirements. If that hadn’t happened, Tomsula would be no different than any other HC in playing the vets over young players unless circumstances dictated otherwise.

  4. So goes the O line, so goes the Offense. Can’t believe they are going to flip flop Zone and Gap blocking. If they can pull it off it does create a lot of defensive confusion. How about the read option with Kaep and Bush. That truly is a pick your poison defensive moment..

  5. Grant, aren’t you kind of contradicting yourself by saying that the pass protection was so bad last year that Kap was sacked 3x per game, but the coaching staff protected Cap by keeping him in the pocket?

    1. JH was manipulated by the pundits. When they declared that Kaep had never learned to be a pocket passer, JH decided to force Kaep be a pocket passer even if it killed him. After 52 sacks,it almost did,

        1. In The Art Of War, Sun Tsu says that leaders who are arrogant and full of hubris are easily manipulated. JH fits that description to a T.

  6. This dead time isn’t dead for the coaches and GMs. Guaranteed they’re sweating bullets they don’t get any calls from Team Security regarding law enforcement issues with any players.

  7. On roster spots, did y’all see that Hayne had a minor surgery to remove a cyst from his foot? I wonder if that will get him safely to the PUP or IR, as he looks like he’srobably on the bubble.

    1. I reckon the 49ers would prefer to be able to put him on IR than invest this time in him just to release him.

    2. Depending on how big it was that’s usually just an office procedure and it’s really nothing more then lancing a huge puss filled zit. The swelling and pain should be gone in a few days, they already mentioned that he’d been running on it so it couldn’t have been that debilitating.

      1. Actually, I think the medical is quite minor. It’s the plausible deniability I’d be looking for. Buys into 2015 and/or beyond. Nefarious? Borderline; Yes.
        Routine? Yes.

    1. If Don wasn’t wearing a helmet on that play he’d be in a wheel chair if he was still breathing at all.

  8. The 53:

    RB)Mr. Hyde/Bush/Hunter/Davis

    1. Interesting…
      – Bye bye Lemonier and McDonald
      – Millard on PS (if he survives 24 hr waivers)
      – Okoye experiment over
      – Costanzo replacement Nick Bellore cut. (modest signing bonus bye bye)

      I’d consider replacing Celek with V. McDonald or Bellore. Try to sneak Millard and Rory Anderson onto PS.

    2. Nice job razor.

      My two cents:
      – I’d be surprised if they keep Farrell over Looney since Looney was getting some 1st team reps during the most recent minicamp while Farrell is down the order. Don’t see Farrell making the team.
      – If Flipper’s son makes the team I think it would be at the expense of Simpson (similar skill set). I still expect Patton to make the team, especially given the comments Baalke keeps making (and now the coaching staff) that all he needs is an opportunity.
      – I think they’ll keep McDonald over Celek as the blocking TE. Agree with taking 4 TEs though.
      – Also agree they will keep 7 DL atm. But if they keep 6, TJE is the odd man out.
      – My gut says Dahl beats out McCray.
      – With Ward a NCB, I think they only keep 5 other CBs. If Johnson, Reaser and Acker all look good in TC, Cook is a goner in my opinion. Acker is the one most likely to make way for Cook if he struggles at all.
      – The extra roster spot will be used on an extra LB, maybe Lemonier. Though they might want to hold onto 5 ILBs as insurance for Bowman.

      1. I’ll cry my eyes out if Dahl beats out McCray.

        I still think the 49ers will try to make room for a dedicated special teams ace. Pinion’s hang time is just the ticket for a guy like Nick Bellore to come crashing down on punts and kickoffs.

    3. Nice stab at it Razor. I agree with Scooter on the changes he’d make and I think Belore will ultimately make it as a ST’s guy. A lot will depend on health too as we don’t know if Ward is going to be able to hold up or if Dockett will be able to go from the start. My guess is they try and get White, Anderson or both onto the PS.

  9. I mostly agree with you Grant, but three of your questions should cover a broader base.
    Instead of asking just good are the linebackers, you should ask how good will our defense be. There some new faces or players that are playing a different position plus they are trying to adopt a 3-4 defense that can confuse opponents (which has caused problems for our own defenses in the past).
    I’d also change the question of if the OL can protect Kaep to how will the OL do in general because the changes will influence how well the run and passing game will do.
    Finally I think the bigger question is if Kaep benefitted from working on his release, stance, reading defenses, etcetera in the offseason. That will be the main thing that determines whether Kaep will benefit from the new offense or not.

    1. …just how good…

      I also think you’re writing off Patton a little too early.

    2. 2 things. First, I think the defense will be stout. The Niners used their first 3 picks on defense, and AA will surprise a lot of fans. I remember seeing him throw a 300 pound lineman off to 1 side and then tackling the RB for a loss. he also received constant double teams against Ohio State, so they knew he was too good to let 1 lineman block against him.
      Second, the offense has to get better, because it could not get worse. Losing Roman cannot be overlooked. His unimaginative and predictable play calling with absolutely no second half adjustments were a huge factor in the offensive impotence. Also, if the Niners eliminate their self inflicted wounds, they will be better. Letting the play clock run down to 0 just let the defense time the snap, and the DOG penalties were infuriating. Sounds like JT is solving those problems with his up tempo approach.

  10. Switching to zone blocking has risks. I remember 7-8 years back the Raiders switched to zone and had fits with the transition.

    I’m taking the 49ers word its not a complete switch. Makes sense because the 49ers still have some hulking man blockers on their roster.

    The O-line’s a concern. Before Davis retired there was only LG to worry about. If Marcus Martin won the center job, then LG and C.

    Now every position will change except Staley. That’s a huge project.

