Moss a mystery as he returns to Lambeau

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Moss a mystery as he returns to Lambeau

SANTA CLARA -- Wide receiver Randy Moss has scored more receiving touchdowns -- 13 in the regular season and two more in the playoffs -- against the Green Bay Packers than anyone in the history of the NFL.While with the Minnesota Vikings for the first seven seasons of his career, Moss played against the Packers twice every season.He knew the Packers. And the Packers knew him.When Moss, 35, returns to Lambeau Field on Sunday as a starting 49ers receiver, there will be an element of mystery. After all, Moss has played against the Packers only once in the past seven seasons. Moreover, there's not much recent tape for Green Bay to study on him. He did not see a lot of action in the exhibition season after sitting out all of 2011.Moss and fellow 49ers newcomer Mario Manningham, the presumptive third receiver, give the 49ers' passing game a new look that will be unveiled Sunday against the Packers."It definitely gives them a different dimension, no doubt about it," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said in a conference call Wednesday with Bay Area reporters. "We had the whole offseason to study film, and they've added a lot to their perimeter. Their vertical passing game has improved a lot just getting off the bus."It's a dynamic perimeter."Moss suggested Wednesday that it remains a work in progress, as he and quarterback Alex Smith continue to build a rapport.Moss played just 30 snaps in the first three exhibition games. He caught two passes from Smith for 18 yards against the Houston Texans in the second exhibition game. In the third game, Smith overthrew a triple-covered Moss on a deep route against the Denver Broncos -- perhaps to show the Packers that Smith will not be bashful about targeting Moss on deep routes. Moss sat out the final tuneup.When asked Wednesday if he feels he has developed good chemistry with Smith, Moss answered, "Well, I don't think any receiver really feels like they're where they want to be going into the season. The only thing I can really hang my hat on is we put enough work in to go into Week 1. That's all I can really say."RELATED: Randy Moss career stats News
Moss has been a stalwart on the practice field since signing a one-year, 1.75 million contract with the 49ers after sitting out last season. Moss can earn an additional 2.25 million through incentives. He did not miss a day of training camp, so the 49ers believe they know exactly what Moss can do."He's good," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's darn good. We feel great about him.""I think we've seen it out here on the practice field -- no doubt in my mind," Alex Smith said. "It's a matter of all of us taking it to the game field. The great thing, as an offense, you continue to remain multiple, balanced, and do a lot of different things. It create a lot of problems for (defenses) and they don't know where it's coming from. And Randy's a piece of that."Smith said the element of the unknown is something that can work in the 49ers' favor."A guy like Randy and the unique tool set that he has creates a lot of problems," Smith said. "He gives them a lot to think about, a guy who has big-play potential."In the past, Moss has flashed plenty of his big-play potential against the Packers, averaging 90.9 yards receiving per game in those head-to-head matchups. With 57 receiving yards Sunday, Moss would surpass Elroy Hirsch for most career receiving yards against Green Bay.Moss' two most-memorable games against the Packers were his first and last at Lambeau Field while with the Vikings. As a rookie in 1998, Moss enjoyed his breakout game with a five-catch, 190-yard, two-touchdown performance. In the 2004 playoffs, he caught two touchdown passes and famously pretended to "moon" the Lambeau crowd.On Wednesday when Moss met with several members of the Bay Area media after practice, he referenced that episode."I've had success on that field -- won and lost," Moss said. "And I just don't like people bringing up the old stuff. I tried to have fun with the fans -- tried to have fun. But at the same time, I want to go out here and compete. I think it's a good thing that my comeback -- or whatever you want to consider it . . . Lambeau's a nice place to start it."Manningham will also be starting his 49ers career after playing his first four NFL seasons with the New York Giants. There was never much doubt that Moss would team with Michael Crabtree to be the 49ers' starting receivers. Manningham returned to full practice Wednesday after leaving the club two weeks ago to attend the funeral of his grandfather in Ohio."Mario was back here on the off-days and getting re-acclimated and familiar with everything," Harbaugh said. "Again, (it's an) important week of preparation and we'll feel good day-by-day. We'll feel good as we do the work and get the confidence that will make us competitive."The 49ers signed Manningham to a two-year, 7.5 million contract in the offseason after catching 39 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns for the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants."I can't wait," Manningham said. "I'm excited to go out and play on a new team and show what I got and see how we are as a team."

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

CLEVELAND -- Finding Bigfoot has been more productive than the Cleveland Browns' search for a franchise quarterback.

This flawed football quest drags on.

For nearly two decades, the Browns, once a standard of NFL excellence and now a league punching bag, have been running in circles as they try to find a quarterback to lead them from the darkness to relevance and respectability. Since the franchise's inglorious expansion return in 1999, they've started 26 quarterbacks, a roll call of names that haunt even the most loyal Cleveland fans holding out hope the team will one day get it right.

From Tim Couch to Trent Dilfer, from Derek Anderson to Cody Kessler, and let's not forget that year of fun with Johnny Manziel, QBs have cycled through Cleveland like tourists, with none sticking around for long.

It's been a running joke.

And until the Browns find that long-term answer at quarterback, they'll continue to be looked at as a laughingstock.

