Friday, May 17, 2013
With the NFL free agency period winding down and the draft having come and gone, the attention of fans across the country has begun to turn to how their favorite team will come together once September rolls around. With the 49ers set to open their 2013 OTA's I thought it would be a good time to take an initial look at how their 53 man roster may shake out. (* denotes rookie)
BJ Daniels *
I am going with Daniels over Tolzien because the future of the 49ers offense with Kaepernick now at the helm is the spread, Read/Option offense that we saw at the end of last year and Daniels is much more suited for that style of play. Also, McCoy is in the final year of his contract and the 49ers may be looking to groom Daniels to eventually take over the backup role.
Running Back (4)
This group remains intact from last season. Fourth round draft pick Marcus Lattimore will most likely spend all of 2013 on the PUP list as he continues to rehab his knee.
Miller will continue to be the primary fullback, but look for Alex Debniak or Jason Schepler to land on the practice squad.
Wide Receiver (6)
Quinton Patton *
The battle amongst this group to watch as the preseason unfolds will be for the third receiver spot. If Manningham is unable to go at the beginning of the year the 49ers may choose to put him on the PUP list, in which case they may bring up Ricardo Lockette or choose to go with 5 early on and add a player at another position group.
Vance McDonald *
The choice to go with Morrah over Garrett Celek is completely based on the 49ers use of 2 TE sets. If McDonald takes a bit to develop I see them making this move to utilize Morrah in the move TE role that Delanie Walker has manned the last 2 years.
This is the group that I think could be most effected by the progress of Manningham. If he is not ready early I could see them placing him on the PUP list, and carrying 4 TE's through the first half of the year while McDonald develops.
Offensive Line (7)
With Goodwin in the final year of his contract, the move to Kilgore in 2013 allows the 49ers to build continuity in their offensive line for years to come and save $3.7 million against the cap. Looney and Snyder give them backups across every position on the line.
Look for them to have 2, possibly 3 offensive linemen on the practice squad this year as well.
Defensive Line (7)
Cornelieus (Tank) Carradine *
Quinton Dial *
The 49ers upgraded the back up roles along their defensive line in the draft with the selections of Carradine and Dial. I have included Okeoye in this group due to the fact that if he continues to impress there is a very good chance they could not stash him on the Practice Squad without first losing him to another team. Only 46 players can dress on game day, so he will replace Ian Williams as the inactive DL on game day.
Outside Linebacker (4)
Corey Lemonier *
The return of Haralson will allow Smith to get a breather in the base defense. Lemonier will transition to standing up, and likely be groomed to replace Haralson in 2014 and play primarily in pass rush situations this season.
Inside Linebacker (5)
Nick Moody *
Skuta, Wilhoite and Moody all make the team for their prowess on special teams.
It will be interesting to see how the addition of Asomugha effects the structure of this group. Brock makes the team over Cox due to his special teams play.
Eric Reid *
The only question in this group is how long it takes for Reid to become a starter. McBath makes the team for his special teams play, as does Spillman and Dahl
Phil Dawson (K)
Andy Lee (P)
Brian Jennings (LS)
Good ahead, rip it to pieces. I will update this periodically as the season draws closer.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Let's get this out of the way right from the get go, the 49ers defense has been terrific since Jim Harbaugh became head coach and he hired Vic Fangio as the defensive coordinator. They have consistently ranked among the top 10 defenses in the league. They have been so good, that one needs to wonder if they have any weaknesses.
Some will point to their defensive backfield, some will point to their lack of pass rush due to injuries. It has been an interesting debate and got me thinking, How do you beat the 49ers defense?
There are 3 key things that teams need to possess if they want to beat the 49ers defense, and I will list them in order of importance from my perspective. One key thing, to beat the 49ers you need to have all 3 of these things. Having 1 or 2 of these is not enough.
1) Conviction to stay with the run
The 49ers run defense is well known for being among the best in the league. Opposing coaches know this going in. They know it is going to be tough to move the ball on the ground. Many will try it early on, but once they find the going a little tough will revert to becoming one dimensional and throwing the ball all over the field.
