Maiocco: 49ers move forward without Heitmann

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Maiocco: 49ers move forward without Heitmann

June 30, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

Eric Heitmann was the only starting player still around from the 49ers' last playoff victory.Heitmann started at left guard as a rookie in one of the more memorable 49ers' postseason games. The 49ers rallied from a 24-point second-half deficit to defeat the New York Giants 39-38 on Jan. 5, 2003 at Candlestick Park.A mainstay on the offensive line for most of the past decade, Heitmann will likely miss his second consecutive season and his career is in jeopardy after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured disk in his neck, his agent, Kenny Zuckerman, told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday.From 2003 to '06, he started 51 consecutive games. After missing the final two games of the season with a broken leg, Heitmann returned to the starting lineup Week 1 of 2007. He started 48 in a row before missing all of last season."He was the one consistent, even when you go back to (Steve) Mariucci and the (Dennis) Erickson days," quarterback Alex Smith said. "He's been the one veteran voice because we've been inundated with youth on the front line."I know he had his surgery and it's, obviously, pretty serious. He'll be missed."Each of the 49ers' five starting offensive linemen last season were first- or second-round draft picks since 2005. And top backup Adam Snyder came to the team as a third-round pick in 2005."Coming in as a rookie, you really don't know what kind of situation you're getting into," Snyder said. "And having a guy like Eric in the room who's willing to spend the extra time, and could just sit down and talk to you about the game of football or soothing else going on. "I owe a lot of my career to Eric. He came in and played guard, then played center for a number of years. He taught me a lot about the game."Heitmann, 31, will not be available for the upcoming season, so where do the 49ers turn?David Bass: He started all 16 games at center with Heitmann out last season, and he played well. The 49ers targeted Baas for a contract extension last season, but the sides never reached a deal. Baas remains unsigned and will be an unrestricted free agent when the lockout ends. The 49ers must rank him as a top priority to re-sign. Baas flew from Florida to take part in a players-organized team workout June 9, a clear indication of his desire to return to the 49ers.Adam Snyder: He has played every position along the offensive line, except center, in his six seasons with the 49ers. But Snyder started working at center a year ago. During the team workouts he continues to take snaps at center. He might have a chance to compete with Chilo Rachal at right guard. As a center, he's probably better-suited to serve as a backup.
Daniel Kilgore: The 49ers traded up to select Kilgore in the fifth round. He played left tackle at Appalachian State, but the 49ers project him as a centerguard in the NFL. It'd doubtful he'd be ready to start as a rookie.
Mike Person: He played tackle in college, but the 49ers envision him competing at centerguard, along with Kilgore. Person is one of five offensive linemen who has taken part in each of the "Camp Alex" workouts.Tony Wragge: The veteran is unsigned for next season, and the fact the 49ers drafted Kilgore and Person does not appear to bode well for his future with the club.Chase Beeler: He was named AP first-team All-American center after his senior season at Stanford. He was not drafted. The 49ers might have some interest in signing him to a free-agent contract. Beeler, upon the invitation from Joe Staley, worked out with the 49ers on Wednesday at San Jose State. He was able to answer some questions about the playbook, based on his experiences at Stanford with current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

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.”