Posted on: March 12, 2009 7:11 pm

Post Combine Favorite Prospects (Defense)

I might be in the minority here but I believe the 49er's defense was better than their offense last year.  The defense actually ranked lower (23rd to 22nd for the offense) but they were much higher in terms of yards (13th to 23rd).  Most of the points scored against them came when J.T. O'Sullivan gave the opponent the ball in 49er territory, which happened a lot.  I remember reading that something like 1/5 of the points scored against the 49ers came as a result of O'Sullivan turnovers in 49er territory or O'Sullivan turnovers brought back for touchdowns.  So to summarize, J.T. O'Sullivan is so bad he caused some of the defenses problems.  Now that is not to say that the defense was perfect.  There were huge problems with getting to the quarterback and safety play especially.  Those two together made the pass defense really bad.  The run defense was good mostly because Takeo Spikes, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, and Manny Lawson (when Nolan was smart enough to play him).

Defensive Line - The signing of Justin Smith last year turned out great.  Smith was easily our best defensive lineman and arguably our best defensive player in 2008.  That defensive end spot is set for a few years.  At the other defensive end position the plan is to groom Kentwan Balmer behind Demetric Evans for a few years so I can pretty much guarantee the 49ers don't draft a defensive end at all.  Nose tackle I am not so sure about.  Last season Isaac Sopoaga started at defensive end across from Justin Smith and Aubrayo Franklin started at nose tackle in the 3-4 alignment.  Both of them had solid seasons but before the season Sopoaga signed a new, relatively large, contract.  Know there is talk of him switching to nose tackle and Franklin becoming the back-up.  In summary, the 49ers have a great starter at 1 DE position, solid starters at the other DE and NT, and good depth behind them.  It's hard to see the 49ers drafting a defensive lineman early.

1.  B.J. Raji, Defensive Tackle, Boston College, 1st round - A better prospect than Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis, in my opinion, there is pretty much no way Raji falls past Green Bay after his senior year and combine workout.  If he and Oher are both available at 10 I don't know who I want the 49ers to draft.

2.  Ron Brace, Defensive Tackle, Boston College, 2nd round - Brace certainly isn't the absolute monster that Raji is because he doesn't have Raji's speed but Brace is stronger and better against the run than his former BC teammate.  My latest 49er mock actually has us taking him in the 2nd round.

3.  Chris Baker, Defensive Tackle, Hampton, 3rd round - A 330 pounder that runs a 5.00 forty and has a 36 inch vertical doesn't come along very often.  Baker absolutely dominanted at Hampton with 16.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks last year.

4.  Terrance Taylor, Defensive Tackle, Michigan, 4th round - Not exactly the massive body one wants at the nose tackle position but plays with great leverage and is extremely strong.

5.  Jarron Gilbert, Defensive End, San Jose State, 2nd round - I don't really want the 49ers tro draft Gilbert I just put him here because there aren't any 3-4 DEs I like and he has freakish athleticism.  I mean a 4.87 40 for a 290 pound man!  He also dominated in his 4 years collecting 42 TFL and 21.5 sacks.

Linebacker - One inside linebacker position is set for the next 10 years or more with Patrick Willis and while Takeo Spikes played well last year he isn't the long term answer.  Right now the 49ers have no one on their roster who is the long term answer next to Willis.  At one outside linebacker position we are set with Manny Lawson but at the other one we don't even have someone who will be good enough this year unless Parys Haralson gets a lot better.  I implore you not to let Haralson's 7 sacks fool you because he is not a great pass rusher,  most of them were coverage sacks.  We need someone that can consistently get to the QB quickly.

1.  Brian Orakpo, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Texas, 1st round - Orakpo is just a flat out monster physically.  He isn't Mario Williams but he is pretty close.  Runs a 4.6 40, benches 500 pounds, 40+ inch vertical, excellent size, etc.  A lot of people like Everette Brown more but I see Manny Lawson in Brown, and we already have Manny Lawson, while I see DeMarcus Ware in Orakpo.

2.  Michael Johnson, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Georgia Tech, 1st round - Well, my dreams of Johnson falling to the 2nd round are all but shattered after his 4.59 40 at his Pro Day.  Al Davis will probably trade the Raiders entire draft to move up to #1 overall and grab him.  But seriously, draft Oher in the 1st and trade back into it to get Johnson like we did with Willis/Staley.  Please 49ers

3.  Phillip Hunt, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Houston, 4th round - Right now I feel Hunt is getting underrated because of his height (6'1'').  He is extremely fast (4.6 40) and ridiculously built and strong.  Ran straight through 300 pound tackles while terrorizing C-USA for the past three years (48.5 TFL, 32.5 sacks in that span).

