NFC West: Anthony Davis
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."
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks is No. 74 among defensive players while safety Eric Reid is ranked No. 71.
"Brooks recorded a postseason-best 4.5 sacks last year, the most in a postseason since 2010 (Terrell Suggs, five)," read the list. "During the regular season, Brooks also set a career high with 8.5 sacks."
Reid, meanwhile, has become an elder statesman, of sorts, in the 49ers' secondary with fellow safety Antoine Bethea currently concussed.
"Eric Reid intercepted four passes in 2013," the report read, "second-most among rookies last season."
Brooks and Reid join Bethea and right tackle Anthony Davis, who were ranked No. 97 and No. 81 on the defensive and offensive lists, respectively.
Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
- Joe Staley
- Anthony Davis
- Alex Boone
- Mike Iupati
- Daniel Kilgore
- Marcus Martin
- Jonathan Martin
- Joe Looney
Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Justin Smith
- Ray McDonald
- Glenn Dorsey
- Tank Carradine
- Tony Jerod-Eddie
- Quinton Dial
- Ian Williams
- Kaleb Ramsey
This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.
Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.
This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.
Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.
This group is set and it's excellent.
The cornerbacks: This is the biggest position of change. Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown are gone. Chris Culliver will start, but he is still working back from a torn ACL that kept him out all of last season. He should be fine for camp, but don’t expect him to go full-go in this camp. First-round pick Jimmie Ward is set to be the nickelback, but he is coming off a foot injury. He should be ready for training camp. A player of note in the minicamp is free-agent pickup Chris Cook. He will be in the rotation. Cook, who signed from Minnesota, has ideal size. He has looked good in the OTA sessions.
Offensive line: This unit, the pride and joy of the 49ers, should be fine in the long run, but it’s a little rough right now. Boone has been absent. Right tackle Anthony Davis is recovering from a shoulder injury and won’t be there until camp. Daniel Kilgore is taking over from Jonathan Goodwin and trying to hold off rookie Marcus Martin at center. Again, things will settle down, but don’t expect a well-oiled unit this week.
Passing game: Most of the receivers have been out during the voluntary sessions, mostly as precautions or for minor injuries. The passing game was rough in the OTA session that was open to the media last Tuesday. I’d expect to see more receivers during this camp, which is vital to help rhythm with quarterback Colin Kaepernick heading into training camp.
Inside linebackers: NaVorro Bowman is expected to be out until midseason as he recovers from a torn ACL. Michael Wilhoite has the inside shot to start for Bowman, but he will have to hold off Nick Moody and third-round pick Chris Borland.
Pass-rushers: Aldon Smith may face an NFL suspension. The 49ers need some extra pass-rush help. Keys to watch in camp is defensive lineman Tank Carradine, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and second-year player Corey Lemonier, who looks like he’s added several pounds of muscle. The 49ers would love to see these two young players show a burst in this camp.
Marcus Lattimore: The 49ers are slowly bringing along the 2013 fourth-round draft pick. He has done some things in the OTA session, including showing nice hands out of the backfield. I wouldn’t expect Lattimore to go full-go in this camp, but the 49ers want to see continued comfort, speed and confidence from Lattimore, whom they hope can help this season.
Davis wrote he is excited that he will be able to play with two arms in 2014.
In an Insider piece, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had 49ers pass-rusher Aldon Smith as his 31st-best prospect of the past five years. Smith was the No. 7 overall pick in 2011. On the field, he has been outstanding. However, his off-field issues have clouded his future with the 49ers.
Under the Twitter handle @AnthonyDavis76, Davis, who plays on the right side and whose primary responsibility is to deal with Long twice a year, began the exchange by tweeting Tuesday that "My rookie year Chris beat me every way you can beat a man. Ask him wassup now tho...…" with a link to an Instagram photo of him blocking Long.
When a fan asked Davis why he didn't make the statement with Long's Twitter handle -- @JOEL9ONE -- attached, Davis responded simply "he already know."
Long apparently didn't already know and opted to respond by lobbing some barbs back in Davis' direction after a disclaimer of "I don't usually talk ill of an opponent on here unless I'm provoked directly... But some guys are just attention starved. U got it boss."
From there, things spiraled into a war of words, some of which aren't appropriate for our family-friendly Rams blog. Here's a sample of some of the exchange.
%tbt Vernon "stop treating him like that Chris" me "I'll raise my kids however I want" pic.twitter.com/kq74ioUc8a— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) March 27, 2014
@JOEL9ONE you're as good as you'll ever be. I'm just tapping into what I'm working with over here. Lol goodluck.— Bam Davis (@AnthonyDavis76) March 27, 2014
Of course, the entire exchange, including the ensuing conversations with fans looking to get involved can be found on Twitter.
While the Rams and Niners rivalry doesn't quite meet the level of Niners-Seahawks, the fact that Long and Davis actually battle on every snap should only add more intrigue to games that have consistently been among the most physical in the league the past two years.
