NFL Nation: Corey Lemonier

How much will we see Aldon Smith?

November, 1, 2013
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More thoughts on Aldon Smith as he has been activated from the non-football illness list:

Smith
No rush: Yes, technically, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to activate Smith from the non-football injury list because he left treatment but there was no rush here. It all revolved around substance-abuse treatment. He could have stayed in treatment for an unlimited amount of time. The fact that Smith was released from treatment was a signal from his physicians and treatment experts that he is ready to resume football activities.

Working his way back into the lineup: Smith will probably play in the 49ers’ next game, against Carolina at home Nov. 10. But don't be surprised if Smith sits and watches for a week. He needs to work his way back into football shape. Expect the 49ers to say Smith needs to win his way back into the lineup. Technically, that’s true. Dan Skuta and rookie Corey Lemonier have played well in Smith’s absence and the 49ers are 5-0 without him. But Smith is a special talent. If he has his life on the right track and he’s healthy, he will play. So, while it could take a bit of time for him to get back to full action, the fact that Smith is active means he will soon be on the field.

49ers second-quarter checkpoint

October, 30, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The second quarter of the San Francisco 49ers' season is complete. Now let’s look at some key developments as the defending NFC champions sit at 6-2:

Story of the quarter: The perfect quarter. The 49ers went 4-0 in the second quarter of the season and have won five straight games. San Francisco has been dominant in all three phases of the game and have scored at least 31 points in each game during the streak. It is the first time they have done that since 1997. It’s been a stunning rebound from a team that started 1-2 with a lot of adversity. Heading into the second half of the season, the 49ers are clearly a team capable of finishing the season with a downtown parade.

[+] EnlargeVernon Davis
Jan Kruger/The FA via Getty ImagesVernon Davis has scored at least one touchdown in four of San Francisco's past five games.
Offensive MVP of the quarter: Tight end Vernon Davis. Last season, there was talk Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a lousy chemistry. That changed during the 2012 postseason and the two have continued to build their chemistry this season. After suffering a hamstring injury in Week 2, Davis has been explosive. The highlight came in Week 6 when he had eight catches for 180 yards and two TDs against Arizona. It was tied for the third-highest yardage total by an NFL tight end in the past 20 years. Davis’ presence has helped ease the pain of the injuries the 49ers have at receiver.

Defensive player of the quarter: NaVorro Bowman. This is one of the game’s great underrated players. He is one of the greatest defensive forces in the league. Bowman was my choice as the first-quarter defensive MVP as well. Fellow star linebacker Patrick Willis has been coming back from a groin injury that affected him in both quarters of the season. Bowman has picked up the slack and led the charge of a defense that is playing at a high level.

Rookie of the quarter: Corey Lemonier. The pass-rusher has been playing extensively with star Aldon Smith in alcohol treatment for the past five weeks. Lemonier, a third-round draft pick from Auburn, is getting valuable playing time and he is showing he is worthy of it. He has given the team spark in both pass and run defense. Lemonier is showing he has a bright future.

Disappointment of the quarter: Lack of receiver depth. Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin are simply not ready to be No. 2 and No. 3 receiving options. Both have started opposite Anquan Boldin during the quarter. Neither made an impact. The 49ers badly miss injured receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Even rookie Quinton Patton, who has missed the past four games with a broken foot, may become a better option than Williams and Baldwin. It’s amazing the 49ers’ offense has been so productive with the lack of any receiving options behind Boldin and Davis.

Biggest unanswered question of the quarter: The reinforcements. The 49ers have six players who are set to return Players such as Smith, Crabtree, Manningham and cornerback Eric Wright all could make a major impact. It is unusual for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations to be poised to get this type of boost in the second half of the season. The biggest question is exactly when all of these players will be ready to return.

Fearless prediction for the second quarter: Win in New Orleans. One of the biggest NFL games of the third quarter will come in New Orleans in Week 11 when the 49ers visit the Saints. New Orleans is 6-1 and 4-0 at home. This is one of the best home teams in the NFL. Still, the 49ers will not be intimidated. This team has a steely focus and has been through some tough conditions this season. I see a big road upset in a game that will have major NFC playoff implications. A win in New Orleans would serve the 49ers well. All eight of their final games are against NFC opponents (they went 3-1 against the AFC South). Conference games are paramount when it comes to playoff tiebreakers. San Francisco has just three games remaining against teams with winning records. Thus, a win at New Orleans would be enormous.

Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 6

October, 14, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 32-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals:

Davis has huge game: Tight end Vernon Davis had a brilliant game with eight catches for 180 yards. He tied for the third-most yards by a tight end in a game in the past 20 years. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick connected with six other receivers for a total of 72 yards. The 49ers’ passing game revolves around either Davis or Anquan Boldin. Sunday, Davis carried the day as he had 171 receiving yards in the first half.

[+] EnlargeSan Francisco's Frank Gore
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesFrank Gore rushed for 101 yards on 25 carries against the Cardinals.
Grinding the meat: The 49ers’ had 149 yards rushing and starter Frank Gore had 101 yards on 25 carries. Gore is averaging 104.3 yards over the past four games. The 49ers are 3-1 in those games. The 49ers relied on the ground game on an 18-play, 89-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown to give San Francisco a nine-point lead late in the game. Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers were “grinding the meat” during the drive.

Rookies continue turnover craze: The rookie class is making a difference for San Francisco. First-round pick Eric Reid had an interception and a fumble recovery. Third-round pick Corey Lemonier had a sack for a safety and forced a fumble. The 49ers forced four turnovers. They have created 10 turnovers in the past three games.

Discipline continues to get better: The 49ers were penalized just four times on Sunday. They have been flagged a total of seven times in the past two games after being flagged 39 times in the first four games. Earlier in the season, San Francisco was committing silly penalties (especially on defense) at an alarming rate. They hurt the team in losses to Seattle and Indianapolis. It seems like they have cleaned the issue up, which is vital moving forward.

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

October, 13, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 32-20 win over Arizona Cardinals on Sunday:

What it means: The 49ers have won three straight games. Their point total Sunday was their lowest in the win streak. San Francisco is now 4-2 with the easier part of its schedule upcoming. The 49ers were not perfect, but they made big plays on offense and forced four turnovers. San Francisco has forced double-digit turnovers during the win streak. All seems to be going well for the 49ers after they stumbled in Weeks 2 and 3.

Stock watch: San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis had a huge game. He had 180 yards receiving, which is the tied for the third highest total by a tight end in the NFL in the past 20 years. The 49ers don't have a lot of receiving weapons, but Davis got open and quarterback Colin Kaepernick got the ball to him. The 49ers' run offense also came up big on an epic 18-play, 83-yard drive made the score 29-20 with 6:35 to go. Most of the yardage was gained on the ground. The stock is rising for the 49ers' rookies. First-round pick Eric Reid had an interception and a fumble recovery. Third-round pick Corey Lemonier had a sack for a safety and a forced fumble.

Injuries on defense continue: Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey went out early with a hamstring injury. Dorsey was playing well this season. He was jogging on the sideline, so perhaps the injury will not be serious. The 49ers can't afford another extended injury on defense, especially the line. Dorsey was taking over for Ian Williams, who went out for the season with a leg injury in Week 2. Ray McDonald is playing through a biceps injury. Dorsey's replacement, Tony Jerod-Eddie was banged up late in the game. If Dorsey's injury lingers, the 49ers may be forced to push rookie Quinton Dial to the field. He is eligible to practice this week after starting the season on the PUP.

What's next: The 49ers travel to Tennessee to play the Titans, which lost to Seattle on Sunday. After playing in Nashville, the 49ers head to London for a week to prepare for the Jaguars to finish their AFC South slate. Yes, two winnable road games are on the horizon for the 49ers.
NaVorro BowmanCary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsAfter giving up 84 points in three games, NaVorro Bowman and the 49ers are now clamping down.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The code for San Francisco 49ers to succeed under Jim Harbaugh has not been difficult to crack.

It begins with the defense, a unit that is dominating despite playing without All-Pro linebackers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis.

Sure, the 49ers have been pretty spectacular on offense at times. But this team lives and dies with its defense. And if the 49ers stick around as serious contenders in the NFC, it will be because of the defense.

After all, it was the defense that a week ago lifted San Francisco out of a two-game funk. And while completely dominating the Houston Texans 34-3 on Sunday night, the 49ers showed the rest of the league that this is still one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL.

And that this is still a Super Bowl contender.