Of the 49ers 37 opponents over the last 2 years only 11 of them have attempted 25+ rushes in a game. In those 11 games the 49ers have a record of 3-7-1. There are 3 teams that seem to have figured this out, the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, and St Louis Rams.
In their 3 meetings the past 2 seasons the Giants have attempted 25+ carries in each game, and are 2-1 against the 49ers over that time. Their only loss being the 49ers 27-20 come from behind win during the regular season in 2011.
The Rams ran the ball 37 and 27 times respectively in their two matchups against the 49ers under Jeff Fisher in 2012.
The team that one would think knows the 49ers coaches the best, beyond the obvious Harbaugh brothers, Vic Fangio was also a defensive assistant under John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens have attempted 35 rushes in each of their victories over the 49ers the past two season.
2. A quick slot receiver who runs horizontal routes.
The quick slot receiver gives almost every team fits. The 49ers are no exception, but I have narrowed that down to the quick slot receiver who runs horizontal routes, ie quick outs, quick ins, slants, etc. When you look at the play of Carlos Rogers over the last 2 years you will notice that he does very well against teams who utilize their slot receivers on more vertical types of routes.
Let's take a look at the performance of the slot receivers on teams who have given the 49ers trouble.
Victor Cruz - 22 receptions - 284 yards - 1 TD (2-1 against the 49ers)
Anquan Boldin - 10 receptions - 167 yards
Danny Amendola/Chris Givens - 22 receptions - 194 yards
Percy Harvin - 9 receptions - 89 yards
While these guys aren't killing the 49ers with big down the field plays or touchdowns they are killing them quietly. The underneath completions are extensions of the running game. They keep the clock spinning, move the chains and reduce the number of opportunities for their defense to be defeated by the 49ers offense.
In their 5 losses and 1 tie in 2012, the 49ers defense gave up a total of 130 1st downs. Of those 60% (78) were by way of the pass. The 49ers defense also allowed opponents to convert 40-89 (45%) of their 3rd downs. To put that number in perspective, the worst team in the league in 2012 allowed opponents to convert 44% of their 3rd downs.
3) A QB who is accurate underneath and can move his feet to buy time.
Re watching the losses to the Vikings, and Ravens last season and one thing jumps out at me. The pass rush was their doing a good job of disrupting Christian Ponder and Joe Flacco. Unfortunately for the 49ers their front allowed them to either escape the pocket, or move around within it to buy time to hit the receiver. Eli Manning is very good at this, as is Sam Bradford.
Sam Bradford is another very good example of this. Bradford is not considered to have a big arm, but is thought of as an accurate underneath thrower. In his two meetings with the 49ers defense in 2012 Bradford completed 67.5% of his passes for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the year Bradford completed 59.8% of his passes.
As we go through the season I will breakdown the offense of each 49ers opponent, paying particular attention to how they fit against these 3 keys.
Friday, April 19, 2013
The 49ers enter the 2013 draft owning 5 of the first 93 selections. Here is how I see it all playing out:
Pick #31 - 49ers select, DJ Hayden, CB, Houston
The 5'-11" Hayden is a top level corner, who would not be at this position for the 49ers had he not suffered a near fatal injury during practice on November 6th of last year. Prior to the injury, Houston opponents had thrown his way on only 45 of 362 pass attempts (12.4%) and completed only 11.
Pick #34 - 49ers select, Cornelius (Tank) Carradine, DE, Florida State
The 6'-4", 276" Tank will be the heir apparent to Justin Smith at Right DE. Like Hayden, Carradine will fall to 31 due to an injury. In this case it was a torn ACL in his right knee suffered on November 24. Prior to the injury Carradine had put up 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Although he is a little light, he should be able to add another 10-20 pounds of muscle, while filling in on a rotational basis this season.
Pick #61 - 49ers select, Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
The 6'-0" Patton is the 3rd straight former Juco player selected by the 49ers. He is a quick accelerator who shows strength and competitiveness against press coverage. His performance at the Senior Bowl really helped elevate his draft stock. Also has experience as a punt returner which could come in handy with Kyle Williams returning from a knee injury and slated to become a free agent after this season.