    1. It’s tough to expect a winning season when the head man has never coached professionally before, have an offensiive line (as yet devoid of starters) still in competition for starting roles and learning a new zone blocking scheme, a QB pushing 30 who went to a QB class for a cup of coffee to learn fundamentals, a new starting running backs and wide receviers and a complete overhaul on defense…I hope they win, but I also hope to win the lotto one day.

      1. Don’t foget, the 49ers face opponents who are vetrans–experienced at throwing wrinkles at new offensive lines/units. Just to name two, Pete Carroll and Jeff Fisher were ex-49er coaches during their dynasty years and saw exactly how to confuse young offensive units with new coaching staffs…Don’t get into a canon ball fight with with Pirates/Bucaneers/Privateers who are vetrans unless you’ve been in one yourself.

        1. It’s fair to state that Jim Tomsula has the least amount of experience as a HC when compared to the other HC’s in the NFCW.

          However, let us take a look at the rest of them:
          -Jeff Fisher, basically a .500 coach, when was the last time he won a playoff game?
          -Slippery Pete, fired twice as a HC in the NFL, pretty much another HC with a .500 until he discovered/lucked upon Russell Wilson. Does anyone actually believe Slippery makes it to back-to-back SB’s with Tarvaris Jackson?
          -Bruce Arians, a lifetime of coaching as a position coach and coordinator. The Cardinals was his first HC gig, other than his stint as an interim HC of the Colts.

          They are all good coaches, with a ton of experience but in today’s NFL, with all the parity, it is as much about being at the right place, at the right time and landing a couple key players.

          Reemember when Mike McCarthy was hired as a HC by the Packers? The response was, huh?
          Does anyone believe Mike McCarthy wins a SB with Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn? How about Sean Payton, does he win a SB with whoever is backing up Drew Brees?

          Jim Tomsula, like most competent coaches will depend on his staff, and likely will go as far as Colin Kaepernick will take him.

          1. Well said, skeptic. JimmyT is approaching this year with guns blazing. I think he’s football smart and that the players like him for his direct, personable, and loose approach.

          2. Also, Seattle and Arizona both lost their DCs. That fact should not be considered insignificant.

          3. You answered my next comments without meaning to….Sure, at one time these coaches had bad average records, but prior to that they were at least coordinators, which Tomsula wasn’t… so didn’t panic when the other team countered their moves–(forced them to make adjustments)…Don’t forget, when the real bullets start flying even an experienced Head Coach with sterling qualifications panicked and got involved with calling plays on offense until Jerry Rice, Steve Young, and Brent Jones went to Eddie D. forcing George Seifert to stay away from the offense and with his expertise, Defense…How’s Tomsula going to react when his offense is shut down, Kap goes through one of his many bad passing streaks– (3 and outs), and Manginius realizes, like Fangio did, being too complex on defense only risks more blown coverages!!!

              1. @TomD,
                Other than you, I do not see anyone else who is panicking.

                From your comments, it is evident that you did not understand what I wrote. I’ll try again, Fisher, Carroll, Arians, McCarthy and Payton each had zero fulltime NFL HC experience when they were first hired. At some point someone took a chance on each of them. They are good coaches but their successes, like that of pretty much any other NFL HC is dependent on their environment and the players that they have/had.

                Onto George: an underrated DC, had a hand in each of the SB wins, along with Bill McPherson and Pete Carroll laid the groundwork for the defense that the Seahawks run today (just ask Carroll). Good coach and a gentleman. With the talent he had with the 49ers, a two time SB winning HC. Without the talent with the Panthers, fired.

                Nothing I or you say will change how Tomsula will end up as a HC, let the season play itself out.

          4. Skeptic,

            No matter what you do to try and diminish the other HC’s in the division, they all have a far superior resume to Tomsula.

            1. Rocket,

              Can you point out where I stated that Jim Tomsula has a better resume than any of the other coaches in the NFCW?

              1. Only if you point out where I said you did. I made a statement that is very important when comparing the HC’s in the division. I didn’t say you said otherwise. Diminishing the achievements of the other HC’s in the division is a waste of time when you consider our HC has the least amount of achievements is the point.

              2. This was the very first statement in my comments of June 21, 2015 at 8:50pm.
                “It’s fair to state that Jim Tomsula has the least amount of experience as a HC when compared to the other HC’s in the NFCW.”

                I also gave context to their records, if you consider that as diminishing their achievements, so be it.

              3. skeptic,

                You are missing my point. It doesn’t matter what context you use or what examples you give; everyone of these HC’s was more prepared and qualified for the HC positions they were given. You are singling out games they didn’t win or the fact they were fired etc, and none of it matters. What matters is the fact all of those men you named were Coaches and Coordinators in the NFL for years before they got a HC job.

              1. Rocket: These people will never be satisfied until the first kickoff in September. Any logic applied between now and then is a waste of time and I’ve realized that. However, some things I will not tolerate and have to correct the record two of which are Jeff Garcia’s weak arm and Baalke’s apparent bullet proof vest. Garcia had running ability–like Kap, but threw for over 4,oooo yards. People keep bringing up Kap’s superiority over him…Baalke overdrafts on offense, yet fans think nothing’s wrong here…It’s up to me to keep the record balanced, and thank you for your logic….I was thinking no one else was paying attention on this website.

      2. “It’s tough to expect a winning season when the head man has never coached professionally before”. I understand your point that it is an inexperienced HC, but this statement in and of itself is incorrect on many levels.

        First he has been a professional coach in the NFL for a long time now. But I guess when you said he hasn’t coached professionally what you really meant was he hasn’t been a head coach professionally. But even that is wrong. He was a HC in NFL Europe, and while not the NFL proper it is indeed a professional league. And we shouldn’t forget he has also had one game as the 49ers HC after they sacked Singletary.

        No qualms with people questioning how an inexperienced coach like Tomsula will go, but there is a big difference between a head man that has never coached professionally and the professional experience Tomsula brings.

