49ers

49ers noticed Cowboys' mistakes on Johnson

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49ers noticed Cowboys' mistakes on Johnson

SANTA CLARA -- As far as absurd utterances, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan set the bar pretty high two weeks ago.In the days leading up to the Cowboys' game against the Detroit Lions, Ryan said his cornerbacks would be taking a step down in competition playing against wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
After all, Ryan said the Cowboys' defensive backs work against "better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant" in practice.Then, Ryan added, "They're two of probably the premier receivers in football. But this guy's right there. He's almost that good."Austin and Bryant are good, to be sure. But Johnson this season he has been in a class by himself. He is the first player in NFL history to have nine receiving touchdowns after five games.And, predictably, he tore up the Cowboys two weeks ago.Johnson caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including one in which he rose above three helpless Cowboys defenders for a 23-yard score. The Lions rallied from a 27-3 third-quarter deficit for the 34-30 victory, thanks to Johnson's 2-yard touchdown catch against single coverage on a fade route with 1:39 remaining.The 49ers believe they learned from the Cowboys' mistakes.First, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio certainly wasn't going to rip a page from Ryan's verbal playbook."Well, first off, I want to say he would be the best receiver on our team, not the third best," Fangio said of Johnson during his weekly meeting with reporteres. "So we have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's a bigger Randy Moss in some ways, in that he's a downfield threat."He's tough to cover down the field in the jump-ball situations, like Randy Moss was. But this guy's bigger. He's thicker. He's listed at 235. I think he might be more than that. He's just a rare guy. He's that big, but yet runs as fast as he does."But the Cowboys' mistake that seemed to resonate among the 49ers' defensive backs was the play in which Johnson called his shot. He motioned to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to just throw the ball up for grabs. Then, he came down with it between three Cowboys."Go up and compete with him for the football," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "When you have three guys just standing around watching him catch the football, of course, he's going to come down with it. We need three guys in the air going after the football. Either we come down with it or he doesn't."Rookie cornerback Chris Culliver said the 49ers need to attack the ball and attack the receiver to prevent such plays Sunday when they face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field."A lot of times people don't really compete with him when the ball's in the air," Culliver said. "Somebody should've blasted him. Nobody even attacked the ball. He just jumped. Do something. I wouldn't say there should be no way for him to catch the ball, but they could've put a good lick on him."Johnson is 6-foot-5, with a 6-10 wingspan and a vertical leap of 45 inches. He is the new prototype at wide receiver, and Fangio said there's no one answer for covering him."Everybody's wanted the big receivers for a long time now," Fangio said. "He's definitely one of the elite ones in that category. It becomes an issue. We're basically trying to cover power forwards with point guards."

Report: Former No. 3 overall pick works out for 49ers

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USATI

Report: Former No. 3 overall pick works out for 49ers

The 49ers appear to have plenty of depth along their front seven, but the team brought in three defensive linemen for workouts on Tuesday, according to a source.

One of those players is reportedly Tyson Jackson, the No. 3 overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009. The identities of the other two players were not immediately known.

Jackson has been without a team since the Falcons released him in March with two years and $8.5 million remaining on his contract. His workout with the 49ers was reported by the NFL Network. He also worked out recently with the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson, 31, spent his first five season in Kansas City before playing three years with the Falcons. He appeared in all 16 games last season, starting seven times, and recorded 13 tackles and no sacks.

The 49ers have an abundance of defensive linemen, or players capable of rushing the passer from a position along the defensive line, such as DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Earl Mitchell, Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch, Chris Jones, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Ronald Blair and D.J. Jones.

Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers

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USATI

Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers

At the midway point of the 49ers’ exhibition season, there continues to be a lot of competition and more than a handful of veterans who have yet to lock down roster spots.

“I can tell you, it’s going to be real tough to cut it down to 53,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said last week. “We’re going to need all this game and practices to evaluate that.”

Here are the 49ers’ returning veteran players whose roster spots appear to be the most vulnerable with two weeks of practices and two exhibition games remaining to prove themselves:

OLB Ahmad Brooks
Brooks’ $4.45 million base salary is not much of a concern, considering the team is still $65.2 million under the salary cap. The number that factors into this decision the most is 33. That’s Brooks’ age.

If he is not clearly better than 23-year-old Eli Harold at the SAM linebacker position, the 49ers might want to keep the younger player to develop. Brooks is not talked about for his locker-room presence, so this decision will be made solely for what he does on the field and what he is expected to give the team in the future.

“You want to know who’s got the most upside and things like that,” Shanahan said. “Who’s going to be better throughout the year, if given the opportunity. But you also want to know who when it’s all said and done who’s going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things that I look at personally. You don’t always want to think who’s the best guy for Week 1. Who’s the best guy for the 2017 49ers?”

OG Zane Beadles
Beadles is currently working with the first-team offense, but his spot on the roster remains vulnerable. The 49ers’ decision-makers do not seem impressed with their offensive guards. The 49ers could look to pick up a guard from another team before the start of the season.

The jury is still out on Joshua Garnett, who had a good start to camp. But his play dropped off in Week 2 – perhaps because of the knee injury that required a procedure to clean up cartilage. Garnett may not be available for the start of the regular season.

Also, the 49ers may want to hold onto undrafted rookie lineman Erik Magnuson, who has a bigger upside than Beadles with youth, size and ability to play guard and center.

NT Quinton Dial
Earl Mitchell appears locked-in as the 49ers’ starting nose tackle. The 49ers also seem to have high hopes for rookie D.J. Jones. It’s unclear where that leaves Dial, who does not appear to be a great fit for the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

Dial should be a starter in the NFL. But he is better-suited to be positioned in a 3-4 scheme, using his strength and power as a two-gap player rather than adapt to a one-gap scheme in which quickness and agility are the main requirements.

DE Aaron Lynch
Before sustaining an ankle injury, Lynch had done everything the 49ers wanted of him – including reporting to camp at the weight that was ordered. Lynch also looked very good in the 49ers’ exhibition opener, recording two sacks against Kansas City.

But Lynch’s spot is not guaranteed, by any means. Arik Armstead, Elvis Dumervil, Ronald Blair and rookie Pita Taumoepenu all can play similar roles. If Lynch does not eat well or maintain his conditioning while rehabbing from his ankle injury, he could erase all of the positive steps he took at the beginning of camp.

TE Vance McDonald
The onus was on McDonald at the beginning of camp to win his way onto the team. His solid play has increased his odds of a roster spot, but it is not a sure thing. This is a position where all the incumbents – McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell -- face stiff challenges.

George Kittle will definitely be on the team. Blocking specialist Logan Paulsen and rookie Cole Hikutini are also in the mix. Hikutini does not appear ready to be a contributor this season. If they waive him with hopes of placing him on the practice squad, it seems unlikely another team would claim him for their 53-man roster. But is that a chance the 49ers are willing to take?

DE Tank Carradine
Carradine appears to be on solid footing at the 49ers’ big-end position, considering he remains on the first-team defense despite the addition of Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall selection. But it seems to be only a matter of time before Thomas takes on a greater role. Carradine could still be kept around as a backup.

Ronald Blair, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of camp. And a pulled groin muscle that has kept him out of action for more than a week does not help is cause, either.