Nov. 1, 2010MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comServing up some football leftovers from London while cruising at 35,000 feet over Greenland . . . and sending while I'm forced to spend the night at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (it's a long story, and I won't bore you with the details) . . . --Quarterback Troy Smith can really throw the football. His 27-yard fourth-quarter completion to Delanie Walker was a beautifully thrown tight spiral. It might have been the best pass we've seen this season.On the next play, his throw-it-up-for-grabs toss to Walker might have been the worst we've seen. Well, it was the worst until Walker went up to make the catch at the 1-yard line for a 38-yard gain."I don't want to put him in the same light, but it's kind of like watching a Brett Favre pass," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said after the 49ers' 24-16 victory. "Sometimes he makes a decision . . . he throws the ball. Am I going to go in there and say, 'Hey, don't do that?' I don't think so."When told of the comparison, Smith said, "I mean, that's not bad -- that really isn't. But to compare myself to Brett is doing Brett a disservice. I've got a long way to go to even come close to being mentioned in the same sentence with him."--From this morning's London Times: "Troy Smith became an instant star on a renowned British sporting stage last night, but the big question is whether many people in this country realised it."--When the 49ers took over with 2:14 remaining and up by eight points, it was pretty obvious they would run the ball three consecutive times. After all, they went to their personnel group that consisted of two backs and two tight ends.If they got a first down, they would clinch the game. If they were stopped, they'd have to punt the ball back to Denver.In the backfield, joining fullback Moran Norris, was not Frank Gore or even veteran Brian Westbrook. Nope, it was rookie Anthony Dixon who got the call."The thing that we wanted to do is get fresh legs on the field," Singletary said. "So we put Dixon in and said, 'Let's go.'"Dixon's three rushing attempts gained 4, 2 and 3 yards. The 49ers were forced to punt, and Eddie Royal's 78-yard touchdown return was nullified by an illegal block in the back. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer clinched the victory with an interception.Dixon played six snaps, and had five rushes for 11 yards. Westbrook was on the field for five plays, and he carried twice for 4 yards, and added one reception for 9 yards.--Tight end Vernon Davis aggravated his right ankle sprain and left the game in the second quarter. He did not return. It's a low-ankle sprain, according to Davis. He said it's not serious, that he felt he'd be able to play Sunday -- if the 49ers had a game. They don't. This is their bye week.--What impressed me most about Troy Smith was the feel he demonstrated in the pocket for sidestepping the rush and creating space to get rid of the ball. That is something Alex Smith needs to work on. The 49ers avoided getting sacked in a game for only the second time this season.A quarterback who can make subtle adjustments in the pocket and get rid of the ball on time can make an offensive line look very good.--The 49ers' offensive line looked good against the Broncos. Guards Chilo Rachal and Mike Iupati, along with Norris, all made nice blocks to enable Gore to plow forward for a 3-yard touchdown on a third-down play that gave the 49ers a two-touchdown lead with less than four minutes remaining.--They've known each other since they were 7, but Troy Smith certainly did not give any special favors to his old buddy, Ted Ginn. Smith directed just one pass toward Ginn, and it was incomplete. The 49ers were intent on running the ball, so they used more two-back, two-TE formations. Ginn played just 12 snaps, and Dominique Zeigler played solely on special teams.--The 49ers had 61 plays on offense, and here's the breakdown of the skill guys: Josh Morgan 58, Gore 50, Walker 47, Norris 29, Nate Byham 47, Michael Crabtree 42, Davis 22, Ginn 12, Dixon 6, Westbrook 5, Adam Snyder (reported as third TE) 4.--The learning continues for rookie safety Taylor Mays. It was pretty easy to predict when Mays took over as a starter upon the abrupt departure of Michael Lewis that he would have his ups and downs. He recorded seven tackles on Sunday, and he has forced a couple fumbles with big hits in his five games as a starter. But he has also struggled a little in coverage -- he allowed Brandon Lloyd to get behind him for a 71-yard pass play.--Speaking of Michael Lewis, he signed last week with the St. Louis Rams. Don't think it's a coincidence that the Rams signed Lewis with the 49ers coming up on the schedule.--Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes are playing very well. Rookie NaVorro Bowman has been seeing action as part of the 49ers' nickel defense. But with the 49ers protecting an eight-point lead with less than two minutes to play, Spikes remained in the game. He made a tackle of tight end Dan Gronkowski to hold him to an 8-yard gain on the first play of that final drive.--Yes, there is a lot of heat right now on coach Mike Singletary. The most-asked question I heard leading up to the game was, "If the 49ers lose to the Broncos, will Singletary get fired?"I get the impression 49ers ownership intend to ride it out with Singletary. After all, there isn't much benefit to be derived from a midseason firing of a head coach and the insertion of an interim coach from the same staff.--The 49ers (2-6) take a week off, and then they begin the second half of their season against the Rams. Five of the 49ers' final eight games are against NFC West opponents. The 49ers remain in last place in the division, 2.5 games behind the Seahawks, who lead the way at 4-3.
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.
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.”