NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

Alex Boone is ending his holdout, per Adam Schefter’s report, and will join the San Francisco 49ers in time for Week 1 of the NFL season. It should only help the team’s starting offense, which struggled to generate points in the preseason – two field goals in seven possessions.

But is Boone ready to step in at his right guard spot and contribute immediately, or will he need more than a few days of practice to not only knock off the rust but get into better condition before the season opener at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday?

In their initial 53-man roster unveiled Sunday, the 49ers had eight offensive linemen. Only six of them, though, were healthy as right tackle Anthony Davis is still working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery and rookie backup center Marcus Martin dislocated a kneecap, per reports, and coach Jim Harbaugh said he was told by doctors that Martin’s timeline to return was six weeks away.

As such, the odd man out, then, would appear to be undrafted rookie Dillon Farrell, a somewhat surprising inclusion to the initial 53.

Joe Looney has performed admirably in Boone’s absence. Jonathan Martin has done the same in place of Davis in the 49ers’ makeshift right side of the offensive line through the preseason.
Beyond the real-world implications wrought by Ray McDonald’s arrest on suspicion of domestic violence, the defensive lineman’s legal trouble is another blow to an already weakened San Francisco 49ers defense.

It is not so much a matter of if but when McDonald is served with a six-game suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under his more stringent policy for domestic violence offenses.

General manager Trent Baalke issued a statement.
“The 49ers organization is aware of the recent reports regarding Ray McDonald and we take such matters seriously. As we continue to gather the facts, we will reserve further comment.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh has taken a strong stance in general in the past on violence toward women.

“He said that we can do anything in the world and we can come and talk to him and he’ll forgive us, except put our hands on women,” former 49ers safety Donte Whitner said last season, according to the Sacramento Bee. “If you put your hand on a woman, then you’re done in his book.”

Besides McDonald’s pending status -- backups are Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial -- the 49ers are already without outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who was given a nine-game unpaid suspension Friday for numerous transgressions. Plus, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is out for at least six weeks and more likely half the season as he recovers from a devastating knee injury suffered in the NFC title game.

Then there’s nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, who is likely headed to the injured reserve/designated to return list, which would keep him out at least eight games as he recovers from surgery on a torn biceps.

Inside linebacker Patrick Willis has also been banged up in the preseason with a stinger, and the secondary essentially has three new starters to go with Pro Bowl free safety Eric Reid.

Still, per the NFL’s conduct policy, discipline handed down by the league might not be swift.

“Unless the available facts clearly indicate egregious circumstances, significant bodily harm or risk to third parties or an immediate and substantial risk to the integrity and reputation of the NFL,” the policy reads, “a first offense generally will not result in discipline until there has been a disposition of the proceeding (or until the investigation is complete in the case of noncriminal misconduct).”

But with Goodell’s new, tougher stance on domestic violence -- six games for a first offense, a lifetime ban for a second -- in the wake of his self-described mishandling of the Ray Rice case, in which he gave the Baltimore Ravens running back a two-game suspension, the commissioner might act faster than he has in the past.
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh participated in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Saturday afternoon after the team announced its initial 53-man roster.

 Harbaugh declined to comment on star linebacker Aldon Smith’s nine-game suspension, handed down the day before, saying he did not think a comment by him would be “productive” while adding that he was still trying to figure out what Smith could do with the team under the terms of the suspension. Harbaugh did, however, say that Smith participated in the team meeting on Saturday, which he can reportedly do while serving his punishment.

Following is a sampling of other topics broached in the 11-minute call…

On going with only seven healthy offensive linemen, plus injured rookie backup center Marcus Martin: “Well, we went with the eight number again, and Marcus Martin was planned on being [out] six weeks, that was what we’d been told by the doctors. So, we’ll assess as we go.”

On guard/center Dillon Farrell, a somewhat surprising inclusion on the 53: “He’s done a fine job. He’s been versatile. He’s played well in the games and felt like he earned a position.”

On releasing special teams standouts like Kassim Osgood, C.J. Spillman, Kevin McDermott, Darryl Morris, Bubba Ventrone and if the younger players that stuck can fill their shoes on special teams: “There are young players that are going to have to rise to the challenge. It’ll be a challenge for our whole football team -- the veteran players, young players, to get our special teams where we’re used to them being.”

On why the 49ers kept three quarterbacks, rather than two, in Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson: “We all felt like [they] had earned it -- all three quarterbacks. It’s typically what we’ve done. We’ve been a three-quarterback team. If you look at our roster, we’ve mainly been three quarterbacks.”

On Jonathan Martin’s versatility making him more appealing: “Jonathan, another example of someone who’s really earned the position. He’s been mainly playing tackle, but he has the ability to play guard, and going forward, that will be something that he’ll continue to learn and be good at. I feel very good about it. He’s done an excellent job of getting the job done.”