Pick #74 - 49ers select, Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
The selection of Poyer gives the 49ers 2 of the top 8 rated corners in the draft and sets them up nicely for 2014, when only Chris Culliver is still under contract. Poyer is a better fit for the 49ers as a slot corner than Tyrann Mathieu in that he is taller, stronger, and does not bring along the baggage that the "HoneyBadger" carries with him. And like Mathieu, Poyer brings with him the ability to be an option on special teams as a return man, having averaged 14.1 yards per punt return and 25.9 yards per kick return over his career in Corvallis.
Pick #93 - 49ers select, Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
Kelce is an amazing athlete, having played QB in the Bearcats version of the Wildcat during his freshman season. Character concerns are the only reason he is not considered as one of the top 2 TE prospects in this draft. He has shown the ability to be a solid blocker whether lined up in a prototypical Y position on the line of scrimmage or coming out of the backfield. His experience in the Bearcats spread attack will come in handy with the 49ers as they continue to build their offense around the strengths of Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers open day 3 of the draft with a trade. They send pick #128 (4th), and #173 (6th) to Dallas in exchange for pick #114.
Pick #114 - 49ers select, Josh Evans, FS, Florida
Watching Evans on film he showed many of the same qualities of former 49er FS Dashon Goldson. He attacks the line of scrimmage against the run game, and is a ball hawk on the back end in the passing game. He will benefit from sitting behind Craig Dahl early, and may be able to wrestle the starting job away by the second half of the season. If not, he will be ready come 2014.
Pick #131 - 49ers select, Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State
The 49ers need to fill in depth at inside linebacker and on special teams with the losses of Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden. Hodges will do just that.
Pick #157 - 49ers select, Duke Williams, SS, Nevada
The 5'-11" Williams will compete with last years 6th round pick Trenton Robinson, and veteran Darcel McBath to back up Donte Whitner and fill in on special teams.
Prior to the start of Round 6 the 49ers will trade down with the Tennesse Titans. The 49ers will give the Titans picks #173, and #237 in exchange for the Titans pick at #216 and a 7th round selection in 2014. This move will give the 49ers 10 solid selections in 2014 (they also have a conditional 3rd from KC in the Alex Smith deal that could become a 2nd, and a 7th from Carolina in the Colin Jones trade), with at least 1 or more expected to come through the compensatory process.
Pick #216 - 49ers select, Jeff Baca, G, UCLA
Baca's ability to play multiple positions, he played both guard and tackle while in Westwood makes him a natural fit for the 49ers who are looking to add depth along the front with Daniel Kilgore, and Joe Looney both looking at the possibility of becoming the starting center in 2014 if not sooner.
Pick #246 - 49ers select, Quinton Dial, DE, Alabama
Dial is another former Juco player who has shown the ability to play at every position along the defensive front. His draft profile on NFL.com describes him as a "tall, powerful player who can drop his hips despite his height and to hold his ground or drive his man backwards on a bull rush. Also capable of holding the edge against the run, using strong arm extension and hands to contain or crash inside. Has good short area agility for his size, and often hustle to the ball."
Pick #252 - 49ers select, Luke Marquardt, T, Azuza Pacific
The 49ers are thin at the tackle position, and Marquardt will will compete with Al Netter, and Kenny Wiggins for a spot on the practice squad, with the hopes of eventually becoming the backup tackle.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Michael Crabtree is coming off a career year, one in which he became the first 49ers wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards since Terrell Owens accomplished the feat back in 2003. There is no doubt that he is the top receiver on the 49ers but where does he sit among his peers across the entire league?
To try and answer that question let's compare his numbers to 6 wide receivers who are generally regarded as being in the Top 10 in the league: Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, AJ Green, and Demaryius Thomas.
Below is their ranking based on the following criteria: Catches, Targets, Catch % (catches/targets), average yards per catch, Big Catches (25+ yards), Big Catch % (big catches/total catches), and YAC (yards after catch).
