NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

Most of the hand-wringing over the San Francisco 49ers this preseason has been about the feeble showing of the first-team offense, which did not score a touchdown in seven exhibition games.

But now with the nine-game suspension of All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith becoming reality, the Niners’ once-vaunted defense might be more suspect.

Because even while the 49ers knew all along some discipline was going to come Smith’s way, it is hard to replace a player with the talent of Smith, whose 42 sacks in his first three seasons are eclipsed only by Hall of Famers Reggie White (52) and Derrick Thomas (43.5) in that same time frame.

Beyond that, the Niners are breaking in a new nose tackle in Ian Williams after Glenn Dorsey suffered a torn left biceps early in camp.

All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is out at least six games, more likely half of the season, and on the physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from his grisly left knee injury suffered in last season's NFC Championship Game.

Plus, three-quarters of the Niners’ starting secondary are now playing elsewhere: strong safety Donte Whitner (Cleveland Browns), and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers (both with the Oakland Raiders).

There could be some growing pains.

But the 49ers have been planning for the Smith suspension all through camp.

“Actually, because you have a feeling that something may happen at this point in the season, everybody’s getting reps now,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said this week. “All the guys that may play for him -- Dan [Skuta], [Corey] Lemonier, Aaron [Lynch], Chase [Thomas] -- all those guys have been getting a lot of reps. They’re all ready to go.

“It’s more of an issue when it happens in the middle of the season, just thrown at you like it happened last year. Then there’s no time to adjust. You just go.”

Smith missed five games after entering a rehabilitation facility following a DUI arrest, after the Niners’ Week 3 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts last season. The Niners went 5-0 during his absence.

“Guys, Skuta and Corey, stepped up big time for us,” inside linebacker Patrick Willis said this week. “It’s going to have to be like that again if we’ve got a situation.

“Regardless whether a player is down with injuries or he’s sick or a family cause, someone else has to step in and play just as well. Aldon has some big shoes to fill, but that’s why we’ve got to play team defense.”

And not just cover for Smith’s absence.
If Patrick Willis has lost a step, it’s one that precious few other players in the NFL had anyway. The San Francisco 49ers' five-time All-Pro inside linebacker checks in at No. 7 among all defensive players in the ESPN.com Top 100 players project a year after being No. 3.

Willis
“Willis has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven seasons, becoming only the third defensive player since the merger to do so (Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas),” according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Willis, 29, has been slowed in the preseason with a stinger and missed two games last season. After playing in all 16 games in each of his first three years, Willis, the No. 11 overall selection of the 2007 draft, has had just one 16-game season since 2010.

Willis is the seventh and highest-rated player from the 49ers’ defense to be included in the #NFLRank project, the 15th 49er overall. As such, the 49ers had the most total players ranked, followed by the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who had 13. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots each had 10 players. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders had the fewest, with two each.

The following are the 49ers' ranked players, with their respective rankings:

OFFENSE

No. 81 – RT Anthony Davis

No. 54 – WR Anquan Boldin

No. 53 – LG Mike Iupati

No. 51 – WR Michael Crabtree

No. 42 – RB Frank Gore

No. 33 – QB Colin Kaepernick

No. 34 – LT Joe Staley

No. 18 – TE Vernon Davis

DEFENSE

No. 97 – SS Antoine Bethea

No. 74 – LB Ahmad Brooks

No. 71 – FS Eric Reid

No. 26 – DT Justin Smith

No. 15 – LB Aldon Smith

No. 12 – LB NaVorro Bowman

No. 7 – LB Patrick Willis
The San Francisco 49ers have thus far had seven offensive players represented in the ESPN.com Top 100 players rankings and they have one player to go.

Tight end Vernon Davis checks in at No. 18, the same ranking he held last year.

"Davis leads all NFL tight ends in yards per reception (15.0) since the start of 2012," per ESPN Stats & Info. "Including the playoffs, he caught 15 of the 49ers 24 touchdown passes last season (63 percent), the highest percentage of a team's touchdowns in the NFL."

Though the 49ers’ first-team offense has struggled to generate points this preseason -- quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Co. have yet to score a touchdown entering tonight’s exhibition finale at Houston -- Davis believes they are close to clicking.

"We just have to keep it together," he said following Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, "keep it tight."

And if they can’t?

"Because if one guy, two guys fall off and they’re not on the same page as everybody else," Davis said, "then it could be a disaster."

