Who were 49ers' MVPs? One man's opinion

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Who were 49ers' MVPs? One man's opinion

The postseason honors are rolling in, but the 49ers have yet to disclose any of their team awards for the 2011 season. The guess is that coach Jim Harbaugh does not consider this season concluded, so he doesn't want to start looking back on the team's accomplishments quite yet.
So here is one man's opinion of the team MVPs on the day the 49ers impatiently await the outcome of Saturday night's Detroit-New Orleans game.If the Saints win, the 49ers will play host to New Orleans in a divisional round game at Candlestick Park next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. If the Lions win, the 49ers will play the Sunday's winner of Atlanta and the New York Giants.Defensive MVP: Justin Smith became the first player to be voted first-team All-Pro at one position (defensive tackle) and second-team All-Pro at another position (defensive end) in the same phase of the game. He was second on the team in tackles and sacks (7.5). His play was a great benefit to rookie Aldon Smith, who led the team with 14 sacks. And he made the play of the year -- the chase-and-strip of Philadelphia speedster Jeremy Maclin to preserve a Week 4 win against the Eagles. Also, chalk up Justin Smith as the overwhelming choice for team MVP.
Honorable mention: Cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson recorded six interceptions apiece; inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the team in tackles; Aldon Smith set a team rookie record with 14 sacks and gave the pass rush some much-needed spark; and Patrick Willis was typically outstanding when he was on the field. Offensive MVP: Looking back on what the 49ers' offense did better than any team in the league, and most of the credit goes to quarterback Alex Smith. Sure, he was 19th in the league in passing yards. But of the 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Smith led the league in fewest interceptions. He was sacked 44 times, but he lost only two fumbles. The 49ers tied an NFL record for fewest turnovers (10) in a season. He showed calm under pressure during the regular season, in helping direct the 49ers to four fourth-quarter comeback victories on the road. The biggies were the 20-point, second-half rally against the Eagles and the fourth-down scoring pass to Delanie Walker to defeat the Detroit Lions.
Honorable mention: Running back Frank Gore has the second-most rushing yards in his career with 1,211 yards; wide receiver Michael Crabtree emerged into the go-to guy with team-highs of 72 catches for 874 yards; and left tackle Joe Staley graded out as the team's best offensive lineman.Special teams MVPs: This is impossible for me to call, so I wimped out and went with two winners: Punter Andy Lee and kicker David Akers. Lee set an NFL record for net punting average at 43.99. Lee punted 78 times on the season, and when he was called into action, the 49ers averaged a 7-yard gain with a flip of the field. His performance helped the defense pin teams back, and no offense in the league started with better field position than the 49ers because of Lee's performance. Often, the 49ers were almost already in field-goal range when the offense took over. The 49ers relied on their kicker more than they would've liked, but Akers routinely came through. He set NFL records with 44 field goals and 166 points (most for a player without any touchdowns). And, for good measure, he also tossed a touchdown pass on a fake field goal against the St. Louis Rams in the finale. What made Akers' season all-the-more impressive is that he made 7 of 9 attempts from beyond 50 yards.
Honorable mention: C.J. Spillman and Blake Costanzo were outstanding on the coverage units; and long-snapper Brian Jennings was again bordering on perfection.

Bruce Allen: Kirk Cousins will play for Washington in 2017

Bruce Allen: Kirk Cousins will play for Washington in 2017

PHOENIX – Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins will continue to be Washington’s quarterback for the 2017 season, according to team president Bruce Allen.

“That’s why we franchised him, yes,” Allen said during an interview with CSN Mid-Atlantic at the NFL owners meetings.

Cousins and Washington did not reach agreement on a multi-year contract extension before the start of the free-agent signing period. Washington tagged Cousins as the organization’s exclusive franchise player, taking him off the free-agent market for any interested clubs, such as the 49ers.

Cousins is set to earn $23.94 million in 2017, unless the sides agree to a new deal before the July 15 deadline. The price for Cousins to be franchised again in 2018 would be $34.47 million.

"We’ve had a lot of dialogue," Allen said. "He signed his tender. Obviously, we have an option for the ’18 season. Our goal from the beginning has been long term. I'm still hopeful and confident we'll do it."

The 49ers with new coach Kyle Shanahan are expected to be interested in Cousins, but there have no trade talks with any teams, Allen said. Shanahan was Washington's offensive coordinator under his father, then-head coach Mike Shanahan, for Cousins' first two NFL seasons.

"I can't keep up with the rumors," Allen said. "Kirk and I have talked almost a dozen times this offseason, and we get to laugh when we hear these different rumors. We haven't talked to anyone."

49ers keep all options open with No. 2 overall pick

49ers keep all options open with No. 2 overall pick

PHOENIX -- If the Cleveland Browns’ only reasonable decision with the top overall pick consists of Myles Garrett or Myles Garrett, the 49ers have considerably more options at No. 2 overall.

After Garrett, the Texas A&M pass-rusher, there appears to be no consensus second-best prospect in the draft. So the 49ers must be open to considering almost anything.

“You got to talk about every option because you never know what will happen,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You got to be ready for anything somebody will call you on, whether it’s a trade or not. So you got to go through those because they can happen quickly, especially when you get closer to draft day.

“Right now, it’s not necessarily in my mind the No. 2 pick. It’s taking the time to understand the whole pool of people. Who’s going to be available at two? Who’s going to be available halfway through the first round? What are the players you can get in the second and third round? That’s not something that just gets done. You have to watch a lot of tape. You got to listen to your scouts and all the homework they’ve done with the character on these guys and soak it all in for a couple of months.”

Shanahan was on hand Thursday for Stanford’s pro day, during which defensive lineman Solomon Thomas worked out. Thomas is considered a strong candidate to be the No. 2 player off the board.

But does Thomas fit with the 49ers? Under former general manager Trent Baalke, the 49ers invested their top draft picks in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in back-to-back years. Would the 49ers consider spending their top pick on another defensive lineman?

“It really doesn’t concern me what we’ve done in the past or what we’re going to do in the future,” Shanahan said. “It’s what we have now. If we think that player can help us and improve us, then that’s what we’ll do. You want to get the best guy possible. There are lots of options open.”

As the 49ers transition to a four-man defensive line, the team is in need or a pass-rusher. Ahmad Brooks tied with Buckner for the team-lead last season with six sacks. In 2015, Brooks and Aaron Lynch tied for tops on the 49ers with 6.5 sacks.

Brooks, 33, enters his 12th NFL season. Shanahan said he believes Thomas (6 foot 3, 273 pounds) is versatile enough to be a pass-rush threat at defensive end in the 49ers’ new scheme.

“I believe so,” Shanahan said. “I believe he can probably line up anywhere he wants. (But I’m) still not done with my research, yet.”

Thomas won the 2017 Morris Trophy, as the Pac-12’s top defensive lineman, as voted on by the conference’s offensive linemen.