Quarters coverage: 49ers-Saints in exhibition opener

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Quarters coverage: 49ers-Saints in exhibition opener

Aug. 12, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
NEW ORLEANS -- Coach Jim Harbaugh has paced the 49ers through 11 practices.That's 33 hours devoted to practice and evaluations over the past two weeks. So anything that happens in the 49ers' exhibition opener Friday night against the New Orleans Saints will merely be an addendum to what Harbaugh and his staff have already seen, he said.
"As far as evaluations go, it'll mean something that it's a game," Harbaugh said. "But I don't think it'll mean as much as the 11 practices we've had under our belt right now. It'll augment it, definitely. But what these guys have been doing and what they're working on, those things to me kind of tip the scales."Still, there should be plenty to watch throughout the "game" . . . First quarter
There's this guy -- Alex Smith is his name -- who will enter the huddle with the 49ers' first-team offense as the quarterback. It's certainly no make-or-break game for Smith, who somehow remains with the organization for a seventh season. But Smith can make things a lot easier on himself by getting off to a good start in the exhibition season. The starters are expected to play about 20 snaps. At least that's what Harbaugh said earlier this week. How much will running back Frank Gore play? With a contract extension in the works, it goes to reason that Gore would not see much action with Anthony Dixon, Kendall Hunter, Xavier Omon and Seth Smith all available for duty. Right tackle Anthony Davis struggled in road games last season. Although it's only an exhibition game, we'll see if Davis does a better job of handling crowd noise and locking quickly into his pass-block sets. Defensively, the 49ers are looking for left cornerback Carlos Rogers to provide an upgrade over Nate Clements. He'll get his first chance to show what he can do. Also, Ray McDonald takes over as the starting defensive end after signing a five-year, 20 million contract to return to the club with more responsibility.Second quarter
Harbaugh said quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the most "game ready" of all the team's rookies. Perhaps we'll find out. He is making the difficult transition from college to the pro game without the benefit of the months of coaching in the offseason that rookies are generally afforded. Let's start with the basics. Kaepernick is still working on taking snaps under center. Also, Kaepernick's first reaction in college was to take off running to produce big yards. At this level, it's important that he remains in the pocket and learns that it's not a bad thing to just throw the ball away when nothing is there. Veteran Jonathan Goodwin, who started for the Saints the past three seasons, will probably enter the game as Adam Snyder's backup. He is getting close to taking over as the starter. First-round pick Aldon Smith and third-round selection Chris Culliver will get plenty of action as they maneuver for significant roles for a pass defense that ranked 24th in the NFL last season. Smith has shown good pass-rush moves as an outside linebacker, and Culliver has held up well in coverage against his teammates.
Third quarter
Rookie offensive linemen Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person will see a lot of play time. Kilgore has lined up mostly at left guard, while Person has been working at right tackle. Undrafted rookie Chase Beeler is the only player on the roster, aside from Goodwin, who has significant experience at center. He'll get his chance to show what he can do. There are some spots available at inside linebacker. Navorro Bowman has the inside track to start alongside Patrick Willis. Larry Grant, Keaton Kristick, Blake Costanzo, Alex Joseph and Scott McKillop are also slated to see action. McKillop was the subject of an erroneous transaction Friday on NFL.com that listed him as being "cut." The team says McKillop was never cut, and NFL.com eventually removed the listing. Still, he knows his spot on the team in tenuous. Special teams will play a huge role in which inside linebackers make the 53-man roster.Fourth quarter
The 49ers have been up front about contacting teams around the league to see if there is any interest in a trade for safety Taylor Mays. He is likely to see action in the second half. There is pressure on Mays to make some plays to convince the 49ers -- or some other team -- that he has a future in the NFL. Donte Whitner, Madieu Williams and C.J. Spillman are expected to see action ahead of Mays. Dashon Goldson suited up for his first practice Wednesday after signing a one-year, 2 million contract. Goldson is not expected to play. Reggie Smith is out after undergoing arthoscopic surgery Monday on his knee. Mays will be weaved into the defensive backfield among a group of fellow safeties that includes Chris Maragos, Curtis Taylor, Colin Jones and Anthony West. Harbaugh said he anticipates playing all four of the 49ers' quarterbacks. Behind Alex Smith and Kaepernick are undrafted rookies Jeremiah Masoli and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The 49ers have to decide whether they would be content to open the season with either of those players as the No. 3 quarterback.

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

PHOENIX – Coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a position with the 49ers in which he had no quarterbacks on the roster.

On the first two days of free agency, the 49ers added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. He determined they were better fits for the offense he would be installing over Colin Kaepernick, who started 64 regular-season and postseason games for the 49ers over the past 4 ½ seasons.

Shanahan appeared to be looking for quarterbacks who are more proficient at going through progressions and making plays from the pocket. Kaepernick was not deemed as a good fit for Shanahan's offense.

“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think Colin has a certain skillset that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.

“When we first looked at it, you got to look at each quarterback and what type of offense you want to put in. That wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to put in a different type of offense.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. General manager John Lynch has confirmed the 49ers would have released Kaepernick if he had not opted out of his deal.

“The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ top target in free agency was Hoyer, who enters his ninth NFL season with his sixth different team. Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 in Hoyer’s second and final season with the club.

Hoyer started five games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sidelined with broken left arm. Hoyer completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in 200 attempts.

“All these questions about what I like in a quarterback, Brian is like that,” Shanahan said. “He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it. That gives other guys a chance to perform in your offense. If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.

“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”

The 49ers also reached a contract agreement with Barkley, who started six games with the Bears due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Hoyer. Barkley saw the most extensive playing time of his career. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Just watching Matt since college, Matt’s always been a solid player, even coming out and playing at an early age at (USC),” Shanahan said. “He’s battle-tested in that way. He’s gone through the pressure of college, the pressure of the draft, being in the NFL, being with some different teams. Even watching Matt in Chicago this year, I think he played better this year than he has throughout his career. That means the guy is continuing to work at it.”

The 49ers figure to go to training camp with four quarterbacks, so the team is not finished at the quarterback position.

“We’ll look to add anyone who can really help us,” Shanahan said. “I’m very happy with the two we got. You know we’re not only going to take two to camp. So we got to see how the draft works out and then you see what else is out there.”

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.

“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.

"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."

General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.

“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”