Calvin Johnson 122 Calvin Johnson 205
Andre Johnson 112 Andre Johnson 164
AJ Green 97 AJ Green 164
Demaryius Thomas 94 Larry Fitzgerald 153
Michael Crabtree 85 Demaryius Thomas 141
Julio Jones 79 Julio Jones 129
Larry Fitzgerald 71 Michael Crabtree 126
Catch % Average Yards Per Reception
Andre Johnson 68.2% Calvin Johnson 16.1
Michael Crabtree 67.4% Demaryius Thomas 15.3
Demaryius Thomas 66.6% Julio Jones 15.2
Julio Jones 61.2% Andre Johnson 14.3
Calvin Johnson 59.5% AJ Green 13.9
AJ Green 59.1% Michael Crabtree 13.0
Larry Fitzgerald 46.4% Larry Fitzgerald 11.2
Big Catches (25+ yards) Big Catch %
Calvin Johnson 21 Demaryius Thomas 19.1%
Demaryius Thomas 18 Julio Jones 17.7%
Julio Jones 14 Calvin Johnson 17.2%
Andre Johnson 12 Michael Crabtree 12.9%
AJ Green 12 AJ Green 12.3%
Michael Crabtree 11 Andre Johnson 10.7%
Larry Fitzgerald (< 7 which was 20th in NFC)
Andre Johnson 552 yards
Demaryius Thomas 538 yards
Michael Crabtree 536 yards
Calvin Johnson 525 yards
Julio Jones 486 yards
AJ Green 427 yards
Larry Fitzgerald 284 yards
Monday, February 25, 2013
The 49ers head into the 2013 offseason as NFC Champions and only a few key areas as question marks. This is part 2 of 2, and today will be taking a position by position review of how the roster looks currently and how it may change before opening day on the defensive side of the ball.
Ricky Jean Francois (FA)
Isaac Sopoaga (FA)
The defensive line has garnered a lot of attention this offseason, and rightfully so. When Justin Smith went down against New England in week 15 49er fans received their first glimpse of life post Smith and it wasn't pretty. In the first 6 quarters after the injury the 49ers defense gave up a combined 70 points, and Aldon Smith who had been on pace to set the NFL sack record went without one through the remainder of the season.
A couple of things to keep in mind when reviewing the performance of the defensive line last season and what the team may do moving forward. For starters, this group sustained a good deal of injuries throughout the season losing Smith for a couple of weeks before he returned while still nursing an injured triceps. The group also lost Will Tukuafu and Demarcus Dobbs, both young rotational players to the IR limiting the depth.
With the exception of Smith and Sopoaga this is a very young group, the next longest tenured player being McDonald who just completed his fifth season in San Francisco. Many experts are stating that this is a very good, deep draft for defensive linemen and that could help this group get even younger.
While the 49ers play a base 3-4, they spent a total of approximately 37% of the 2013 season in this personnel grouping. In addition, when they go into their sub packages the Nose Tackle is replaced and their 3-4 defensive ends move inside to what would be the tackle spots in a 4-3. This is important to note when looking at the type of player(s) the team needs to add. As difficult as it may be, they need to find another Justin Smith, a guy who can dominate inside and out, and help occupy offensive linemen to free up Aldon Smith.
There are a couple of guys who may fit the bill in the draft, Ohio State's Jonathan Hankins and Georgia's John Jenkins. Both come from the physical conferences that GM Trent Baalke likes to scout so heavily, and while they are both listed at over 300 pounds have shown the versatility to be effective both inside and out. Another possibility, and is the guy I had them selecting first in my original mock draft, Alex Okafor. While he is a bit undersized he showed the ability to play well both inside and out during his time at Texas. As for a potential free agent signing, I would suggest Adam Carriker from Washington. The former first round pick has dealt with a number of injuries during his time with the Redskins, and some reports have him as a possible cap casualty. If the 49ers can bring him in on a cap friendly deal it may be worth the risk.