      3. JT does have HC experience that should not be ignored. He coached the last game of the 2010 season, replacing MS. He took that dispirited team with nothing to play for, and fired them up, inspired them with a good game plan and won that game 38-7. Tomsula has a perfect NFL record and will have that distinction until they lose.
        In that game, they were focused, prepared, energized, and I saw no DOG penalties or glaring mistakes.

    1. Yep, Happy Dads’ Day. It’s also Summer Solstice; for all you Druid’s, Sun Worshipers, & Astronomers.

    1. My hunch is that you’re a little too gloomy on the CBs, but they’ll have to prove themselves.
      PS: a good pass rush could make them look good.

    2. Interesting that you have CB outlined as an issue in the bleacher article on the 49ers biggest offseason question marks, but it didn’t make the top 5 list for the PD article?

      1. Scooter, He got some input from his Dad. It was Fathers Day, so it’s all good.

      2. Grant writes under two different personalities. He’s not nearly as critical in the BR pieces as he is here. For the record I think he’s right in listing the CB spot as a concern. Brock hasn’t been able to stay healthy and Wright was one of the worst starting CB’s in the league last year, so to say we have question marks is an understatement.

    3. Grant, another nice one. Two points:

      1. Regarding the defense, at this stage of the pre-season I think both corner and ILB fall into the category of “weak until proven otherwise.” There’s a lot of talent at corner, though, and I think the starting group that bubbles to the surface will be strong and get better over the season. ILB concerns me, given Bowman’s knee. Don’t have a gauge on whether Moodly or Wheeler are starter-quality. Maybe someone would like to comment about this.

      2. The Justin Smith who retired is not the Justin you’re thinking about. It was time for him, and they have plug-ins.

      1. George
        Good point on Justin, and it might speak to his decision this year. C’mon, I have personal experience that chronic pain sucks. ! = Willis, J.Smith.
        On ILB, I’m very encouraged by Bow’s OTA play. Very.
        Grant mentions injury vulnerability of the CBs, but doesn’t mention it so much in regard to White (or Andersen).
        It’s ok, still just speculating.

      2. Justin Smith had declined from Pro Bowl level, but he was still very good and expecting someone with little to no playing experience to just come in and fill his role without decline is wishful thinking imo. They wanted Smith back for a reason; he was still the best option at RDE.

        1. rocket, I didn’t mean to rule out a decline at that position. There’s no crystal ball. So there might be, or there might not.

    4. “Justin Smith’s Retirement Will Hurt the Defense” No question he will be missed. On the bright side…

      – The #1 and #2 nose tackles are returning in Williams and Dorsey.

      – The 49ers lost in Justin’s TE stunt grappling… but they gained with the larger Dockett and Carradine shooting gaps. Double Aldon… and Dockett and Tank will knife inside. Help inside, and Aldon will destroy the LT. Aldon and Lynch should get some nice scoop-up sacks when Dockett/Tank hit those gaps.

      – The 49ers aren’t replacing the 2011 Justin. They are replacing the 2014 Justin. Very good to be sure, but not the same guy that rollerskated Saint’s guards back into Drew Breese.

      – Fangio said the day after the draft Dial had “untapped pass rush potential.”
      Moved to his more natural 3-4 DE position he might be able to display that pass rush talent.

      – Depth. Tomsula/Mangini will use it. Late in games/seasons expect a fresh, smothering defense.

    5. “The 49ers Have Big Issues at Cornerback” – fact
      The 49ers Have Big Talent at Cornerback – fact
      The 49ers Have Little Experience at Cornerback – fact

      The corners appear to be talented and deep… but with little experience or proven durability. I’m confident they will have a good cornerback group. The question is when. By game one? Game eight? Game one 2016?

      Its possible one of the younger players beats Wright for the starting job. If so, the corners will need the safeties to be “Quarterbacks of the secondary” like Dwight Hicks and the Hot Licks. All I have to do is find a word that rhymes with Bethea.

      Or Reid?

      “Eric Reid and the Makes You Bleeds”
      “Eric Reid and the Bad Deeds”
      “Eric Reid and the Weed Wackers”

      1. Brodie,

        The CB’s appear to be talented and deep? I have to disagree with you. We have three late round picks that have done nothing to warrant that label yet, and two of them haven’t played at this level yet. They could turn out to be good, but until they actually have to play a prominent role, they are unknown at best. The starters are not great either, with one being injury prone and the other a below average starter. Cook to me is probably a better option than Wright, that’s how bad I think Wright is.

        1. “We have three late round picks that have done nothing to warrant that label yet”

          By that standard of measure, no college rookie should ever be called “talented” until they have accrued a certain number of NFL games.

          Reaser and Acker were NFI all 2014. This is their rookie season.

          Ward (round one pick) beat out Cox for the slot role. He struggled but was coming around just before he went on IR.

          They have “little experience or proven durability” as I said, so no guarantee the CB spot will be solid this year. But there’s safety in numbers.

          Brock and Ward were starters last year for a reason… Reaser, Wright, Johnson, Acker and Cook are alot of darts to throw at for a single remaining position.

          1. Brodie,

            Young players are rated by where they go in the draft. All 3 of the second year CB’s you deem as talented were 3rd day picks. The league didn’t see them as big talents. Reaser is being talked up as likely being picked higher if not for the knee injury, but most draft sites didn’t even have him listed as a draftable player due to being a late round pick even if healthy.

            Now this doesn’t mean they aren’t talented and could be successful as NFL players, but it should curb the enthusiasm (ode to Larry David here) in regards to them being these very talented young studs that are going to step in and play good football right out of the gate.

            My concerns in regards to Ward and Brock are durability. Brock especially, has shown he cannot stay healthy and it is a concern for me. We do not have proven depth at the position so injuries could be a major factor.