On if new longsnapper Kyle Nelson’s ability to play tight end helped him make the team: “Just felt like he’s earned the job. He earned it.”

On strong safety Antoine Bethea’s condition after suffering a concussion 13 days earlier and if receiver Brandon Lloyd is available: “Yes, to Brandon Lloyd. Antoine Bethea was doing the final protocol today and did that on the field. And we’ll see if there are symptoms tomorrow. If not, he’ll be cleared.”

On if right tackle Anthony Davis will play in the opener at Dallas: “We’ll see.”

On if James McCray’s performance on special teams on Thursday propelled him to a roster spot: “Yes, we do expect him to be very good on special teams. Yes, the game on Thursday, he did a very fine job and we thought in the games leading up to that -- the Baltimore game, Denver, San Diego, he was making his case, he was stating his argument and finally felt like he earned the job.:

On the 49ers’ team captains: “Defensively, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith. Offense, Joe Staley and Colin Kaepernick.”

On keeping veterans Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd with young talent also at the position: “Well, there’s only one football so that’s not going to change. Nothing will be given. There’ll be no layups. Guys will be competing and it will be competition at the highest level. There’s no question when you look at that group, it looks extremely good. But the competition won’t be self-centered. Knowing our guys, it’ll be something that’ll be very good for our team.”
Most significant move: It might actually be a move they did not make, at least not yet. The 49ers keeping third-string quarterback Josh Johnson, along with starter Colin Kaepernick and backup Blaine Gabbert defies convention or, at least, numerous projections. Many observers saw the Niners only keeping two QBs, with Johnson being shown the door. But with Gabbert getting banged up in the team's exhibition finale and Johnson putting on a show, completing 14-of-17 passes for 135 yards, three touchdowns and interception returned for a touchdown, the 49ers obviously felt the need to add depth under center. For now.

Taking a gamble: Kassim Osgood is a receiver by trade but he's made his bones with the 49ers as a special-teams ace. He was presented with a game ball after blocking a punt in the Niners' exhibition finale. No matter. Osgood is gone. But there's a very good chance he could be back in time for Week 2. As a vested veteran, Osgood's salary of $955,000 would have been guaranteed had he been on the opening week roster. It's a gamble, yes, but one the 49ers won last year with Osgood.

Specialists out: Keeping with the special teams vibe, two more such aces were shown the door, one more surprising then the first. C.J. Spillman, a backup safety, had been one of the team's top special teamers in coverage since joining the Niners in 2010 from San Diego. But his being released saved them $1.25 million in salary and a salary-cap number of almost $1.56 million, per ESPN Stats & Info. Then, there was longsnapper Kevin McDermott, seen as a lock in most corners, getting cut and the job going to Kyle Nelson, whose versatility as a tight end made McDermott expendable. After all, Nelson had five catches for 15 yards and two TDs Thursday at Houston.

What's next: Technically, the 49ers cannot place anyone on the injured reserve/designated to return list until Tuesday, meaning if they plan on making such a move, such a player would have to be on their initial 53-man roster today. Paging nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (biceps) and/or rookie center Marcus Martin (knee).

49ers' moves: Released T Carter Bykowski, TE Asante Cleveland, WR Lance Lewis, LS Kevin McDermott, CB Darryl Morris, G Al Netter, DL Lawrence Okoye, WR Kassim Osgood, T Michael Philipp, NT Mike Purcell, G Ryan Seymour, LB Shayne Skov, RB Alfonso Smith, G Adam Snyder, S C.J. Spillman, LB Chase Thomas, S Bubba Ventrone, WR L'Damian Washington and RB Glenn Winston. Placed CB Kenneth Acker and FB Will Tukuafu on injured reserve.
San Francisco 49ers All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who was hit with a nine-game unpaid suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday, released a statement through the NFL Players Association on Saturday morning.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the entire 49ers organization and 49ers fans for not being able to contribute on the field for the next several weeks,” Smith said in the statement. “Over the last year, I have learned a lot and I’m working hard to grow from my experiences. I want to thank my family and friends, my teammates, my union and the 49ers for supporting me during this process. I will be at work daily to participate in all permitted work activities, and to support my teammates, just as they have supported me.”

Smith is allowed to work out at the team facility as well as attend meetings under the terms of the suspension, which breaks down into four games for violations of the substance abuse policy and five games for violations of the personal conduct policy.

Smith will lose $1.2 million of his $2.34 million salary, per ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt.
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 Top 100 players project a year after being No. 3.

“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:


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


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 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 #NFLRanks project with their respective rankings:


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
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.

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.


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



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 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.

“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 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.
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.

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.