Crabtree's role vs. Bengals

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Crabtree's role vs. Bengals

The 49ers tried to conserve receiver Michael Crabtree this week in the practices before Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Upon being medically cleared to play in early September after recovering from surgery to repair a left foot fracture, Crabtree took part in full practices leading up to the first game of the regular season. That approach didn't work too well.Crabtree played 13 snaps in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, then missed the following game, against the Dallas Cowboys, with soreness in his foot.This week, Crabtree was limited in practices but is listed as probable for against the Bengals. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Crabtree has a role in the 49ers' game plan.But what is that role?

Crabtree might not start the game, as Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn have been full participants in practices. Crabtree could be worked into the mix as the third-down slot receiver. Then, depending on how he looks, Crabtree could see more and more action, along with Morgan, in two-receiver formations.Braylon Edwards is expected to miss approximately a month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery this week to repair a torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee.Kyle Williams, who played 16 snaps Sunday against the Cowboys, will be active. But he'll probably return to his role as the fourth man on a team that has not put more than three wideouts on the field at the same time this season.Here are a few more elements of worth watching in Sunday's game:Offensive plan: Aside from the multiple looks, including a dose of seven-linemen formations, the 49ers' offense has resembled the stodgy philosophy employed by former head coach Mike Singletary and ex-offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Quarterback Alex Smith has gotten off to an efficient beginning to the season. His 95.2 passer rating is 11th in the league, and his 70.5 completion percentage is tied for fourth. But the 49ers have not asked much from him. Smith has attempted 44 passes (31st in the league) and his 303 yards passing is 29th. Are the 49ers even capable of breaking out into a multi-receiver spread formation and attacking? "(It's) part of the scheme," Harbaugh said. "It's what we're working on. We've got the ability to do it, yes." The 49ers want to provide a threat through the air, so the Bengals can't afford to load the box to stop running back Frank Gore. But the 49ers, clearly, also want to protect Smith, who sustained a concussion last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Rookie backup Colin Kaepernick took more practice snaps this week in practice . . . just in case.Goldson's return: Safety Dashon Goldson got all the practice time this week at free safety, a strong indication he'll return to his accustomed starting role on defense. Goldson missed the final exhibition game and the first two games of the regular season with a knee injury. The 49ers need him to return to his playmaking form of 2009, when he recorded four interceptions, forced three fumbles and recorded two sacks. He might get some chances to take advantage of the inexperience at quarterback with Bengals rookie Andy Dalton making his third career start.Spencer in secondary: Veteran Shawntae Spencer has 72 career starts, but he's been on the field for just one snap of defense this season. He will likely see a lot more action Sunday, but how much? Carlos Rogers' starting job is secure. Tarell Brown started the 49ers' first two games at right cornerback with mixed results. Second-year player Tramaine Brock has worked as the 49ers' third cornerback. "You've got to remember, he (Spencer) got hurt very early on the second practice so he had zero training camp for us," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "So, his body, mind is still in training camp, physically and mentally."Conversion complete:Bruce Miller was the Conference USA defensive player of the year at Central Florida as a defensive end. But Miller was shocked when the 49ers drafted him in the seventh round . . . as a fullback. Miller will see his first action of the season on offense, as he takes over for Moran Norris, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with a fractured fibula. Miller said he has finally gotten accustomed to the idea of playing offense and, even, just saying the word "fullback." Said Miller, "Going through the preseason it was a little bit different. As we've made our way through it's gotten easier and easier." If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section. When I arrive in Cincinnati, I'll answer as many as possible. Thank you.

49ers 'ecstatic' with first-day haul in the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers 'ecstatic' with first-day haul in the 2017 NFL Draft

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers began Thursday with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

When his first day as 49ers general manager reached its conclusion, John Lynch had selected two of the three top players on his draft board and picked up additional third-round picks for this year and next year.

After Myles Garrett, the 49ers’ top-rated prospect, was the Cleveland Browns’ selection at No. 1 overall, the 49ers traded back one spot with the Chicago Bears. The 49ers still got their No. 2-rated prospect, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

The 49ers started making calls to teams with selections in the teens, according to coach Kyle Shanahan, to inquire about trading up for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. The 49ers finally worked a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to move up three spots to No. 31.

All they gave up was a fourth-round pick acquired from the Bears earlier in the day.

“In terms of how we rated them, we got two of our top three players,” Lynch said. “We’re thrilled. We’re ecstatic. I think these guys have traits that encompass what we want to be about as a football organization.”

Lynch said he began speaking with Bears general manager Ryan Pace more than a week ago. Because the 49ers had picks scheduled next to the Bears in every round, Pace suggested to Lynch that the two teams should be willing to work with each other throughout the draft.