There was serious concern about the 49ers after they were humiliated by the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts in Weeks 2 and 3. They were outscored 56-10 in those two games. The defense looked tired, and injuries were mounting.

Yet it no longer appears to be a crisis situation in San Francisco. The 49ers have responded to those two drubbings by outscoring the Rams (on the road) and the Texans by a combined 69-14.

After Seattle lost to the Colts on Sunday to drop to 4-1, the 3-2 49ers are back in the NFC West hunt. And after a tough start, the schedule now softens a bit for the 49ers. They host Arizona next week, and then travel to play the Jake Locker-less Titans and then the winless Jaguars in London before the bye. If the San Francisco defense continues to play well, turning a 1-2 start into a 6-2 record at the bye appears more than realistic.

There is no reason to think this defense is going to sag now. It has thrived under adversity.

Smith went to an alcohol treatment center on Sept. 24. There is no timetable for his return, but he may not be back until after the Nov. 2 bye. Special-teamer Dan Skuta and rookie Corey Lemonier have played in his place. Willis went out with a groin injury in the Colts’ loss. The team is being cautious with him (he was a game-time inactive Sunday), and barring a setback, Willis might return against Arizona. Meanwhile, Michael Wilhoite has played well in his absence.

This has been a theme for San Francisco this year. For a defense that hasn’t rotated much under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, its depth is really showing.

Glenn Dorsey took over at nose tackle when Ian Williams went down for the season in Week 2. Tramaine Brock has been spectacular as the No. 3 cornerback since Nnamdi Asomugha went down with a knee injury two weeks ago. There is little chance Asomugha wins his job back.

Sunday’s night’s domination did not come without the potential of more adversity. Standout defensive tackle Ray McDonald left with a biceps injury. He said after the game he will have an MRI on Monday. McDonald would be missed if he is out for an extended period of time. However, his replacement, Tony Jerod-Eddie, had an interception Sunday night after McDonald was hurt.

That’s what these 49ers are doing. Backups are producing when the stars are out.

To think the San Francisco defense has allowed just 14 points in two games playing without Smith, one of the most dynamic pass-rushers in the game, and Willis, a potential Hall of Famer, is stunning. How many other defenses could thrive without their best players?

"That’s why we are here," Skuta said. "You see it in practice. You see guys step up when needed here."

Added standout safety Donte Whitner, who had a tremendous game Sunday night: “This defense runs 22, 23 [deep] … it’s one of the deepest defenses in the league. … Yes, we miss our guys, but we still have to get the job done. You saw that tonight.”

[+] EnlargeTramaine Brock
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesTramaine Brock intercepted two passes and returned one for a TD on the game's first series.
The 49ers’ defensive dominance started early Sunday. On Houston's first drive, Brock made the first of his two interceptions against quarterback Matt Schaub and returned the ball 18 yards for a touchdown. It was the fourth game in a row that Schaub had an interception returned for a score. It set the tone for a long night for the Texans' quarterback.

The 49ers forced four turnovers. The 49ers ate Schaub alive on short passes. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Schaub averaged just 4 yards on passes that traveled 10 or fewer yards. All three of Schaub’s interceptions came on short passes.

The 49ers scored 34 points and were runaway winners -- and quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed just 6 of 15 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. San Francisco was in game-management mode because of what the defense was doing.

“We look to set the tone on defense,” Wilhoite said. “That’s the plan every week, and it worked out well tonight.”

There was a lot of concern about the San Francisco defense when this team was 1-2. It had allowed 84 points in three games. But I thought the point was misleading. The defense sagged late in games and got tired after the San Francisco offense couldn’t muster and sustain drives against the Seahawks and the Colts.

Sunday night, the offense, led again by a strong ground game, held up its end of the bargain and again and fed off the defense. That’s how the 49ers win.

"I know some people were worried about the defense earlier," Whitner said. "But this is a strong, winning defense. We are showing that."
Arian Foster and Frank GoreGetty ImagesTwo of the NFL's top rushers, Arian Foster and Frank Gore, will try to carry their teams Sunday night.

The Houston Texans are not pleased with themselves, and neither is their Week 5 opponent, the San Francisco 49ers.