4.  Lawrence Sidbury, Jr., Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Richmond, 3rd round - Some people have fallen all over Sidbury after his combine but I still think he is just okay with a lot of potential.  If he is available at our 3rd round pick and we haven't addressed pass rusher yet I wouldn't mind him but no way do I want the 49ers taking him in the 2nd

5.  Daniel Holtzclaw, Inside Linebacker, Eastern Michigan, 5th round - I am obligated to put an inside linebacker on this list but there are really none that I like as much as any I liked last year.  Holtzclaw could be an eventual replacement to Spikes and he will be available later so he gets the spot.

Defensive Back - Finally, the last section.  All of this typing is seriously starting to hurt my fingers.  In retrospect that sentence actually caused more pain.  As did that one.  And that one.  And that one.  Alright, I'll stop now :).  The 49ers need a huge upgrade at free safety, unless Dashon Goldson or Reggie Smith turn out to be the answer but I won't get my hopes up.  They also need a new corner across from Nate Clements as Walt Harris will probably die of old age soon.  Tarell Brown could take his spot but I'm not sure.  My gut tells me that the 49ers will try these young guys out this year and not go after any defensive backs early but my brain isn't so sure.  You should never leave your future in the hands of 4th round picks that haven't done anything yet.

1.  Joe Burnett, CB, Central Florida, 5th round - This has nothing (not much) to do with me repping UCF.  Burnett doesn't have great measureables; a little undersized, below average timed speed, etc; but he just knows how to play the cornerback position and make plays.  He is also a great return man and could replace Rossum when he retires

2.  Troy Nolan, Safety, Arizona State, 5th round - Nolan can play either safety position and play both of them well enough to be a good back-up and nickelback for a long time in the NFL.  Probably will never be a starter but who knows?

3.  Rashad Johnson, Free Safety, Alabama, 2nd round - Easily the best ball-hawking safety in this class and is also solid in every other facet of the game.  I don't think he will ever be Brian Dawkins but he will be an above-average starter if he stays healthy.

4.  Louis Delmas, Free Safety, Western Michigan, 2nd round - Now here is a guy that has the ability to be Brian Dawkins-esque.  Delmas has all the physical tools you could ask for and if he receives proper coaching he will turn out to be the best safety from this class by a longshot.

5.  Brandon Underwood, Free Safety, Cincinnati, 6th round - So I have basically all free safeties on this list?  What does that tell you about the position in the secondary we need help at?  I should probably put someone like William Moore in this spot because he would be an upgrade over Michael Lewis but I don't feel like it.



Category: NFL
Posted on: March 11, 2009 12:43 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2009 6:53 pm

Post Combine Favorite Prospects (Offense)

The 49ers offense last year was okay averaging around 22 points per game but they weren't explosive and didn't seem to make the right plays at the right time.  The source(s) of most of the problems could be easily identified.  The turnovers were J.T. O'Sullivan's fault, the lack of production from the tight end position was because Vernon Davis can't catch or run routes, the pass protection problems came from the right side of the line, etc.  But when problems are that obvious it at least makes it relatively easy to find a solution.

*Note - These are not player rankings, just because one player is above another it doesn't mean I think he is better just that I think his draft position/impact ratio is better*

Quarterback - Unless Matthew Stafford falls to 10 the 49ers aren't drafting a QB on the first day of the draft.  Period....hopefully.  I want them to let Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, and a young late-rounder, battle it out for the starting job in training camp.  If Alex Smith wins the job and does well next year we have our franchise QB and if he doesn't Shaun Hill holds down the fort for a year of two while we groom our franchise QB who will be either drafted late this year or early, if Alex Smith fails to win the starting job, next year. 

1.  Matthew Stafford, Georgia, 1st round - I know I said I don't want the 49ers to draft a QB early but if Stafford somehow falls to 10 he is just too good to pass up.  He has everything you look for in a franchise QB; size, arm strength, intangibles, experience, etc.

2.  Drew Wily, Buffalo, 7th round - Wily has decent measureables in terms of size and arm strength but his accuracy is extremely impressive as is his command of the offense and intangibles.