Following are the 49ers offensive players in the ESPN.com #NFLRanks project with their respective rankings:

OFFENSE

No. 81 – RT Anthony Davis

No. 54 – WR Anquan Boldin

No. 53 – LG Mike Iupati

No. 51 – WR Michael Crabtree

No. 42 – RB Frank Gore

No. 33 – QB Colin Kaepernick

No. 34 – LT Joe Staley

No. 18 – TE Vernon Davis

W2W4: San Francisco 49ers

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
12:00
PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers (1-2) and Houston Texans (2-1) face off in each team's fourth and final preseason game Thursday night (8 ET) at NRG Stadium in Houston.

1. Playing time for starters: The fourth preseason game is generally a sham in terms of playing time for starters. Who wants to risk injury in the most meaningless of exhibitions 10 days before the regular season begins? But when it comes to the 49ers' offense, a successful series or two would not hurt and would actually go a long way toward establishing that long sought-after rhythm. In last season's exhibition finale, at San Diego, quarterback Colin Kaepernick started, led the Niners on a seven-play, 77-yard touchdown drive to open the game and was finished for the day. "I don't really remember last year's preseason," Kaepernick said Tuesday. "I'm more worried about the regular season, but when we go out there, we want to be productive."

2. No. 3 receiver: The 49ers brought back Brandon Lloyd this offseason. They also acquired Stevie Johnson and drafted Bruce Ellington. And Quinton Patton has flashed this offseason. So who is in line to be the 49ers' No. 3 receiver, behind starters Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree? The position seemed earmarked for Johnson but he did not get much run in the third preseason game. The 49ers may use this game to get a better feel on their third receiver, even if Kaepernick is long gone from the game and Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson are the ones throwing the ball. In any event, coach Jim Harbaugh said he felt "very good" about Stevie Johnson being on the 49ers' 53-man roster.

3. Solidifying the inside: NaVorro Bowman is out at least six games, more likely half the season, so the race is on to find a starter at inside linebacker next to Patrick Willis in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme. On the surface, it appears as though Michael Wilhoite is the front runner, though defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is not ready to make such a proclamation. Yet. "Well, he hasn't proven that yet totally, but we'll wait till after Thursday," Fangio said. "Give these younger guys a good, healthy dose of snaps and see if they can make some progress. We're confident in Mike and we think he'll do fine in there like he did last year in those couple games he's played."
Nine San Francisco 49ers players have already been listed on our #NFLRank Top 100 players ranking, and left tackle Joe Staley and defensive tackle Justin Smith are the 10th and 11th.

Smith
Staley
Staley, who is entering his eighth season, checks in at No. 24 among all offensive players, a year after being No. 25.

“Staley has started every game and made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons,” per ESPN Stats & Info. “The 49ers scored a league-high five rushing touchdowns on designed runs outside the left tackle last season.”

Smith, meanwhile, is No. 26 among defensive players. He was No. 11 in 2013.

“Last season, the 49ers recorded a sack on 7.4 percent of pass attempts with Smith on the field compared with only 4.3 percent when Smith was on the sideline,” according to ESPN Stats & Info. “Since Smith joined the 49ers in 2008, opposing quarterbacks’ Total QBR is nearly 20 points lower when he is on the field (42.9) compared with off (60.5).

Following are the 49ers players listed so far on the #NFLRanks project, and their respective rankings.

OFFENSE

No. 81: RT Anthony Davis

No. 54: WR Anquan Boldin

No. 53: LG Mike Iupati

No. 51: WR Michael Crabtree

No. 43: RB Frank Gore

No. 33: QB Colin Kaepernick

No. 24: LT Joe Staley

 

DEFENSE

No. 97: SS Antoine Bethea

No. 74: LB Ahmad Brooks

No. 71: FS Eric Reid

No. 26: DT Justin Smith
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jim Harbaugh has been an NFL coach for all of three seasons. And in those three years his San Francisco 49ers have gone to the NFC title game (losing in overtime at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants), to the Super Bowl (falling in heartbreaking fashion to the Baltimore Ravens) and to another NFC title game (dropping another heartbreaker at the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks).

So Harbaugh has shown he can coach, and as such he was ranked as the No. 8 coach in the NFL in an ESPN.com poll of 30 league “insiders” (eight current general managers, four former GMs, four personnel directors, four executives, six coordinators and four position coaches).

