San Francisco 49ers: Brian Jennings

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- One of the biggest training camp surprises last year was when rookie Kevin McDermott beat out Brian Jennings for long-snapping job.

Jennings was with the 49ers for 14 years and was a fan favorite.

Many were shocked McDermott, a UCLA product, beat out Jennings, who was famous for his consistency.

Yet, the rookie went out and had a flawless first NFL season. Any worry about the kid whiffing on snaps, quickly dissipated. He showed the same consistency that the venerable Jennings did.

Now that he is entering his second season, McDermott is hoping to become even better.

"There are bigger expectations now, because I've done it all once," McDermott said. "I just have to go and get better and better."

McDermott said he never worried about the pressure of replacing the longest tenured player on the team. He said he couldn't think about that. His only goal was to prove the 49ers right.

As he did last season, McDermott praised veteran kicker Phil Dawson and Andy Lee.

"They are unbelievable," McDermott said. "Without them, I could have had the success I had last year."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – This is one of the few times I've typed Kevin McDermott's name in his rookie season.

That means he’s been perfect.

NFL teams have a credo for long-snappers: Don’t get your name in print; if you do, it usually means you've messed up. As long as the long-snapper snaps well, he usually goes unnoticed. Just as teams want.

But the fact that McDermott has been so good is noteworthy. His battle with venerable and popular snapper Brian Jennings was a major storyline during camp, and it came as a shock to many when the San Francisco 49ers released Jennings in favor of the rookie from UCLA. Jennings was steady as a rock and was the team's elder statesman, having been with the 49ers for 13 years.

But McDermott’s youth, cheaper price tag and potential won out. So far, so good.

“He’s done well,” coach Jim Harbaugh said of McDermott. “That there aren’t weekly questions about Kevin McDermott and his snapping, that’s a real positive. When the snapper’s not, when you’re not talking about the snapper, then he’s doing well. And he has done well. Been a lot of pressure snaps and done a real fine job, and it’s good to point that out.”

McDermott said his battle with Jennings was “surreal” because Jennings was the longest-tenured player on the team and he knew there were a lot of eyes on him. McDermott credits veteran kicker Phil Dawson and punter Andy Lee for guiding him through his rookie season.

“It’s been great,” McDermott said. “As the snapper, you just want to go out and do your job and stay quiet, and it’s been really good so far.”

Sounds like a veteran snapper.

San Francisco 49ers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
Most significant move: The San Francisco 49ers released long-snapper Brian Jennings eight days before Jennings would have set a franchise record for consecutive games played. Jennings had been with the team since 2000 and was the longest-tenured current 49ers player. Undrafted free agent Kevin McDermott will handle snapping duties heading into the regular season. Coach Jim Harbaugh had called the snapping competition close, an indication the 49ers were thinking about going younger and cheaper at a position that can be taken for granted. Still, there was some shock value to such a longtime player receiving his release. The second-guessing will be justified if McDermott falters. Jennings, 36, was automatic.

Receiver trend:The 49ers had the oldest wide receivers in the NFL by average age before and after teams reduced to the previous 75-man limit. They got younger at the position Saturday by parting with Kassim Osgood, who turned 33 in May and was primarily valued for his contributions on special teams. Anquan Boldin (32), Kyle Williams (25), Jon Baldwin (24), Quinton Patton (23) and Marlon Moore (26) were the five wide receivers sticking on the initial 53-man roster. The mix will change as the season progresses. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham enter the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Rules allow them to begin practicing between Aug. 15 and Nov. 19. Once they begin practicing, they have 21 calendar days to join the active roster.

What's next: The 49ers will wait for several players to get healthy. Manningham, Crabtree, Tank Carradine, Eric Wright, Marcus Lattimore, Luke Marquardt and Quinton Dial are on the reserve/PUP or reserve/non-football injury lists. None of them counts against the 53-man roster. None can resume practicing before Oct. 15. Lattimore, the running back San Francisco selected in the fourth round this year, isn't expected back until next season. Another player, Demarcus Dobbs, is on the reserve/suspended list for Week 1. Having so many players on reserve lists gives the 49ers some roster flexibility early in the season. The cuts they made Saturday didn't require as many difficult choices as a team with the 49ers' overall roster strength might anticipate otherwise.

