Boone, 49ers have hands full with Wilfork

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Boone, 49ers have hands full with Wilfork

SANTA CLARA – Patriots tackle Vince Wilfork might not have the sexy statistics of, say, an Aldon Smith. But his value to the New England defense was on full display during Monday night’s 42-14 thrashing of the Houston Texans.

Wilfork anchored a defensive line that held star running back Arian Foster to just 46 yards on 15 attempts, for an average of 3.1 yards-per-carry. That includes a 15-yard scamper, and some quick math says Foster had just 31 yards in his other 14 carries combined. The 6-2, 325-pound Wilfork finished with four tackles, one for a loss, and one sack – just his second of the season.

While Wilfork’s stats don’t leap off the page, Greg Roman, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, knows how valuable the nine-year pro is to his team.

“Their front seven is as stout as I’ve seen and it starts with the big guy, Wilfork, who’s a tremendous athlete for his size,” Roman said on Wednesday. “I think everybody got to see him on display last week against the Texans.”

“He’s a heck of a player, and has a great understanding of the game,” Jim Harbaugh said. “I think the big thing is how well they play together as a defensive line.”

Third-year lineman Alex Boone will play the role of trying to nullify Wilfork to protect the quarterback and create room for running backs Frank Gore and LaMichael James. Boone knows he’ll have his hands full.

“It will be a challenge,” Boone said. “He’s quick off the ball, he’s explosive for a big guy, and I think he’s strong. It’s just going to come down to fundamentals with him, and really just knowing it’s going to be a full day.”

Would Boone compare Wilfolk to anyone he’s seen so far in his brief career?

“I want to say he’s like an Isaac [Sopoaga]. He’s big, and you look at him and know he’s big, but you don’t think he’s going to be quick, but then he turns out to be quick,” Boone said. “Strong, good movement, and if you give him a weakness I think he’ll capitalize on it.”

While Roman and Boone were quick to praise Wilfork’s skills, WIlfork was just as complimentary towards San Francisco, as the two second-seeded clubs prepare for their Sunday night showdown at Gillette Stadium in front of a national audience.

In fact, Wilfork sounded genuinely sincere in an interview on Wednesday that was posted to the Patriots’ website, when he spoke with New England reporters about the 49ers’ offense.

“I’ve never seen an offense like this, because they can do so many different things,” Wilfork said. “It’s not an offense where you can say ‘when they line up like this they’re going to do this, or this guy is going to do this,’ because it seems like everybody who touches the ball is very dangerous, from the receivers to the backs to the quarterbacks.

“We’re going to have to basically get back to fundamentals, playing good football, and just learn on the go. Just play what we see. I’m pretty sure this week is going to be very, very crucial for us getting back to the sidelines every series to go over things that they’re doing different.”

Wilfork also sees a dynamic player in quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“He definitely can hurt you running the ball, and he’s a pretty good passer,” Wilfork said. “Normally when you have a guy that can run as well as a running back or a receiver, you have a negative. Most of the time as a quarterback, it’s being able to stand in the pocket and throw the ball, but this guy, I mean, he can throw the football. He has a strong arm, is pretty accurate, and for the most part he makes good decisions.”

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”