James helps 49ers coverage unit prepare for Sproles

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James helps 49ers coverage unit prepare for Sproles

NEW ORLEANS -- Leon Washington had nowhere to run. Patrick Peterson could not get anything going. Danny Amendola was swarmed. And Devin Hester, one of the top return men in the game, was held to negative yardage.The 49ers' coverage units appear to have things figured out after a rough beginning to the season."I was going in for extra meetings with (special teams coordinator) Brad Seely because I was unhappy with my play in the beginning of the season and I was trying to pick my game up," said Tavares Gooden, one of the team's core special-teamers.
Gooden has picked up his game. And he is not alone.C.J. Spillman is playing at a high level, and so are Tramaine Brock and Bruce Miller, as well as defensive standouts NaVorro Bowman and Dashon Goldson.Gooden credits the 49ers' improved play on special teams to chemistry."Guys have played a few games together," Gooden said. "The special teams units were basically separated due to some things going on in the offseason. We had four of five new guys on the team added, and we had to learn how to play off of each other. And I think we're getting better."The 49ers did not re-sign Blake Costanzo and Reggie Smith, two of the team's top contributors on special teams last season. And the team traded Colin Jones on the day of the final cuts."I knew we had the right coach," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I knew we had the right guys on the teams. And I think that effort, that hard work, that creativity, opportunistic approach and just working together has paid off. Practice has made the guys better."In the past four games, Andy Lee's punts have been covered about as well as possible. Washington had five yards on two returns in the 49ers' win over Seattle. Peterson managed just 15 yards on four returns for Arizona. Amendola had three returns and totaled just 14 yards in the tie against St. Louis, and Hester had minus-1 return yard on three punt returns, as the 49ers blew out Chicago.During that time, the 49ers have allowed an average of just 20.9 yards on returns of David Akers' kickoffs.
The 49ers feel prepared to face explosive New Orleans Saints return man Darren Sproles because of a week of practice that included chasing around rookie running LaMichael James.James, a second-round draft pick, has not suited up for a game this season. At practice he wore No. 43, playing the role of Sproles, who is expected to return to action after missing three games with a hand injury."LaMichael James has been helpful," Gooden said. "If Sproles is playing, we'll be ready for him."He looks the same to me. Both of the guys are short and have those quick movements. He's been working with us all week running routes and getting us prepared."James is also benefiting from the experience, Harbaugh said."He's been a wide receiver a lot of times in practice and running back coming out of the backfield," Harbaugh said. "His hands have improved so much and his route-running ability. I think it was quite a good look for our defense this week with LaMichael."James struggled in training camp and in the exhibition season catching punts. When asked how he is doing in that discipline, Harbaugh answered, "He's still coming along, still coming along ... Kickoffs are a little easier than the punts."

Report: Chip Kelly interviews for Jags' OC job

Report: Chip Kelly interviews for Jags' OC job

Former 49ers coach Chip Kelly, who was fired hours after the club’s 2-14 season, is reportedly interviewing Monday to become the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive coordinator.

Kelly is interviewing with Jaguars new head coach Doug Marrone, reports radio station 1010 XL in Jacksonville.

Kelly told CSNBayArea.com recently he would take his time to determine his next career move. Kelly interviewed for the Jaguars’ head-coaching job, ESPN reported over the weekend.

“I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said two days after his firing. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

The 49ers fired Kelly with three years, $18 million remaining in his contract. The 49ers hired Kelly just two weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles fired him. Kelly went 26-21 with the Eagles after leaving his successful program with the Oregon Ducks after the 2012 season.

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels announced Monday morning he has pulled his name from consideration for the 49ers’ head-coaching job.

McDaniels interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe on Saturday, Jan. 7, while the Patriots were on the bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. McDaniels indicated he also met with Brian Hampton, the 49ers’ director of football administration and analytics.

"I was really impressed with Jed York and Paraag and Brian, and people that came for the 49ers organization,” McDaniels said in a conference call with reporters who cover the Patriots.

“They did a great job with their presentation,” McDaniels added. “Again, (I’m) humbled to be included in that process. At this time, it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England, and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

McDaniels said his main focus would be on helping prepare the Patriots to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the AFC Championship game.

McDaniels, 40, was viewed as one of the hot head-coaching candidates, along with Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, this offseasons. He has served the past five seasons as New England’s offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick.

Shanahan becomes the leading candidate for the 49ers’ job. The 49ers interviewed Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable on Sunday. Shanahan and Cable are the only known remaining candidates for the job to replace Chip Kelly, who was hired after a 2-14 season.

McDaniels became Denver’s head coach in 2009. He was fired after 12 games in 2010 after his teams compiled an 11-17 record. He returned to the Patriots in 2012 and has served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Bill Belichick’s staff.

McDaniels, who also interviewed with the 49ers last year, also had interviews on Jan. 7 with Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams. Jacksonville hired Doug Marrone, while the Rams hired Sean McVay.

“I've always said how grateful I am for this opportunity to work here for Mr. Kraft his family and coach under Bill with a lot of great guys on our staff and have the privilege to work with the players we get to work with each day," McDaniels said. "It's a great opportunity. Very thankful to be here and very much looking forward to this week against Pittsburgh."