After starting off Week 4 the right way with a big win at St. Louis, the 49ers bitterly watched the Texans blow a huge fourth-quarter lead at home in an eventual overtime loss to Seattle, allowing the Seahawks to maintain their two-game lead over the 49ers in the NFC West.

San Francisco will try not to fall further behind when it welcomes the shell-shocked Texans to Candlestick Park on Sunday night. Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and I discuss the matchup.

Ganguli: What changed for the 49ers between Weeks 3 and 4? Is it as simple as playing a weaker opponent, or did they rediscover their identity?

Williamson: Easier competition may have had something to do with it. Against Seattle and Indianapolis, the 49ers were outscored by a combined 56-10. Against the Rams, the 49ers had their way in a 35-11 victory. I truly think the 49ers’ struggles this season have been more because of themselves than their opponent. The trouble in Weeks 2 and 3 started on offense. The 49ers badly miss injured receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham; they don’t have much beyond Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis, who has been injured. Fortunately, the rushing game got going in Week 4. If the 49ers can keep the run game hot and if quarterback Colin Kaepernick can get the ball to Boldin and Davis, the 49ers will be fine. That will take pressure off a good defense that wasn’t the main problem against the Seahawks or the Colts.

Tania, do you believe the Texans are up to the task of staying with the 49ers, especially after the heartbreak of the Seattle loss?

Ganguli: They were angry about that loss, especially J.J. Watt, who held a menacing news conference (menacing in general, not menacing toward reporters) after the game. They have taken steps to regroup mentally, holding a players-only meeting that allowed for venting, but I think their ability to bounce back will depend on being able to fix some of the problems they had in their first game. Those problems go well beyond quarterback Matt Schaub, who made the most costly and talked-about error this past Sunday in throwing a pick-six late in the fourth quarter. The Texans gave up a crucial fumble, dropped a couple of passes and committed a 15-yard penalty that helped set up the game-winning field goal. You’re right that the Texans’ defense hasn’t been the team's biggest problem this season, but Houston has given up drives of 99 and 98 yards this season, and it would like to change that.

How has losing Aldon Smith affected San Francisco’s defense?

Williamson: It would be inaccurate and na´ve to think the 49ers don’t miss Smith. He will be away from the team for about a month as he seeks treatment for alcohol abuse. Smith had 4.5 sacks in the first three games this season, and he has an NFL-high 38 sacks since 2011. Last week, the 49ers dominated the Rams’ offense without Smith and star inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who was out with a groin injury, and recorded five sacks. Rookie Corey Lemonier and special-teamer Dan Skuta both played well in place of Smith, and linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks led the way with big games. Still, Smith is such a presence. The 49ers will be hard-pressed to have sustained dominance without him.

Tania, do you think the Texans can take advantage of Smith's absence?

Ganguli: The Texans have had their own issues in the trenches lately. Left tackle Duane Brown has missed the past two games with turf toe and is still considered day-to-day. Left guard Wade Smith rotated with second-year guard Ben Jones last weekend. Coach Gary Kubiak said that was to preserve Smith for the long term; Smith had knee surgery during the preseason and returned from it after three weeks. Meanwhile, right tackle Derek Newton, another young player, has really struggled. In fact, Brown’s replacement, Ryan Harris, has played far better than Newton, Houston's regular starter on the other side. Now right guard Brandon Brooks is hurt with a toe injury that’s got his foot booted. The most consistent player, in terms of health and production, on the offensive line has been center Chris Myers, but Schaub has faced a lot of pressure this season.

Speaking of Schaub, he had a rough weekend against the best secondary in the NFL. What challenges will he face against the 49ers?

Williamson: I think Schaub’s struggles start with him, and I think the 49ers will try to pressure him quickly to see if he crumbles again. You know better than I do, but from seeing replays, Schaub looked broken after the Richard Sherman pick-six. The 49ers are well aware that Schaub has thrown interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns in the past three games, and they will be looking to add to the list. A player to watch is rookie safety Eric Reid. He has proven to be a ballhawk already. I could see him benefiting from Schaub’s issues.

This is a huge key to the game, Tania. Do you think Schaub can bounce back and be effective?

