San Francisco 49ers: kendall Hunter

We went into this week’s poll knowing the San Francisco 49ers are a loaded team with many positions of strength.

The result of the poll backed up those thoughts. We had a very tight vote as fans voted for the top position on the 49ers' roster. In the end, running back won with 33 percent of the vote as of 5 p.m. ET. Linebacker was right behind at 31 percent. Offensive line (14), wide receiver (12) and defensive line (10) trailed.

I actually would have voted for the defensive line. This unit is nine, 10 deep. Some good players are going to be cut, and the depth there is stunning. But I do understand why running back won.

Frank Gore is still a top player and youngsters Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore each have big potential. Veterans Bruce Miller, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James all bring something to the team.

Really, there was no wrong answer here. The 49ers are stacked.
The San Francisco 49ers added 12 players in the draft (and veteran receiver Stevie Johnson through a trade) during the weekend. The 49ers entered the draft with a stacked roster. Whittling down to the 53-man roster will not be an easy task this summer.

Let’s take a look at positions where veterans who could be in jeopardy of making the roster due to the additions.


Who could be on the bubble? McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Why: Bethel-Thompson finished last year on the practice squad. The 49ers are signing Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner as an undrafted free agent. The two will likely be battling for a practice squad gig.

Running back

Who could be on the bubble? Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.

Why: The 49ers drafted Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde in the second round. The 49ers will definitely roll with Frank Gore, Hyde and Marcus Lattimore (if healthy) at tailback. Bruce Miller will be the fullback. That leaves one or two spots. I bet the 49ers find a way to keep the valuable Hunter. But James, who would be open to a trade, could be expendable.


Who could be on the bubble? Jon Baldwin, Brandon Lloyd and Kassim Osgood.

Why: Johnson will be the No. 3 receiver and fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington will certainly make the team. The team also likes second-year player Quinton Patton. If the 49ers keep six receivers, Osgood has a good chance to make the team because he is simply awesome on special teams. Baldwin has virtually no chance to make the team and Lloyd, who was signed earlier this offseason, would have to have a tremendous camp to make it.

Offensive line

Who could be on the bubble? Joe Looney and Adam Snyder

Why: The 49ers drafted center Marcus Martin (fellow third-round pick Brandon Thomas will likely be on the PUP all season). That could mean Looney, who played well at guard in a limited role last year, could be in trouble, but I think the 49ers will give him every chance to make the team. Synder could be on the odd man out although the team likes this experience. This could be a position where the 49ers go heavy.


Who could be on the bubble? Nick Moody

Why: The 49ers drafted inside linebacker Chris Borland in the third round and they are expected to add former Stanford standout Shayne Skov on undrafted free agency. Borland will surely make the team. If Skov makes the 53-man roster Moody, a sixth-round pick last year, would have difficulty sticking.


Who could be on the bubble? Chris Cook, Eric Wright, Craig Dahl, Bubba Ventrone

Why: This position will likely take some time to develop. The 49ers added three cornerbacks in the draft and first-round safety Jimmie Ward will play nickel. Ward and fourth-round pick Dontae Johnson will definitely make the team. So, a veteran or two may be expendable. Again, this will be a heated camp battle.

49ers rankings: 31-35

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
We are taking a look at the top 60 players in the San Francisco 49ers' program and will rank them from 1-60. We are going to take a look in a 12-part series, moving upward. The ranking considerations are based on 2013 production, future projections, age, and contract status:

31. Cornerback Carlos Rogers: Rogers was a valuable player. But he is going to be 33 and he has a high price. The 49ers did OK without him for two games in the playoffs. He is good, but I can see them moving on.

32. Running back Kendall Hunter: Hunter is a solid backup and good special teams player. He is a good player to have around, because he always seems ready to contribute when called upon.

33. Special teamer C.J. Spillman: One of the best special teamers in the NFL. Helps at the goal line too on defense. A big part of the team.

34. Defensive tackle Ian Williams: He was coming along well when a leg injury at Seattle in Week 2 ended his season. He is expected to be healthy and he should be a big part of the rotation again.

35. Center Jonathan Goodwin: Goodwin was important and he could be vital again. But he is 35 and a free agent. The 49ers might want to get younger at the position.

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

December, 23, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few observations from the San Francisco 49ers' 34-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

What it means: The 49ers, who are 11-4 and who have won five straight games, have qualified for the playoffs in all three seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. And the possibilities abound. The 49ers can still be the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC. They will win the NFC West and get a first-round bye if Seattle loses to visiting St. Louis and the 49ers win at Arizona on Sunday. If the 49ers beat the Cardinals, the lowest seed they will be is No. 5.

Bowman goes from goat to hero: 49ers star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman made a huge mistake when he let an onside kick get past him. The Falcons recovered the ball, down 27-24, with 2 minutes, 9 seconds to play. The Falcons quickly moved inside the red zone and appeared ready to tie the game or take the lead. But Bowman redeemed himself dramatically as he caught a tipped ball (after a nice play by San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock) and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the game. It was a signature Candlestick Park play.

Party night: The 49ers went out in style in the final regular-season game at Candlestick. It was a party atmosphere all night, with plenty of 49ers stars of the past and present on hand as well as a variety of tributes. It was also a terrific 50th-birthday gift to Harbaugh.