            1. “All 3 of the second year CB’s”

              There are 4 second year cornerbacks. Ward (converted safety) was taken in the first round. Reaser dropped to the 5th only because of his injury. They were both regarded as talented prior to the 2014 draft.

              Brock is regarded as talented too.

              Did my post sound enthusiastic? I added…
              “The 49ers Have Little Experience at Cornerback – fact”
              “but with little experience or proven durability. I’m confident they will have a good cornerback group. The question is when. By game one? Game eight? Game one 2016?”

              OK, I’ll curb my (extremely cautious with carefully crafted escape hatches in case they turn out to suck) enthusiasm.

              I’m curious… what is the universally recognized cut off round for a player to be described as “talented?”

              1. Brodie,

                Every player that gets to the NFL is talented. That I’m sure we can agree on. It’s the degree of talent that sets certain players apart from others. Young CB’s drafted on day 3 are question marks at best. That’s why they were drafted on day 3. I disagree with you on Reaser especially, because nobody around here had heard of the guy before the Niners drafted him, and he wasn’t listed on most draft sites due to the fact he was a late round talent who had torn up his knee.

                The point I responded too was when you said: The corners appear to be talented and deep… but with little experience or proven durability. That doesn’t make sense to me, because we don’t know how talented they are and being deep at a position usually implies you have quality depth which is not the case here, at least not proven depth anyway. Right now we have names and not much more. Your point about them having little experience is right on the money and a point against your view that the position is deep. Durability is also a valid concern which I agree with.

                I didn’t include Ward with the other three because he was a 1st round pick, which means they believe he is a starter. His issue is his foot and so far that is a pretty big issue.

              2. What is your cut off round for a college player to be considered “talented?”

              3. I answered that question with this sentence above:

                Every player that gets to the NFL is talented. That I’m sure we can agree on. It’s the degree of talent that sets certain players apart from others.

                I don’t consider 3rd day picks as talented as day one or day two picks if that is what you are getting at. If they were considered differently they wouldn’t be late round picks. Obviously some late round picks prove that contention wrong, but it’s a pretty small percentage.

              4. I’m seeking your guidance. I’ll be more specific… What is the cut off round for a blogger describing a rookie as “talented” without being contradicted by you?

                You made it clear day three picks disqualify the talent label. Nice and specific.

                I’m merely seeking a little clarity/specificity symmetry by asking which rounds clearly qualify the talent label to the point that its OK to describe a rookie as “talented?”

                It sounds like you indicated rounds 1-3. If Reaser didn’t hurt his ACL, was drafted in round 3 and a blogger described him as “talented”, would that be OK?

              5. Brodie,

                As I said, every player who makes it to this level can be considered talented. The difference is in the level of play they can reach and ultimately how much more talent they have than the next player.

                As I also said, it was the the whole of your statement that I responded too, which was “talented and deep.” I disagreed with that because we don’t know how talented these players are until we see them on the field, and you can’t consider a position deep if it consists of unknowns with little to no experience.

                I consider players taken in higher rounds to be better prospects, that should be obvious, but I also allow for the fact some low round picks turn out to be great players. My only counter to your post was that you should hold off on the talent and deep praise until you see how they look on the field.

                I like what I’ve heard about Reaser too, but I also know OTA’s are very different from TC, and TC is very different from the regular season. Reaser was on nobody’s radar after tearing his ACL, and was a low rated prospect before that. That’s not something I’m making up, it’s a fact. If he was considered a borderline prospect even when healthy, then I’m going to hold off the accolades until I see him play. It’s that simple.

                The majority of the league is made up of day one and day two draft picks. That is how you should look at the chances for prospects to become factors on a team. You can say they are all talented, but some are more talented and they are usually the ones drafted in the higher rounds. For every Keith Reaser who may or may not become a good NFL player, there are countless others who don’t make it.

        2. Have to agree with rocket here. Its a bit like innocent until proven guilty. Until these guys show they can consistently perform in the NFL we have no idea how talented they are.

          So I’d say it is:

          – The 49ers Have Big Issues at Cornerback – possibly
          – The 49ers Have Big Talent at Cornerback – possibly
          – The 49ers Have Little Experience at Cornerback – fact

          1. Should also add:

            – The 49ers Have Big Question Marks at Cornerback – fact

              1. Should do.

                I’m not as concerned about the CBs as some, but mainly because we don’t really know what we have, good or bad. And not just in terms of the CB personnel, but also how Mangini intends to use them and put pressure on them to hold up 1-on-1, or how the front 7 will help them out by applying pass rush pressure on the QB. Lots of unknowns at the moment. Until we see how the D goes in pre-season and the early part of the season I don’t think anyone can say with any confidence either way how the CBs will go.

          2. Talent is not production. I didn’t guarantee high productivity among the rookie CBs (or even call them good players yet).

            Some of the most talented players in the NFL wash out, while modestly talented players made pro bowl.

            There was general consensus in the 2014 draft Aaron Lynch had tons of talent, but could also stink. Hence his day 3 selection. Rookies are unproven. That’s why we hold off calling them “good” until they played some NFL snaps.

            But talent is good sign. Talent is positive indicator. It bodes well more then ill.

            I described the CBs as a talented group and I’m sticking too that. Brock is talented. So is Ward and Reaser. All three could be working at Fosters Freeze in a year because of injuries, but all three ooze talent.

            1. Sorry – “I described the CBs as a talented group and I’m sticking [to] that.”

            2. Yeah, I get what you are saying Brodie, but I don’t think we can really know how talented someone is until you see them play in the NFL. Sure, draft round can be an indicator, but its still something of a lottery. To me a talented player is one that is capable of producing well in the NFL. And until they do we have no idea how talented they really are.