San Francisco 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis and St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long engaged his some back-and-forth insults on Twitter on Thursday.
It began innocently enough earlier in the week when Davis wrote on Instagram that Long handled him in his rookie season in 2010, but he has since held his own against the Rams star. Long apparently didn’t like it and tweeted an insult toward Davis.
They both followed up with some tweets about the other. The 49ers and Rams play twice each season, so this March Twitter battle will certainly become a topic again later this year.
This isn’t Long’s first Twitter fight involving the 49ers. Last year he went at it on Twitter with some San Francisco fans.
My rookie year Chris beat me every way you can beat a man. Ask him wassup now tho...... http://t.co/LkweEe1bZR— Bam Davis (@AnthonyDavis76) March 25, 2014
At first glance, it looks as though the 49ers got shortchanged on the All-NFC West list, especially on defense. After all, the San Francisco defense is clearly one of the NFL's best.
So, to see only defensive tackle Justin Smith and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman represented could raise eyebrows. However, one must consider that the NFC West is a fantastic division for defensive play. Try to find a more talented group; it'd be difficult.
The 49ers did well in total. They placed eight players on the 26-man All-NFC West first-team (as voted on by the four writers who cover the teams in the division). Seattle had eight on the first team, Arizona seven and St. Louis three.
So the 49ers were represented. Arguments certainly could have been made for linebackers Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks, as well as safeties Donte Whitner and rookie Eric Reid. But again, the players on this team are solid.
The 49ers were recognized for their strong offensive line -- the list includes three-fifths of the group with tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis and guard Alex Boone. No argument there. This is a physical group that sets the tone.
Tight end Vernon Davis, receiver Anquan Boldin and punter Andy Lee were all worthy picks.
It was a tough call between Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore at running back. We went with just one. Lynch has 1,160 rushing yards and Gore has 1,114. Gore is a big part of what the 49ers do, but Lynch is vital to the Seahawks' offense.
A major argument could be made for San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson to be on the first team. He has been a major cog this season. But again, in total, the 49ers fared pretty well on this list.
Davis, now a standout right tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, has publicly lashed out at Schiano since joining the NFL. Schiano is now the coach at Tampa Bay. The 49ers visit the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Davis said he wasn’t a great fit for Schiano’s intense motivational style, saying he is more of the self-motivating type. Still, Davis steered clear of igniting any dispute with his former coach.
“It was a learning experience,” Davis said. “If you can make it there under him, you can make it anywhere.”
It is clear Davis has no such issues with his current coach. Jim Harbaugh is thrilled with Davis’ play.
“Anthony Davis is having a really good year,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “Consistently good every game. He’s playing at a very high level, kind of top-lineman kind of level. He’s having an outstanding year.”
Receiver Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright and rookie defensive linemen Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are “anticipated” to practice this week, coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. This reiterates what Harbaugh said last week about the group. The 49ers have a walk-through practice Tuesday and then have a full-fledged practice Wednesday, which would be the player’s first real test.
Once the players start to practice the team will have 21 days to activate them to the 53-man roster or shelve them for the season. All four players, barring setbacks, are expected to be activated.
Harbaugh said Sunday Dial, a fifth-round pick from Alabama, could be activated as soon as Sunday against Nashville.
The 49ers are thin on the defensive line. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey injured his hamstring in the first quarter Sunday and did not return. He was jogging on the sideline, didn’t have much of a limp after the game and said he thought he’d be fine. Monday, Harbaugh said there is no new information on Dorsey’s health.
In other 49ers’ notes:
- Harbaugh said several players stood out in the 32-20 win over the Cardinals on Sunday. He pointed out the play of tackle Anthony Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
- Asked if the 49ers would be interested in trading for a receiver such as Hakeem Nicks, Josh Gordon or Kenny Britt, Harbaugh said that is “endless speculation” and the 49ers are not interested in “endless speculation.”
- While Kyle Williams hasn’t been spectacular on punt returns, Harbaugh defended his work and said Williams is doing a good job.
- The 49ers signed guard Al Netter to the practice squad. Netter was previously with the team. Tampa Bay signed guard Patrick Omameh from the squad last week.
- 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone toldCSN Bay Area how difficult it is to turn on and off his emotions on the field.
- 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin discussed his charity celebrity dinner at Morton's the Steakhouse in San Jose on Nov. 11. The Anquan Boldin Foundation benefits under-privileged children.
- The 49ers leave for a 10-day trip Friday when they go to Nashville for Sunday’s game against the Titans. They then fly directly to London to play Jacksonville on Oct. 27. What’s Harbaugh’s travel plan like? Pretty simple: “I’m going to go with the clothes on my back, pack my playbook, a tooth brush and a great attitude.”
