NFL Nation: San Francisco 49ers

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. -- 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.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick may have had a hard time finding a rhythm this preseason, but it’s not hard to locate the San Francisco 49ers quarterback in the NFL Nation top 100 players poll.

Kaepernick checks in at No. 33 among offensive players a year after being No. 42.

“Since becoming the starting quarterback for the 49ers in Week 11 of 2012, Kaepernick has the third-highest Total QBR in the NFL (70),” according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This preseason, Kaepernick has played in seven series, and the 49ers have scored only two field goals with him leading the offense. It is unlikely he will see much time in the 49ers’ preseason finale Thursday at the Houston Texans.

“We have another chance to go out and work on our offense,” he said Tuesday.

Then is he a little worried at the relative lack of production by the first-string offense through three exhibition games? Kaepernick went full Alfred E. Neuman.

“I’ve never seen worrying help anyone’s problems, or help them get better,” he said. “So I don’t worry.”

Kaepernick has completed 12 of 22 passes in the preseason for 115 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions and two carries for 13 yards and a lost fumble.

Following are the other 49ers players listed thus far on the #NFLRank 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. 42 – RB Frank Gore

No. 33 – QB Colin Kaepernick


No. 97 – SS Antoine Bethea

No. 74 – LB Ahmad Brooks

No. 71 – FS Eric Reid
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN's NFL Nation TV's Spreecast episode No. 20.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter), Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) and Scott Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers reporter) will discuss a range of topics from Johnny Manziel getting sacked and mocked by Michael Sam, the Oakland Raiders being named the least desirable team to play for in the NFL in an poll and the 49ers' offense continuing to struggle in the preseason, among other timely issues.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

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.

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
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.

MNF moments, No. 16: Rice sets TD record

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Jerry RiceAP Photo
To celebrate the 45th season of "Monday Night Football," a panel of contributors has selected the 45 most memorable moments in MNF history. Follow along as we reveal one per day and count down to this season's MNF debut.

No. 16: 49ers 44, Los Angeles Raiders 14 | Sept. 5, 1994

With the outcome of the Los Angeles Raiders-San Francisco 49ers game never in doubt, the only question was whether receiver Jerry Rice would break the all-time career touchdown mark.

Rice had tied the record on a 23-yard rush earlier in the fourth quarter, the seventh rushing touchdown of his pro career. The 49ers were leading 37-14 late in the fourth quarter, but Rice stayed in the game.

Fans at Candlestick Park are certainly glad he did.

Rice scored his third touchdown of the game with less than five minutes remaining, a 38-yard reception inbetween two Raiders defenders. Rice celebrated by raising his hands above his head and then was swarmed by teammates. The score gave Rice 127 career touchdowns, breaking Jim Brown's 29-year-old record.

Rice went on to score 208 touchdowns in his career (33 more than Emmitt Smith), a current record that may never be broken.
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.

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.

"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 #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.

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."

MNF moments, No. 18: T.O.'s Sharpie

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
Terrell Owens Tami Tomsic/Getty Images
To celebrate the 45th season of "Monday Night Football," a panel of contributors has selected the 45 most memorable moments in MNF history. Follow along as we reveal one per day and count down to this season's MNF debut.

No. 18: 49ers 28, Seahawks 21 | Oct. 14, 2002

That had to be awkward for Greg Eastman, right? Financial advisor to both star San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens and top Seattle Seahawks cornerback Shawn Springs, Eastman was sitting in Springs' luxury suite at Seahawks Stadium (now CenturyLink Field) the night of the infamous Sharpie incident.

After Owens caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia over Springs for what was the game-winning touchdown, the receiver pulled a pen out of his sock, autographed the ball and got it to Eastman, who was sitting in the burned cornerback's suite.

Owens had promised Eastman all of it before the game, and seconds before that series began Owens asked his training staff for the Sharpie.

The incident was another in a long line of Owens' antics, including posing on the Dallas Cowboys' star at midfield, throwing a fan's popcorn into his helmet, borrowing a cheerleader's pompoms and the most-covered driveway workout in sports history. But celebration generally follows accomplishment, and Owens' six catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns on this Monday night helped San Francisco notch a division win.

49ers practice report

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – On their first offensive drive of the preseason, the San Francisco 49ers went 66 yards in seven plays against the Baltimore Ravens and Phil Dawson kicked a 25-yard field goal.

Since then?

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsColin Kaepernick and the 49ers' offense have struggled to score points throughout the preseason.
Nothing. The 49ers have been shut out. That’s 20 fruitless possessions total, and running.

Granted, starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick and, to a great extent, the first-team offense has only played two of those ensuing series. But to be blanked for such a lengthy time should not sit well with the 49ers, especially after being pummelled, 34-0, by the Denver Broncos on Sunday in the first game at Levi’s Stadium.

“Not good,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Wednesday, “at all.”

Consider: the 49ers are the only team in the NFL without a touchdown after at least two preseason games. Which is why it seemed strange but appropriate that Roman opened his presser by commending his colleagues in what appeared to be a pump-up speech.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on right now,” he said, unprompted. “Our offensive staff, I’ve just got to commend them. To a man, they do a great job. Very fortunate to work with this group. This is our fourth year together, for the most part, a couple guys here and there, and to a position, I think they do as good a job as anybody in the NFL.”

Asked why he would make such a statement, Roman did not flinch.

“Probably could do it every day,” he said. “They do a great job, day in and day out. Work tirelessly. It’s a staff with absolutely no motives, other than to help the players and to win.

“Probably should do it more.”

Kaepernick said a day earlier that the 49ers' offense merely had to establish a “rhythm” to get going.

“I think that’s the biggest thing we need to get right now,” he said.

And by Roman’s analysis of the game tape, that should not be too hard to establish soon. Perhaps even in this weekend’s third preseason game, against the visiting San Diego Chargers.

“A lot of very good individual performances, a lot of good individual moments but not enough collective, cohesion, precision by the offensive unit to play winning football,” Roman said of his players’ performance against Denver.

“You go through the tape, [here are] a lot of good things. But it serves as a great tool for us to understand that football is the ultimate team sport and it takes 11 guys on the field to get the job done. We’ve got to do better.”