Ganguli: That will be the most important factor in this game. While I don’t blame the entire collapse on Schaub, you’re absolutely right that he looked broken after Sherman’s interception. By contrast, in Week 2, Schaub threw a late pick-six against Tennessee that put the Texans in an eight-point hole, but he recovered quickly enough to lead a game-tying drive that forced overtime. He didn’t bounce back as well against the Seahawks. He made a few nice throws, including a 17-yard pass to Andre Johnson, but overall, looked rattled. If he can’t recover, the Texans have no chance. But if he can rediscover the guy who led that comeback effort you and I watched live against San Diego in Week 1, I think the Texans are in good shape.

 

A look at the Aldon Smith situation

September, 29, 2013
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His status: Star San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith checked into an alcohol treatment center Monday. He was arrested three days earlier for drunk driving. It was his second such arrest in less than two years.

Smith
Timeline: Smith will not be ready to leave treatment until physicians declare him ready. Often, such treatment takes about four weeks. Then, he’d have to get conditioned back to football shape. The 49ers leave for London after playing at Tennessee on Oct. 20. That is 27 days after Smith checked into treatment. In the best-case scenario, perhaps he could join the team for an Oct. 27 game against Jacksonville in England. But the more likely scenario, assuming all goes well in treatment, is Smith joins the team after it returns from London for the bye week and is ready to play Nov. 10 against Carolina. Smith’s first court date on his DUI charge is Nov. 4. Smith is likely facing about a two-game NFL suspension if convicted on the charge. It is not out of the question he serves the suspension next season.

Financially speaking: CSN Bay Area reported during the week that the 49ers have opted to pay Smith while he is on the reserve/Non-Football Illness list. Paying Smith was the team’s choice. His weekly paycheck is about $99,000. It is an act of good faith by the organization, which has vowed to support its star during this troubling time. As for a contract extension, that probably will have to wait, at least, a year as Smith will likely have to show the franchise he can be trusted on a long-term basis.

The team without him: Promising rookie Corey Lemonier and veteran Dan Skuta took the place of Smith, who has 4.5 sacks this season and an NFL-high 38.5 sacks since 2011, in a 35-11 win over St. Louis. San Francisco had five sacks and it played brilliant defense without both Smith and star inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who was out with a groin injury.

Bottom line: Smith has to get healthy. All involved are in agreement -- his personal well being is paramount at this point and we won’t see him in uniform until it is determined he is on the road to recovery.
A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 35-11 road win over the St. Louis Rams:

Digging deep: The 49ers simply had to win this game. They were 1-2 and were outscored by a combined 56-10 the past two weeks. Their offense looked horrible, injuries were piling up, linebacker Aldon Smith left the team to seek alcohol rehab treatment and they were playing on a short week. The odds were stacked against them -- and the 49ers responded. They dominated on both sides of the ball. They are now 2-2 and feeling pretty good about themselves.

[+] EnlargeFrank Gore
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsFrank Gore gained 153 of the 49ers' 219 rushing yards against the Rams Thursday.
Back to basics: In the first three weeks, the 49ers didn’t run the ball consistently on offense and had trouble, at times, on defense. That’s not the 49ers’ way. They win by dominating on the ground on both sides of the ball. It sets their tone, which is what happened Thursday. Frank Gore ran for 153 yards (his highest total since 2009) on 20 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches late in the second quarter gave the 49ers a 14-3 lead. It also increases their win probability 18.1 percent to 85.3 percent. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gore had 115 yards between the tackles Thursday. He had a total of 88 yards between the tackles in the first three games. Defensively, the 49ers held the Rams to 18 rushing yards on 19 carries. It was a great bounce-back performance -- especially considering they were missing inside linebacker Patrick Willis -- for a unit that allowed 179 yards on the ground last Sunday against the Colts.

Dodging a bullet: This great win looked like it was going to be ruined very late in the game when standout left tackle Joe Staley was on the turf, yelling in pain. He later said he thought he broke his ankle, but he tweeted that he was fine. Coach Jim Harbaugh said it looked like the team “dodged a bullet.”

Youngsters get involved: The 49ers are one of the league’s youngest teams and they are starting to rely on some less experienced players. Receiver Jon Baldwin played for the first time since being acquired in a deal with Kansas City for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Baldwin came up with some big catches. Harbaugh liked what he saw. Running back LaMichael James played for the first time this season. He didn’t do much, but at least he’s in the mix. Rookie Corey Lemonier played a lot in Smith’s absence and looked promising. Michael Wilhoite played solidly in Willis’ absence. Getting these players work should pay off as the season progresses.

