49ers notes: QB rotation of Smith, Kaepernick, Smith

49ers notes: QB rotation of Smith, Kaepernick, Smith

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Alex Smith will start the 49ers' third exhibition game Saturday night against the Houston Texans, coach Jim Harbaugh said.Colin Kaepernick will get into the game as early as the 49ers' third offensive possession. And, then, Smith might return the favor and replace Kaepernick.Harbaugh is taking a non-traditional approach to the third exhibition game, which is typically the closest thing to a dress rehearsal to the regular season. Instead, Harbaugh said he will likely use the opportunity to get many of the team's top reserves ready for the regular season."The reason for that is for those guys fighting for their football life, we want them to have the ability to play in the game," Harbaugh said. "But, also, see them against other starters, against the Texans' starters."RELATED: 49ers camp report (824): My two left feet
Kaepernick is the 49ers' backup quarterback. Harbaugh said he wants the rookie to get experience against a starting NFL defense, just in case he is needed at some point during the regular season."Just looking forward to what's going to happen during the season," Harbaugh said, "I'd rather have Colin ready and experience football with the starters, against the starters and National Football League savvy before we have to get to that point."After Smith leaves the game, he might return to action to brush up on some "situational football," Harbaugh said."You want to get your starters into as many situations as possible," Harbaugh said. "He might return for a two-minute drill or another series."Harbaugh said he would like to get veteran third-string quarterback Josh McCown some action in Saturday's game, too.
Receiver Michael Crabtree has yet to be removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list after reporting to training camp with a left foot injury. But the 49ers expect major contributions out of him during the regular season.Behind the scenes, Crabtree is rehabbing his foot and being an active member of group discussions, Harbaugh said."He's been outstanding with his participation in the meetings," Harbaugh said. "His understanding and knowledge of what we're trying to do is very good." Crabtree and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) are two starters from a year ago who are nursing injuries. Harbaugh was asked if Crabtree and Spencers were "assumed starters.""No, I wouldn't say that," Harbaugh said. "Football players get better by practicing football. That's what we go by. Who's practicing better? Who's playing better in games? Who's playing well?"49ers Mailbag: What Crabtree can learn from Edwards
And without having any practice time this summer to evaluate, Harbaugh said the coaching staff must go back and look at last season's game films."There's a level that you can evaluate there: poor, medium, outstanding, so you can predict how they will fit in once they're healthy," Harbaugh said. Receiver Dominique Zeigler could see his first playing time of the exhibition season after he was removed from the PUP list this week. Zeigler is returning from a torn left ACL that he sustained Dec. 16 against San Diego."He's surprised me with what he can do so quickly after re-engaging on the practice field," Harbaugh said.Zeigler is one of 11 healthy receivers battling for a spot on the roster. Undrafted rookie Chris Hogan also returned this week from an ankle sprain.

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills


Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan


Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.