49ers vs. Seahawks: Matchups to watch

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49ers vs. Seahawks: Matchups to watch

Sept. 9, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
The 49ers open the regular season and the Jim Harbaugh era on Sunday at Candlestick Park against the Seattle Seahawks. And here is a look at the individual matchups that will play a huge part in the outcome:Matchup to watch
49ers left defensive end Ray McDonald (91) vs. Seahawks right guard John Moffitt (74)Tale of the tape
McDonald: 6-3, 290, Florida, fifth season
Moffitt: 6-4, 319, Wisconsin, rookieRay McDonald spent every day of the lockout thinking about what would happen this week.Tired of being a role player -- a specialist -- McDonald set out to make sure he was no longer just a one-down player. So while he and his 49ers teammates were locked out of the teams practice facility, McDonald found a home at the San Jose State workout facilities.McDonald hung out daily with veteran defensive lineman Justin Smith, talking football and preparing for the rigors of the season. And McDonald's focus all along was Sunday's season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.Oh, sure, there was that other matter. McDonald first had to sign a contract to return to the 49ers. And, as it turned out, McDonald received the most-lucrative free-agent contract the 49ers doled out for a player this offseason. McDonald signed a five-year, 20 million contract.So if there are 65 snaps in Sunday's game for the 49ers on defense, how many does McDonald figure on playing?"All 65," he answered.That's because McDonald will start at left defensive end. Then, when the 49ers go to nickel situations, he'll pick up his role of last season as an inside pass-rusher on their four-man line."I've worked hard to be able to play in every situation," McDonald said. "I'm really excited about this game and this season. It's going to be pretty emotional for me. But I know I'm in good shape to be able to play every down. I'm in the best shape of my life."A year ago, he could've been known as Near-Miss McDonald. After all, McDonald was generally one of the 49ers' top pass-rushers despite failing to record a quarterback sack. McDonald was credited with 26 quarterback hits (tied for second on the team with Parys Haralson and behind leader Justin Smith). And his 56 quarterback pressures was second only to Smith's 73.This season, the 49ers' hope for an improved pass defense hinges largely on McDonald's ability to finish those plays. And he might get a few chances on Sunday.The Seahawks' offensive line is in a state of flux with starting left guard Robert Gallery expected to be out of action with a knee sprain. That means that projected starting right tackle James Carpenter, a surprise first-round draft pick, might switch to left guard with Breno Giacomini taking over at right tackle.Rookie John Moffitt, a third-round pick from Wisconsin, will remain at right guard and matched up mostly against McDonald. Moffitt and Carpenter started all four exhibition games side-by-side, and that is what McDonald has studied."They are both talented players, and they are playing better and better," McDonald said.But, now, with an expected change in the starting lineup, McDonald will have to figure things out as the game goes along. At least, he should have plenty of time to figure out what works best."You can watch all the film you want, but when you get into a game, you're able to figure out what's working and what's not," McDonald said.Other matchups worth watching
49ers QB Alex Smith (11) vs. Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson (7) -- Although they'll never be on the field at the same time, just compare the stat sheet at the end of the game. Smith is in his first season with the new system coach Jim Harbaugh brings from Stanford. And Jackson reunites with former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. This is their first game together with the Seahawks. Both quarterbacks had shaky offensive line play in front of them during the exhibition season, so it's difficult to predict how they'll perform in the regular season. In four practice games, Smith completed just 55.6 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Jackson connect of 58.2 percent with one TD and two interceptions in the exhibition season.49ers MLB Patrick Willis (52) vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch 24) -- Lynch and Willis can be expected to meet throughout the game, whether or not Lynch has the ball in his hands. Seattle must have success running the ball, and Willis is a sideline-to-sideline presence who'll be focused on bring down Lynch, a powerful 215-pound runner. And Willis also figures to be more of a presence as a pass-rusher this season. In those instances when Willis is blitzing, Lynch must step up and prevent him from getting to the quarterback.

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Jacobs only played in two games and gained seven yards on five carries. The results were nothing like his 5,087 yards and 60 touchdowns over eight years with the Giants. 

Apparently being pushed to the bench as a 31-year-old veteran running back didn't sit well with Jacobs. 

“Going somewhere where they don’t have route conversions into certain coverages was just absurd,” Jacobs said Thursday on the Tiki and Tierney Show. “They’re just running routes in the defense, getting people killed. Size and strength is what they had, and that’s why they won.

"Let’s be real. They had great assistant coaches, but Jim didn’t know what he was doing. Jim had no idea. Jim is throwing slants into Cover-2 safeties, getting people hurt. That guy knew nothing, man."

On Saturday morning, Harbaugh responded to Jacobs with a tweet to him. 

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons as the 49ers' head coach. He also added five playoff wins and a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, the one that Jacobs played for him.

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

SANTA CLARA – The eldest non-kicker on the 49ers’ roster is learning a new position this offseason.

But Ahmad Brooks has plenty of experience adapting to new positions during his 12-year NFL career. He has played inside linebacker, outside linebacker in a 3-4 and defensive end in pass-rush situations.

Now, Brooks has moved to the strong side linebacker position -- the “Sam” -- in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“He’s getting them (first-team repetitions) because he deserves them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “Watching how he played last year and then going into this offseason, you never know when a guy who has been around a bunch, if they’re going to feel that they need the offseason like other people do. And Ahmad’s been here every day and he’s needed it just like everyone has anytime you’re learning a new scheme.

“But anytime you have a veteran like that, you worry that, hey, maybe they won’t think that they do need it. But Ahmad has and he’s been here. He’s worked at everything. He’s in good shape. He’s done what we’ve asked in the weight room with Ray and he’s done everything with the position coaches and coordinator on defense. So, I think he’s learning it and he should because he’s putting the work in.”

Brooks, 33, has entered the past three offseasons with his place on the 49ers seemingly in jeopardy. But the 49ers have not been able to find a younger, better player to replace him. Brooks has tied for the team-lead in sacks in each of the past four seasons with 27 sacks over that span.

Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson and undrafted rookie Jimmie Gilbert were the other players who lined up at the Sam position during the first week of 49ers organized team activities.

Brooks and Aaron Lynch, starters at outside linebacker for the 49ers in the previous systems, have the steepest learning curves in the transition to a new defense. Lynch has moved to the team’s pass-rush defensive end position, known as the “Leo.”

“I think techniques are totally different,” Shanahan said. “How you want to take on blocks, how you want to play the run. Ahmad has been around a little longer than Aaron. So he’s probably had a little bit more crossover, some similar schemes.”