49ers key matchup No. 3: Willis vs. Pettigrew

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49ers key matchup No. 3: Willis vs. Pettigrew

(This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Lions matchups to watch Sunday, 5:20 p.m. (NBC-TV), at Candlestick Park.

49ers LB Patrick Willis vs. Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew

Tale of the tape
Willis (52): 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, sixth season, Mississippi
Pettigrew (87): 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, fourth season, Oklahoma State

While All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson will get most of the attention, another
matchup in the passing game might dictate how the 49ers plan to defend Johnson.A year ago, the 49ers locked Willis -- and, to a much lesser degree, NaVorro Bowman -- onto Pettigrew in man coverage. That allowed the 49ers to devote a safety over the top to help cornerbacks Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver contend with Johnson. Each of those cornerback covered Johnson at some point in last year's game, depending on what side of the field Johnson lined up."If you're going to pay any extra attention to (Johnson), which we'll have to do sometimes, you can't do it all the time," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "You can't even do it the majority of the time. That's going to create one-on-ones for them at other positions."Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford tried to take advantage of the single coverage against Pettigrew, targeting him for 14 passes. Pettigrew caught eight passes for just 42 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown. Willis more than held his own with seven tackles and three passes broken up."So we've got to be able to hold up. And Patrick did a good job last year, for the most part, in covering (Pettigrew)," Fangio said "But he's a tough cover. He scored a touchdown on us last year down in the red zone. And he's one of the better all-around tight ends in this league. He's one of the few guys that is a confident receiver and a confident blocker."Willis sat out 24 snaps in the 49ers' dime package in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. But the Lions do not use as many four-receiver personnel groupings as the Packers, so Willis should be on the field for nearly every snap on Sunday.AP Image

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ biggest free-agent acquisition on defense and one of the team’s first-round draft picks play the same position.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he is holding off on thinking about how everything is going to play out this season at the linebacker position.

“I really try not to envision it too hard because I see a lot of good players there,” Shanahan said Tuesday during the 49ers’ first week of organized team activities.

The 49ers awarded weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith guaranteed money as an unrestricted free agent totaling approximately $12 million. Then, on the first day of the draft, the 49ers’ No. 3 rated prospect experienced a free fall, and the club traded into the back end of the first round to select him.

While Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has been sidelined through the offseason program as he recovers from shoulder injury, he figures to compete with Smith for the starting job. Foster will also learn middle linebacker, where NaVorro Bowman has earned first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons.

Bowman looks to be nearly all the way back from a torn Achilles that limited him to just four games last season.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Shanahan said. “Seeing Bow out here and how healthy he’s been, knowing we’ve added some good free agents, and the way the draft worked out, having a linebacker we had ranked very highly fall to us at the end of the first round. We got a lot better pretty fast.

“When you ask me how it’s going to play out, I’m not sure. It’s a good problem to have. It’s something you’d like to have any every position. There’s going to be a very good player who’s not out there all the time. That’s not a bad thing. That makes the two guys who are out there go a lot harder and play better. It makes special teams better and it allowed you to survive injuries, which almost always happen.”

Bowman’s vision for the upcoming season includes him retaining his role in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

"I won't be on the sideline, I'll tell you that right now,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he was not fazed with the 49ers selected Foster in the first round. Foster is likely considered the heir apparent to Bowman.

Shanahan called Bowman after the selection of Foster was made, but Bowman said he did not need to speak with the coach about why the selection was made.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bowman said of the phone call, “but it was good to hear from him, to see that he had something to say or an idea of what he wanted to get across to me.

“But we haven’t talked about it. I did that on purpose. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll compete with anyone, whether he’s 21 or 35. It doesn’t matter. I’m a guy who’s going to give my best effort and have full confidence in my abilities to play this game. I know how much I study this game. I know how good I am and that’s what was going to bring back here.

“It’s always a competition. There’s always someone trying to take your spot. As a player, if you keep that in mind, you’ll always put the work in that’s needed.”

 

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

SANTA CLARA -- For the first time since Bryant Young retired following the 2007 season, the 49ers have placed his old number back into service.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson was issued No. 97 for the team’s organized team activities this week.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time winner of the Len Eshmont Award as the 49ers’ most inspirational and courageous player. No 49ers player has worn No. 97 in the past nine seasons or offseasons.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is now wearing No. 94 after being issued No. 96 for the rookie minicamp. Linebacker Reuben Foster is wearing No. 56.

Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones now wearing No. 96. Cornerback Rashard Robinson switched back to No. 33 after an earlier change to No. 26. Running back Kapri Bibbs is now 26. Rookie running back Joe Williams is No. 32 after wearing No. 33 at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend. Veteran running back Tim Hightower is wearing No. 22.