How do 49ers replace Aldon Smith?

September, 23, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Now that linebacker Aldon Smith is out for likely a month as he seeks treatment for a personal matter, where does that leave the San Francisco 49ers' defense?

Smith is on the reserve/non-football-illness list. He can return when cleared by physicians. The 49ers (1-2) play Jacksonville in London in Week 8, on Oct. 27; their bye week follows. Smith can come off the reserve list at any time -- something that is only allowed during the season if the player has substance-abuse issues. The NFL Players Association is also keeping abreast of the matter, as is customary in these situations.

Smith is a supreme pass-rusher. He had 37 sacks in 35 games since the beginning of his rookie season in 2011 (tops in the NFL during that span), including 3.5 this season. The 49ers will have to pick up the slack elsewhere.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said linebackers Ahmad Brooks, Dan Skuta and rookie Corey Lemonier will be called on; Skuta is listed as the starter in Smith’s absence.

Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs can help in nickel-defense situations. The team could also sign a pass-rusher. Regardless, it will be tough for any of those players to have Smith's impact. He was a sack threat on nearly every passing down.

The team will need a complete defensive effort without Smith. ESPN analyst Matt Williamson believes Smith’s absence could expose the 49ers secondary.

“They definitely have problems and I do worry about their pass rush quite a bit,” Williamson said. “I think it has masked a very average secondary over the past few seasons.”

The San Francisco defense allowed 84 points in three games with Smith and it has been vulnerable, especially in the running game. Now without Smith, San Francisco has to find a way to hold defensively. But there are no easy answers.

Taking stock of 2013 NFC West picks

September, 3, 2013
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Eighty-six of the first 88 players drafted in 2013 remain on 53-man rosters entering Week 1. The two exceptions play for NFC West teams.

The Arizona Cardinals' Jonathan Cooper, chosen seventh overall, suffered a season-ending leg injury during preseason. He is on injured reserve. The San Francisco 49ers' Tank Carradine, chosen 40th overall, remains on the reserve/non-football injury list while recovering from a knee injury.

Twenty-five of 39 NFC West choices this year remain on their original teams' 53-man rosters. That includes all seven picks for the St. Louis Rams and seven of nine for the Cardinals. The 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had a higher number of picks arranged lower within each round, and fewer open roster spots to accommodate them.

Injuries have left six picks from the division on various injured lists. Three of the Seahawks' top five picks will not help the team anytime soon. That includes Harper, defensive tackle Jesse Williams (injured reserve) and cornerback Tharold Simon (reserve/physically unable to perform). Percy Harvin, who cost Seattle its 2013 first-round choice, is also injured.

Five 2013 draft choices from the division landed on their original teams' practice squads. One of them, fourth-round choice Chris Harper, subsequently left his original team (Seattle Seahawks) to sign with the 49ers' 53-man roster.

Three picks from the St. Louis Rams and one from the 49ers are scheduled to start in Week 1. Cooper would have started for the Cardinals if healthy.

Harper wasn't the only NFC West draft choice to land on another team. The 49ers' Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round choice, wound up with Kansas City after the Chiefs claimed him off waivers.
The San Francisco 49ers' Parys Haralson dominated against the Kansas City Chiefs' backups during a preseason game this summer. The veteran outside linebacker could presumably start for some other 3-4 teams as a contributor on early downs, but he was less important to a 49ers team featuring four 2012 Associated Press All-Pro selections, including three first-teamers.

Hillis
Haralson
And so the 49ers reached agreement Monday on a trade sending Haralson to the New Orleans Saints, according to reporters who saw Haralson saying goodbye to teammates before practice. The deal, not yet announced by the 49ers and for compensation that has not yet been reported, made sense for New Orleans after the team lost veteran Will Smith to a season-ending knee injury against Houston over the weekend. The Saints are implementing a base 3-4 defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan.

Trading Haralson will save the 49ers $1.3 million in cash and cap space, Brian McIntyre notes. That is more money than the 49ers wanted to pay Haralson as a backup and the same amount Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield was set to earn when his team released him earlier this offseason).

Haralson, 29, started all 16 games in 2011 before suffering a torn triceps tendon during training camp before the 2012 season. He missed the 2012 season. Haralson started between 11 and 16 games for five consecutive seasons after playing sparingly as a rookie fifth-round choice in 2006.