They'll have another chance to perhaps end this long pursuit in this week's NFL draft. With the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks, and four more selections in the first three rounds, the Browns are positioned to finally fix the most important position on the field.

This could be the year Cleveland fans have longed for, the one when the Browns find their Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. But as fate would have it, this year's QB class isn't highly regarded. Many draft experts feel there isn't a quarterback worth a first-round selection and that Cleveland should wait until 2018.

That's just so Browns, whose experiment with Robert Griffin III backfired last season, resulting in the latest QB confusion.

"We're going to keep searching," coach Hue Jackson said recently. "I think we all understand, no one's really claimed this position yet on our football team so we need to do everything we can to continue to add a player that we feel, as an organization, really good about, that can lead our football team and we'll continue to chase that."

The chase continues Thursday when the Browns try to find that elusive, essential piece. Or fumble again.

Here are some quarterback tidbits to chew on when the Browns go on the clock:

UP TOP: Cleveland seems locked in ON Texas A&M defensive stud Myles Garrett at No. 1, and while he's proficient at sacks, there are no three- or seven-step drops in his future. The Browns are impressed with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, a former Ohio Mr. Football, despite his inexperience (only 13 college starts), but probably not enough to take him first. Landing Garrett and Trubisky would be a dream scenario, but Cleveland may have to trade up as the rebuilding Jets have sent out vibes they prefer Trubisky.

WHY NOT WATSON? Clemson's Deshaun Watson would seem to fit Jackson's profile of the ideal QB: mobile, dynamic, successful. The Browns, though, don't seem enthralled with Watson - not in the first round anyway - unless their silence is a smoke screen. There are other good options like Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas A&M's Patrick Mahomes or California's Davis Webb, who may all be available after Round 1.

DRAFT DEBACLES: The Browns' track record drafting QBs - or any position - is abysmal over the past decade, which is why many Cleveland fans fear the team will mess up again. Since 2007, only OT Joe Thomas and CB Joe Haden have proven to be good choices. Eight other first-round picks are no longer on the roster.

Along with Couch, the No. 1 choice in '99, the Browns have used first-round picks on Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Manziel, who was Johnny Goofball in an orange helmet. Those mistakes shouldn't deter the Browns from selecting a QB early, but they are grim reminders that there are no givens.

WAITING GAME: Would waiting one more year be so bad? Draft experts point to the 2018 QB class, led by UCLA's Josh Rosen and USC's Sam Darnold, as being more talented than the 2017 group. That wouldn't preclude the Browns from taking a quarterback later in this draft, just not in the first round.

HOMETOWN HEROES: Trubisky is the latest in a long line of Ohio-born QBs tabbed as the Browns' next savior. Quinn, Charlie Frye and Brian Hoyer all grew up as Browns fans, but none was able to lead the turnaround. If Trubisky is picked, the pressure on him to be the team's leader and face of the franchise will be immense.

BYE-BYE BROCK?: The Browns made a shocking move in free agency, acquiring QB Brock Osweiler, his $16 million guaranteed contract and a 2018 second-round pick from Houston. Cleveland made it clear Osweiler was not part of the future, but he's still on the roster and could be part of a fall-back plan if the Browns don't get their desired quarterback.

 

Report: 49ers strongly considering QB at No. 2

Report: 49ers strongly considering QB at No. 2

General manager John Lynch and the 49ers have created the desired intrigue about what the club will do with the No. 2 overall pick in this week’s NFL draft.

The team remains “open for business,” in the words of Lynch, to trade the second pick. If the 49ers are unable to find a trade partner, the team can do any number of different ways with that pick. The first round of the draft is scheduled for Thursday evening.

After edge-rusher Myles Garrett, widely projected to go to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick, there does not seem to be much separating the next dozen prospects on the board at a number of different positions.

Now, there is buzz the 49ers could go with a quarterback – likely, Mitchell Trubisky of North Carolina – with the No. 2 pick. That possibility gained steam Monday morning with a report from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, citing “several sources,” that the 49ers are “strongly considering” selecting a quarterback with the second pick.

One league source last week told NBC Sports Bay Area some around the league believe the 49ers would draft Trubisky or Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

“If the 49ers are waiting on Kirk Cousins, just remember that Trubisky is a better prospect now than Cousins was coming out of the 2012 draft,” the source said.

Cousins, who is set to play his second consecutive year as Washington’s franchise player, was a fourth-round selection under then-coach Mike Shanahan, New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was his father’s offensive coordinator when Washington drafted Cousins.

Lynch has been open in his scouting and praise of this year’s draft class. He has attended workouts of top quarterback prospects: Trubisky, Deshaun Watson (Clemson), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) and Davis Webb (Cal).

"I think most of this quarterback class should be later down the line, whether it's first round or second round,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said recently. ESPN’s Mel Kipier and Todd McShay had Trubisky as the first quarterback selected by the Browns at No. 12 overall.

“I think these guys are somewhat getting a bad rap,” Lynch said at the NFL scouting combine. “You turn on the film, and there’s a lot to like.”

The 49ers head into this week’s draft with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as the only two quarterbacks on the roster.

The 49ers have shown no interest in re-signing any of the top three quarterbacks on the team’s roster last season: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder. Each of those players remains unsigned.