NFC West: LaMichael James

49ers practice report

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Before being pulled off Levi’s Stadium’s loose grass field less than an hour after practice began by coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers did go through the paces for a bit in front of a couple thousand fans.

A few highlights, then, of the 49ers' final public practice.
  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was still not in attendance, as he was in Texas the day before for the birth of his son Michael III.
  • Even before the public practice was cut short, the poor condition of the field was obvious, from divots flying out when players made cuts to the discolored spots in the middle of the field. And if Bruce Ellington tweaking his right ankle in a one-on-one drill with cornerback Chris Culliver was not proof enough, then Stevie Johnson taking a spill untouched on an out pattern at the goal line and jerking his left leg sealed it.
  • Phil Dawson, one of the more accurate kickers in NFL history, continued to work on his craft after missing a pair of field goals in Sunday’s 34-0 exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos by kicking numerous field goals. If Andy Lee was not holding, then Dawson had a metal holder in his place so he could work solo.
  • Ellington, LaMichael James and veteran Anquan Boldin were the three players fielding punts.
  • Cornerback Tramaine Brock picked off McLeod Bethel-Thompson on a pass intended for David Reed on the right sideline and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

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)

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)

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.

LINEBACKERS (7)

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.

CORNERBACKS (5)

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.

SAFETIES (5)

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.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Wrapping up the final day of the San Francisco 49ers' mandatory minicamp:

A lot has been made about the structure of the new contract quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed through 2020. He is guaranteed $13 million through a unique structure. But if Kaepernick plays well, he should rank in the top five quarters of the league. Kaepernick made it clear Thursday he has no problem with the contract.

"You can skew things however you want," Kaepernick said. "At the end of the day, a lot of the way the contract is set up is how every other quarterback's contract is set up. The things that aren't set up like those contracts are because we wanted them that way so we could sign other players. It was very deliberate by my agents, the organization and myself that we wanted things done this way, so we could keep a solid team here."

Fourth-round pick, receiver Bruce Ellington had a nice minicamp. He impressed his new quarterback, which is important.

"Bruce has been amazing out here," Kaepernick said of Ellington. "He's picked thing up very quickly. Good route runner. Very good feel for the game and he's made plays when we've given him the opportunity."

Harbaugh had some interesting things to say about his linebacker crew. The team will likely miss star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman for half the season while he recovers from a torn ACL. Still, Harbaugh likes what he sees from the deep group.

"I thought our linebackers were dominating," Harbaugh said. "Patrick [Willis] as well. Corey Lemonier, you'll see that this is Year 2 for Corey, and Dan Skuta. Outstanding group there. I think [rookie] Aaron Lynch is going to be a real good player, too. He's shown some real good things before he hurt a hamstring. So that's a real position of, not only strength, but a position of dominance for us. Feel real good about that position."

Harbaugh had a great line on rookie linebacker Chris Borland: "Borland was … to quote Denny Green, 'he is who we thought he was.' He's that kind of player. He's done a very nice job."

Harbaugh is also quite thrilled with the depth on both the defensive and offensive lines.

Harbaugh pointed out the offseason performances of several players. The names that popped out to me included backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, running back LaMichael James and rookie defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey. All three will be interesting to watch in training camp.

Harbaugh said veterans report to training camp July 23 and training camp practices start July 24. There will be three practices that will be held at new Levi's Stadium and will be open to the public. Those dates will be announced.

The 49ers will practice with the Baltimore Ravens in August after their preseason game August 7. Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters Thursday the Ravens hope to come out to visit the 49ers next year.

The final minicamp practice lasted 55 minutes.

Harbaugh will embark on his missionary trip to Peru on Saturday for the sixth straight year.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Many thought heading the San Francisco 49ers would trade way up in the first round of the draft to acquire a stud receiver.

Events did not unfold that way but the 49ers receiving crew is now loaded.

After trading a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick to Buffalo for veteran Stevie Johnson on Friday, the 49ers took South Carolina speedster Bruce Ellington with the sixth pick of the fourth round.

Just as running back Carlos Hyde, center Marcus Martin and linebacker Chris Borland were Friday, Ellington was considered a high value choice. Some scouts thought he’d go in the second round.

Ellington gives the 49ers blazing speed from a receiver, the one thing they appeared to be lacking.

With Johnson, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis, the 49ers have plenty of veterans who will get open. Now, they can design packages to leverage Ellington’s speed. Second-year receiver Quinton Patton also came on strong late in the season.

It now appears highly unlikely Brandon Lloyd, who signed earlier this offseason with a team-friendly deal, will make the team. He doesn’t play special teams. If the team keeps six receivers, special teams ace Kassim Osgood should stick.