              1. I’m only a word away. I’d say “I don’t think we can really know how [good] someone is until you see them play in the NFL.”

                The CBs might stink. There is glaring lack of experience. That’s why I snuck in “The question is when. By game one? Game eight? Game one 2016?”

                Marcus Lattimore is talented. He didn’t make it.
                Bruce Ellington is talented. Gifted even. He’s yet to establish himself as a good football player.

                Talent is an indicator. A good sign, especially in numbers.

                Its June. Speculation season. Time for bloggers with almost identical opinions on the roster and what defines a good football player to duke it out over a word. All part of the fun. The press demo should comp us some game tix for this.

              2. Brodie,

                I’d say “I don’t think we can really know how [good] someone is until you see them play in the NFL.”


  11. Hey grant who is your predicted starters at oline? Mine goes like this: Staley at left tackle we need our best player at left guard, which happens to be Boone, so he will be the left guard and I would put Brandon Thomas at right guard. If Kilgore is healthy, he’s the starting center and we need our most experienced option at right tackle and that happens to be Eric Pears, so he’s the starter until or unless we find a better option on the market or by trade.

    1. I’d fine some way to get Marcus Martin on the field. Center or guard.

      If Pears falters, Brandon Thomas at right tackle.

      My line would look something like
      Staley-LT, Boone-LG, Kilgore-C, Martin-RG, [Pears, Thomas, Brown]-RT
      Staley-LT, Boone-LG, Martin-C, Thomas-RG, [Pears, Brown]-RT

      Then there’s Joe Looney. Just because we haven’t seen alot of him doesn’t mean he hasn’t been developing.

  12. I wonder if Grayson has moved ahead of Brees yet. A lot can happen in the OTA’s.

    1. I’ve wondered if the selection of Ward as the Nickelback was an effort to also shore up run defense in the Nickel package against teams that ran out 3WR personnel packages (like Seattle). Selecting a strong safety that supposedly excelled at Man Coverage would be a great match up piece in the Nickel package because he could probably defend the run better than a typical Nickel Corner and also possibly take on some more physical TEs…in theory. Ward of course was not able to make up for his lack of size against bigger receivers…but he can still has time to continue to develop and improve.

      1. I assumed Ward was the answer to facing Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin four games a year. There were a few other fast slot guys on the 2014 schedule too.

        Then Harvin got himself kicked off the team.

        I also thought the Ellington pick was a blue collar version of Harvin-Austin. Not quite as blazing quick, but thicker, more durable, with a really good work attitude.

  13. one misconcpetion is that the Niners were strictly a gap blocking team. they used some inside zone runs (dive and belly for example) even under Harbaugh.

    also you forgot about Man blocking schemes (hat on a hat) which were also used (gap uses backside blockers to help form double teams and give extra blockers on the playside in the play gap).

    1. Those points needed to be made. There’s been kinda a ZBS jihad theme on here this spring. Yes, there’s been more influence so far by the new staff, but as GC pointed out, there’s not much to be gained practicing power blocking in non contact practices, so they concentrated on the zone stuff.

    1. Grant nice column.

      Do you think moving around Tramaine Brock means Mangini plans more blitzing or an extra safety in the box? Or that he thinks Brock could be a (dare I say it) “shut down” corner?

      1. Thanks. Mangini said he likes to use a 46 “Bear” defense at times. Maybe he’s planning on using Brock the way he used Joe Haden. They’re similar.

    2. Grant what do you make of the fact that PFF only listed 3 of Patton’s 9 pre-season passes as catchable. Doesn’t make 2 receptions sound so bad all of a sudden.

      1. One pass was broken up and another was intercepteed. At least five were catchable.

          1. I’m not the one to take it up with. Send PFF an email or stop citing them. According to the source you used Patton only had 3 catchable passes thrown to him and he caught 2 of them.

        1. From memory the intercepted pass was from Gabbert and was behind Patton as he was getting downfield, gave him no chance. I wouldn’t call that one catchable. I don’t recall the pass defensed, but again wouldn’t surprise if it gave Patton little chance. Gabbert was pretty rubbish in pre-season, and his best plays were the little dinks and dunks to Ellington.

    3. Whaaaaawut? I think I agree with every point. (!I better go to bed early with a hot compress.)
      Well, maybe after the J Winery Pinot Meunier is empty.

    4. Grant,

      Here, for the umpteenth time, I ask that you mention Sean Taylor when writing about Keith Reaser. Reaser will emerge as “by far the 49ers’ best corner” this season, miles ahead of Brock and everyone else, and you can look really, REALLY smart if you write the interest piece that I’m suggesting.

      You could do just a tiny bit of research on Taylor, find out he’s the 2nd-best FS to ever play the game, and realize that Reaser idolized him. Then you could go to Reaser, interview him about his special connection to Taylor, and have a dynamite article to offer.

      Just a thought. I’m sure you’d enjoy the process, and I’m sure we’d all be very interested to learn a lot more about the 49ers next dominant, shutdown corner.

      (The reason Taylor is of such interest is that he is 2nd only to Ronnie Lott, in case you missed it.)

      1. Should he also mention Dres Anderson is Flipper’s son every time he is mentioned? Or any other player with a family member that played in the NFL? Does that make Anderson a great WR?

        What about Jerry Rice’s son? He actually did have the misfortune of having his dad’s name mentioned all the time, but he sure as heck isn’t the player his dad was.

        How is Reaser being Taylor’s cousin so big a deal Grant should feel the need to mention it every time he brings up Reaser’s name? Or even once for that matter?

        1. Scoot,

          It’s a good story. It’s worth revealing. Flipper Anderson was good for a time, but not great. Sean Taylor would have been the best ever, if not for his tragic demise. I would like to know more about how Reaser uses his relationship with Taylor to drive himself.

