49ers-Bucs: Matchups to watch

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49ers-Bucs: Matchups to watch

In his first season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting quarterback, Josh Freeman was outstanding.He led the Bucs to a 10-6 record, including a 21-0 thrashing of the 49ers in late-November. Now, Tampa Bay returns to Candlestick Park to face the 49ers in a matchup of 3-1 teams.49ers FS Dashon Goldson (38) vs. Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman (5)Tale of the tape
Goldson: 6-2, 200, Washington, 5th season
Freeman: 6-6, 248, Kansas State, 3rd seasonFreeman threw 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions a year ago. His passer rating was 95.9. He quickly emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
But while the Bucs have gotten off to another good start, Freeman has already committed some mistakes this season that he did not make a year ago.Freeman has already thrown four interceptions (to go along with just three touchdown passes) and three of those interceptions were in the end zone.So this is where Goldson comes in.Strong safety Donte Whitner is expected to return to the starting lineup this week after missing the better part of two games with a left hip contusion. That should free up Goldson to patrol the secondary to sit back in center field and read Freeman's eyes.Goldson has played two games since returning from a knee injury in the exhibition season. He had an outstanding game against the Philadelphia Eagles as a tackler. And he recorded the fumble recovery after Justin Smith's forced fumble of Jeremy Maclin that helped clinch the win."He's getting better each and every week," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Goldson. "He came into camp late, had about 10 days of work and then got hurt, and that always sets you back."Now he's played a couple games in a row and I expect him to keep improving, and hopefully he will. He had some good plays last week and we need to have good plays out of our safety"The guy who's nickname is "The Hawk," might have some opportunities to get his hands on the ball. The 49ers tied for first in the NFL with a takeawaygiveaway margin of plus-8, along with the Detroit Lions. Turnovers are likely, as always, to play a huge part in this game.
Other matchups worth watching
49ers right tackle Anthony Davis (76) vs. Bucs left defensive end Michael Bennett (71): Davis is coming off a rough game against the Eagles' Jason Babin, who picked up three sacks all off the right side of the 49ers' offensive line. Bennett has two sacks on the season, and Davis must have a strong game in pass protection to show he can bounce back. Davis has typically played much better at Candlestick Park than on the road. Davis will also be asked to control Bennett, as the 49ers look to unleash Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter in the run game.
49ers nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois (95) vs. Bucs center Jeff Faine (52): Jean Francois takes over for Isaac Sopoaga, who will miss Sunday's game with a staph infection. He makes his first career start against a nine-year pro who has more than 100 career starts. Jean Francois' main duty will be to hold the point of attack against Faine. If he can keep Faine from getting to the second level to block inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, then the 49ers' defense should be able to keep running back LeGarrette Blount in check. In passing situations, Jean Francois will exit when the nickel defense takes to the field.

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent last offseason working with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on his throwing mechanics.

Ryan went on to set career-bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards passing (4,944), touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1).

New 49ers quarterback Matt Barkley worked with House and Dedeaux for the fourth offseason in Southern California before reporting to Santa Clara for the team’s offseason program.

“Kyle (Shanhan) is on board with what House and those guys are doing – I think, really, because of the year Matt Ryan had,” Barkley said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast” on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a believer in that. He saw the benefits of what Matt did with some of his drops and the timing on routes, how he changed his feet on some things. So we’re kind of sticking with that plan. Everyone is a little different, but for the most part we’re all on the same page when it comes to what our drops are looking like, our footwork and how the ball is coming out.”

House is a former major league pitcher and pitching coach who founded the 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles. Dedeaux pitched at USC and is the grandson of USC baseball coaching legend Rod Dedeaux. Former NFL quarterback John Beck is a motion mechanics instructor.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are among the NFL quarterbacks who have worked with 3DQB.

“I believe in those guys and what they’re doing,” Barkley said. “They’re at the top of their game, working with Brady and a bunch of other guys. They’ve helped me.

“He won’t change your throwing motion or really tweak how the ball comes out, but he’s going to try to maximize velocity and ground force production and torque -- a lot of sports science terms. But, really, just maximizing efficiency with your motion and making sure you’re sequencing is right.”

Barkley had never played for Shanahan before signing a two-year contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. But there are two obvious connections. Barkley’s offensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears was Dowell Loggains, Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. The other connection is House.

"It’s kind of funny, he worked with Atlanta’s staff all of last year, helped Matt Ryan, kind of build his base from the ground up and helped him a lot and he had an MVP year," Barkley said of House.

"There may have been talks down the pipeline, who knows. I don’t think that was the deciding factor by any means, but it never hurts.”