3.  Mike Teel, Rutgers, 5th round - Prototypical size for the NFL, pro-style offense, tons of experience, and had a fantastic finish to his senior season.

4.  Mike Reilly, Central Washington, 4th round - Extremely accurate and efficient, good athlete, arm strength isn't great but adequate, level of competition might be an issue.

5.  Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State, 3rd round - Pretty much the poor man's Matthew Stafford if you ask me.  Strong arm, good size, inconsistent, not very accurate.

Running Back - I am in the camp that want to see Thomas Clayton get his shot to split carries with Frank Gore.  Based on what we have seen from Clayton in the preseason; his speed, power, vision, etc; some of us think he could be a serviceable spot-starter.  But Mike Singletary has already said he wants a bruising back to complement Gore and I guess that means he isn't considering Clayton

1.  Rashad Jennings, Liberty, 3rd round - Jennings was completely dominant at Liberty averaging 5.7 yards per carry in 3 seasons there.  Literally runs through people and can block and catch the ball.

2.  Ian Johnson, Boise State, 4th round - Johnson is getting underrated by most experts for some reason.  He has the size (5'11'', 215 lbs), speed (4.46 40), and production (4200 yards, 5.7 y/c, 58 rushing TDs) to be a 2nd round pick.  Excellent receiver as well

3.  Shonn Greene, Iowa, 4th round - A little slow but completed dominanted the Big 10 in 2008.  Great vision and power and just knows how to run despite not having all the physical tools.  A lot like Frank Gore but bigger and slower

4.  Kory Sheets, Purdue, 5th round - Sheets is without a doubt the best recieving back to declare in a long, long time.  Tallied 108 receptions in 4 years and was a super productive runner as well.

5.  Donald Brown, UConn, 2nd round - A like Brown a lot but I feel like he is getting overrated.  He reminds me a lot of Kevin Smith last year with better timed speed.  But the problem is his game speed isn't faster.  If he is there in the 3rd we shouldn't  pass on him.

Wide Receiver - Personally I don't really see the need for receiver that some people do.  Jason Hill and Josh Morgan both look like they could become at least #2 receivers and I think Dominique "Ziggy" Zeigler could be a solid #3 option.  Isaac Bruce still has a year or two left and Brandon Jones is a solid possession guy.  Sure none of the group are Larry Fitzgerald but I don't think there is a Fitz in this draft, including Michael Crabtree

1.  Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma, 3rd round - Great route runner, great hands, hard worker, not very good timed speed?  Sound fimilar?  I'm not saying Iglesias is the next Jerry Rice but I do expect him to do well.

2.  Jeremy Maclin, Mizzou, 1st round - A lot of people compare Maclin to Ted Ginn, Jr. and I just don't see it.  I see Ted Ginn, Jr. x2.  Maclin is super fast, and deceptively strong, and a threat to take every reception or return to the endzone

3.  Kenny Britt, Rutgers, 1st round - Britt has great size and good enough speed to be a very good receiver.  He is reliable and a good blocker.  Does everything well but nothing great.  Not the 1st round prospect he is made out to be, imo.

4.  Ramses Barden, Cal-Poly, 4th round - Remember James Hardy from last year?  Well Barden is pretty much him except a little slower and a little bigger.  Great possession receiver and red zone threat

5.  Jarett Dillard, Rice, 5th round - He may be short (5'10'' if that) but he has great power and leaping ability.  Speed isn't great but he gets open through crisp route-running.  Rarely drops a pass.

Offensive Line - No matter how you look at it we need help along the offensive line.  Some believe that Joe Staley should be moved back to right tackle and that we should draft a left tackle.  I say that Staley didn't allow 1 sack after Shaun Hill took over at QB last year (8 games) so we need to draft a right tackle.  It also wouldn't hurt to add some depth along the line.

1.  Michael Oher, Tackle, Ole Miss, 1st round - Oher is suffering from what I like to call "Brady-Quinn syndrome".  Basically it is when you should declare after your junior year but you stay for your senior season and that gives people more time to evaluate you and find every little flaw in your game.  Was Oher worse in 2008 than he was in 2007?  No, people just think he was because of all the attention.

2.  Andre Smith, Tackle, Alabama, 1st round - I used to have Smith first but in light of recent events I had to bump Oher ahead of him.  Smith has physical tools that are out of this world and if he stays disciplined he could become a HoFer but that is a big if at this point.

