49ers look to Dial up more tackles for loss

49ers look to Dial up more tackles for loss

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers' defensive linemen will not be asked to undergo a change in mentality on third downs this season.

Whereas the 49ers were in a read-and-react mode on first and second downs in the past, this year under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, there is an emphasis placed on getting into the backfield to blow up run plays.

“It’s going to be good,” 49ers nose tackle Quinton Dial said. “It’ll allow me to make some plays and get some TFLs (tackles for loss).”

With the aggressive, one-gap approach on run downs, it also places a premium on maintaining discipline. Last season, the 49ers’ defense was among the worst in NFL history, allowing 2,654 yards and 25 touchdowns.

“If we lose an edge, they can hit a home run on that play,” Dial said.

On the recent day that Dial spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area, he relayed a situation on the practice field on which defensive end Aaron Lynch “lost an edge" when he moved too far inside where he should have been stationed. As a result, the run play went the distance for a touchdown.

Said Dial, “The running back hit his head on the goal post. We all have to be coordinated together and play as a unit.”

Dial was exclusively a two-down player last season. Although he is currently lining up with the second-string defense behind veteran Earl Mitchell, Dial said his goal is to be a man for all downs.

“Being more efficient on third down, that’s what I really want to work on, so I can be an every-down guy,” Dial said.

“Last year, I don’t think I was given a fair shot to do that or coached the right way to use my strengths to use what I got to excel on the field. I don’t think I was used the right way. If you can rush the passer, they’re going to find a way to get you on the field. I’m trying to elevate my game now.”

After recording two sacks in 2014 and 2.5 sacks in 2015, Dial was held without a sack last season while appearing in 14 games. According to Pro Football Focus, Dial was on the field for 187 passing downs and produced nine quarterback hurries.

Dial said he is spending a lot of time working with assistant defensive line coach Vince Oghobaase this offseason to hone his pass-rush skills.

“It’s only like two or three moves, but once I master those moves, you’ll see,” Dial said. “I know everybody labeled me as a first- and second-down player, but I think I can do it."

Long supports Eagles teammate, wraps arm around him during anthem protest


Long supports Eagles teammate, wraps arm around him during anthem protest

Chris Long supported his teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, Thursday night by wrapping his left arm around Jenkins, who continued to raise his right fist in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem prior to the Eagles' preseason game against the Bills at Lincoln Financial Field.

Long's intention Thursday night was not immediately known. While he's been outspoken on Charlottesville, Virginia, he did not specify how he would conduct himself during the anthem.

Long and Jenkins both publicly criticized President Donald Trump's response to the racial tensions that resulted in the tragic violence and the death of Heather Heyer last weekend in Charlottesville, Long's hometown.

Last Sunday, Long touched on his comments by speaking to reporters, reiterating his disappointment in President Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville, where white nationalists held a "Unite the Right" rally in protest of the removal of a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

"Some people are tired of hearing me tweet because they want me to stick to football but I like to use social media like I was a regular guy because I think I am," Long said Sunday. "I don't tell people to stick to their job when they want to talk politics. And this isn't political. That's the thing. Everybody is trying to turn this political. This isn't a political issue. This is right or wrong. I believe you're on one side or the other. For me, being from Charlottesville, no one wants to see you sit idly by and watch that stuff happen and not say anything. And I wish there was more categorical denial from some very important people in this country who have had the opportunity to strike it down but didn't."


Practice report: 49ers passing game looks much improved


Practice report: 49ers passing game looks much improved

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ passing game has ranked 29th or lower in each of the past four seasons.

If two practices against last year’s No. 1-ranked pass defense are any indication, the 49ers could be vastly improved under coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer.

“I think our guys were expecting to do good,” Shanahan said on Thursday after a second joint practice against the Denver Broncos in two days. “There’s a lot of stuff we can clean up. A lot of stuff we can do better. But I think our guys were happy with how they competed and, hopefully, that can continue to carry over.”

Hoyer hit more higher-percentage passes on Thursday. He teamed up with rookie Victor Bolden on his deepest completion -- down the left sideline against first-team All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris. After completing better than 80 percent of his passes against the Broncos a day earlier, Hoyer was 12 of 19 passing on Thursday.

Pierre Garçon, who figures to be Hoyer’s top target, was not as active during Thursday’s practice. But he did find himself in the middle of the action with a tussle against Harris.

Hoyer’s red-zone pass intended for slot receiver Jeremy Kerley was tipped and intercepted by safety Justin Simmons. Away from the action, Aqib Talib blocked Garçon, who retaliated by tossing him to the ground.

“That’s part of the game,” Garçon said. ‘You always expect one scuffle in joint practices. But it ended and you move on. It was nothing personal at all.”

Hoyer was especially sharp during the practices to strengthen his grasp on the team’s staring job. Meanwhile, rookie C.J. Beathard had a solid showing on Thursday. He will enter Saturday’s game after Hoyer and could play through the rest of the first half and open the third quarter.

The 49ers exited the field after their two most-significant practices feeling optimistic about where things stand.

“We did good the first day,” Garçon said. “We could’ve done better the second day. But we’re still learning each other and getting better. We still have a lot to do to get ready for the regular season, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

--Linebacker Reuben Foster wore shoulder pads and took part in all but the contact drills due to what the team described as a “mild AC joint sprain” of his right shoulder. That did not prevent Foster from getting into the middle of a skirmish that appeared to involve Broncos tackle Menelik Watson and 49ers linebacker Eli Harold.

The 49ers expect Foster to play Saturday night, Shanahan said.

--Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was pulled from practice on Thursday after experiencing soreness in his shoulder. Shanahan said Bowman's shoulder soreness is similar to what Foster experienced.

--The Broncos’ offense, which struggled to complete passes on Wednesday, made a lot more plays down the field on Thursday with Paxton Lynch at quarterback.

--Tight end Vance McDonald made an outstanding catch of a Hoyer pass at the sideline against tight coverage from safety Will Parks.

--The 49ers’ practice Thursday brought an official end to the team’s training camp. They will transition to a regular-season type of schedule next week leading up to the team’s third exhibition game, which is scheduled for Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings.

“Training camp is over, and what that means is we’re not all staying in dorms together and we’re not having night walk-throughs,” Shanahan said.