Stock Watch: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Michael Crabtree took over in the third quarter, when the 49ers outscored Atlanta 10-0. Kaepernick hit Crabtree four times for 99 yards in the period. Kaepernick had three big runs in the second half for 35 yards.

Ground game: Atlanta scored to make it a 20-17 game with 8:34 to play in the fourth quarter before Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined on a six-play, 76-yard touchdown drive -- all six plays were on the ground -- to give San Francisco a 27-17 lead with about five minutes to go.

What's next: The 49ers visit the red-hot Cardinals. Arizona can still make the playoffs if it wins and the Saints lose at home to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

December, 15, 2013

TAMPA, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 33-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday:

What it means: This was an impressive victory for San Francisco, its fourth in a row. There was concern of a letdown after the big victory over the Seattle Seahawks combined with the long flight east. It would have been easy for the 49ers to come in flat. But this is a Jim Harbaugh team; that type of thing doesn’t happen. The 49ers stay the course. They are now 7-0 against teams with losing records. Most importantly, San Francisco (on the strength of five- and four-game win streaks) is 10-4. Because Minnesota beat Philadelphia, the 49ers can clinch a playoff berth if Tennessee beats visiting Arizona on Sunday afternoon.

Stock Watch: Frank Gore surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the seventh time in his career. He was instrumental in a long fourth-quarter drive in which the 49ers took several minutes off the clock and sealed the win. Gore’s backup, Kendall Hunter, also had a good day on the ground and scored a touchdown on a fumbled kickoff with four minutes to go to make it 30-14. The 49ers finished with 187 rushing yards on 40 carries.

Dawson stays hot: 49ers kicker Phil Dawson had four field goals for the second straight game. He has made 24 straight attempts. The 49ers need to find a way to get in the end zone more, but Dawson has been terrific.

Crabtree makes up for mental lapse: On the key drive in the fourth quarter, Michael Crabtree hurt the 49ers by throwing a pass he didn’t catch into the stands. He was penalized 15 yards. But he saved the drive with a big catch on third-and-12.

What’s next: It’s going to be a special week. The 49ers will play their final game at Candlestick Park on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons. They will move to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara next season. Many tributes are planned.

49ers OC muses on Kaepernick, Gore

September, 19, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Colin Kaepernick is dealing with rare adversity this week as an NFL quarterback.

His first 11 career starts went mostly swimmingly. That wasn’t the case with his 12th last Sunday night in Seattle. He committed four turnovers and was out of sync in a lopsided defeat.

Just how is Kaepernick bouncing back this week as the San Francisco 49ers prepare to host the Indianapolis Colts? Like a steady pro, said San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

“Same as he is every week,” Roman said. “Colin’s a guy that doesn’t get on the emotional roller coaster. He doesn’t take the sucker’s bet. He understands the NFL season is one ripe with great highs and, hopefully, a few lows. But they’re inevitable and it’s how you work through them -- and when you do have great success, or just the opposite, it’s all about pretty much remaining level-headed and the same. I think it comes natural to him to approach it that way. He doesn’t panic.”

It will be interesting to see how Kaepernick plays in Sunday's first quarter. We will quickly be able to tell if he's put the Seattle debacle behind him.

Meanwhile, Roman said, the team still counts on running back Frank Gore, who has run for just 60 yards on 30 carries in two games.

“We definitely want to get Frank Gore going,” Roman said. “Frank Gore's one of the best backs in the league and one of our leaders. … Frank Gore’s going to be a big part of what we do this year. Frank churning out those yards for us is very important to our success.”

Roman added that he expects to get running back Kendall Hunter more involved in the game plan soon.
There are not of lot question marks concerning the San Francisco 49ers as we approach the start of the 2013 season.

It’s no secret -- the 49ers are stacked.

However, the team must show it can get enough from its receivers as Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham recover from injuries. New addition Anquan Boldin will be the No.1 receiver while several other players, including Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton and Marlon Moore will all be in the rotational mix.

The 49ers like the potential of the receivers, but there is no denying they have to prove themselves. I checked in with ESPN analyst Matt Williamson on the subject. He thinks the key is the 49ers getting help elsewhere on the unit.

“San Francisco must get more from (tight end) Vernon Davis and LaMichael James, although I realize he is out for about three weeks with ankle injury,” Williamson said. “I see James as a very Darren Sproles-like player for this offense this season. It would be a massive help. (San Francisco coach Jim) Harbaugh certainly has the creative and sharp offensive mind to make that happen. I also could see (running back Kendall) Hunter getting more receptions as well. Davis has to step up huge and become a true No. 1 receiving option, which he is physically capable of, but few TEs can make that distinction. As for Boldin, he rarely truly gets open and instead is just terrific at battling for the ball in the air and coming down with it. Ideally, he would be my third target, but unfortunately, San Francisco probably will not have that luxury. I do expect them to have an elite ground game again.”

It will be interesting to see how the personality of the San Francisco passing game develops in the coming weeks. I think because of the varied abilities of the personnel, Harbaugh’s offensive brilliance and the sheer talent of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, this passing game is destined to work just fine.