Have 49ers improved? Analyzing the offense

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Have 49ers improved? Analyzing the offense

Through two weeks of free agency, the 49ers' offense has seen . . . --The departure of starting right guard Adam Snyder;
--The addition of wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, along with the loss of Josh Morgan;
--The re-signing of starting quarterback Alex Smith, and the addition of former Tampa Bay backup Josh Johnson.MAIOCCO: Have 49ers improved? Analyzing defense, special teams
So, as 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh likes to say, you never stay the same, let's take a look at whether the 49ers' offense has improved, position-by-position, with their pre-draft moves:Offensive line: Expect right tackle Anthony Davis and left guard Mike Iupati to make noticeable improvements because they'll get their first full offseasons of work with the coaches. Right now, Daniel Kilgore is slated to take over at right guard for Snyder, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Kilgore might end up as the starter, but expect him to be challenged by a player-to-be-added-later. Bottom line: Improvement, based on four spots remaining static and an offseason of work together.Tight ends: Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker are back. Blocking specialist Nate Byham returns after missing last season with an ACL tear. Bottom line: Improvement, as Davis will have a firm grasp of the offense from the beginning of the season.Wide receivers: In the NFC championship game, the 49ers' wideouts were Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Brett Swain. Right now, the 49ers have Randy Moss and Mario Manningham under contract, along with Crabtree, Ted Ginn and Williams. Moss did not play last season, and he's essentially on a six-month tryout with the team to see if he can prove he deserves a role on the team. Manningham was the clear No. 3 with the New York Giants behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. With Manningham, Crabtree and Moss, the 49ers should be able to find two starting-caliber receivers and a good No. 3 man, too. Bottom line: Improvement -- but there are still a lot of questions.Running backs: Frank Gore rushed for 1,211 yards -- the second-highest rushing total of his seven-year career. After five straight 100-plus yard games from Games 4 through 8, Gore went 10 games without rushing for 100 yards in a game. Kendall Hunter was a good change-of-pace back, and Anthony Dixon has not won the confidence of the organization. Bottom line: Slight dip, based on another year or wear and tear on Gore, who turns 29 in May and has been the team's every-down back for six seasons.
Quarterbacks: Alex Smith re-signed after the failed bid to convince Peyton Manning that the 49ers were his best option. Colin Kaepernick has been joined by free-agent pickup Josh Johnson. Last season, Kaepernick and undrafted Scott Tolzien were Smith's backups. Bottom line: Improvement, based on Smith and Kaepernick being in the same system for a second year, and the addition of Johnson to increase the competition.

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.”