49ers key matchup No. 3: Crabtree vs. Sherman

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49ers key matchup No. 3: Crabtree vs. Sherman

Editor's note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Seahawks matchups to watch Sunday, 5:20 p.m. (NBC-TV), at CenturyLink Field, Seattle.

49ers WR Michael Crabtree vs. Seattle CB Richard Sherman

Tale of the tape
Crabtree (15): 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, fourth season, Texas Tech
Sherman (25): 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, second season, Stanford

Michael Crabtree is closing in on becoming the first 49ers player to achieve 1,000 yards receiving in a season since Terrell Owens in 2003.

Crabtree is coming on strong late in the season as quarterback Colin Kaepernick's preferred target.

While tight end Vernon Davis cites chemistry issues with Kaepernick for his disappearance from the 49ers' offense, Crabtree has stepped into the spotlight. Crabtree has totaled 23 catches for 301 yards and two touchdowns in the past three games.

He goes up against one of his most difficult challenges on Sunday in Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who will play while his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs is pending. Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner will serve the third game of his four-game suspension for PEDs.

Sherman likes to get his hands on receivers and throw off the timing of routes. Crabtree, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, has taken his game to a higher level with an ability to pick up yards after the catch.

Crabtree had just four catches for 31 yards against Seattle when the teams met Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park with Alex Smith at quarterback.

"I think Crab matches up well against everybody," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "Crab's a player who's ascending. He gets better and that's what this league is all about. It's improvement. He's a young player in this league and he's a guy that's showing up big time for us, regardless of the style of coverage."

Crabtree has a career-high 73 receptions for 868 yards and seven touchdowns, also the most of his career. The last time the 49ers had a 1,000-yard receiver was nine years ago. In 2003, Terrell Owens caught 80 passes for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns during his final season with the club.

Crabtree came up with two big plays in the 49ers' 41-34 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday night. He made a 27-yard touchdown catch on a well-thrown pass down the middle between two safeties early in the quarter. And after the 49ers squandered a 28-point lead, Kaepernick looked for Crabtree when the Patriots came with an all-out blitz. Crabtree caught a 5-yard hitch, made cornerback Kyle Arrington miss, and ran 38 yards to give the 49ers a fourth-quarter lead they would not relinquish.

"He catches the ball," Kaepernick said. "He catches the ball and makes plays after he catches it. . . I mean, Crabs is the kind of receiver if you throw it close to him, he's going to catch it."

Comings and goings: 49ers coaching staff

Comings and goings: 49ers coaching staff

First-year coach Kyle Shanahan is close to completing his 49ers coaching staff.

Shanahan will handle the duties of the offensive coordinator, the position he held with Houston, Washington and Atlanta over the past nine NFL seasons.

Robert Saleh is the 49ers' new defensive coordinator, while Richard Hightower has been hired as the special-teams coordiator.

Here's a look at the 49ers' coaching staffs under Shanahan and last season under Chip Kelly:

2017 49ERS COACHING STAFF
Position: Coach (2016 job)
Head coach: Kyle Shanahan (Falcons, offensive coordinator)
Defensive coordinator: Robert Saleh (Jaguars, linebackers coach)
Special teams coordinator: Richard Hightower (Bears, assistant special teams)
Assistant head coach/tight ends: Jon Embree (Buccaneers, tight ends)
Run game specialist: Mike McDaniel (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Quarterbacks: Rich Scangarello (Wagner, offensive coordinator)
Running backs: Bobby Turner (Falcons, running backs)
Wide receivers: Mike LaFleur (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Offensive line: Vacant
Offensive assistant: T.C. McCartney (LSU, offensive assistant)
Senior defensive assistant: Jason Tarver (49ers, outside linebackers)
Defensive line: Jeff Zgonina (N.Y. Giants, assistant defensive line)
Linebackers: Johnny Holland (Browns, inside linebackers)
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Offensive quality control: Taylor Embree (Chiefs, defensive assistant)
Defensive quality control: Bobby Slowik
Head strength and conditioning: Ray Wright

* * *

2016 49ERS COACHING STAFF
Position: Coach (current status)
Head coach: Chip Kelly
Offensive coordinator: Curtis Modkins (Bears, running backs)
Defensive coordinator: Jim O’Neil
Special teams coordinator: Derius Swinton
Quarterbacks: Ryan Day (Ohio State, quarterbacks)
Running backs: Tom Rathman
Wide receivers: Bob Bicknell
Tight ends: Jeff Nixon (Baylor, co-offensive coordinator/running backs)
Offensive line: Pat Flaherty (Jaguars, offensive line)
Assistant offensive line: Eric Wolford (South Carolina, offensive line)
Defensive line: Jerry Azzinaro (Cal, defensive line)
Assistant defensive line: Vince Oghobaase
Outside linebackers: Jason Tarver (49ers, senior defensive assistant)
Inside linebacker: Joe Bowden
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Assistant defensive backs: Roy Anderson (Bears, assistant secondary)
Assistant special teams: Michael Clay
Offensive quality control: Mick Lombardi (Jets, offensive assistant/assistant QBs coach)
Defensive quality control: Tem Lukabu
Senior analyst: Dana Bible
Director of human performance: Mark Uyeyama

Report: 49ers receive permission from Broncos to interview O-line coach

Report: 49ers receive permission from Broncos to interview O-line coach

John Benton, who coached on the same staff during Kyle Shanahan’s four seasons with the Houston Texans, has reportedly received permission from the Denver Broncos to interview with the 49ers.

The Broncos hired Benton on Jan. 15 to work as the team’s assistant offensive line coach under line coach Jeff Davidson.

But Denver coach Vance Joseph and general manager John Elway provided Benton permission to interview with the 49ers, Denver’s 9News reported. The Sacramento Bee was first to report the 49ers were looking at Benton.

The offensive line coach is the last major position that remains vacant on Shanahan’s staff.

Benton worked last season as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).

Shanahan’s first NFL coaching job was with Houston in 2006, when he coached wide receivers. Shanahan became the quarterbacks coach with the Texans in 2007 before spending the next two seasons as offensive coordinator under then-coach Gary Kubiak.

The 49ers announced nine additions to the coaching staff on Friday.

Also, the 49ers are expected to hire Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, according to The Sporting News. 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.