[+] EnlargeJim Harbaugh
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsJim Harbaugh is 41-14 over his three seasons as an NFL head coach.
ESPN Insider Mike Sando asked his panel to “provide a 1-5 rating for every head coach” in the NFL and New England’s Bill Belichick led the way with 28 votes in the first tier. He was followed by Seattle’s Pete Carroll (23) and New Orleans’ Sean Payton (22).

“Once votes were collected, I averaged the ratings for each coach to produce a 1-32 order,” Sando wrote. “I separated them into tiers at logical cut-off points, based on the voting results (including the tier in which each coach got the majority of his votes, and his average overall score).

“Twenty-three coaches averaged better than a 3.0 on the 1-5 scale (1 was best, 5 worst), and no coaches landed in Tier 5.”

The rest of the Top 9 was comprised of Kansas City’s Andy Reid, the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin, the Green Bay Packers’ Mike McCarthy, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and then the Brothers Harbaugh, with Jim ahead of John, despite John owning that Super Bowl title over him.

As Sando observed, “No NFL coach has more total victories than (Jim) Harbaugh since his arrival with the 49ers in 2011. He and Belichick are each 41-14 over that span, with no other team posting more than 37 victories.

“One GM said he downgraded Harbaugh from a 1 to a 2 over tension between Harbaugh and the front office. Another executive said a 1 should have no real flaws, and that Harbaugh's combustible temperament qualifies as a flaw. Another GM said, ‘the personality stuff is going to show up’ in a negative way at some point in the future.

“A former player working as a personnel evaluator downplayed some of the other concerns. ‘That gets a little old, the animation on the sideline and those things,’ he said, ‘but at the end of the day, he is a good coach. He understands what he is doing. He has won everywhere he has been. I think his guys play for him. You may not like the person, but you like the product. As a player and a coach, you separate that from the other stuff. You are not necessarily best friends with everyone you work with, but if I believe in what you are saying, OK, I can roll with you. That is what I see with him.’”

The lowest-ranked coach? That would be the Oakland Raiders’ Dennis Allen.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- While there is little doubt a multi-game suspension for San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith is coming from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it’s arrival date has the team in a state of flux.

But not in disarray.

That’s because the 49ers know it’s coming, even if they don’t know exactly when or for how many games.

Smith
“Actually, because you have a feeling that something may happen at this point in the season, everybody’s getting reps now,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Tuesday. “All the guys that may play for him -- (Dan) Skuta, (Corey) Lemonier, (Aaron) Lynch, (Chase) Thomas -- all those guys have been getting a lot of reps. They’re all ready to go.

“It’s more of an issue when it happens in the middle of the season, just thrown at you like it happened last year. Then there’s no time to adjust. You just go.”

Last year, Smith checked himself into rehab following a Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that dropped the 49ers’ record to 1-2. He was allowed to play in that game after a single-car accident in which alcohol was involved.

With Smith gone, the 49ers went 5-0.

“Guys, Skuta and Corey, stepped up big time for us,” said inside linebacker Patrick Willis. “It’s going to have to be like that again if we’ve got a situation.

“Regardless whether a player is down with injuries or he’s sick or a family cause, someone else has to step in and play just as well. Aldon has some big shoes to fill, but that’s why we’ve got to play team defense.”

Smith, who has numerous off-field transgressions on his docket including the DUI, weapons charges and a bizarre bomb threat at LAX, met with Goodell more than two weeks ago, making the delay in announcing a suspension a mystery of sorts.

Because while the NFL took heat for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice receiving “only”a two-game suspension after knocking out his fiancÚ, rumors have flown that Smith is in line for up to an eight-game suspension.

Late last week, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he had received no “indication” from the league about a looming suspension for Smith, a fourth-year player who was an All-Pro selection with 19.5 sacks in 2012.
It was sometime after taking one of numerous hits in his relatively limited time under center on Sunday when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick approached his two-time Pro Bowl left guard, Mike Iupati.

"C'mon, Mike," Kaepernick implored. "Do better."

Iupati
Iupati let loose an uneasy laugh as he recounted the tale for reporters Monday at the 49ers' facility. Because really, Iupati agreed with Kaepernick.

And the numbers agreed with everyone. Pro Football Focus gave Iupati a grade of -2.4 after he was charged with allowing a sack and a hit on Kaepernick against the San Diego Chargers. Defensive end Corey Liuget made easy work of the 49ers' offensive line in general, Iupati in particular.

Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked what specifically the 49ers could work on with the offensive line to give Kaepernick more time and thus, better looks after he was under siege by Liuget & Co.

