49ers Mailbag: Spencer is No. 4 CB


49ers Mailbag: Spencer is No. 4 CB

Veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer entered camp atop the 49ers' depth chart, having lined up as a starter for every game the previous two seasons.But Spencer sustained a hamstring strain early in camp. He came back too soon, aggravated the injury and lost even more time due to the injury.When Spencer's hamstring finally healed, he sustained a turf-toe injury Oct. 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. And that's been that for Spencer's playing time this season.On Sunday, though, Spencer was back on the field. He saw three snaps on defense in the 49ers' dime defense, lined up against Larry Fitzgerald in the 21-19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.Now, Spencer has moved ahead of second-year cornerback Tramaine Brock as the 49ers' No. 4 cornerback behind starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and third cornerback Chris Culliver.Let's go to the 49ers Mailbag to field some questions submitted on my Facebook page at www.Facebook.comMaioccoCSN
Will Shawntae Spencer play? (Tay Porter)
He is likely to see some action Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, because the Steelers like to use three- and four-receiver formations. However, the Steelers might employ fewer of those sets with Emmanuel Sanders out with a foot injury. I don't envision Spencer supplanting any of the 49ers' top three cornerbacks, but he might get a handful of snaps and he's on standby for depth purposes.Is Aldon Smith expected to have a big game since Big Ben is the leagues most sacked QB? (Sammy Araiza)
Smith, who ranks second among NFL rookies with 10.5 sacks, will certainly get his chances against Ben Roethlisberger (if Roethlisberger plays). The reason is because the 49ers figure to be in their nickel defense for a large portion of the game to defend against the Steelers' multi-receiver sets.Why isn't Vernon Davis being used in the Red Zone more? (Elijah Rangel)
The main reason is because defenses have focused on Davis near the goal line. Quarterback Alex Smith is not forcing the ball to anybody deep in the red zone, so if he sees double coverage he's going to look to get the ball to somebody else.How will the 49ers OL slow down Pitts blitz packages? (Nate Keyser)
It's not just the offensive line, of course. This is on the quarterback, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers, too. When a defense blitzes more pass-rushers than a team has blockers, that means there are going to be chances to make plays for the offense. Smith has to recognize the blitzes with his pre-snap reads, and he has to get rid of the ball quickly and decisively. Also, the offensive line has to do a better job of communicating the line calls. That was an issue in Baltimore and Arizona, where it was difficult for them to hear due to the noise from the road crowds. That's why the 49ers are emphasizing to their fans to remain quiet when the 49ers' offense is on the field.What's the time table for Josh Morgan? (Cesar Garcia)
As he recently told CSNBayArea.com, Morgan expects to start running soon. Of course, he is out for the remainder of this season, including playoffs with the fracture just above the ankle. Once a player is placed on injured reserve, he is ineligible to return until the following season. Morgan said he expects to be ready to take part in the entire offseason program.Did we fix the red zone problems? (Sean Sp Pierce)
You can see for yourself on Monday night . . . and beyond.

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.

49ers making a quarterback change for preseason game vs Broncos


49ers making a quarterback change for preseason game vs Broncos

C.J. Beathard will be the No. 2 quarterback against the Broncos on Saturday night, Kyle Shanahan announced on Thursday.

In the team's first exhibition game in Kansas City, Matt Barkley was the No. 2 QB behind Brian Hoyer.

Barkley completed 10 of 17 passes for 168 yards against the Chiefs.

Beathard went 7 for 11 with 101 yards and two touchdowns.

The 49ers traded up in the 2017 draft and selected Beathard in the third round (104th overall).