Players cut: OT Carter Bykowski, WR Austin Collie, CB Marcus Cooper, TE MarQueis Gray, WR Chad Hall, RB Jewel Hampton, WR Lavelle Hawkins, LB Joe Holland, WR Chuck Jacobs, LS Brian Jennings, LB Travis Johnson, CB Darryl Morris, OG Patrick Omameh, WR Kassim Osgood, NT Mike Purcell, SS Trenton Robinson, FB Jason Schepler, SS Michael Thomas, OG Wayne Tribue, QB Seneca Wallace, OT Kenny Wiggins.
News that longtime San Francisco 49ers long-snapper Brian Jennings received his release Saturday marked the end of a special-teams era in the NFC West.

Jennings, 36, had been unerringly consistent since 2000 and was the final 49ers player remaining from the Steve Mariucci coaching era. But with the 49ers pinching salary-cap dollars with an eye toward continued roster building, they decided undrafted rookie free agent Kevin McDermott was a better value.

So, congratulations to McDermott for doing what no one had done before: unseating Jennings as the 49ers' snapper. But let's also acknowledge the roles age and cap/cash savings played in the switch. Jennings was scheduled to earn $940,000 in salary for 2013, compared to $405,000 for McDermott. At a certain point, that type of savings was going to trump whatever advantages Jennings provided from a skill standpoint.

Moving on from a player a little early can beat doing so a little late, particularly with salary implications affecting longer-term plans. The 49ers' total salary-cap allocation for the three specialist positions had been about 80 percent above average at one point. So, this move made sense in that context, even if it was a difficult one on some levels.

Most of us cannot tell the difference between a great NFL snapper and a serviceable one. I certainly could not. But my friend and former colleague at the Tacoma News Tribune, Dave Boling, made sure I acknowledged Jennings' excellence. Dave had played center and long-snapper at Louisville back in the Lee Corso days, and he would watch Jennings through his binoculars during warm-ups with the rapt attention of a birder who had spotted a rare species. To him, Jennings was the rufous-necked wood rail of American snappers.

"Those who appreciate the Art of The Long Snap, will sadly note the Niners release of Brian Jennings," Dave noted Saturday. "One of the best."

So, what made Jennings so special?

"Precision and consistency," Dave explained. "Speed is great and Jennings had that, but you have to be able to do it again and again and again. Secondarily is being able to block. He was one who could snap without looking. He could bring his head up and watch the defenders, then snap it blind. Then, some guys just aim for the middle of the punter. Others aim for the right hip, which is where the punter will drop it over that right foot. He had that. And he was athletic enough, certainly in his younger days, to cover a little bit, too."

Where the 49ers' roster stands at 75

August, 28, 2013
By Saturday, NFL teams will have reduced their rosters from 90-player maximums to 75 and finally 53 within a one-week period.

The chart shows where the San Francisco 49ers' roster stands by position at the 75-man limit. It also shows Week 1 positional counts for the previous two seasons. The comparison should generally show us where the team will trim, and to what degree.

The 49ers have had the same head coach and a very similar coaching staff for each of the past three seasons, so we shouldn't see wild swings in how the team values certain positions.

Wide receiver and cornerback are positions of interest heading into the final preseason game, set for Thursday night at San Diego. It's possible the 49ers have seen enough to know where they're headed at those positions, but from the outside, it's tough to settle on a clear receiving rotation for Week 1 against Green Bay.

The coaching staff has been straightforward in its public assessments recently.

Coach Jim Harbaugh pointed to Colt McCoy as the clear choice to serve in the No. 2 role behind starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio identified rookie first-round choice Eric Reid as the starting free safety over Craig Dahl and C.J. Spillman. Fangio also noted that Nnamdi Asomugha has a slight lead over Tramaine Brock as the third corner, although injuries affecting both players could come into play.

Harbaugh has called the long-snapping race close between veteran Brian Jennings and Kevin McDermott, an undrafted rookie from UCLA. Jennings has been outstanding for years, but he's 36 and carrying a higher salary-cap charge at a time when the 49ers are counting cap dollars more closely.