Dixon lobbies for chance to play fullback

830479.jpg

Dixon lobbies for chance to play fullback

SANTA CLARA -- Running back Anthony Dixon, who was a source of frustration for 49ers coaching staffs of the previous two seasons, has an uphill climb to retain his spot on the team's 53-man roster.He was the seldom-used No. 3 back a year ago behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. And this offseason, the 49ers added to the depth at the position with Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James, as well as special-teams ace Rock Cartwright.One of the knocks on Dixon in previous seasons was his reluctance to use his 235-pound body to his advantage. Dixon has typically done a little too much "dancing" in the hole.But Dixon is apparently willing to prove he can be physical. And he has asked if he can see some action at fullback.
"(Dixon) is really doing everything he can do to contribute to the football team, special teams, running back, (and) he has asked to be given an opportunity to compete at the fullback position, which we have done and we're very pleased with," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Great idea by him. We'll take the best idea on the table. He's responding with a great focus. We've seen it all throughout the offseason and he continues to elevate that."Dixon was not seen taking any snaps during the first three days of practice at fullback. The 49ers' second padded practice is scheduled to begin Monday at 2:30 p.m.Bruce Miller, a defensive end in college whom the 49ers drafted last year, appeared in 15 games with seven starts as a rookie. Miller does not appear to have any serious competition for his full-time role.
"(We) certainly don't think of him as a defensive end with how far we've come in a year with Bruce," Harbaugh said. "I think he's one of the finer fullbacks in this league."The 49ers might keep just one true fullback on this year's roster, as the team can also use a tight end, such as Delanie Walker, or defensive lineman Will Tukuafu in that role. Undrafted rookie running back Jewel Hampton will not participate in training camp after recently undergoing surgery on a "lower extremity" to remove a bone spur, Harbaugh said. Hampton will likely remain on the non-football injury list into the start of the regular season, Harbaugh said. Harbaugh spoke at length Sunday about rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins, but it was another rookie who made a big impression during practice. Nathan Palmer of Northern Illinois was the 49ers' top target among the 49ers class of undrafted rookies. And he has not disappointed. It might be difficult for the 49ers to retain Palmer on the 53-man roster, but he is a strong candidate to bring back to the practice squad."He has done a good job here, learning the system," Harbaugh said. "He had an excellent day yesterday. That really stood out to all of us." Meanwhile, another undrafted rookie receiver, Brian Tyms, had a rough day. He upended rookie safety Trenton Robinson and then Tyms was observed taunting Robinson. Harbaugh ordered Tyms off the field."It was an incident, the way we do things, how we do them, it didn't meet that standard -- well below it," Harbaugh said. "And we addressed it, and we'll handle it better going forward." Veteran Leonard Davis has spent most of his time working at right guard, but he has also been seen taking a few snaps on the left side, too.When asked for his evaluation of Davis after three practices, Harbaugh said, "Good to real good right now, especially in certain areas we ask our linemen to do. Technique looks outstanding. Fundamentals look real sharp."It doesn't like like there's any rust there. He's been working real hard with (offensive line coach) Tim Drevno. The two of them are meeting extensively. Leonard is coming along real fast, getting up to speed with the system."

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent last offseason working with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on his throwing mechanics.

Ryan went on to set career-bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards passing (4,944), touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1).

New 49ers quarterback Matt Barkley worked with House and Dedeaux for the fourth offseason in Southern California before reporting to Santa Clara for the team’s offseason program.

“Kyle (Shanhan) is on board with what House and those guys are doing – I think, really, because of the year Matt Ryan had,” Barkley said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast” on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a believer in that. He saw the benefits of what Matt did with some of his drops and the timing on routes, how he changed his feet on some things. So we’re kind of sticking with that plan. Everyone is a little different, but for the most part we’re all on the same page when it comes to what our drops are looking like, our footwork and how the ball is coming out.”

House is a former major league pitcher and pitching coach who founded the 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles. Dedeaux pitched at USC and is the grandson of USC baseball coaching legend Rod Dedeaux. Former NFL quarterback John Beck is a motion mechanics instructor.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are among the NFL quarterbacks who have worked with 3DQB.

“I believe in those guys and what they’re doing,” Barkley said. “They’re at the top of their game, working with Brady and a bunch of other guys. They’ve helped me.

“He won’t change your throwing motion or really tweak how the ball comes out, but he’s going to try to maximize velocity and ground force production and torque -- a lot of sports science terms. But, really, just maximizing efficiency with your motion and making sure you’re sequencing is right.”

Barkley had never played for Shanahan before signing a two-year contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. But there are two obvious connections. Barkley’s offensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears was Dowell Loggains, Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. The other connection is House.

"It’s kind of funny, he worked with Atlanta’s staff all of last year, helped Matt Ryan, kind of build his base from the ground up and helped him a lot and he had an MVP year," Barkley said of House.

"There may have been talks down the pipeline, who knows. I don’t think that was the deciding factor by any means, but it never hurts.”