Big-picture expecations don't change 49ers' approach


Big-picture expecations don't change 49ers' approach

SANTA CLARA -- The mass chaos that surrounded the 49ers during the opening of training camp a year ago is a distant memory.The players know the system. They know what is expected from them on the field and in the meeting rooms. And the coaches know the players.Unlike the uncertainty that came a year ago after the lockout wiped out the entire offseason program for the players and the new 49ers coaching staff, this training camp has a greater sense of order.RELATED: 49ers camp battles -- who are fighting for jobs?
And there is no question the expectations -- inside and outside the 49ers organization -- a far greater."We have great expectations," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said upon the opening of training camp. "We've got big hopes. We've got big dreams. As it relates to the expectations, though, they are go out and have a great practice this afternoon."After the 49ers' first day off of camp on Tuesday, they return to practice Wednesday afternoon.Harbaugh talks about every day in the same manner. The 49ers' most important day is today. That goes for every day. His message to the team is to concentrate on the next task -- and avoid looking too far into the future."The other things are irrelevant at this point, other than you've got to find something to believe in, and then go to work at that," Harbaugh said. "And we believe that what puts us in the best possible position, the most advantageous position to win is preparation and hard work."The 49ers have 90 players on their camp roster. They must trim the roster to 53 players for the start of the regular season. A lot of the 49ers going through the grind of camp will be former 49ers in a month. That's why Harbaugh's motto during the offseason program was "Work. Don't worry."In the backs of everybody's mind is the thought that the 49ers are on the short list of NFL teams that figures to enter the season with legitimate Super Bowl hopes.Harbaugh's job is to make sure his players do not get ahead of themselves and spent too much time thinking about the first Sunday in February."We're too focused on the process," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "Any time you want to be successful at anything, you don't focus on the end result. You focus on the day-to-day grind, the day-to-day details."If we focus on the process each and every practice, each and every week, each and every month, we'll be where we want to be at the end of the football season."Twelve months ago, nobody inside or outside the 49ers could have imagined that the 49ers would have ended their skid of eight consecutive non-winning seasons with a 13-3 regular season, an NFC West title and a bitter overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl-champion New York Giants in the NFC championship game.Anything shy of a return trip to the NFL's final four will be viewed as a step backward. But that's too far into the future for the 49ers to spend much time thinking about right now."We're not worried about the Super Bowl because what we do today will set us up for tomorrow," tight end Vernon Davis said. "That's why coach keeps harping on taking it each day, one day at a time. We have to make it through today to get to the next one."The 49ers are sneaking up on nobody this season. As Whitner points out, the 49ers have gone from "hunter to hunted" -- a team that will bring out the best in their opposition this season."It's a new season," 49ers tackle Joe Staley said. "It's the 2012 season. We can't get hung up on what we did last year. We have to wipe the slate clean. Obviously, we did a lot of good things last year, but we have a lot of improvements we need to make. We know what kind of talented team we have and we had success last year, but it doesn't mean anything. Everybody is 0-0."The 49ers must be better than a year ago for them to equal the same success. Defense and special teams did the heavy lifting. The offense was phenomenal when it came to holding onto the football. Quarterback Alex Smith threw just five interceptions while taking every significant snap in 18 games, including the playoffs.But the offense was also largely inconsistent. The 49ers ranked near the worst in the league in third-down conversions and red-zone efficiency. The 49ers added veteran receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, and running back Brandon Jacobs. The club also selected receiver A.J. Jenkins and running back LaMichael James in the first two rounds of the draft.In addition, Smith and the offense returns for a second season in the same system. Instead of scrambling a year ago to grasp a basic understanding of their responsibilities, the 49ers are fine-tuning and building upon what they already know."I just think, no question, we've gotten better," Alex Smith said. "Not just in the sense that we have a year under our belt, but I really feel that personnel-wise we've gotten better. We've gotten more depth. The next steps, the biggest one is consistency. Just doing that day-in and day-out, play after play after play, game-in and game-out. There's always going to be ups and downs, but just not the fluctuation that we had last year at times."As much as we all talk about pressing delete on last year, I mean obviously there was a lot of excitement going to the playoffs and the 13-3 (record) and things like that and getting a playoff win. But I don't think that anyone is pressing delete on the taste in our mouth. Working that hard to get that close to your goal and not getting there is definitely, even more bitter than some of the losing seasons that we've been a part -- that I've been a part of."

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.”