3.  Louis Vasquez, Guard, Texas Tech, 4th round - Most people look at Vasquez's size (330 pounds) and strength (39 225lb bench presses) and think he is a mauler with no finesse.  He actually has very good footwork and was a big reason Tech's offensive line gave Graham Harrell so much time

4.  Jason Meredith, Tackle, South Carolina, 2nd round - Meredith is smart, athletic, tough, strong, and a hard-worker.  He may not ever be an All Pro but he will, without a doubt in my mind, be a solid starter for many years to come.

5.  Alex Boone, Tackler, Ohio State, 6th round - So what if he is unathletic and has off-field issues.  He is reliable, versatile, and strong.  Has the ability to play every position along the line well-enough if need be, in my opinion

Tight End and Fullback - Moran Norris is only 30 years old and, for a fullback, that isn't over the hill.  He still has at least a few good years of lead blocking left in him.  He isn't someone that will make many plays  but he is reliable in pass protection. Still, if a suitable replacement is available in the 6th or 7th, or as an UDFA, round I would probably give him a look.  Tight end might be a different story.  I really want to believe that Vernon Davis will live up to his potential but I haven't seen anything that makes me think he will.  Then there is his attitude problem to go along with that.  I don't know, I guess we should give him one more year.

1.  Anthony Hill, Tight End, North Carolina State, 6th round - Not a very good receiver but a great blocker.  Has the size to cause match-up problems in the red zone but probably will never be much in the way of a receiving tight end

2.  Chase Coffman, Tight End, Mizzou, 3rd round - Second to only Travis Beckum among receiving tight ends in this class and a much better blocker.  The 3rd round might be a little early to take a tight end when we have so many needs but I would be tempted if I were the 49ers.

3.  Brannan Sutherland, Fullback, Georgia, 6th round - Pretty much a younger version of Moran Norris with more athleticism.  A great blocker and can be useful as a short-yardage back.

(Defensive Rankings coming tomorrow)



Category: NFL
Posted on: January 9, 2009 6:51 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2009 8:09 pm

San Francisco 49ers Draft Needs

It might only be January but with 49er football over it is never too early to discuss the draft and who we think the 49ers should be looking at.  In this article I will be going into depth on the 49er's needs in the draft and what players I have my eye on at each of those positions.  Remember, this is all in my opinion but I think most 49er fans share that opinion

#1 Need: Pass Rusher - In the past three seasons the 49ers have averaged under 2 sacks a game (95 total sacks in 48 games).  When you take into account that at least 1/4 of those have been coverage sacks that is just sad.  Signing Justin Smith as a free agent before last season helped a little bit but he is more of the relentess power guy that will eventually get to the QB if the secondary covers long enough.  San Francisco needs someone who can come off of the edge quickly and force the QB to step up into Smith or, even better, force a bad pass.  No secondary can cover, let alone forced turnovers, when opposing quarterbacks have 8-10 seconds to throw the ball. 

My Favorite Pass Rushing Prospects:
1.  Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas, Current Projected Range: Early 1st - Orakpo, or O-sack-po as he is called, has everything you look for; he has the size, speed, athleticism, and production against top competition to be a top 5 pick and the only knock on him is his durability.  He can play the run as well as the top defensive ends in the country.  Whether the 49ers are going to play a 3-4 or 4-3, Orakpo will fit in and be immediately productive.

2.  Clint Sintim, OLB, Virginia, Current Projected Range: Mid-Late 1st - If the 49ers are planning on playing a pure 3-4 defense than they should definitely trade down in the first round and get Sintim, providing he doesn't rise up draft boards like I think he will.  He is a 4 year starter as a 3-4 OLB that has improved his production every year.  Not as strong against the run as you would hope but his pass rushing ability is second to none in this draft class.

3.  Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois, Current Projected Range: 3rd round - A lot of experts think that English is just a pure speed rusher that runs by less athletic tackles but they would be wrong.  English has the most diversified set of pass rushing moves in this class.  He is great against the run as well, always making plays in the backfield

#2 Need: Right Tackle - People may look at the 55 sacks the 49ers gave up this year and think that the entire offensive line sucks but it isn't true.  Most of the sacks were allowed by Jonas Jennings, Adam Snyder, and Barry Sims and a lot of the ones that weren't were their fault when they got beat and forced the quarterback to run left.  Sure O'Sullivan had a lot to do with the sacks but terrible right tackle play deserves a lot of the blame.  The right side of the offensive line also couldn't open any holes for Frank Gore and usually allowed one or more defenders into the backfield on runs.

