Killion: Dreary outlook for Harbaugh, 49ers

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Killion: Dreary outlook for Harbaugh, 49ers

July 29, 2011ANN KILLION ARCHIVE
49ERS NEWS 49ERSVIDEO
Ann Killion
CSNBayArea.com
The 49ers handed out rosters on their first day of training camp.

Tried to make a ham sandwich with mine. Thought it was a piece of Swiss.Yes, there are a lot of holes in the 49ers roster. Not little holes, but big gaping ones at key positions. Positions that successful NFL teams generally need.Like:A starting center. Eric Heitman was released on Thursday. David Baas agreed to terms with the Giants.A top-line wide receiver. Michael Crabtrees recurrent foot injury will keep him out of action for four to six weeks. In other words, Crabtree will miss another training camp.A settled secondary. The 49ers released Nate Clements for cap space, failed to land Nnamdi Asomugha who signed with the Eagles and may be in a bidding war for Dashon Goldsons services.A starting running back. Frank Gore didnt report to camp, looking for a contract extension, and no one knows when hell be in.An upgrade at veteran quarterback. Alex Smith was signed for a seventh year while more intriguing prospects like Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb went elsewhere.MAIOCCO: Harbaugh misses three key 49ers at campThey also lost a locker room leader in Takeo Spikes. But, hey, they replaced replaced Joe Nedney at kicker.The storyline from Friday was supposed to be all about the launching of the new and improved Jim Harbaugh era. Harbaugh was the big fish the 49ers landed in the offseason and to make no mistake - he was an important one.Hes the first offensive-minded coach the 49ers have had in seven seasons. He was the most coveted coach on the open market back in January. He brings a new enthusiasm and vigor to the 49ers. But instead of a happy storyline about Harbaughs debut, the news coming out of the 49ers this week was increasingly dismal.And while its true that the 49ers recent coaches have been disasters, the organization needs more than just a new coach. They need upgrades in personnel. So it was troubling to hear owner Jed York say in a conference call this week that the 49ers efforts would be focused on resigning their own free agents and that he thought the team was close to competing for the playoffs.On Friday afternoon, when the free agent period officially opened and the NFL Network was blaring Free Agent Frenzy, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke was standing on the field watching practice. Any visions 49ers fans might have had of Baalke huddled in his office simultaneously working two land lines, a Blackberry and an iPhone to get help for the 49ers were incorrect. Baalke watched the entire practice, chatted with Harbaugh for a while after it was over and strolled off the field.RELATED: 49ers camp report: Harbaugh runs the show
Despite the apparent inactivity while the rest of the league is consumed with musical players, Harbaugh insists there is a plan.I do, Ive been involved in it and Trent Baalke and I are talking every day, on it and executing that plan and I think smartly, he said. I feel good about it and time and results will judge if we were correct in our thinking.He added, when asked if patience was part of his plan, that three quarters of the teams in the National Football League are taking that approach right now. It doesnt feel like that, with bidding wars breaking out all over. The Eagles and Patriots got a lot better. Other NFC teams the Falcons, the Bears, the Saints all have made moves. More relevant to the 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals just improved with the acquisition of Kolb. The 49ers arent just standing pat; they seem to be leaking players. And if you were to rank the teams in the weak NFC West right now, youd probably put the 49ers at the bottom.Before the lockout the storyline that was penciled in for July 29, the opening day of training camp, was the exciting debut of Harbaugh. The actual story on Friday was quite a bit drearier.

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.”