Willis inactive for 49ers against Cardinals


Willis inactive for 49ers against Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis is missing his second game in five seasons, as he has been ruled out for the 49ers' game Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.Willis sustained a right hamstring strain in the 49ers' 26-0 victory over the St. Louis Rams last week. Larry Grant replaced Willis in the game last week, and he will fill in Sunday in the 49ers' starting lineup.Willis took part in a light rehab session at University of Phoenix Stadium with Mark Uyeyama, 49ers head strength and conditioning coach. Willis' status for the 49ers' next game, Monday, Dec. 19, against the Pittsburgh Steelers is up in the air.

Willis started the first 63 games of his NFL career. He sat out the 49ers' season-finale last year due to a broken hand.The Cardinals have two lineup changes due to injuries: Rookie Sam Acho starts at right outside linebacker for Joey Porter, and Rashad Johnson starts at safety for Kerry Rhodes.49ers inactives
LB Patrick Willis (hamstring)
QB Scott Tolzen
WR Brett Swain
FB Moran Norris
OL Daniel Kilgore
OL Mike Person
DL Ian WilliamsCardinals inactives
QB Richard Bartel
WR Chansi Stuckey
WR Stephen Williams
WR Jaymar Johson
S Kerry Rhodes (foot)
LB Joey Porter (knee)
OT D'Anthony Batiste

Gruden anticipates Cousins returning to Washington


Gruden anticipates Cousins returning to Washington

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is, perhaps, the top NFL player scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March.

But if Washington is unable to sign Cousins to a long-term contract before the start of the free-agent signing period, the club appears likely to place the franchise tag on him for the second year in a row.

Washington coach Jay Gruden appeared to confirm that suspicion on Tuesday while speaking to reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

"We totally anticipate Kirk coming back to the Washington Redskins," Gruden said via CSN Mid-Atlantic. "We're excited about parlaying two very good years as the starting quarterback with a third year and continue to watch him grow."

But does Gruden anticipate another team willing the pay the price it would take to acquire Cousins?

If Washington places the franchise tag on Cousins at approximately $24 million for one season, another team could sign him to an long-term offer sheet and pay the price of two first-round draft picks as compensation.

The 49ers – and presumptive head coach Kyle Shanahan -- are expected to be interested in acquiring Cousins. If the cost of two first-round draft picks is considered exorbitant, the 49ers could attempt to negotiate another deal with Washington.

Washington can end any possibility that the 49ers or any other team could acquire Cousins this offseason if they tag him as an exclusive franchise player at a cost expected to be slightly higher than $24 million.

Cousins, who turns 29 in August, started every game the past two seasons for Washington. In 2015, he completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts while throwing 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 101.6. Last season, he finished third in the NFL behind Drew Brees and Matt Ryan with 4,917 yards. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt and had a rating of 97.2.


Falcons C Mack explains what makes Shanahan's offense so effective

Falcons C Mack explains what makes Shanahan's offense so effective

The Atlanta Falcons had the highest scoring offense during the 2016 regular season, averaging 33.8 points per game, and they racked up 6,653 total yards.

In two playoff games, they've scored a combined 80 points.

The architect of that high-powered offense is Kyle Shanahan, who is the presumptive head coach of the 49ers.

So what makes Shanahan's scheme so effective?

Falcons starting center and former Cal Bears star Alex Mack answered that on ESPN's Mike and Mike show on Tuesday.

"He does a really good job of just having a very balanced offense. We want to run outside schemes. we want to run outside zone, we want to be really effective at doing that. And when a team stops you from doing that, when they put people over there, or they slant out or whatever they do to stop that, he has the backup plan," Mack said.

"He knows exactly when they bring that safety down to make it really tough to run outside zone, well that's going to open up some throws later down the field. And then when they put someone out there on the throws, well, there's a bigger cutback lane, so he calls a different run for that. So our offense is really built around being balanced and having an answer for what the defense wants to do to stop us," Mack continued.

Mack, Shanahan and the Falcons are set to put their No. 1 scoring offense to the test against the Patriots' No. 1 scoring defense in Super Bowl 51 in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017.