My Favorite Right Tackle Prospects:
1.  Andre Smith, OT, Alabama, Current Projected Range: Top 5 pick - Sure there is pretty much no way that Smith falls to the 49ers but that doesn't mean I can't think he is the best tackle prospect in a decade.  Weighing in at almost 350 pounds he moves like a big tight end and has great technique.  Once Smith locks onto a defender, any defender, it's over.  I have seen him run over 3 players when pulling with the running back running full speed right behind him.

2.  Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma, Current Projected Range: 3rd round - Before the National Championship game I was really high on the other Oklahoma offensive tackle, Phil Loadholt, but he got beaten a lot by Florida's speed.  Williams, on the other hand, was excellent in pass protection and most of the Sooners big runs came behind him.

3.  Fenuki Tupou, OT, Oregon, Current Projected Range: 3rd round - Tupuo has slipped a little for getting into trouble for contacting an agent and if he is available in round 3 that is great value as his play and measurables should get him drafted in the mid-2nd at worst.  He is a prototypical power run-blocking right tackle and arguably the best run blocking tackle in this year's class other than Andre Smith

#3 Need: Ball Hawking Free Safety - Mark Roman is pretty much the most terrible player in the history of the NFL at any position.  Okay, so maybe that is a bit overboard but still.  Michael Lewis is not very good in coverage and is best when playing near the line of scrimmage so the 49ers need someone with the range to cover deep and make plays and Roman just isn't it.  Roman can't do that and he can't cover one-on-one. 

My Favorite Free Safety Prospects:
1.  Rashad Johnson, S, Alabama, Current Projected Range: Early 2nd - In the past two seasons Johnson has knocked down 19 passes and intercepted 11 more.  To go along with those great numbers he is tall (6'1'') and runs a 40 yard dash in the low 4.4s.  There is a very good chance that he will shoot up draft boards as we get closer to the draft.

2.  Williams Moore, S, Mizzou, Current Projected Range: 1st round - Moore has really hurt his draft stock this year after coming into the year as the top rated free safety in the class.  His size is great and he plays the run very well but he doesn't wrap-up sometimes and I have seen him take unnecessary risks to try and get interceptions.  Even with his flaws his size and speed would be great to have in the 49ers defensive backfield

3.  Joe Burnett, S/CB/KR/PR, Central Florida, Current Projected Range: 5th-6th round - Most sites will have Burnett listed as a cornerback and that is what he plays but I think with his acceleration and ball skills he could make a great free safety.  He doesn't have great size and strength but he could be the perfect compliment to the heaving hitting Lewis.  His versatility also is important.

Having said all of that, my 49ers draft right now, without any trades though I would like to trade down, would be

Round 1, Pick 10 - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama - Right now Smith is shooting down draft boards because of character issues and the rises other tackles are making.  If available at ten the 49ers should run to the podium and draft their right tackle for the next 10 years as fast as they can.

Round 2, Pick 10 - Larry English, DE/OLB - Easily the best pure pass rusher in this year's draft. Has every pass rushing move there is and would make an immediate impact

Round 3, Pick 10 - Terrance Taylor, DT, Michigan - Was once considered a 1st round prospect Taylor's play really slipped this year.  I still think he can be eventually turned into a starting caliber nose tackle, however.

Round 4, Pick 10 - Louis Vasquez, OG, Texas Tech - Will provide good depth along the offensive and might someday earn a starting spot at guard.

Round 5, Pick 10 - Joe Burnett, S/CB/KR/PR - Allen Rossum is old and maybe gone and successful teams need a good return man.  Burnett is a great returner and can play anywhere in the secondary

Round 6, Pick 10 - Ian Johnson, RB, Boise State - A do it all back who can spell Gore whenever he needs a breather.  Not the power guy Mike Singletary probably wants but we already have Gore and Thomas Clayton, as well as MRob for that.

Round 7, Pick 10 - Ronnie Palmer, ILB, Arizona - Extremely hard worker who probably won't ever start but will be good in the LB rotation and make an impact on special teams.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 8, 2008 1:30 pm

Week 14 vs. New York Jets Positional Analysis

That was easily the best game the 49ers have played all year, outside of maybe against Detroit but the Lions barely count as an NFL team. To dominate an 8-4 that had beaten two playoff contenders on the road like that is just an amazing confidence booster. What's more is that the 49ers did it without their best player for the entire second half and with their second best defensive player for the entire game. A little more than a month ago this team was dead in the water with a lame-duck coach and a turnover prone quarterback and now they are playing with a fire and intensity we haven't seen in a long time. I know this is stupid because it is in the past but I am torn right now. Part of me wishes that Shaun Hill had been the starter since week 1 because if he had been we would probably be 8-5 and playoff bound right now but, on the other hand, Nolan wouldn't have been fired in that situation. But I guess when I think about it long term I am happier that O'Sullivan was the quarterback in the first half of the season because we were going nowhere with Nolan at the helm. With Singletary, however, we could go far.

- I admit I have been one of the loudest voices crying out against Mike Martz but I can't say anything at all about the game he called yesterday. Whenever the 49ers did something wrong on offense it was on the execution, not the play call. On the opening drive of the game we were moving right the field until the Robinson fumble and on our next possession we did it again except we didn't give the Jets the ball, though we did fumble. On those first two drives we totaled 131 yards and 7 first downs, had only one play go for negative yardage, converted 2/2 third downs, held the ball for over 9 minutes, and Shaun Hill only threw 1 incomplete pass. We really should have been up 14 nothing at the end of the 1st quarter. The best part of Martz's playcalling, however, was his third down playcalling which I consider to be the most important aspect in judging an offensive coordinator. On the third downs that the 49ers didn't convert the play calls were excellent but the team didn't execute. As much as I would like to I can't put that on Martz. Yesterday he called the screen passes, dump-offs, and quick slants that most of us have been calling and they worked to perfection, like we thought they would. If I had to grade him on yesterday's game it would obviously be an 'A'

- Shaun Hill has just been great for us since last year. Listen to these numbers. In 7 starts he is 5-2 with 215 passing yards per game, 15 touchdowns (2 rush), 5 interceptions, a 62% completion percentage, and a 95 passer rating. The two games he lost have been on the road against 8-5 teams and we should have won 1 of those. Yesterday was not the best game of the 7, statistically, but it was the best game if you ask me. He was extremely accurate, always found the open man, got rid of the ball on time, avoided the rush, and only made one mistake. Some of his passes were just fantastic and, maybe it is just me, it seems like his arm is getting stronger and stronger with every week. His only mistake was a bad one and I don't know what he was thinking but one mistake in 42 drop backs isn't a bad percentage. His numbers on third down were as follows; 10/13, 94 yards, 1 TD, 7 first downs passing, 8 rushing yards, 1 first down rushing. On two of the three third down completions that we didn't convert he got us within 1 yard of the first down marker and we went for it and converted.

- Before he got hurt Frank Gore was having a great game. I know 14 carries for 52 yards and 3 catches for 13 yards w/ a touchdown may not look like a great game on the stat sheet but he was able to gain yards even when there wasn't a hole. If you take away the two times he was tackled for a loss, both of which were completely the fault of the offensive line, he carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards, which averages out to 4.6 yards per carry, in basically a half of play. Considering how good the Jets run defense has played this season that is great. DeShaun Foster was considerably worse when he took over for Gore. I thought with extended play he might be able to get something going but he didn't. If Gore can't go next week, knock on wood, Thomas Clayton has to be promoted from the practice squad and take Foster's place. Michael Robinson should also get more carries. That fumble was inexcusable but he made a nice cut back on the 13 yard screen pass and blocked surprisingly well when he was asked to.

- Isaac Bruce has been a great signing for us. Not only is he clutch (5 third down catches, 4 conversions) but you can obviously see he is having a huge effect on the younger receivers, especially Jason Hill. Every time I see Hill catch a pass I think he is Bruce because of his smooth route-running and great hands. He has been almost as clutch as Bruce since he started seeing significant playing time. Bryant Johnson had a good game with 6 catches and a great touchdown catch but unless he steps it up in the last three weeks of the season he just hasn't done enough to deserve a new contract with Hill, Josh Morgan, and even Dominque Zeigler emerging and Bruce still having a year left on his contract. It was good to see Arnaz Battle back, because a lot of you know he is one of my favorite 49ers. I'm not sure if he played any offense, though, but I was just glad to see him in uniform.

