Sept. 2, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Rookie Aldon Smith, the No. 7 overall pick, ended the 49ers' exhibition season strong Thursday might against the San Diego Chargers.But Smith could not have done it without the efforts of undrafted rookie defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs, who finished the game with no tackles and no stats of any kind. (Although replays showed Dobbs was responsible for dislodging the ball from Chargers running back Jordan Todman on a second-quarter fumble.)Despite his lack of mention on the stat sheet, Dobbs had another outstanding game and is likely to have solidified his spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster.Meanwhile, Smith was credited with 2 12 sacks, a team-high seven tackles and four quarterback pressures.REWIND: 49ers progress in exhibition finale
Smith's first sack was recorded after Dobbs shoved Chargers left guard Colin Baxter into Scott Tolzien, causing the quarterback to stumble. Smith swooped in to finish off Tolzien for an 8-yard loss. Dobbs and Smith worked a stunt in which Smith got past Baxter for his second sack. Dobbs was also on the action when Smith and Antwan Applewhite shared a sack in the third quarter."We were both able to get really good pressure," Smith said of Dobbs. "He got pressure inside and I got pressure outside. We're able to meet back there and make some plays."Aldon Smith has yet to work into a starting role. He currently is listed as the backup to veteran Parys Haralson at right outside linebacker.ALEX SMITH TO START: In case you missed it late Thursday, coach Jim Harbaugh completed the formality of declaring Alex Smith as the 49ers' starting quarterback for the regular season.Smith completed 8 of 10 passes for 45 yards, as the 49ers got into the end zone twice in his two series against the Chargers' first-team defense. Smith, however, did not throw a touchdown in the exhibition season.While Smith was on the field, the 49ers converted third-and-3 situations four times. Twice they kept the chains moving with run plays, and twice Smith completed short passes for the necessary yardage.Rookie Colin Kaepernick continued to struggle, as he completed just 3 of 7 passes for 36 yards and two interceptions. Kaepernick threw five interceptions without a touchdown in the exhibition season.HUNTER IMPRESSES: Rookie running back Kendall Hunter is leading the NFL in exhibition rushing with just one game (Raiders vs. Seattle) remaining. Hunter had 231 yards rushing on 35 attempts for a 6.6 average.He appears to have won the job as Frank Gore's backup over Anthony Dixon. Said Harbaugh of Hunter, "He's definitely playing well enough to be the No. 2 back."FAMILY REUNION: Xavier Omon, the fourth-string 49ers running back, had a night he'll never forget. Prior to the game, he met a half-brother he did not know existed until last winter.The half-brother is Ogemdi Nwagbuo. Omon and Nwagbuo share the same biological father, Chris Nwagbuo, who passed away in 2004. They met before the game. And in the fourth quarter on Omon's second carry, they met again when Nwagbuo tackled Omon for a 1-yard gain.Afterward, the embraced once again on the field before entering their respective locker rooms. It was quite a scene. Omon is 5-foot-11, 227 pouds. Nwagbuo is 6-4, 312.
"It was good," Omon said. "It felt normal."BUBBLE BEAUTS: The 49ers have until Saturday at 1 p.m. to delete 27 players from their roster. The 49ers will place tight end Nate Byham on injured reserve. Linebacker Keaton Kristick, who was carted off Thursday night with an apparent left ankle injury, is also a candidate for injured reserve.Harbaugh said he will try to meet with as many of the released players as possible."The choices have to be made," Harbaugh said. "I thought a lot guys made things more difficult tonight. That's the way you want it. There are going to be a lot of people who acquitted themselves really well, and they might not be on the team. I was pleased to see that. I think that showed a lot of fortitude on their parts. I was really proud of our guys."Linebacker Alex Joseph is among the long-shot player who had a standout game. Joseph, a first-year player from Temple who spent time last year on the 49ers' practice squad, recorded three tackles, forced a fumble and had a huge tackle on special teams."He played really well, physical real good football game," Harbaugh said. "He makes it difficult."SITTING OUT: Receiver Michael Crabtree (foot), cornerback Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) and safety Reggie Smith (knee) did not travel to San Diego for the game. Safety Dashon Goldson made the trip but was declared out just before game time with an undisclosed injury.RELATED: 49ers mailbag -- Shawntae Spencer's spot is not slam dunk
CULLIVER'S TRAVELS: Rookie cornerback Chris Culliver, the 49ers' third-round pick, couldn't even remember the last time he felt as if an opposition was targeting him.But it happened Thursday night, when Tolzien went after Culliver repeatedly. Fifth-year receiver Laurent Robinson caught passes of 26 and 37 yards against Culliver in the third quarter.But Culliver made amends when he had tight coverage on a 35-yard pass intended for receiver Seyi Ajirotutu. Cullver made the interception in the end zone."I'm a rookie," Culliver said. "I know they're doing to come at me. I just had to stay in tune to the game and understand what's going on and make some plays, not giving up the deep ball. And if anyone catches the ball, just make the tackle right there on the spot."Culliver will have a spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster, but he might not have much of a role as a rookie. After all, Culliver is learning a new position."I played safety most of my career, and playing safety and corner are different," he said. "I'm learning more and more how to be a corner and how to take calls from other people and dial in. It's different technique."LEE HEALTHY: Andy Lee, who sustained a right hip-pointer in the 49ers' second exhibition game, returned to action Thursday night with just two punts. He hit a 48-yard punt on his first try, but later shanked a 24-yard punt.
Sept. 2, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE