49ers key matchup No. 1: Gore vs. Laurinaitis

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49ers key matchup No. 1: Gore vs. Laurinaitis

This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Rams matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX), at Candlestick Park.49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Rams MLB James LaurinaitisTale of the tape
Gore (21): 5-foot-9, 217 pounds, eighth season, Miami
Laurinaitis (55): 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, fourth season, Ohio StateIf he didn't play in the same division as another pair of All-Pro inside linebackers, perhaps St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis would garner a little more attention.But Laurinaitis will be flying under nobody's radar on Sunday, as the 49ers get set to face the Rams in an NFC West matchup at Candlestick Park.Coach Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers was asked whether Laurinaitis jumps out at him when he watches the Rams defense on film."He sure does," Harbaugh answered. "James Laurinaitis? Absolutely. . . Mobile, rangy, tough, real savvy understanding of the game. And they use him in a lot of different ways."Laurinaitis, the Rams' leading tackler, will have a big chore on Sunday to keep 49ers running back Frank Gore in check.RELATED: Roman's run game recalls Seifert days, etc.
But even before Laurinaitis can get to Gore, he must contend with the 49ers' offensive line."They have a lot invested in the O-line, and they do a very good job," Laurinaitis said last week in a conference call with reporters who cover the 49ers."They have the guys to do what they want to do. Their blue print is to run the football, get some explosive runs, and when you have tight ends like they have and now receivers, and that makes the play-action more of a nightmare."It all starts with the O-line and a terrific running back who I have a lot of respect for in Frank Gore."Laurinaitis hopes to avoid 49ers left guard Mike Iupati, who out-weighs him by 80 pounds. One of the staples of the 49ers' run game is "Power," in which Iupati pulls and tries to blast a linebacker off the right side."You hope throughout a game, you don't get too many helmet-to-helmets with that big guy," Laurinaitis said.Only then, can Laurinaitis concentrate on Gore.Gore rushed for 656 yards and four touchdowns in the first eight games with an impressive 5.5-yard average per rush attempt. He is also adept at pass protection and caught 16 passes in the first half of the season.Harbaugh said the Rams like to use Laurinaitis in "rush-to-cover" packages. On those such plays, Laurinaitis will come on a blitz. But if Gore leaves the backfield in a pass route, it is Laurinaitis' responsibility to reverse direction and cover Gore.This game will feature three of the top inside linebackers in the league. Laurinaitis often gets left out of the discussion because he plays on a losing team and he is overshadowed by 49ers All-Pros Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.Laurinaitis is very familiar with both Willis and Bowman, and he considers himself a fan of their work."They both make big-time plays," Laurinaitis said. "You play a lot of 3-4 teams and usually you say, 'OK, this guy is their bell cow in the middle.' But they really have two guys that you have to be very worried about. I have a lot of respect for those two guys."

Agent: 49ers to re-sign running back DuJuan Harris

Agent: 49ers to re-sign running back DuJuan Harris

PHOENIX – Free-agent running back DuJuan Harris will re-sign with the 49ers, his agent said.

Harris, 28, appeared in 10 games for the 49ers last season with one start. He rushed for 138 yards on 38 attempts. He also caught eight passes for 115 yards.

Harris has also seen time with Jacksonville, Green Bay and Seattle in his four-year NFL career.

The 49ers did not tender Harris as a restricted free agent, but agent Andy Simms revealed his client will re-sign with the 49ers via Twitter. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and defensive lineman Chris Jones are the only other free agents the 49ers have re-signed.

Bruce Allen: Kirk Cousins will play for Washington in 2017

Bruce Allen: Kirk Cousins will play for Washington in 2017

PHOENIX – Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins will continue to be Washington’s quarterback for the 2017 season, according to team president Bruce Allen.

“That’s why we franchised him, yes,” Allen said during an interview with CSN Mid-Atlantic at the NFL owners meetings.

Cousins and Washington did not reach agreement on a multi-year contract extension before the start of the free-agent signing period. Washington tagged Cousins as the organization’s exclusive franchise player, taking him off the free-agent market for any interested clubs, such as the 49ers.

Cousins is set to earn $23.94 million in 2017, unless the sides agree to a new deal before the July 15 deadline. The price for Cousins to be franchised again in 2018 would be $34.47 million.

"We’ve had a lot of dialogue," Allen said. "He signed his tender. Obviously, we have an option for the ’18 season. Our goal from the beginning has been long term. I'm still hopeful and confident we'll do it."

The 49ers with new coach Kyle Shanahan are expected to be interested in Cousins, but there have no trade talks with any teams, Allen said. Shanahan was Washington's offensive coordinator under his father, then-head coach Mike Shanahan, for Cousins' first two NFL seasons.

"I can't keep up with the rumors," Allen said. "Kirk and I have talked almost a dozen times this offseason, and we get to laugh when we hear these different rumors. We haven't talked to anyone."