- That was a great catch by Vernon Davis on the deep pass down the middle that Shaun Hill underthrew a little bit. In all honesty I am not sure I would ever see Davis go down and help his quarterback out like that but maybe that means he is becoming more of a team player. Even though he still isn't getting many passes thrown his way he is still contributing as a dominant blocker. Considering his small size compared to other tight ends I am surprised he is such a great blocker. Delanie Walker ran a great route on the touchdown that was called back but was still outplayed by Davis, one of the few times that has happened this season if you ask me.

- Pretty much every member of the offensive line had their best game of the season. Eric Heitmann held his own against the Pro Bowl bound Kris Jenkins and got more of a push on running plays then most of us expected, David Baas made a few mistakes in pass protection but was great at pulling on running plays, one of the two sacks allowed by the 49ers (the other was a coverage sack) was partly Chilo Rachal's fault but other than that a few other plays he looked good, Adam Snyder was getting no push when run blocking and allowed a defender to make a tackle for a loss twice but played better than he did against the Bills, and Joe Staley continues to dominate. Staley did commit a holding penalty that got a touchdown called back but other than that he was fantastic.

- As much as I have been against Martz I have probably been more against Manusky. I was just tired of him hoping our defensive line could put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks by themselves and giving them all day to throw because it wasn't working. Every time the QB would eventually find someone open. But yesterday that wasn't a problem for a couple of reasons. One was because the defensive line was actually getting pressure by themselves but the other was because he called a lot of blitzes and well designed blitzes at that. My theory is that Manusky was scared to secondary would get picked apart easily by Brett Favre without Nate Clements if Favre got time, maybe he got the idea by actually watching film of the 49ers this year, so he gambled and took pressure off of the secondary with a lot of blitzes. I know it seems like a stupid and kind of obvious thing to do but apparently Manusky didn't realize it until yesterday. Manusky also didn't have the linebackers playing 10 yards off the ball for most of the game, like he did against Buffalo. He needs to keep that gameplan for the rest of the season and then he might not get fired.

- Like I already said, the defensive line played great yesterday. Justin Smith was just manhandling D'Brickashaw Ferguson the entire game and the Jets noticed it. They didn't run the ball to the left one time all game and Smith only had one tackle, which was that late sack, but had a ton of QB pressures and forced Favre to step up into Parys Haralson a couple times. Aubrayo Franklin had by far his best game as a 49er. He actually pushed the pocket and held the point of attack for most of the game. Isaac Sopoaga got pushed out of the play a few times allowing big gains by Thomas Jones and Kentwan Balmer played poorly whenever I saw him in. He plays with almost no leverage. It seems like in college he got away with just overpowering opponents because he obviously has great strength but until he learns he can't do that in the NFL he won't do anything in the NFL.

- No high tackle numbers for Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes today but isn't that a good thing? Both made a few good tackles still. Willis stopped Leon Washington short of the first down on 3rd and 6 with a great open field tackle and then forced an incomplete pass with a vicious hit on Brad Smith that will probably draw a fine. Whenever I saw Manny Lawson he was shadowing Dustin Keller and he did a great job holding Keller to 2 catches for only 14 yards, his worst game since he became a starter by far. Parys Haralson and Roderick Green both had some success rushing the passer and Haralson also added a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage.

- I cannot believe how good the secondary played without Nate Clements. A lot of it has to do with the front seven actually putting pressure on Favre but even on quick and short passes everyone had good coverage. Tarell Brown and Donald Strickland both did a great job filling in for Nate Clements and Walt Harris shut down Lavernous Coles. Michael Lewis and Mark Roman didn't make any plays but they didn't need to because Favre was so off target with his deep passes.

- The special teams coverage was excellent outside of the Leo Washington touchdown that got called back. Washington had 3 punt returns for only 4 yards and averaged only 23 yards per kickoff return. After his first bad punt Andy Lee really "boomed" the other three allowing the coverage team to get down there. Delanie Walker wasn't great on either of his kick returns but he wasn't bad and Michael Robinson had that one long kickoff return to set up a field goal. I'd like to see MRob returning kicks more. Arnaz Battle muffed his first punt but was good on the other two returns.
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 30, 2008 7:01 pm

Week 13 @Buffalo Thoughts and Observations

- As much as I would like to blame the playcalling for the offense's poor performance, because I hope Martz is gone next year, I can't. Martz called a pretty good game. He gave the ball to Gore a lot even though the running game wasn't really working and he only got "pass-happy" once, early in the third quarter. I am still waiting for screen passes to Gore, Davis, and Delanie Walker because teams continue to bring tons of pressure against us and stack the box. That is really the only criticism I have of Martz today. I could go after his third down playcalling, because we only converted 3/11 after that first great drive, but a lot of those failed conversions were on execution, not the play call.