Haralson joins A.J. Jenkins, Delanie Walker, Dashon Goldson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga and Alex Smith as 49ers draft choices to leave the roster this offseason. He became expendable in the team's eyes after San Francisco used a 2013 third-round choice for outside linebacker Corey Lemonier. Aldon Smith, who collected 19.5 sacks last season, replaced Haralson on passing downs in 2011 and would have started in 2012 even if Haralson had been healthy.

Haralson set a career high with eight sacks in 2008. He had two in 2011, when he played 49 percent of the snaps and played primarily at right outside linebacker in base personnel.

Three things revisited: 49ers-Chiefs

August, 16, 2013
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Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' 15-13 exhibition victory Friday night against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium:

1. QB comparison. There wasn't much to compare because these teams took vastly different approaches to the game. The 49ers removed quarterback Colin Kaepernick after one series. The drive started with Frank Gore breaking a 52-yard run. It ended with a field goal after Kaepernick overshot receiver Chad Hall for what should have been a touchdown. That was it for Kaepernick. Four plays, three points, two pass attempts, one completion and zero basis for meaningful analysis. Former 49ers starter Alex Smith played the full first half for the Chiefs and struggled, even against the 49ers' backups. At least three dropped passes hurt his cause. Smith completed 7-of-16 attempts for 62 yards, or 3.9 yards per attempt. The 49ers sent blitzes after Smith and roughed him up a few times, including when Tony Jerod-Eddie leveled his former teammate with a helmet-to-helmet hit.

2. Jenkins and WRs. Second-year receiver A.J. Jenkins was slow to gain traction for a second week in a row. Super-sized Chiefs corner Sean Smith roughed up Jenkins to break up one early pass. Smith also picked off a pass intended for Jenkins. It appeared as though quarterback Colt McCoy might have been expecting Jenkins to break off his route against pressure. Whatever the case, McCoy threw to one spot while Jenkins was continuing up the field. Jenkins did a good job reacting to trip up Smith, preventing a potential touchdown return. Jenkins also provided a block to help McCoy pick up a first down. All in all, however, Smith and the Chiefs' starting secondary smothered Jenkins throughout the first half. Jenkins did make a 21-yard reception against the Chiefs' backups early in the third quarter, but a holding penalty against offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore negated the play.

3. Rookie outside linebacker. Third-round choice Corey Lemonier got to Alex Smith with a strong inside rush against Chiefs rookie tackle Eric Fisher. I went into the game focused on Lemonier, but second-year inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite was the defensive star for San Francisco in the first half. He stopped running back Cyrus Gray for a 1-yard gain. He broke up a pass to Dwayne Bowe in the red zone. Wilhoite also made a tackle for a 4-yard loss on a punt return. The 49ers appear to have found a promising young backup for their all-world inside linebackers.

Note: I'm filing this after the third quarter because we're deep enough into the game for the key analysis to stand. I'll update if necessary.
A quick look at the San Francisco 49ers' 2013 draft class following the team's exhibition opener against the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park:

FS Eric Reid, first round, No. 18 overall. Reid served as the No. 2 free safety behind starter Craig Dahl. He played 44 snaps on defense, the fourth-highest total on the team behind Michael Wilhoite (53), Perrish Cox (47), Nathan Stupar (45). Reid stood out for two solid hits. He had six tackles and handled his assignments well, according to coach Jim Harbaugh. This looked like a good first step toward the starting lineup. Reid added four snaps on special teams.

DE Tank Carradine, second round, No. 40 overall. Carradine remains sidelined while recovering from a knee injury. That was the plan for Carradine when the 49ers drafted him.

TE Vance McDonald, second round, No. 55 overall. McDonald had four receptions for 66 yards while playing 49 offensive snaps, the third-highest total on the team behind Joe Looney (51) and Patrick Omameh (51). McDonald dropped a short pass, but I thought this was a solid debut for him. The pass he caught in stride from Colt McCoy produced a 19-yard gain. McDonald also played five snaps on special teams. His 54 total snaps ranked second on the team behind Wilhoite (59).