The Ellington pick could also affect running back LaMichael James. Ellington can return kicks and punts, the main ability James offered. General manager Trent Baalke reiterated Friday night that the team wanted to keep James, but Ellington's selection may have changed that situation.

49ers' draft primer

May, 6, 2014
May 6
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With the NFL draft two days away, let's look at some questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers:

Will it be easy to trade up? Reports indicate the 49ers are expected to be one of the most aggressive teams attempting to move up. The 49ers have the No. 30 overall pick and six in the first 100. They will likely start considering a trade once the draft gets into the No. 12-14 range and then they work on it until it works.

Is this the year Harbaugh drafts a Stanford player? This is the fourth draft for coach Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco since he was hired away from Stanford. The 49ers have yet to draft a player from Stanford with Harbaugh. Eleven Stanford players have been drafted in the past three years. Perhaps this year -- the last Cardinal class Harbaugh coached -- will be the year. Stanford has several draft prospects, and perhaps players' like Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ed Reynolds or Ben Gardner will end the drought.

Will the drafting injured player trend continue? Last year, the 49ers took advantage of a surplus of picks and few needs by taking injured players Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore. The two were essentially redshirted and are now expected to play. Again, the 49ers have a lot of picks and few needs. Perhaps injured players such as Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley, Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin and Clemson guard Brandon Thomas could attract the 49ers.

Will the quarterback whisperer get a new charge? Harbaugh has made it clear in his three NFL seasons that he loves working with young quarterbacks. The 49ers are candidates to draft a quarterback in the mid-round as they try to develop a backup for Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh has studied several quarterbacks this spring. Among the candidates are Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, San Jose State's David Fales and Clemson's Tajh Boyd.

How many picks are enough? I wouldn't be shocked if the 49ers trade up a few times. This is a loaded roster. There aren't that many -- maybe five to seven -- rookies who will make this 53-man roster. So, expect the 49ers to lean toward quality over quantity.

Will they pick a new return man? Incumbent returner LaMichael James is working out on his own and is open to a trade. Even if James isn't dealt this week, the 49ers may look to replace him. I wouldn't be shocked if one of the receivers and/or cornerbacks the 49ers look at early doubles as a returner.

Where does a pass-rusher fit? Aldon Smith's future is clouded by legal issues. The 49ers might decide to try to find a pass-rusher. If so, they may have to do it fairly early. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay thinks the run on impact pass-rushers may be over in the first 50 picks.
In a predictable development, running back/returner LaMichael James is staying away from the San Francisco 49ers' offseason conditioning program, which started Monday, a league source confirmed.

James
The Sacramento Bee reported last week the 49ers were shopping the little-used 2012 second-round pick. A league source said James would welcome a trade if it meant more playing time. The source would not say if James requested the trade.

This move, even though it's missing out on a voluntary program, is another sign James is interested in moving on. The only part of the offseason program that is mandatory is the June 17-19 minicamp.

There have been rumblings of James' unhappiness since last season. He has occasionally made cryptic remarks on Twitter and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have had to discuss his situation. At the combine in February, Baalke said James still had a place on the team.

The 49ers have a crowded backfield and they could always draft someone to be a returner. I don't get the sense the 49ers are suddenly going to play James more in 2014, so if he stays, he will continue to be dissatisfied with his playing time.

James likely wouldn't command much in return for a trade. Perhaps the 49ers could use James as part of a trade in an attempt to move up in the May 8-10 draft.
The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday evening the San Francisco 49ers are shopping running back/returner LaMichael James. Let's look at what it means:

James
Initial thoughts: There have been rumblings of James' unhappiness since last season. He has occasionally made cryptic remarks on Twitter and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have had to discuss his situation. At the combine in February, Baalke said James still had a place on the team. An NFL source said Wednesday night James would welcome a trade if he meant more playing time. The source would not say that James requested the trade. I don't get the sense the 49ers are suddenly going to play James more in 2014, so if he stays, he will continue to be dissatisfied with his playing time.

What can the 49ers get in return? I wouldn't think much. Just because James was a second-round pick in 2012, it doesn't mean the 49ers will get like value. Remember, the 49ers acquired quarterback Blaine Gabbert for a sixth-round pick this year. Three years ago, he was the No. 10 overall pick. I just don't see the market being high for a little-used running back/returner. Perhaps James could be used as a chip to move up in the draft a bit. It wasn't a good sign that his college coach, Chip Kelly, traded for Darren Sproles instead of James this year.

Would the 49ers miss him? Not really. The 49ers have a crowded backfield and they could always draft someone to be a returner. I could see the team drafting a cornerback or a receiver who can help as a return man.
The San Francisco 49ers are clearly looking for more help for Colin Kaepernick in the passing game.

