Giants-49ers: Who has the edge


Giants-49ers: Who has the edge

Frank Gore was injured and thus, a non-factor in the Nov. 13 regular-season game against the Giants. It was the first time he finished with no yards, on six carries, in his seven-year career. Kendall Hunter picked up some of the slack that day, rushing for 40 yards on six carries. But as a team, the 49ers were limited to just 77 yards on the ground. The Giants' run defense, meanwhile, has given up an average of 105.5 yards per game on the ground against Atlanta and Green Bay in the playoffs, after surrendering 121.2 rushing yards per game in the regular season. Gore is healthy now, as evidenced by his rushing for 1,211 yards this season, the second-highest season total of his career.
EDGE: 49ers

Yes, we know all about Alex Smith's arrival, albeit six years after he was the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick, and how the confidence between his ears has translated to confidence throwing the ball. But now he's facing a fearsome unit that showed up late in the season. The Giants pass rush, bookended by DEs Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, has allowed their secondary to blanket receivers of late, limiting the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers to a combined 75.0 passer rating this postseason. Going back two games into the regular season, against the New York Jets and Dallas, the Giants have racked up 17 sacks in the four games while picking off four passes and shutting out tight ends from the end zone. Beware, Vernon Davis.
To hear Jerry Rice tell it, Brandon Jacobs is soft, huh? Nothing like a retired receiver, granted, the best receiver of all time, taking a shot at a current player and doing the current 49ers' defense no favors in the process while adding some bulletin board material. Plus, Ahmad Bradshaw has been playing on a bad foot since about the mid-point of the season and missed the Nov. 13 game at Candlestick. Bradshaw rumbled for a game-high 55 yards, on 18 carries, and the Giants could only gain 93 yards on the ground in 29 carries. The 49ers, though, have not missed a beat. After finishing with the top-ranked run defense, and not allowing a rushing TD until Week 16, at Seattle, the 49ers limited New Orleans to a mere 37 rushing yards, on 14 carries last week.
Can we stop with the "Is Eli Manning an elite QB" questions, at least for now? Truth is, he's playing out of his mind and he has been in the Giants' four-game winning streak, each game an elimination game, of sorts. When he has time, Manning, who threw for a career-high 4,933 yards this season, with 311 against the 49ers, can pick apart defenses with the best of them. But when he's pressured, he's flustered. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, WR Hakeem Nicks suddenly has a tweaked ankle. And a muddy field won't help the Giants' air assault. Meanwhile, the 49ers pass defense, which gave up 230.9 yards per game in the air in the regular season, was just shredded by Drew Brees for 462 yards. Can Justin Smith and Co. keep Manning off balance?
The 49ers led the NFL in kick returns, averaging 27.2 yards and returning one for a touchdown, a 102-yard gallop by Ted Ginn against Seattle on kickoff weekend. And against the Giants earlier this season, Ginn returned two kicks for 55 yards. But Ginn injured his right knee against the Saints last week and is questionable to play. Even if he cannot go, and is replaced by Kendall Hunter, the 49ers should still enjoy an advantage here as the Giants gave up 22.9 yards per return.
The Giants were in a three-way tie for 20th in kick return this season, with Dallas and St. Louis in averaging 23.3 yards, and had a long of 40 yards. Nothing really special there. And against the 49ers in November, Da'Rel Scott returned two kicks for 53 yards. On the season, Devin Thomas returned 25 kicks and averaged 24.3 yards. The 49ers allowed 23.1 yards per kick return, with a long of 39 yards.
Ginn also led the Niners' punt return team, which ranked fifth in the NFL with a 12.4 average. Ginn himself averaged 12.3 yards and he had an electrifying 55-yard return for a TD against the Seahawks in the opener. But if Ginn is a no-go, Kyle Williams will replace him. Williams only returned two punts in the regular season. Giants punter Steve Weatherford's 39.2-yards net average ranked 14th in the NFL and the Giants allowed a 9.9-yards per punt return average.
If ranking just 29th in the 32-team NFL in punt return wasn't bad enough for the Giants, who averaged 6.1 yards per return with a long of 18 yards (Aaron Ross averaged 7.1 yards on 14 returns), now they get to face All-Pro punter Andy Lee. He set an NFL record for net yardage average at 44.0 yards this season. And the 49ers allowed 8.1 yards per return.
The expected NFL Coach of the Year, as a rookie, against the venerable lion, who has gone from being on the proverbial Big Apple hot seat a month ago to being prepped for his induction into Canton. That's how fast and fickle things can move in the coaching game. Harbaugh has done a magnificent job as an offensive mind and locker room psychiatrist, especially in green-lighting the gutsy call to have Alex Smith run around the left end for a 28-yard touchdown against the Saints. Coughlin, meanwhile, has maintained his steady, steely resolve that has translated to a defense that has gotten healthy and dangerous the last month. A clash of wills and specialties here. But we'll go with experience over exuberance...for now.
EDGE: GiantsPREDICTION: 49ers 23, Giants 21