          Reaser is going to be the league’s next Revis, so, inevitably, the Sean Taylor connection will be talked about ad nauseum. I would like to see Grant get ahead of the ball on this one and go deep with Reaser before he explodes onto the scene and the saccharine sentimentality of national media outlets turns Reaser into a cliché-spouting automaton.

            1. Razor-Reaser

              While there’s some information out there about the Taylor-Reaser connection, there’s a relative paucity of thoughts on the matter actually attributable to Reaser himself. He’d probably like to throw a little light on that part of his life, especially if approached by a local good guy such as Grant.

              1. He’s my Harry Potter of the 49ers secondary, and I expect great things from Mr. Reaser….

          1. . Interesting assertion about Taylor’s ranking as a FS. It’s subjective and endlessly debatable, but in my mind guys like Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins might rank above. Some old timers too; Larry Wilson, Willy Wood, Jack Tatum, Jake Scott.

            1. Brotha

              It sure is subjective. And it’s impossible to know, since his career was so tragically interrupted. I would (subjectively) say that Ed Reed is #2 and Earl Thomas is #3, but I never saw guys like Tatum or the other old-timers. I believe that modern-day athletes, for the most part, would demolish those of yesteryear, simply due to improvements in training procedures. There aren’t many Bo Jacksons walking around, for instance, guys with natural God-like bodies and athleticism, but he’s the exception, and I’d take him over every RB who’s ever played. Maybe some of those old-time FS were like Bo, I don’t know, but there are a lot of pundits who claim that Sean Taylor had divinity in his veins.

              1. Gotta agree on Earl Thomas. I will say that the game was different for the oldsters because their requirements were different; more run support but still had to protect deep. Larry Wilson of the Cards developed the Safety Dog Blitzes that tweaked the game at the time. Tatum changed the game a bit. He was such a ferocious hitter that teams just didn’t send anyone over the middle against him. Period. Ronnie Lott mentioned him as a model he tried to emulate. When being complimented about some sideline toe-tap catches, Belitnikoff once quipped (paraphrased): I get lots of work on those in practice because nothing can make me work inside against Tatum and Atkinson. Jake Scott was good at every aspect, and Vince Lombardi called Wood the best tackler he’d ever coached.
                As to your Bo yardstick I can agree; and that’s what puts Lott as the GOAT. Ronnie was the Lawrence Taylor of the secondary.
                Funny; I remember all that stuff but can’t remember to pick up the dry cleaning or where I left my flip flops.

      2. E,

        You already know the contents of the article. The only thing that would be added is the quotes of admiration Reaser would undoubtedly provide. I’m sure that will come up in many interviews if he actually turns out to be a decent player.

        As to Taylor, he was a very good player, but nowhere near the heights you are placing him.

  14. Jim (face of the franchise) Harbaw + Jim * Minich =
    slosh, slosh, slosh. Hit ’em both with mouth swabs,
    but do not tell us that they are going zero tolerance…

    Kapernicus: prepare to have your bell rung, ok?
    (loud enough for it to be heard up in Ann Arbor…)

    * he of early “reinstatement” fame, hmm?

    [fully approved by the Super Bowl monkey]

    1. It’s Kaepurnicus, and it sounds as if someone has rung your bell. Ding dong!

  15. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000498248/article/todd-haley-norv-turner-among-top-10-offensive-coordinators

    Bucky Brooks has a ranking of the top 10 OCs in the league based on the All-22 film and some connections he still has in the coaching world. He placed Greg Roman at number 6. Here’s what he said:

    “Despite the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive implosion during Roman’s final season with the team, the crafty play-caller deserves to be mentioned among the NFL’s best offensive minds. Roman helped the 49ers reach the NFC Championship Game three straight seasons, relying on a powerful rushing attack and savvy playmaking from the quarterback position. His creative scheming and clever deployment of multiple tight ends were things of beauty. Yet, it was Roman’s ability to coax championship-level performances out of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick that earned him high marks in the NFL coaching community. If he solves the Bills’ quarterback dilemma in training camp, Roman could be the hottest head-coaching candidate in the league.”

    What do you guys think? I know Roman probably took more blame at times than he deserved, but number 6 still seems a little too high for him.

    1. It will be interesting to see how he does in Buffalo. Downside is the QB situation; I guess EJM is looking the best so far in OTAs. His run game scheming would seem to be a good fit with Rex’s preference for offensive approach.
      I guess I wouldn’t try to rank these OCs, but GRo should have a chance to show his stuff this season without the shadow of JH (who also was a good fit).

    2. Totally over ranked imo. He’s not even going to focus on the passing game in Buffalo from what I read. He’s a running game coordinator and pretty much always has been.

      1. I agree. I think Brooks might be projecting a little too much of the team’s recent success onto Roman. He did do some creative things in the run game, but top 10? Like you said, it doesn’t ever appear like he’s a full OC as the reports suggest he’s basically a run game coordinator. Hard to rank a guy that high if he’s not even handling the full responsibilities of an OC.

    3. It sounds like the 49ers system of play calling was extremely convoluted.

      We will start having a clear idea if Roman was overrated as a play caller (or if it was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth) after the Bills play a few games.

  16. Brotha Tuna,
    Does anybody have some predictions about
    when and where and how the 49ers will win
    Lombardi trophy #6….?

    1. Not with Harbaw “at the helm” and
    2. (my money sez) not with Kaepernick either.

    1. My prediction is that you will know how the 49ers will win their sixth Superbowl sometime after they actually win it. In the mean time you can look for directions to the pot of gold said to be at the foot of a rainbow. Either rainbow foot will work.

  17. Not a secret superstar for 49ers fans, but a good read none-the-less. Really highlights how well he did his rookie year. If he shows the jump you like to see between rookie year and second year he could play an important role in helping this D maintain its status as one of the best in the NFL. I really like the idea of having him play LOLB outside Glenn Dorsey in base, and LDE in nickel. And he should benefit from teams looking to stop Aldon on the other side.