"Just continuing to get reps, get reps at the looks that we're going to see," Harbaugh said. "In a preseason game where it's going to be a short week, that will be difficult to do. But we'll attack that."

Iupati, it should be noted, is still recovering from the broken left fibula he suffered in the NFC Championship Game. But he was not about to blame his issues Sunday on a sore leg.

So how does he address it?

"You just watch film," Iupati said. "Sometimes you lose some, you win some. It's mainly technique. But I'm not worried about it. It's something that's an easy fix.

"It's preseason, but it's football. You're going against someone else so you're competitive and you don't want to have that happen. Especially a sack or a QB hit. But you know, it's an easy fix. That's what it is."
Most significant move: It was already known that All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman would miss half of the season after his gruesome left knee injury in the NFC title game last January, but it was made official with Bowman being placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list on Monday. As such, he has to sit out at least the first six weeks of the season. At the end of that sixth week, Bowman then has three weeks to begin practicing and once he does get on the practice field, he has three weeks to join the active 53-man roster. In short, Bowman could be in a game as soon as Week 7 at the Denver Broncos and as late as Week 15, at the Seattle Seahawks, to be eligible to play in the postseason.

Wild card: Marcus Lattimore entered training camp fully expecting to be practicing after missing all of last season recovering from the injury to his right knee suffered in 2012. Alas, he never made it. Now, being placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, Lattimore must sit out at least the first six weeks of the season. Still, coach Jim Harbaugh insisted earlier this summer that Lattimore would be a part of this team this season. And with Jewel Hampton waived, you wonder if the 49ers are holding an active spot for him down the road.

49ers’ cuts: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, S D.J. Campbell, TE Kevin Greene, RB Jewel Hampton, P Colton Schmidt, LB Kion Wilson, WR Devon Wylie all waived while WR David Reed was released. RB Marcus Lattimore, FB Trey Millard, CB Keith Reaser and G Brandon Thomas placed on reserve/non-football injury list and LB NaVorro Bowman, TE Garrett Celek and DT Kaleb Ramsey were put on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Also, LB Blake Costanzo was released from injured reserve.
video
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jim Harbaugh liked what he saw from his first-team offense on Sunday.

“Some good things," he said. "Moved the ball. Thought our precision was better.

"Just productive plays. Execution.”

Surely, after the San Francisco 49ers' starters were limited to a field goal in four possessions against the San Diego Chargers in each team's third preseason game, Harbaugh had to be referring to one series in particular in the 49ers' 21-7 victory.

The one in which the 49ers drove downfield for Phil Dawson's 39-yard field goal to break an eight quarter scoreless streak that went over 23 possessions dating to their exhibition opener at the Baltimore Ravens.

Harbaugh
Consider: before that drive, in which the 49ers went 55 yards in 12 plays, they had 17 total yards, with running back Frank Gore losing 2 yards on his lone rush and quarterback Colin Kaepernick overthrowing a receiver, taking a sack and losing a fumble, among other unmemorable plays.

“We have some things to improve on before we get to the season,” said Kaepernick, who was hit numerous times due to a leaky left side of his offensive line.

“We have good plays, we just didn't execute.”

Added tight end Vernon Davis: “We've been struggling a little bit ... once we get rolling, then it's all downhill after that. We can do whatever we want, whatever we put our minds to. But it's just about getting into that zone.”

More twilight zone than anything before, the 49ers finally clicked on that fourth offensive series.

Kaepernick begin to find his receivers, the offense started to flow as he completed five straight passes to five different receivers.

He found Anquan Boldin for a 9-yard pickup and then hit LaMichael James for a 7-yard gain. Davis was next for 16 yards and then Michael Crabtree caught a 10-yard bullet before Kaepernick's dump off to Bruce Miller picked up 7 yards, and the 49ers were at the Chargers' 17-yard line.

That's when a familiar bugaboo reared its head -- Kaepernick's issues in the red zone. Sure, he tried to continue spreading the ball around, but his passes to Quinton Patton and Vance McDonald were both knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

The 49ers had to settle for Dawson's field goal and, after being outscored by a running 64-0, they were on the board.

After the 49ers scored, the day was over for their first-team offense for all intents and purposes.

“We just have to keep it together, keep it tight,” Davis said. “Because if one guy, two guys fall off and they're not on the same page as everybody else, then it could be a disaster.”

And we've already seen a glimpse of that in this preseason.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The newly installed sod at $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium held up well enough, even if it caused San Francisco 49ers place-kicker Phil Dawson to slip on a successful PAT and the kicker to give the grass the evil eye in the second quarter.