The 49ers had other offers for the No. 2 pick, Lynch said. A source told NBC Sports Bay Area just prior to the start of the draft that the 49ers had fielded three solid offers.

The team’s chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe worked out the details to finalize the trade with the Bears.

The 49ers did not know which player the Bears were targeting at No. 2, but Shanahan voiced his opinion while the trade was going down.

“This guy is a pretty bright,” Lynch said of Shanahan. “He said, ‘That’s not for a defensive lineman. That’s for a quarterback.’ And he was right.”

The Bears made the trade to select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick. In order for the Bears to trade up one spot, they delivered the 49ers a third-round pick (No. 67), a fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a third-round pick next year.

Jacksonville executive Tom Coughlin, whose team held the No. 4 pick, watched and admired the 49ers' move from afar. 

"To get what you had in mind right off the bat and pick up those extra picks? Pretty nice deal," Coughlin told Jacksonville reporters. "I’ve never seen one of those. . . Oh, my gosh. Nothing like that has ever come my way.”

When asked if the 49ers would have selected Foster if the Bears selected Thomas, Lynch said, “Perhaps. It was very likely.”

Instead, the 49ers waited and waited and waited before finding a trade partner in an unlikely place. The 49ers made a deal with Seattle, giving up the 111th pick obtained from Chicago, to select Foster. The Saints had already told Foster he would be the pick one spot later.

“He’s my kind of player,” Lynch said of Foster. “He plays sideline to sideline, and he’ll hit anything that moves. I think that’s contagious for teammates.”

Foster is recovering from shoulder surgery and his stock was negatively affected by character concerns. He was sent home from the NFL scouting combine after an argument with a hospital worker during his medical check. He also had a positive drug test due to a diluted urine sample.

Lynch spent a lot of time with Foster during his visit to Santa Clara, as well as a meeting him at the combine. Both Lynch and Shanahan spoke regularly with Foster on the phone and on FaceTime in the past few weeks.

The 49ers also dispatched vice president of football affairs Keena Turner and team chaplain Earl Smith to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to meet with Foster for two days. The team will have a plan in place to help guide Foster as he transitions to professional football, Lynch said.

“I would tell you that his character is what drew us to him,” Lynch said. “When you start talking football with this young man, he lights up a room. He’s a good kid. I believe in the kid. I think he’ll be a great player for this organization for a long time.”

What we really learned from day one of the 2017 NFL Draft

What we really learned from day one of the 2017 NFL Draft

So after one day of the NFL Draft, we know the following:
 
1.        Roger Goodell could be booed on the surface of the sun, and if you don’t think so, let’s all agree to give that thesis a try.
 
2.        The Oakland Raiders have invested a lot in Gareon Conley’s word.
 
3.        John Lynch is either a swindler, or he was presented with a deal that only an idiot could refuse.
 
Let’s do Goodell first. He was booed lustily and often by the huge Philadelphia crowd, and though he would be booed anywhere (and he half-heartedly asked for more with a smile that looked more like a dog sticking his head out of a speeding car window), Philadelphia booing causes osteoporosis.
 
Next, we go to the Raiders, who used the 24th pick in the draft to take Conley, the secondary man from Ohio State who is being investigated for rape. Conley has maintained his innocence, putting out a statement denying all the accusations, and TMZ claims to have a video that calls into question the woman’s story. In other words, nobody can be sure of anything quite yet.
 
Except the Raiders seemed sure enough to take him, and general manager Reggie McKenzie said the team investigated him and the incident thoroughly. In short, given Mark Davis’ stated opposition to employing players involved in violence against women, McKenzie better be right, and close enough to right to assuage any misgivings Davis or the customer base might have.
 
As far as Conley the player, check back with us in at least two years.
 
Finally, there is Lynch, who squeezed (or was amazingly offered) three picks from Chicago Bears’ general manager Ryan Pace in exchange for one place in the draft. Pace, who was immediately described by Wikipedia as “the soon-to-be former general manager,” took North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, whom the 49ers had little interest in.
 
In other words, Lynch either pulled a fast one, or had a fast one handed to him. Either way, the 49ers got Solomon Thomas, the defensive lineman from Stanford they had long coveted, plus a third-round pick tomorrow, one next year and one in the fourth round that they helped spin into Reuben Foster, the Alabama linebacker who fell from much loftier draft positions apparently because of shoulder concerns.
 
In short, McKenzie got a much-needed secondary man who might end up being more trouble legally than he is worth athletically (though the level of doubt here is sufficient to jump to no conclusions quite yet), and Lynch won a reputation as the young Billy The Kid, smiling precociously while he robs you at gunpoint.
 
Time will tell whether he also gets to be called a great talent evaluator, but for the moment, don’t ask him to hold your wallet. That, kids, is the highest compliment a general manager can receive on the first night of his first NFL Draft.