I haven't spent much time on the Nose Tackle spot, and for good reason. I don't see the team putting a large emphasis on going after a guy early in the draft who will only be on the field for a little more than 1/3 of the snaps. I expect that the team will move on from Sopoaga, instead bringing back Ricky Jena Francois with a very cap friendly agreement. In addition the team seams to be very high on Ian Williams. Williams is a guy who has hung around on the 53 man roster the last two seasons despite only being active for 1 or 2 games in 2012. The fact that they think enough of him to use a roster spot to not expose him to the waiver wire and practice squad seems to indicate their value in Williams. If they decide do look in this direction in the draft I would be surprised if it happened before day 3. My prediction here is Kwame Geathers from Georgia at the end of Rd 5.
Clark Haggans (FA)
Smith and Brooks are set as starters for years to come. Rookies Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson missed almost the entire 2012 season, and veteran Parys Haralson did miss the entire season and may be a salary cap casualty as the team looks to trim payroll and his salary of close $3million makes him an expensive backup. That being said, bringing Haralson back and utilizing him primarily in the 3-4 set may help Aldon Smith stay fresh, as he appeared to wear down as the season progressed.
If the team does decide to part ways with Haralson, 1 name to keep an eye on in free agency would be Calvin Pace. He could be a cheaper veteran alternative.
Larry Grant (FA)
Tavares Gooden (FA)
The starters are set at the inside linebacker position, but with both of the backups being unrestricted free agents and special teams stalwarts over the last two seasons this is an area of need that many are not paying much attention to. A couple of names to pay attention during the draft may be Bruce Taylor from Virginia Tech, and Vince Williams from Florida St. Both could be immediate contributors on special teams while developing into good backups to Willis and Bowman. A couple of names to look out for in free agency might be Larry Foote and EJ Henderson.
Tramine Brock (RFA)
With only Brock being unsigned for 2013 this group appears to be fairly set, however with Rogers getting older it may be a good time to look to the future and draft a corner for the future. Another possible change could be moving Chris Culliver back to his college position at safety should the team be unable to re-sign Dashon Goldson.
A couple of corner to look for in the draft would be Jamar Taylor from Boise St, and Tyrann Mathieu from LSU. Both would be able to help with covering the slot, and Mathieu could be an immediate contributor on special teams returning punts.
On the free agency front, I would look for possibly Kyle Arrington or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Dashon Goldson (FA)
Michael Thomas (PS)
Goldson and Whitner were both selected for the Pro Bowl in 2012. One of the big decisions to be made by the front office will be how to handle Goldson. Do they decide to give him the franchise tag for the second year in a row? Do they give him the long term contract he desires at a reported $8 million per year? General Manager Trent Baalke may have given an indication of where they are leaning this past week when he said they just can't afford to pay everyone.
Should they let Goldson walk, there are a couple of areas they can turn. Jairus Byrd and LaRon Landry are both viable free agent options. They could look to the draft, where I think Bacarri Rambo from Georgia would fit nicely. The other alternative is the aforementioned transition from corner to safety for Chris Culliver.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
The 49ers head into the 2013 offseason as NFC Champions and only a few key areas as question marks. This is part 1 of 2, and let's start by taking a position by position review of how the roster looks as of today and how it may change before opening day on the offensive side of the ball.
The story here is what the future holds for Alex Smith. The 49er brass has gone on record that they will not release Smith, leaving only the option of retaining or trading him. I have already gone on record as stating that Smith will return as the backup for 2013, and like a captain will go down with the ship.
Should Smith be dealt I would look for them to bring in a veteran to compete for the backup position, Matt Moore would be my top choice. In addition look for them to either select a QB through the draft or bring in an undrafted free agent. Some names that have been brought up from the college ranks that could be had on Day 3 are Arizona's Matt Scott, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Kansas State's Colin Klein, and Duke's Sean Renfree.
Running Back / Fullback
This group figures to be pretty set heading into 2013. The only possible shake up could be with Anthony Dixon. The 49res brough in Brandon Jacobs in 2012 to challenge Dixon for the role of short yardage back and Dixon responded. He had perhaps the biggest run of the 49ers season in the NFC Championship Game when he picked up a 3rd and Short to keep what would end up being the game winning drive alive.