What else was learned in the all-important third preseason game? For one, the 49ers’ backups are better than the Chargers’, though the same could be said of the Chargers’ starters over the Niners’.

Dawson’s 39-yard field goal in the second quarter ended the 49ers’ scoreless streak at eight quarters and 23 possessions and got San Francisco within 7-3.

Here are some other thoughts on the 49ers' 21-7 win over the San Diego Chargers in both teams’ third exhibition game.
  • The 49ers’ first-string offense has yet to score a touchdown in the preseason, and the left side of their offensive line, the side with mainstays Joe Staley and Mike Iupati, was especially manhandled by Corey Liuget. You would have thought that the reimagined right side, with tackle Jonathan Martin, in place of Anthony Davis, and guard Joe Looney, replacing holdout Alex Boone, would have had trouble holding up. It is worth mentioning, though, that Adam Snyder got some reps with the starters, taking the place of Looney in the second quarter.
  • Colin Kaepernick just does not look comfortable. The quarterback spoke this week of the need to establish a rhythm, and this is how things started for the offense -- a 2-yard loss by running back Frank Gore, an overthrow by Kaepernick, a scramble and fumble that was ruled not a fumble because there was not visual evidence to prove who actually recovered the ball. Kapernick took at least four hard hits and would eventually lose a fumble. And while he did finally find a rhythm in the second quarter, completing five straight passes in one series, he had consecutive passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the red zone. Too soon to worry? Well, Kaepernick has yet to lead the 49ers on a touchdown drive in 24 preseason possessions. He finished 6-of-12 for 59 yards with two rushes for 13 yards.
  • Let the record show, it was Blaine Gabbert who led the first 49ers' touchdown drive in Levi's Stadium history. Sure, it’s the preseason and “officially” said first TD has yet to occur, but the maligned Gabbert hit tight end Vance McDonald with a 6-yard touchown pass with 46 seconds to go until halftime. It was also the first TD of the preseason by the 49ers, who had been oustcored by a combined 64-0 after an opening series field goal at Baltimore and Phil Dawson’s 39-yard field goal in the second quarter. Gabbert, who struggled mightily in his first two appearances, looked steady in completing 7 of 11 passes for 66 yards and the TD.
  • The 49ers' starting defense got a lift when inside linebacker Patrick Willis made his preseason debut and started. Bothered by a stinger in camp and wearing the blue non-contact jersey most days, Willis combined on a nice tackle of Ryan Mathews with Michael Wilhoite at the 49ers’ 5-yard line for no gain and fourth-and-1.The play also highlighted Wilhoite, who is trying to make his case to start until NaVorro Bowman returns from his knee injury around midseason.
  • Still, the 49ers’ first-team defense was shredded by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who completed 9 of 10 passes for 85 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, who caught three passes for 28 yards. A highlight for the 49ers’ first-round draft pick, defensive back Jimmie Ward, was his acrobatic interception of Chargers third-string quarterback Brad Sorensen late in the third quarter.

W2W4: San Francisco 49ers

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
12:00
PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers (0-2) and San Diego Chargers (1-1) face off in each team's third preseason game Sunday afternoon at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

1. The grass: It's a, ahem, sod story that's taken on a life of its own this week. The $1.3 billion Levi's Stadium needed new grass after just one 49ers exhibition game, a San Jose Earthquakes soccer match, a John Legend concert and two and a half public practices by the 49ers. The original Bandera Bermuda blend did not take root properly, and as a result, coach Jim Harbaugh took his team off the field during Wednesday's practice after determining the field was hazardous to his players following several slips and divots. So a new lawn was rolled out Friday -- a deeper cut than the original -- and everyone insists it will hold up Sunday and no players will admit they will be extra careful on it. Stay tuned. How the field holds up in the all-important third preseason game could determine how long the 49ers starters play.

2. Scoring: The 49ers kicked a field goal on their first offensive possession of the preseason and have been shut out since, a stretch of 20 possessions. Sure, starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been under center for only three of those drives, including the first, but being outscored by a combined 57-3 should be cause for concern, right? Well, to a man, the 49ers regulars insist all is well, that they just need to get a rhythm going offensively. How long the starters play will go a long way toward establishing said rhythm and determining if there is cause for deeper concern.

