Competition for five 49ers' starting jobs


Competition for five 49ers' starting jobs

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SANTA CLARA -- With three games to be played in the exhibition season, there appears to be some degree of uncertainty regarding only five of the starting positions on the 49ers.

One of those spots is quarterback, but all signs are pointing toward incumbent Alex Smith opening as the starter while coach Jim Harbaugh continues to groom promising rookie Colin Kaepernick.

The wide receiver positions will undoubtedly see different forms this season, as the 49ers will have to re-arrange the furniture based on the availability on their players. The only spot where obvious competition remains on the offensive line is at center.

On defense, two key positions remain up for grabs. Rookie Aldon Smith and incumbent Parys Haralson are battling at right outside linebacker. (Ahmad Brooks appears to have a good handle on the left outside linebacker position). Carlos Rogers will be one starting cornerback. The job on the other side is wide open.
QB -- Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: Harbaugh is clearly favoring Smith. After solid practices Monday and Tuesday, Smith had created "separation" in the competition over the rookie, Harbaugh announced.RELATED: Harbaugh says Smith widens lead over Kaepernick
RB -- Frank Gore: He's still their best back for all downs. The challenge for the 49ers will be to figure out how to best use backups Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter.
FB -- Moran Norris: There might not be any competition for the fullback position, per se, but look for the 49ers to deploy second tight end Delanie Walker more than they use a fullback.
WR -- Braylon Edwards, Joshua Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn: Two of these wideouts will be starters. Edwards was the team's best wide receiver during training camp. But a possible league suspension is still pending. When the 49ers signed Edwards, they did so with full understanding that he might be suspended a game or two. Crabtree is getting healthy, and he's expected to be activated off the PUP list in time for the season opener. When Crabtree is healthy, expect him to jump into a starting role. Morgan belongs in the conversation, too.
TE -- Vernon Davis: He's been their best offensive player. Davis will be counted upon to have a huge season in this offense.
LT -- Joe Staley: Harbaugh said, "Up front, Joe Staley's having the best camp, I would say, of any of the offensive lineman." So no competition here.
LG -- Mike Iupati: Had an encouraging rookie season, and should only get better as he develops into an elite mauler in the run game.
C -- Adam Snyder vs. Jonathan Goodwin: Snyder has done a good job of learning a new position in his seventh NFL season. But it was clear when the 49ers guaranteed 4 million to Goodwin as a free agent, they were envisioning him as the starter. Snyder and Goodwin have split time with the first unit in practice, and they'll do so again Saturday night. Snyder will start, but Goodwin will enter in the first quarter.RELATED: 49ers camp report -- Competition on O-line
RG -- Chilo Rachal: Theoretically, Snyder is also in competition at this spot. But Harbaugh on Thursday made it clear he is happy with Rachal's performance during camp and considers him the starter.
RT -- Anthony Davis: Backup Alex Boone has been seeing action on both sides of the line as the "swing tackle." Davis, the 11th overall pick in the 2010 draft, is still in line to be the starter.Defense
LDE -- Ray McDonald: After getting the largest contract of any of the 49ers' free agents, he'll get an opportunity to play all downs. McDonald will move inside on third downs to rush the passer.
NT -- Isaac Sopoaga: He's back at full strength after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury to open camp. His job is to clog the middle, replacing Aubrayo Franklin, whom the 49ers showed no great interest in re-signing.
RDE -- Justin Smith: Mr. Dependable.
LOLB -- Ahmad Brooks: His name has been mention in the same sentence as Justin Smith and Patrick Willis among the 49ers' top defenders. Right now, there's no question he's a starter.
ILB -- NaVorro Bowman: He has done everything right, as he takes over for veteran Takeo Spikes.
ILB -- Patrick Willis: Spending time this camp working on adding pass-rush moves to his arsenal.
ROLB -- Parys Haralson vs. Aldon Smith: Haralson has been a primary starter since 2007, but Smith, the seventh overall pick, is closing in. Once the 49ers are comfortable with Smith as a three-down player, he's going to be moving into a starting role.
LCB -- Carlos Rogers: Team believes they improved in the area of pass coverage after cutting Nate Clements and signing Rogers to a one-year deal.
RCB -- Tramaine Brock vs. Shawntae Spencer vs. Tarell Brown: This position is wide open. Spencer entered camp as the favorite to win the job, but he has taken part in only two full practices because of a hamstring strain. He returned for limited work Sunday, and then was out of action the next four days. Brock has taken the biggest leap among everybody in the secondary. Brown is working back into action after missing some practice time this summer. Rookie Chris Culliver has turned some heads, but it might be too early for him to be seriously considered as a starter. Phillip Adams is still getting stronger after being unable to run for much of the offseason because of a broken ankle he sustained late last year.
FS -- Dashon Goldson: After the first 10 days of camp, it appeared Reggie Smith had solidified this spot. But Smith has not gone through a full practice since Aug. 5, and he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee three days later. Goldson re-signed with the 49ers after Smith's injury. Goldson will start, and Smith will see significant action as an extra defensive back.RELATED: 49ers officially ink S Goldson to one-year deal
SS -- Donte Whitner: He's a true strong safety who'll morph into a linebacker role when the 49ers go with extra defensive backs. His take-charge personality allows him to step in immediately as the leader of the secondary.

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

PHOENIX – Coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a position with the 49ers in which he had no quarterbacks on the roster.

On the first two days of free agency, the 49ers added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. He determined they were better fits for the offense he would be installing over Colin Kaepernick, who started 64 regular-season and postseason games for the 49ers over the past 4 ½ seasons.

Shanahan appeared to be looking for quarterbacks who are more proficient at going through progressions and making plays from the pocket. Kaepernick was not deemed as a good fit for Shanahan's offense.

“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think Colin has a certain skillset that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.

“When we first looked at it, you got to look at each quarterback and what type of offense you want to put in. That wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to put in a different type of offense.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. General manager John Lynch has confirmed the 49ers would have released Kaepernick if he had not opted out of his deal.

“The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ top target in free agency was Hoyer, who enters his ninth NFL season with his sixth different team. Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 in Hoyer’s second and final season with the club.

Hoyer started five games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sidelined with broken left arm. Hoyer completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in 200 attempts.

“All these questions about what I like in a quarterback, Brian is like that,” Shanahan said. “He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it. That gives other guys a chance to perform in your offense. If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.

“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”

The 49ers also reached a contract agreement with Barkley, who started six games with the Bears due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Hoyer. Barkley saw the most extensive playing time of his career. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Just watching Matt since college, Matt’s always been a solid player, even coming out and playing at an early age at (USC),” Shanahan said. “He’s battle-tested in that way. He’s gone through the pressure of college, the pressure of the draft, being in the NFL, being with some different teams. Even watching Matt in Chicago this year, I think he played better this year than he has throughout his career. That means the guy is continuing to work at it.”

The 49ers figure to go to training camp with four quarterbacks, so the team is not finished at the quarterback position.

“We’ll look to add anyone who can really help us,” Shanahan said. “I’m very happy with the two we got. You know we’re not only going to take two to camp. So we got to see how the draft works out and then you see what else is out there.”

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.

“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.

"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."

General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.

“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”