Harbaugh encouraged by QB Smith's athleticism

Harbaugh encouraged by QB Smith's athleticism

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- With no offseason program, just a month of practices and four exhibition games in which his starters played no more than a quarter at a time, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is still learning about his team.The 49ers' season-opening victory over the Seahawks provided Harbaugh and his coaching staff with the best gauge with which to evaluate their players.
"We learned a lot about our team," Harbaugh said. "The fact that you play the preseason and not everybody's playing every snap. They've not all played together. You learn quite a bit. How much? I think it's a good amount."What Harbaugh learned -- and impressed him -- most about quarterback Alex Smith was his ability to make plays while on the move."Really encouraged by that," Harbaugh said. "That was a point of emphasis during this training camp. To see him respond that way and do things that move the chains, get you closer to first downs, put you in more manageable situations, as far as the down and distance is concerned, is something that's a real positive for our ball club."Smith scrambled four times for 24 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run in which he made one defender miss and morphed into a running back to break the plane of the goal line while absorbing a hit from Seattle linebacker Aaron Curry.On pass attempts in which he was on the move or slid outside the pocket, Smith completed 6 of 8 attempts for 42 yards. Michael Crabtree dropped a short pass on one of the plays. On the other incomplete pass it was difficult tell if Smith was outside the tackle box. But a flag for illegal contact in the end zone was picked up because referee Jeff Triplette ruled that Smith was out of the pocket.Smith said he has the freedom to improvise and create more plays with his feet with Harbaugh as his coach. Smith might be less inclined to throw the ball away and more apt to stick with a play longer this season to see if something develops."Especially when things break down, something's not there, I use my feet and try to become my own check-down or make something happen," Smith said.Harbaugh sees Smith's athleticism as an aspect of his game that can be emphasized as a key part of the 49ers' offense."Yeah, making good decisions, buying time, distorting the defense," Harbaugh said. "You're out of the pocket, that coverage doesn't hold up as long when you can buy time and get out of the pocket. They lose guys, sometimes they have to come up to tackle the quarterback and the quarterback can put it over their head or it distorts the defense in a way. Happy that he was doing it and playing the game that way."It's just something a quarterback has to do. I'm sure there's risk, but you saw Alex make two big plays when he was out of the pocket. I think this year will be no different than any other year in football. The most touchdown passes are off of quarterbacks moving."The 49ers play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Candlestick Park, and the quarterback on the other sideline is a player Harbaugh has admired for nearly a decade for many of the same reasons.Quarterback Tony Romo caught Harbaugh's eye in 2003 when he wrote draft evaluations for the Raiders as an assistant coach. Romo went undrafted out of Eastern Illinois, but Harbaugh placed a second-round grade on him, a source told CSNBayArea.com in January when the 49ers were pursuing Harbaugh as head coach in January."An elite quarterback, no question about it when it comes to the accuracy, the improvisation, the confidence to throw it into tight windows," Harbaugh said. "All those things make him a top-flight quarterback."

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

PHOENIX – The 49ers had a recent visit with Tampa Bay free-agent defensive end Jacquies Smith, general manager John Lynch confirmed on Sunday.

Smith, 27, sustained a torn right ACL in the Buccaneers’ season opener in September while running down the field on punt coverage against the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers gave Smith a physical during his visit to Santa Clara. The club has yet to make a contract offer, Lynch said.

"We wanted to get him checked out medically, and we’ll see," Lynch said at the NFL owners meetings.

Smith (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) recorded 6.5 sacks in 2014 and seven sacks in 2015 for the Buccaneers.

After going undrafted in 2012 out of Missouri, Smith signed with Miami. He spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League before landing on the New York Jets’ practice squad. Smith worked his way into the Buccaneers’ defensive-line rotation in ’14 after being claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills.

The Buccaneers gave Smith the low tender of $1.797 million as a restricted free agent. Any team can sign Smith to an offer sheet. Tampa Bay would have the right of first refusal but would get no compensation if the team chooses not to match the contract.

With 71 players under contract, the 49ers have $74.5 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association.

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman/defensive end Clay Matthews Sr. passed away on Thursday, March 23rd at the age of 88. 

Matthews originally entered the NFL as a 25th round (247th overall) draft choice by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1949 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons with San Francisco (1950, 1953-55), appearing in 45 games and registering one interception. After spending his rookie season of 1950 with the 49ers, he went on to spend two years (1951-52) in the United States Army where he served in the Korean War.

A native of Charleston, SC, Matthews attended Georgia Tech where he played guard, tackle and end while earning All-Southeastern Conference honors in 1948. In 1949, Matthews was the All-Southeastern Conference heavyweight wrestling and boxing champion at Georgia Tech.

Matthews was the first of three generations to play in the National Football League. His two oldest sons, Bruce and Clay Jr., each spent 19 seasons in the NFL. Originally selected by the Houston Oilers in the first round (9th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft, Bruce was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 after 14 Pro Bowl and seven First-Team All-Pro selections. Clay Jr. was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 1st round (12th overall) in the 1978 draft and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Three of Bruce’s sons, Jake, Kevin and Mike, and two of Clay Jr.’s sons, Clay III and Casey, either have spent time or currently play in the NFL. Clay III is currently a member of the Green Bay Packers and a six-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker while Jake is currently an offensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons after being selected in the first round (6th overall) by the team in 2014. 

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