They were linked to several receivers during the first week of free agency, including Julian Edelman, Hakeem Nicks and Emmanuel Sanders. None of the pursuits materialized and if the 49ers do add a receiver in free agency, it likely would be for depth. The 49ers are expected to draft a speed receiver during the early rounds.

However, there are two in-house players the 49ers hope take the next step and are able to help the passing game: LaMichael James and Vance McDonald, each taken in the second round of the past two drafts.

The 49ers are particularly interested to see McDonald, who had an up-and-down rookie season, take the next step. He finished the season with eight catches and had just one in the final seven games, but he blocked well (he was known more as a receiver at Rice) as a rookie.

If McDonald can improve, it would take pressure off starter Vernon Davis and would give the team another field stretcher.

James hasn’t made much of an impact on offense in his first two NFL seasons. The 49ers didn’t run many screen plays last season, but James has the speed to be efficient on such plays. Last season, coach Jim Harbaugh, while answering a question on the subject, said perhaps the team would look into it.

As the team looks to open up the offense and have more explosive plays, perhaps McDonald and James will play a role.
Echoing what coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Thursday and keeping to the mantra of the organization, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke predictably had this message when speaking to the media Friday: the team’s free-agent plan will be to keep its own.

“Our No. 1 objective is to keep our own guys,” Baalke said.

Whitner
The 49ers' top priorities in the coming weeks (free agency starts March 11) are to re-sign receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson, and perhaps cornerback Tarell Brown. Whitner might be the most difficult to sign. If I had to guess, I’d say Boldin has the best chance of being signed before free agency.

In other topics Baalke addressed:
  • Baalke praised running back Frank Gore for another productive season in 2013 and told reporters the 49ers don’t necessarily have to approach Gore to take a pay cut. He is to make $6.4 million this season.
  • Baalke said he expects Michael Wilhoite and second-year player Nick Moody to fill in for linebacker NaVorro Bowman in the first half of the season as Bowman recovers from torn ACL. Baalke also indicated the team could bring in some competition. He said Bowman will not be rushed.
  • As he did in October, Baalke said the team has no intentions of trading running back/kick returner LaMicheal James. Baalke said he believes James, a second-round pick in 2012, will get more opportunities to run the ball moving forward.
  • Baalke said pass-rushing star Aldon Smith is going well and said the team has “a great support system for him." Smith missed five games in 2013 when he voluntarily entered a substance abuse center. He finished the season strong.
  • Baalke spoke glowingly of 2013 fourth-round pick Quinton Patton. The receiver finished the season strong after missing 10 games with a broken foot. Patton impressed the team with his zeal for the game.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers' defense has evolved this season.

In the recent past, the 49ers were famous for not rotating many players on defense. But injuries have given several young players a chance to play. The youngsters have helped keep up San Francisco’s strong standard of defense; the unit has not slipped despite the infusion of youth.

Jerod-Eddie
One of those players is defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie. And it's likely he will get another chance to make a contribution Sunday against New Orleans.

It appears Ray McDonald will not play because of a high left-ankle sprain. McDonald is a big part of the 49ers’ defense, but Jerod-Eddie has played well. He and Demarcus Dobbs spelled McDonald when he was hurt early against Carolina on Sunday. Jerod-Eddie also played when Glenn Dorsey was hurt earlier in the season and didn’t let the overall line play dip.

The 49ers expect the same thing to happen Sunday with McDonald likely out.

In other notes:
  • The cuts of Kyle Williams and Perrish Cox may bode well for special-teamer Kassim Osgood. He was a surprise inactive player Sunday, but the fact that two players were cut Tuesday that were active Sunday shows that the 49ers still have plans for Osgood.
  • Williams and Cox were the backup punt returners. Now cornerbacks Eric Wright and Tarell Brown will backup LaMichael James on punts. Williams was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who had the 32nd and final claiming priority. If they didn’t claim him, Williams would have become a free agent. Williams joins former teammates Alex Smith and A.J. Jenkins in Kansas City. Cox went unclaimed.
  • The 49ers are practicing with 52 players on the active roster. Coach Jim Harbaugh said a decision will be made later in the week. Derek Carrier remains a candidate to be promoted from the practice squad if Garrett Celek can’t play because of a hamstring injury.
  • Running back Marcus Lattimore said Wednesday he still hopes to get on the field. Next week is the last week Lattimore can begin practicing. He is not expected to play until next season, having suffered a dislocated right kneecap and three torn knee ligaments.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- LaMichael James role with the San Francisco 49ers seems as secure as it has been all season.

James
The team expressed confidence in James on Tuesday when it cut both Kyle Williams and Perrish Cox. They were the only other punt returners on the roster. James took over for Williams as the primary punt returner on Sunday.

So, the team clearly believes James -- a backup running back who was a second-round pick last year -- can handle the job. James averaged 11.7 yards on three punts Sunday in the loss to Carolina.

