Aldon Smith shows cobra-like striking ability

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Aldon Smith shows cobra-like striking ability

SANTA CLARA -- If you slow down the video of Aldon Smith's last moments before striking, it's still a blur.One scout compares Smith's innate ability to ensnare quarterbacks to a cobra springing forward violently at its prey.Smith, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 7 overall pick from Missouri, is quick off the snap of the ball and has showcased plenty of power, too. But another unique aspect of his game is his ability to quickly finish the job, 49ers director of college scouting Joel Patten said.
Smith lashes forward with uncanny timing to quickly take down quarterback when he reaches striking distance. His burst might be only 6 inches or a foot, Patten said, but it's a unique gift that is rarely seen in players of any experience level.And Patten said Smith's gift is something that usually cannot be detected without the help of slow-motion replays. Patten spoke briefly with CSNBayArea.com on Monday night outside the 49ers locker room after watching Smith turn in another outstanding game.
Smith recorded 2.5 sacks in the 49ers' 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had another sack nullified when a 49ers defensive back was called for illegal contact. (Smith shared a sack with Ray McDonald, as McDonald was given credit for a forced fumble on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.)Smith leads all NFL rookies with 13 sacks. Denver's Von Miller is second with 11.5 sacks. Smith is closing in on Jevon Kearse's all-time rookie record of 14.5 sacks in 1999. He has already set the franchise record for rookies, breaking Charles Haley's record of 12 sacks in 1986.Smith has placed himself on the short list of candidates for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. It's an honor that he considers a goal, he said."I hope so," Smith said when asked if he thought his performance Monday won him some votes. "I was just out there playing. If it happens, it happens."His cobra-like striking ability is just one of Smith's many rare pass-rushing attributes. He is listed at 6-foot-4, 258 pounds. His hands are powerful. His arms are long. He has the quickness of a speed rusher. He has deceptive strength that enables him to bull-rush offensive tackles, such as Pittsburgh's Max Starks, who struggled against Smith on Monday."There are some unique things we saw when we were first evaluating him," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "The fact that he could athletically avoid defenders in tight spaces, especially inside the tackles. He showed that at Missouri."The other thing is he was always on his feet. He was rarely off his feet -- even when he was knocked off his feet. He had a way of stopping himself just short of hitting the ground or popping back up like a spring. He's got some real gifts of God."

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”