OLB Corey Lemonier, third round, No. 88 overall. Lemonier was able to pressure the quarterback while playing 28 snaps on defense, the 13th-highest total for the 24 players to get playing time on that side of the ball. Lemonier played 11 snaps on special teams, tied for the second-highest total on the team behind Cam Johnson (12). Lemonier was not credited with a tackle.

WR Quinton Patton, fourth round, No. 128 overall. A finger injury kept Patton from playing. He's been practicing under orders to not let passes sail past him. The idea is for Patton to get reps without risking additional injury to his finger. His preseason debut will have to wait. But with 2012 second-round pick A.J. Jenkins losing a fumble following his lone reception, there could be opportunities for Patton and other young wideouts.

RB Marcus Lattimore, fourth round, No. 131 overall. Lattimore continues to rehab from a knee injury suffered in college. That was the plan for Lattimore when the 49ers drafted him. He probably will not play this season.

DE Quinton Dial, fifth round, No. 157 overall. Dial has an injured toe and did not play against the Broncos.

LB Nick Moody, sixth round, No. 180 overall. Moody played 29 snaps on defense (43 percent) before leaving the game with an apparent knee injury. Moody indicated after the game that his knee was OK. The team isn't counting on Moody this season, but the rookie has enjoyed a strong initial camp relative to expectations for a sixth-round choice. Moody had four tackles on defense and one on special teams.

QB B.J. Daniels, seventh round, No. 237 overall. Daniels played one snap on offense and three on special teams. The utility player did not play quarterback.

OT Carter Bykowski, seventh round, No. 246 overall. Bykowski played 27 snaps on offense. Officials called him for holding on a second-and-2 play. I did not watch him closely enough to pick up much else. Such is the way it goes for offensive linemen. The mistakes tend to stand out.

CB Marcus Cooper, seventh round, No. 252 overall. Cooper played 24 snaps on defense and eight more on special teams. He made one tackle (on defense).
Alcohol abuse has been a common denominator for a run incidents involving NFL personnel.

News that Denver Broncos executive Matt Russell registered a .246 percent blood-alcohol reading after ramming into a police cruiser put an ugly exclamation point on the situation this week. Tom Nalen, the Broncos' retired former center, called the team cowardly for how it handled another team exec, Tom Heckert, following a DUI arrest a month earlier.

A witness in the murder case implicating New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, since waived by the team, said Hernandez and Odin Lloyd were drinking in excess days before Lloyd's murder. In an unrelated case, authorities arrested Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on suspicion of DUI.

Here in the NFC West, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks could face charges following a June incident reportedly involving alcohol. Brooks allegedly used a beer bottle to strike teammate and designated driver Lamar Divens in the head three times.

The NFL and the 49ers have not yet taken action regarding Brooks, but as the alcohol-related incidents pile up around the league, the issue begs for renewed emphasis.

The league has been focused hard on player safety. Public safety is important, too. As Nalen said regarding the Broncos, perhaps swift and decisive public action against Heckert would have dissuaded Russell from registering a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit for driving.

It's unclear what will happen regarding Brooks. He had revived his career with the 49ers after a rocky tenure in Cincinnati that included a 2008 assault allegation. The 49ers signed Brooks to an extension last offseason. At the time, Brooks pledged to make sure he remained in good standing to avoid being cast off the way Cincinnati let him go.

"I pretty much told myself that I would never let that happen," Brooks said in February 2012. "Regardless of what goes on in my life, I will never let this happen again. I pretty much had to reevaluate myself as a player and a person to become the best person and the best football player I could be, because it's not going to last forever.

"And then once you retire from the game or once the NFL says no to you, we don't want you to play anymore, you want to go out knowing you did all you can do. And that's where I'm at with myself."

The 49ers had three linebackers named first-team Associated Press All-Pro last season. Brooks was named to the second team. Rookie third-round choice Corey Lemonier and former veteran starter Parys Haralson give the 49ers alternatives at outside linebacker.

Brooks, 29, saw his 2013 salary drop from $4.3 million to $2.7 million when contract incentives were not met. His deal carries $1.5 million in annual bonus proration through 2016, money the team still must account for under the salary cap whether or not Brooks remains with the team.

Sometimes it takes a few years to fully assess an NFL draft class' impact. Imperiled veterans can't afford to wait that long.

Among the NFC West veterans on alert as 2013 rookies arrive for minicamps Friday:

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