49ers have already spent more in 2017 free agency than a year ago

49ers have already spent more in 2017 free agency than a year ago

Under the 49ers’ new regime, the club has already invested more in the free-agent market than a year ago under then-general manager Trent Baalke.

Just a reminder: The free-agent signing period does not officially open until March 9.

The 49ers on Friday reached a contract agreement with veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who is penciled into be a starter in the team’s new 4-3 base scheme under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

"As soon as Earl hit the open market, he became a priority for us to sign,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement released Saturday morning. “A man of high character, he represents everything we want to be as a football team. Earl is a tone-setter who plays the game with a tremendous passion and the effort necessary to win in this league. We believe those qualities are contagious and will help to make our team stronger. We look forward to the impact Earl will have on the field, in the locker room and in our community.”

It was the first significant move under Lynch, who also signed a player with NFL experience earlier in the week.

The 49ers also added cornerback K’Waun Williams to a one-year contract. Williams served as the Cleveland Browns’ nickel back for two seasons. The Browns released him before the start of last season and he was unable to play due to an ankle injury.

Mitchell was available to be signed before the start of the new league year because the Miami Dolphins released him last week in a move to save the team $4 million in cap space.

Mitchell took four free-agent visits and after wrapping up his tour with the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, he and the 49ers quickly agreed on a four-year, $16 million contract that includes $5.5 million of money in the first year, according to a source.

Last year, Baalke did little to improve the roster for coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers, who finished 5-11 in Jim Tomsula's one season, dropped to 2-14. Just hours after the season concluded, the 49ers announced the firings of Baalke and Kelly.

The only veteran free-agent addition who stepped on the field for the 49ers last season was offensive lineman Zane Beadles. The 49ers signed Beadles in late-March to a three-year, $9.75 million contract with a $1.75 million signing bonus. Beadles had a good season for the 49ers, starting 13 games at left guard and the final three games at left tackle.

The 49ers have already shown more willingness to be aggressive under Lynch’s leadership.

Mitchell, 29, is a seven-year veteran who began his NFL career from 2010 to ’13 with the Houston Texans. He was a rookie in Saleh’s final season as assistant linebackers coach in Houston.

Mitchell joins DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Quinton Dial on the 49ers defensive line. The 49ers view Mitchell as a high-energy player who bring good character to the locker room. The signing of Mitchell could be an indication the 49ers are moving on from Glenn Dorsey, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

With 5.5 sacks in seven seasons, the 49ers do not figure to use Mitchell in passing situations. The club must try to bolster its pass rush in free agency or the draft. Last season, Buckner and Ahmad Brooks shared the team-lead with six sacks apiece. In 2015, Brooks and Aaron Lynch both led the way with 6.5 sacks.


Source: 49ers agree to four-year deal with former Dolphins DT

Source: 49ers agree to four-year deal with former Dolphins DT

The San Francisco 49ers agreed to a four-year, $16 million deal with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell on Friday, has learned

Mitchell, 29, will earn $5.5 million in his first year with the 49ers. 

The seven-year veteran played in nine games last season for the Dolphins. He recorded 17 total tackles. 

Since entering the league in 2010 as a third-round draft pick with the Texans, Mitchell has appeared in 100 games between Houston and Miami, totaling 206 tackles. He has also recorded 5.5 sacks.