With James now the punt returner, expect him to get some more carries at running back as well.

Also, the Cox release means Eric Wright will definitely be in the cornerback rotation, Wright was activated to the 53-man roster last week, but he didn’t play last week.

Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 10

November, 11, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Ben MargotAs Colin Kaepernick and the offense go, so go the 49ers. And on Sunday, just about nothing went well.
Offense sputters: The 49ers lost this game on offense. The defense was terrific, but the offensive was lackluster, especially in the second half. All the 49ers had to show for the game was three first-half field goals. The 49ers had just 45 total yards in the second half, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 91 yards and was sacked six times, a season high. The 49ers had just 4 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the 49ers’ success depends on their offensive production. In their six wins, the 49ers have scored at least 31 points. However, in their three defeats, the 49ers have scored in single digits.

Third-down defense sags: The 49ers' defense was very good; the Panthers scored on a broken play and a long field goal. But the 49ers were not perfect on defense. A major reason the Panthers won this game was the third-down success of quarterback Cam Newton. He was 6-for-8 on third-down passes in the second half. This is an area the 49ers immediately have to address with Drew Brees and New Orleans looming.

Smith being eased back in: 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith played about 12 snaps Sunday. Most of his action was as an inside defensive lineman on third down. It was Smith’s first action since Week 3. The 49ers are easing Smith back into game action after he spent five weeks at an alcohol treatment center. He said after the game that he understands the decision, but wants to play more. He said he hopes to be a full a participant next week in New Orleans. I’d think as long as everything remains positive for Smith, he will get more playing time next week.

Returning switch: Not surprisingly, the 49ers made a switch at returner. Kyle Williams, who struggled badly against Jacksonville in Week 8 before the team''s bye week, has been replaced on punts and kickoffs. LaMichael James was the punt returner Sunday and Anthony Dixon returned kicks. I’d expect the switch to continue.

Glenn Dorsey is active

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In a mild surprise, San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Glenn Dorsey is active and he will start Sunday at Tennessee.

Dorsey missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He was listed as questionable on the injury report. Dorsey injured his right hamstring in the first quarter of last Sunday’s win over Arizona.

Rookie Quinton Dial, activated from the physically unable to perform list Saturday, is active.

Running back LaMichael James is inactive again. He was a healthy scratch last week as well. During the week, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said James would have a role on the team this season.

Receiver Jon Baldwin is active. He was ill during the week and was listed as questionable.

Quinton Dial could be activated

October, 17, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Wednesday the team might have to add a player to the 53-man roster if nose tackle Glenn Dorsey can’t play because of a hamstring injury.

Thursday, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio backed up those thoughts. He said rookie Quinton Dial could be activated in time to play at Tennessee Sunday if Dorsey, who didn’t practice Wednesday, can’t play. Practice squad defensive tackle Mike Purcell is also an option.

Dial started practicing this week and the 49ers have until Nov. 5 to activate him from the physically unable to perform list. If Dial is taken off the PUP this week, there is no going back. The 49ers can’t put him back and they won’t cut the fifth-round pick. So, if he is activated this week, he is staying on the roster.

In other 49ers notes:
  • The 49ers have scored 30-plus points four times this season. Only Denver (six) has more 30-plus point games this season. The 49ers have scored 30-plus points in three straight games for first time in 10 years. That’s pretty impressive considering the lack of receiving weapons in San Francisco.
  • 49ers safety Donte Whitner chimes in on the Andrew Luck-Peyton Manning chatter this week.
  • Running back LaMichael James talks to CSN Bay Area about staying patient. He was a healthy scratch last week. Still, Harbaugh said James, a second-round pick last year, will have a role with the team.
  • What if Manning signed with the 49ers?
  • Fangio said this of team physician Dan Garza, who died this week unexpectedly: "He was an A+ doctor and a friend of everyone in the organization. Tremendous individual."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It seems like running back LaMichael James' season took a bad turn as the San Francisco 49ers made him a healthy scratch against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

James was hurt for the first three games of the season but had played two games in a backup role before being inactive Sunday. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that James, a second-round pick in 2012, will still have a role moving forward. Harbaugh said the team decided to go with just Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon as Frank Gore’s backups.

“His development's been fine,” Harbaugh said of James. “He’ll be back playing ... LaMichael’s a very good player and he is a very valuable member of our team. We’ve had a situation where we’ve dressed three running backs on certain games and in certain games we’ve dressed four. But, you know, I definitely, we definitely all value and look at LaMichael as a backup running back, like a two. And, there’s going to come time where he is a, like last year, where he’s fully in the mix and depended on and that time will come again. But, he’s doing a good job. I know he wants to play, he wants to be contributing, and when he is dressed he is contributing and doing that.”

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