As expected, linebacker Patrick Willis (groin), tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) and tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) were all listed as questionable. Willis is probably the biggest question.
But if he doesn’t have a setback Willis could play. He missed last week’s game at St. Louis with a groin injury that knocked him out of the third quarter of a Week 3 loss to the Colts. Thursday, San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Willis is more than “50-50” to play.
Willis will likely be a game-time decision. Michael Wilhoite will take his place against Houston if Willis can’t play Sunday.
Meanwhile, the NFL confirmed a Bay Area News Group reported 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith was fined $7,875 for a facemask penalty against the Rams. Safety Donte Whitner was previously fined $21,000 for a hit in the game. Whitner is appealing the fine.
Right tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday. That is a good sign he will be able to play Sunday against Houston. The Texans have blitzed more than any team in the NFL this season. Thus, Davis’ role will be vital.
Star inside linebacker Patrick Willis (groin), tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) and No. 3 cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) all were limited Thursday for the second straight day. Barring setbacks, all three players have a strong chance to play against the Texans.
“I think Pat’s getting a lot better, making great progress,” San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday. “I think the chances are better than 50-50, but we don’t know for sure yet.”
Willis suffered a groin injury in a Week 3 loss to Indianapolis, and he missed the 49ers' game last Thursday at St. Louis. Willis said he is making progress and is hopeful he can play Sunday, as is coach Jim Harbaugh. I think if there are no setbacks Willis should be able to play.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha also was limited in practice. He missed last week’s game with a knee injury. Tramaine Brock played well in Asomugha’s place, and I’d expect Brock to stay the No. 3 cornerback against Houston and have the chance to keep the job if he continues to plays well.
Tight end Vernon Davis was limited, but he played last week after missing Week 3 with a hamstring injury. He is expected to be fine; the team doesn’t want to push him.
One injury to keep an eye on, though, is the shoulder problem that kept right tackle Anthony Davis out of practice Wednesday. It may be precautionary, but the 49ers will need Davis on Sunday when they face star pass-rusher J.J. Watt.
Sixty-three voters helped rank 100 top players on each side of the ball. NFC West teams accounted for 20 players on defense and 16 on offense. The 36-player total works out to 18 percent representation for the NFC West, above the 12.5 percent expectation for any division.
The chart shows where NFC West players ranked on each list. I shaded offensive players in gray to better distinguish the rankings.
The 49ers' Patrick Willis and the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald have long been perceived as the best players in the division. They've got additional competition, but those two ranked higher than anyone else in the NFC West.
There were sure to be oversights in a project of this scope. Defensive end Calais Campbell of the Cardinals stands out to me as the most glaring one. I might have placed him between Patrick Peterson and Chris Long in defensive rankings as they stood for this project.
Three Seahawks cornerbacks earned spots on the list even though one of them, Antoine Winfield, reportedly could be released by the team Saturday in the reduction to 53 players Saturday.
A quick look at ranked players by team:
San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Willis (3), Aldon Smith (10), Justin Smith (11), Vernon Davis (18), NaVorro Bowman (18), Joe Staley (25), Mike Iupati (32), Frank Gore (37), Colin Kaepernick (42), Ahmad Brooks (56), Anthony Davis (60), Donte Whitner (64), Michael Crabtree (78), Anquan Boldin (83) and Jonathan Goodwin (92).
Seattle Seahawks: Richard Sherman (8), Earl Thomas (17), Percy Harvin (26), Marshawn Lynch (27), Brandon Browner (46), Russell Wilson (47), Russell Okung (49), Kam Chancellor (49), Max Unger (57), Bobby Wagner (67), Winfield (70), Cliff Avril (74) and Chris Clemons (85).
St. Louis Rams: Long (40), James Laurinaitis (57), Jake Long (61), Cortland Finnegan (63).
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald (7), Patrick Peterson (19), Daryl Washington (59) and Darnell Dockett (79).
The San Francisco 49ers trail the Seattle Seahawks by one in the final quarter.
They are in good position to prevail, however.
Vernon Davis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis stand tallest among the as-yet-revealed players in the #NFLrank project highlighting 100 top players on each side of the ball. Seattle's Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman remain leading candidates to appear as the project continues.
Sixty-three voters ranked players for the project. The chart highlights 49ers among the players ranking 21st through 100th on offense or defense. We'll learn the 20 highest-ranked players on each side of the ball over the next couple days.
The 49ers have placed 10 players on the list so far. The Seahawks have placed 11, the St. Louis Rams four and the Arizona Cardinals two.
San Francisco's total includes eight players on offense and two on defense. Seattle's breakdown is more evenly distributed: six on defense, five on offense. But with top 49ers defenders such as Bowman, Willis and the two Smiths still unranked, the numbers should even out some for the 49ers.
Note that quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson both fell in the 40s. Both were ascending late last season. Both have a chance to climb further this season.