    1. Lynch has a blazing 10 yard split, he’s probably faster to the 10 yard line then anyone else on the team, most teams in fact. 1.52(timed at pro day). For perspective Aldon Smith’s is 1.66 and Kaepernick’s is 1.63. T.Y. Hilton’s 10 yard split is 1.53.

      1. I wonder how much the additional weight he is carrying now (around 270 lbs) compared to when he ran at his pro day (around 250 lbs) would impact his 10-yard split?

    2. Scooter,

      The pass rushers on this team have a chance to be a special group, and they are easily the unit I’m most optimistic about. If healthy and motivated, the pass rush on this team could be dominant.

  18. Seeing the news about weather in the MidWest, I’m hoping our Faithful are all doing well: Razor, Mid, MWN, all-y’all.

    1. All’s good here Brotha, thanks for the kind thoughts. Plenty of rain to share though….

    2. Doing okay where I’m at Brotha. Just dealing with unbearable heat right now.

    1. You continue to leave Mike Davis out when you discuss the running game or even the backs specifically. You didn’t mention him in your fact/fiction article regarding the RB’s and you left him out again today when discussing the rushing offense. My money is on Davis being the #2 back behind Hyde, at least until he takes over as the primary.

      1. To be fair, he did mention him in the rookie report, and outlined why he thinks he’ll be the #4 RB this year.

        1. Was that a recent one or from a few weeks back? Not sure if I missed it or just not remembering it.

          1. No no, one of the slides in this article has a rookie report. Slide 7 I think it is.

          2. Guess It’s pretty clear at which point I stopped reading and starting retorting. Ha, that’s what I get for not finishing the article.

      2. Remove the first 41 words of my original post and I’m still sticking with the idea that Davis can beat out Hunter for the #2 spot this season.

    2. Passing: I didn’t know Ck’s yards per attempt dropped that dramatically since 2012. YPA and a good TD/INT ratio are they key this year.

      From their recent interviews, it sounds like Chryst and Logan are on top of this. They are trying to get him better at shorter passes, but are not trying to convert him to a high percentage passer overnight.

      Running: How the O-line gels means alot (stating the obvious). A healthy Hunter would make the run game more dynamic.

      Passing Defense: I’m confident the edge rush will be pretty good. Possibly the best in the league of Aldon and Lynch play to their potential.

      But everything else has changed. No more two ILBs on passing downs. The CBs could be the surprise of the league, or a revolving door or hurt players with little game experience. And they will all be trying to learn a more complex defense.

      I see them skinning their knees early in the season, gelling later and surprising alot of people.

    3. I can’t help but chafe a little bit at the labeling of Hyde as slow. He strained a hammy at the Combine with a 4.62. His pro day I believe he ran 4.71/4.61/& 4.51; not fast, but faster than some of the bigger WRs in the league, faster than many LBs and almost all DL. He’s got the foot speed to do the job imo.

  19. My prediction- Davis will be put on the practice squad. Hayne will be the punt returner. Hunter will emerge from the shadow of Frank Gore and shine with several 10+ yard runs. Hyde will carry the ball, but he will not be in third down plays because Bush is a better receiver.

  20. OT, but I want to get my 2 cents in.
    Actually, I do not like touch backs on kick offs. I am greedy. I want the kicker to boot the ball as high as he can, and have the ball caught on the 3 yard line. The ball cant be brought back into the end zone for a touch back, so it has to be advanced. With the ball in the air so long, the ST players can get down field and stop the ball carrier before he reaches the 10 yard line. Offenses that start on the 10 yard line have much higher failure rate than offenses that start on the 20.

    1. That’s a nice dream but I’ve never been aware of a kick off team that could consistently give you what you want. If there was, I don’t remember who it might have been.

      1. Pinion has the leg to do exactly what I envision. If he can kick it out of the end zone, he has enough leg to kick it high.

            1. Its OK. Coaches tend to be conservative, so they would be content to have the ball kicked thru the end zone for a TB.
              However, I am a risk taker. The cost benefit analysis does allow for a 97 yard run back, but if the ST has speedy gunners, they should be able to arrive on the 10 yard line as the KR receives the ball.
              Believe me, there are many examples of KR men not reaching the 20 yard line, and it is because the coverage is good. maybe you think the Niners are incapable of accomplishing that scenario, I guess we will just have to disagree.

              1. Actually I don’t think any team has ever been able to carry out your scenario with any consistency. But I haven’t seen every football game played in the past 69 years.

                I’ve very interested in the methods you employed to do your “cost benefit analysis”. If the ball could be consistently dropped between the three and the five yard lines, I wouldn’t be worried about the run back. A back spin would be nice so the receiving team wouldn’t be able to just let the ball bounce into the end zone. Back spin and loft are characteristics I attribute to punts, not kick offs.

  21. This is always an “interesting” ( as in: “screwy”)
    time of year in football media; second only to April 1st for innovative rumors, wild speculation, general goofiness, gross exaggerations, and “scoops” from unnamed “sources close to the situation.”
    To wit: PFT today has a story about a player suing TMZ for defamation for posting a claim that he tried to hire a hit man to kill his agent.
    On that same PFT page is a story that Denver tried to trade Peyton to Houston. Not one bit of evidence is provided, nor are sources named.
    Then the Broncos deny it, and PM’s agent says he never heard about it.
    OK, then Florio speculates that it makes sense because Peyton had a no trade clause in his renegotiated deal. Hoo-boy. I wonder if Mary contributed to that story.

  22. This is kind of difficult to imagine, but is it possible that we were wrong all along and that Trent Baalke was right? I suppose we’ll have to wait and find out.