3. Who's the backup QB? Blaine Gabbert has left much to be desired in his two appearances as Kaepernick's primary backup, completing 11 of 25 passes for 60 yards and two interceptions with no touchdowns. But it's not as if Josh Johnson or McLeod Bethel-Thompson has lit things up either, the former losing a pair of fumbles and the latter getting picked off twice. Still, Harbaugh said there was no change in the order of the backup quarterbacks, giving the sense that the No. 2 job is truly Gabbert's to lose -- even if that's exactly how he has performed thus far.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Three San Francisco 49ers players appear in the #ESPNRank project between Nos. 60 and 51 among offensive players. That part of the rankings was released Friday.

Crabtree
Iupati
Boldin
Receiver Anquan Boldin was No. 54, a year after being No. 83.

“Boldin led the NFL in third-down receptions (33), receiving yards (529) and first downs (529) last season,” according to ESPN Stats & Info. “His 1,179 receiving yards in 2013 were the most by a 49er since Terrell Owens in 2002.”

Left guard Mike Iupati was No. 53 (he was 32nd last year) and receiver Michael Crabtree was No. 51, improving from No. 78.

“Crabtree’s drop percentage has gone down each year of his career (3.2 percent last season),” ESPN Stats & Information wrote. “He averaged a career-high 7.0 yards after the catch (per reception) last season despite coming off an Achilles injury.”

Other 49ers players already listed: right tackle Anthony Davis, who was No. 81 among offensive players. Strong safety Antoine Bethea (No. 97), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (No. 74) and free safety Eric Reid (No. 71) are in the rankings of defensive players so far.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers free safety Eric Reid has an idea as to what new teammate and strong safety Antoine Bethea is going through this week as he undergoes the NFL-mandated concussion protocol after being injured Sunday.

Bethea
Reid
"I can definitely relate," Reid said this week. "It happened to me twice last year."

Indeed, Reid suffered two concussions as a rookie, in a Week 2 loss at the Seattle Seahawks and in the 49ers’ ninth game of the season, a Nov. 9 defeat at the Carolina Panthers.

Still, Reid, the 49ers’ first-round pick at No. 18 overall, did not miss a game and was chosen for the Pro Bowl after recording four interceptions, second-most among NFL rookies in 2013.

Entering this season, Reid is ranked No. 71 among all defensive players in the ESPN.com #NFLRanks project.

But with Bethea, signed as a free agent after eight seasons and two Pro Bowl campaigns with the Indianapolis Colts, concussed in the second quarter of the 49ers’ 34-0 exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, there is a sense of urgency in the 49ers’ secondary.

Sunday evening, Bethea Tweeted the following:

.

Said Reid later in the week: "Antoine’s going to be OK, but there are other guys that have got to step up."

Guys like Craig Dahl, who had five tackles against the Broncos after Bethea left the game, and D.J. Campbell.

Though coach Jim Harbaugh would not say where Bethea was in the protocol, Reid said Bethea was not showing "many post-concussion symptoms" on Tuesday.

"Guys that are playing in the preseason are one play away from being a starter," Reid said. "We have to take advantage of practice and get better."

Reid said he has improved this offseason in his "vision" on the field.

"Just going through progressions," he said, "trying to see it all more."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With right guard Alex Boone's holdout entering its fourth week and right tackle Anthony Davis just beginning to do individual work this week as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, the right side of the San Francisco 49ers' offensive line is in flux.

Kampman
Looney
Martin
After all, since Davis' rookie season of 2010, the 49ers have averaged 5.1 yards per rush to the right side, the fourth-best such figure in the NFL in that time frame, per ESPN Stats & Info.

But in two preseason games, Joe Looney has started at right guard and Jonathan Martin at right tackle and the 49ers like what they have seen so far from the current right side of their line, even if the team is 0-2 while getting outscored by a combined 57-3.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers "can win with Joe Looney" and was also effuisive in his praise for Martin, who was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2015 draft.

"Jonathan Martin has done very well," Harbaugh said. "(He’s) been a great addition to our football team. Sure glad we got him. Like everybody else on our football team, (he’s) working to improve in certain areas. He’s been very effective and efficient."

Davis, it should be noted, has never missed a game in his four-year career and he told reporters this week that he did not need to play in an exhibition to be ready for the 49ers' season opener at the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 7.

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said if and when Davis returns, Martin’s versatility will be a boon for him and the team.

"I think John’s a guy that can play probably four positions on the offensive line," Roman said. "And at some point you’d like to be able to get him some work in those areas. We’ll see how that goes."

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