Preseason Week 3 grades

Here are my grades for the 49ers preseason game against the Denver Broncos. QUARTERBACKS: B. Alex Smith and the first-team offense was 1-for-4 on third down and 0-for-1 in the red zone (Peyton Manning was 2-3 on third down and 2-2 in the red zone). Smith did complete 5 of 7 passes, including a deep TD to Vernon Davis. Smith also had one fumbled snap, one delay-of-game penalty and two…

August 26, 2012

Preseason Week 1 grades: The defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my Preseason Week One grades for the 49ers defense. Defensive line: B+. Justin Smith didn’t play. The rest of this unit allowed 4.3 yards per carry to the Vikings, which is below the Niners’ stellar standard of run defense. The standout player of this group was Demarcus Dobbs, who completely dominated the Vikings’ backup left tackle. In the second half, Minnesota had to give Dobbs…

August 11, 2012

Top five performers: Week One

Here are the top five performers in training camp at the end of Week One. Justin Smith – The defense has dominated the offense for most of training camp, and Justin Smith is a big reason why. He’s almost too good. Sometimes when the offense is really struggling, I wonder if they’d look better if only they didn’t have to practice against Justin Smith. Sometimes Jim Harbaugh makes the second-team…

August 5, 2012

Training camp report: Thursday, the good — Bowman, Gore and Palmer

SANTA CLARA – Here’s the best of what I could see at Thursday’s padded practice: NaVarro Bowman picked off Alex Smith on the second play of a red zone seven-on-seven drill. Smith was throwing to Vernon Davis, but Bowman had great coverage and easily snatched the pass away before Davis could get his hands on it. Frank Gore was the best running back on the field once again today. It…

August 2, 2012

Fangio says the defense can be as good or better than last year, “but it might not show on paper.”

SANTA CLARA – Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio talked about what makes NaVarro Bowman and Carlos Rogers so good, the Niners cornerback competition and how good the defense can be this year. Here’s a transcript, courtesy of the 49ers. What are some of the things that have allowed LB NaVorro Bowman to emerge as an All-Pro, as such a young player, in his second year, last year? And also, you have…

August 1, 2012

NaVorro Bowman: “I’m a guy who loves to learn.”

SANTA CLARA – 24-year-old All Pro inside linebacker NaVarro Bowman spoke in the media tent this afternoon. He talked about how he got so good so quickly, what he’s learning from defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and how he can stay grounded. Here’s a transcript. Q: What allowed you to explode the way you did in just your second NFL season and your first season starting? BOWMAN: Going through my…

August 1, 2012

Training camp report: Monday, running backs

SANTA CLARA – Here’s what I saw from the running backs at Monday’s practice: It’s interesting to watch Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. They’re about the same size. They’re both quick, shifty running backs. Some people thought James might duplicate Hunter, but they’re actually quite different right now. They complement each other. Hunter is an outstanding blocker, and James isn’t at this point. James got thrown onto his back by…

July 30, 2012

Training camp report: Manningham and Bowman shine

SANTA CLARA – Here are my observations from the second padless practice of the Niners training camp. THE GOOD Mario Manningham – Four catches (two against the first team defense), no drops. He could have had five catches, but Alex Smith overthrew him deep when he had beaten Perrish Cox down the left sideline. Manningham beat Culliver short towards the end of practice. Culliver was so frustrated he slapped Manningham…

July 28, 2012

Top five athletes on the Niners

Who are the top-five athletes on the 49ers? This is an interesting question – people ask me all the time who is the Niners best athlete. My answer is a little subjective because we don’t have access to the data the team has. These are my sideline impressions from hours and hours watching the team. I base my rankings on speed, quickness, strength and endurance. Patrick Willis – One of…

July 5, 2012

The 49ers’ five sure things

Thanks for your generous responses to my earlier post. Our discussion of the top 49er storylines turned into a lengthy list of concerns. Adam, among other readers, pointed out the defensive backfield and the offensive line as two more areas of anxiety for the 49ers. Thank you, Adam. Let’s look at the team from the opposite angle now. Injuries aside, what are the Niners’ locks? Where are they strong? What…

July 24, 2011