I would expect to see them push Dixon again with a late round selection or free agent acquisition.
Randy Moss (FA)
Ted Ginn (FA)
Ricardo Lockette (PS)
There is no question who the number 1 receiver is for the 49ers after Michael Crabtree put up career high numbers and became the first receiver to go over 1,000 yards receiving in a single season since Terrell Owens.
Like last year this group heads into the offseason with question marks. Randy Moss and Ted Ginn will be free agents, while Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are continuing to rehab from knee injuries, and 2012 first round pick AJ Jenkins did not record a reception.
I look for them to select a receiver on day 2, and bring in a couple of others through free agency or as undrafted free agents. Expect it to be someone who can stretch the field vertically opposite Crabtree. West Virginia wideout Stedman Bailey, and potential free agents Miles Austin, Brandon Lloyd and Brandon Gibson seem to fit the bill here.
Delanie Walker (FA)
This is the key position to making the 49ers offense go, and the 49ers head into the offseason with free agency of Delanie Walker as a big question mark. While many will point to the large number of drops Walker had this season as reason not to worry should he walk, I point to a couple other areas as to why he may be the most important re-signing this offseason.
For starters, with all of the money on the table during the 49ers postseason run Walker came up with some big receptions and did had no drops. In addition, his role in making the run game go cannot be overlooked. His versatility allows him to be moved around formations in a variety of ways, and his speed makes him a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators.
Should he move on it might open the door for the 49ers to finally select a Stanford tight end at the end of the first round. Last season there was a lot of chatter regarding Coby Fleener, but Zach Ertz may prove to be even better.
Leonard Davis (FA)
Al Netter (PS)
Kenny Wiggins (PS)
This group was arguably the best in the entire league in 2012, and the entire unit is signed through 2013. The only possible shake up to this group might be moving on from Goodwin, as it may be worth revisiting his contract and whether his production warrents the pay. Both Kilgore and Looney could be possible replacements.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
On Sunday the 49ers will play for the Professional Football Championship for the first time in 18 years. Super Bowl XLVII has all the makings of an all time game. Two evenly matched teams with similar styles facing off.
My prediction for the game is that the 49ers will win 31-20, opening up the lead in the fourth quarter behind the strength of their offensive line.
This matchup is going to be the toughest of the postseason for both the 49ers and Ravens. For the first time they each face an opponent that is balanced. Until this point their opponents have featured offenses that are heavily focused on throwing the ball.
The 49ers have struggled defensively against this type of team all season long, and they will have their struggles again on Sunday early on. The Ravens will have some success early running and moving the ball, as will the 49ers. The difference in this game compared to the others in which the 49ers faced balanced opponents will be their offense. Unlike early in the season when they struggled to move the ball on offense, the 49ers have found a groove this postseason.
After a pick 6 on their opening possession against Green Bay in the Divisional round they were almost unstoppable. The same thing occurred the following week in the NFC Championship Game. After struggling through the first quarter, the 49ers offense moved the ball almost at will over the final 3 quarters, the only thing that stopped them from scoring was themselves, with a missed David Akers field goal on one drive, and a Michael Crabtree fumble at the goalline on the next possession.
The Ravens defense has performed very well through their 3 postseason victories, but they have yet to face an offense like the 49ers. Sure the Colts, Broncos, and Patriots feature Luck, Manning, and Brady, but none of those teams has a running game to go with those elite QB's like the 49ers bring to the table.
I don't see the Ravens linebackers being able to hold up in pass coverage against Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker and the running backs out of the backfield. This is a matchup that favors the 49ers. Add in the running game, which with the Pistol is going to attack the edge of the Ravens defense away from their strength inside making a slower Ray Lewis run from sideline to sideline, and by the 4th quarter the offense will prove to be too much for the Ravens to stop.
So as I stated, look for a close game through the first quarter or so, but as the game wears on the 49ers will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to pull away for a double digit victory.
49ers 31 Ravens 20