  23. The 49ers organization put together a solid team under a quality NFL head coach, promising 49ers fans its’ desire to head back to the Super Bowl after 8 years or so of inept coaches under the inept leadership of Jed York.

    The real reason for hiring a quality head coach was so Jed could get fans and Bay Area residents to support his building of a new stadium, AKA to make some big bucks.

    Now that Jim helped build Jed’s stadium, Jim has been fired and we are back to inept head coaches, solutions that solve, and the fixing of problems that don’t exist. Jed is not about wins, he is about profits.

    And for this, 49ers fans have many years of sub-par performance ahead of us.

    1. “…Jed is not about wins, he is about profits…”

      Izzat what your crystal ball tells you ? …

      Hey guys .. we have a “Bone-i-Fide” .. psychic among us ..

      (or s psyco .. take yer pick)

    2. Hmm, fixing problems that dont exist. Wow. Maybe you were watching different games. 3 DOG penalties against a 1-11 team? Thats Pee Wee football.

  24. We need Baalke to bring back Alex Smith so this blog can start kicking again…..

    1. yer kiddin’ .. Jack … right ?

      ya kno .. that would make only one
      person, here, happy …

      … and you don’t really want him around
      (more than he already is) .. do you ?

  25. Has anybody out there actually been a kicker or kicking coach? At any level? I’m looking for some perspective. A suggestion was made above to hang kick offs high and drop them around the 10 with enough hang time to prevent a return.
    The kickoffs I’ve witnessed that drop at the 10 have loft for only a couple guys to get there immediately. I’ve just not seen Punt-like trajectories off a kicking tee.

    1. I’ve only been watching kickoffs for 69 years and I’ve never seen that kind of loft on rare occasions. What works better is a dumb returner trying to come out from 8 yards deep.

      Maybe a rule change with the option to punt from the thirty five yard line would work. Oh, wait, the NFL is trying to eliminate kickoff run backs.

        1. ht ..

          Once upon a time .. The Myth Busters filled
          several “kicking” balls with helium and had
          a local college kicker boot them …
          and they compared the distance to the
          regular air-filled balls ..

          don’t remember if there was any difference
          between the two .. but, I suspect, if there
          was .. Bell-i-cheat would be on it ..
          like white on rice ..

          1. What air pressure related differences in performance did you notice in the last six quarters that “Bell-i-cheat’s” team played this season?

            Did “Bell-i-cheat” know in advance, from illegal intelligence gathering, what to tell his undrafted rookie DB how to intercept the game winner?

            1. I’m the wrong person to ask those questions, to, ht ..
              cuz .. I don’t remember watching any of their games ..

              including the Super Bowl …

              seems, my grandkids required my attention..at that
              time .. and that was more important to me
              than what Shady Brady and Belli-cheat was
              doing to attempt to
              pull the wool over Goodell’s eyes ..

            2. It was film study. They practiced against that play and the DB got beat. BB admonished him not to get beat. He jumped the play.

              1. Hadn’t heard that. Good coaching.

                I still think the work Talib did on that play is under-appreciated. Kearse was meant to drive him back so he’d disrupt Butler’s path, but he held his ground brilliantly giving Butler a free path to make the play.

              2. Scooter
                That wasn’t Talib, it was the dude that came over from the SeaHawks, whose name escapes me at the moment. Oh, Browner! Hah! Old age.

      1. I have been watching football for years, and I have seen thousands of kick offs. Some have sailed through the end zone, and one was shanked out at the 50 yard line. Too bad you have rarely seen a football kicked high in the air. I have also seen line drives and squib kicks. but generally, the higher the loft, the longer it stays in the air.When a football is kicked off a Tee, that type of kick is possible.
        Maybe the better question is; Do you want the opposition to start on the 10 or the 20 yard line?

      2. Hmm. Waiting for the ball to hit the turf to let it dribble into the end zone is an interesting strategy. I hope you realize that the ball is live, and the kicking team can recover the ball, unlike punts, when the receiving team has to touch the ball first before the punting squad can recover it.
        No competent coach will allow their players to hope the ball reaches the end zone before downing it. If it does not reach the end zone, it is a 67yard onside kick.
        BTW, it is possible to kick a football with backspin.

    1. Good article Grant.
      Your line “Vance MacDonald was the best blocking tight end in football” is due to a metric? I like his blocking, but Gronk kinda rocks…….eh?
      No worries, just asking…

      1. wonder how much time VMac spends
        with the juggs machine ?

        (probably not enough)

    2. The question is how much better of a blocker is Vance mac than Carrier. Ill bet not that much. We do know carrier is a significantly better receiver.

      TE 1- VD
      TE2 – Carrier
      TE3 – Bell

      PS – Busta Anderson

    3. If I recall correctly, when VMac was drafted many were concerned about his ability to block and how that would limit his playing time. And suddenly last year he was the best blocking TE in the NFL according to PFF. I think now that he feels comfortable with blocking, this will be a breakout year for him with regards to receiving. But it might not translate into major stats simply because of the quality WRs and a rejuvenated VD.

  26. we are likely to have these six receivers on the roster

    De- White

    1. Matt M on his chat the other day made some guesses on WR. He expected 6 on the 53 and 2 on PS. He opined that if Simpson doesn’t win the #3 job that he might not make the roster at all.
      I don’t see White clearing waivers. Anderson might. Campbell and Blakeney might. Brandon Jacobs was getting mention in OTAs and may have PS eligibility.

  27. Celek looks like the better receiver than VMac in the limited opportunities they’ve been thrown to….

  28. Razor

    ‘The nail on the head’…. It’s so ridiculous to say who’s better when comparing players who don’t have enough targets to really measure. One quirkey pass, and it could be your career…whose fault ? QB or Receiver…who knows…AJ Jenkins

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