49ers key matchup No. 2: Vernon Davis vs. Malcolm Jenkins


49ers key matchup No. 2: Vernon Davis vs. Malcolm Jenkins

Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Saints matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX), at the Superdome.

49ers TE Vernon Davis vs. Saints FS Malcolm JenkinsTale of the tape
Davis (85): 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, seventh season, Maryland
Jenkins (27): 6-foot, 204 pounds, fourth season, Ohio StateTight end Vernon Davis reappeared in the 49ers' offense Monday night when he hooked up with quarterback Colin Kaepernick for six receptions, 83 yards and a touchdown."I felt like somebody took the handcuffs off me," Davis said afterward. He had caught just nine passes for 101 yards and no touchdowns in his previous four games combined.One of the major points of emphasis for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday will be to get the handcuffs back on Davis. Or, at least, the Saints will try to prevent a repeat of Davis' dominating performance in the playoffs last season.Davis caught seven passes from Alex Smith for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including several plays in which he beat the man coverage of Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins in critical situations late in the game. Davis' 14-yard scoring catch with :09 remaining provided the winning points in the 49ers' 36-32 victory in the NFC divisional round."I'm not worried about what we did to them last season, during the postseason," Davis said. "It's just another game, pretty much."One of the oddities in last year's meeting was that then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams left Jenkins in coverage against Davis when the 49ers had very few other weapons in the passing game.This season, the 49ers enter the game with a healthy and productive group of wide receivers, including Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams and Randy Moss. And Jenkins has graded out as the second-worst starting safety in the NFL in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus' rating system.Another big difference is Kaepernick got most of the practice snaps this week and is expected to begin the game at quarterback. Davis said he has confidence in both of the 49ers' quarterbacks."Colin, he's a leader. He's just like Alex. He's been under Alex's wing for the longest (time), so he's had a chance to learn and figure out this game," Davis said. "I'm very confident in both of them. That's just something that's always been there."Kaepernick will look to nail down the 49ers' starting job for the rest of the season with a performance similar to what he exhibited Monday night against the Bears."He went out and showed the world what he can do," Davis said. "He's gotten so much better since last year. It's like night and day. I take my hat off to him."There should be opportunities for plenty of success against the Saints defense, which ranks last in the league in total defense, last in passing defense and 31st in run defense. The opposition is averaging 321.4 yards passing and 27.3 points per game against the Saints, who have won five of their last six games.

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

Kyle Shanahan put together some of the final pieces of his coaching staff on Tuesday.

The 49ers announced the hirings of seven coaches, including confirmation of John Benton as offensive line coach.

The team hired former NFL standout linebacker DeMeco Ryans as defensive quality control coach. He was a second-round selection of the Houston Texans in 2006 and spent 10 seasons in the league. He finished his career playing four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers also hired Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, Stan Kwan as assistant special teams, Vince Oghobaase as assistant defensive line, Adam Stenavich as assistant offensive line, and Michael Clay as strength and conditioning assistant.

Benton, 53, was hired away from the Broncos after being on the job for approximately a month. Benton served as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach last season. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).

Benton and Shanahan worked together for four seasons with the Houston Texans.

Bullocks worked in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Jaguars' linebackers coach last season, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' new defensive coodinator. Bullocks appeared in 31 games in three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and '08.

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

The only promises new 49ers general manager John Lynch made quarterback Colin Kaepernick for this offseason are open communication and honesty.

Kaepernick has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the 49ers after being a second-round draft pick in 2011. He has started 58 of the 49ers’ past 71 regular-season games.

Kaepernick has the contractual ability to opt out of his contract in March. If he does not, it seems likely the 49ers would release him – even if they want him back – to avoid being on the hook for his scheduled $14.9 million pay for the 2017 season.

“The one thing we will do very well with Kap is we’ll communicate,” Lynch said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And I think that’s very important for both sides. Like everything else, that process is well in the works. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll be very up-front with him, in terms of what we’re thinking and we’ll want to know what he’s thinking, as well.”

Lynch said he developed trust and a good rapport with Kaepernick during the time when the 49ers were among the top teams in the NFL. Lynch was a broadcaster for FOX-TV and had occasion to meet with Kaepernick multiple times during production meetings.

“Every time we talk about Kap, I think of the guy who was in the Super Bowl not too (long ago),” Lynch said. “Things happen in guys’ careers. Injuries happen. Different things happen.”

Kaepernick began last season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert. After regaining his starting role in Week 6, Kaepernick put together his best season since 2013 – his first full season as a starter.

Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 90.7, and he added 468 yards rushing.

Lynch said he and coach Kyle Shanahan have been evaluating the players on the 49ers’ roster. The other three quarterbacks on the roster – Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis – are not under contract for next season.

“Like we said we would – and like we told Kap we would – we’re assessing everything,” Lynch said. “Both Kyle and I believe wholeheartedly that position is the most-important position in football.

“From every side of this thing, we’re evaluating. And we’re continuing to watch the film. We’ll continue to work toward that until we have made a decision.”