- Shaun Hill once again played an efficient game and made plays when he needed to. 161 yards passing may not seem good but 7 yards per attempt is and there were also a few dropped passes. He didn't turn the ball over at all and even though he fumbled twice he fell on them. Of the three times he was sacked none of them were his fault and he used his legs to avoid a few more would be sacks.

- Looking at the box score one might think that Frank Gore had a bad game but in actuality he played okay but not great. He was hit in the backfield on at least half of his 24 carries and it was pretty amazing he got the yards he did because the Bills were stacking the box every play to stop him. Those two fumbles that he had were both just stupid. On the first one he just dropped the ball and fell on it instantly as he was going down so it didn't even mean anything and the second one was just a bad break. I really want to see Michael Robinson get more touches because he can make plays but I don't think it will happen anytime soon.

- We still don't really have a #1 receiver that teams respect and slide coverage to most of the game but Jason Hill and Isaac Bruce are both playing well. Bruce's route-running is still phenomenal and he completely schooled that corner on his touchdown and Jason Hill just has a knack for getting open. When Josh Morgan comes back those 3 will be a decent set of starters. Bryant Johnson continues to disappoint, though. Dominique Zeigler saw more passes thrown his way than he has all season but had a couple of drops.

- For the life of me I can't see the pass interference on Vernon Davis' long touchdown catch. At first, at full speed, it looked like there might have been but on the replays I don't see anything. Oh well I guess. I said earlier that I want to see more screen passes thrown Davis' way but that isn't Davis' fault. He is such a good blocker we could probably move him to right tackle and get better play out of him than we do out of our current right tackle but that will be addressed in the next paragraph.

- The trade we did last year to get Joe Staley is paying dividends. Since Hill took over at quarterback he has been lights out and hasn't only not allowed a sack but he given up almost no QB pressures. I think part of his play is because Hill gets rid of the ball on time, unlike O'Sullivan, but most of it is his development into a dominant franchise left tackle. On the flip side the right tackle, Adam Snyder, was pretty bad. It's kind of sad because he has been playing well since he took over for Jonas Jennings/Barry Sims but he just played awful today. All three of the sacks the 49ers allowed were on him, in my opinion, and he gave up a few more pressures to go along with his poor run blocking. Chilo Rachal is already developing into a very good right guard, especially in pass protection which a lot of people didn't expect. Considering his size, David Baas hasn't really been the run blocker he is supposed to be. I believe his contract only runs through this season and unless he picks it up I don't think he will be resigned. Eric Heitmann is a very good pass blocker but probably the worst run blocker on our offensive line.

- The defensive strategy and playcalling were pretty much the main reasons why the defense gave up so many yards, along with the lack of a pass rush. For some reason that I will never know Manusky had the linebackers playing almost 10 yards off the LoS on almost every play and only blitzed a handful of times, if that. Most of the time Lynch was 5 yards downfield before a defender even had a chance at him and under those circumstances of course he is going to do well. Manusky needs to go after the season.

- I can't really blame the defensive line for Lynch's great game or the lack of pressure on Edwards and Losman because I already know that they are not good enough to put pressure on opposing QBs with 4 guys and you can't expect 4 guys to get past 5 offensive linemen and make a tackle. I have to acknowledge how well they did late in the game, though. They, especially Justin Smith, were relentless and came through in the clutch. It was good to see Ray McDonald making some plays after disappearing after having such a great preseason but he isn't a capable starter. Smith and Isaac Sopoaga are the only players we have that are capable of starting on the defensive line. The announcer kept on saying Aubrayo Franklin was having a good game but I must have been watching something else because I saw him getting blown off of the ball.

- Patrick Willis is easily a top 3 middle linebacker in the league. 14 total tackles, a forced fumble, a knocked down pass, and a couple of quarterback pressures on the day. Takeo Spikes had a great game as well and if Willis wasn't on this team he would get some Pro Bowl recognition. Manny Lawson was on the field for most of the game but Manusky had him playing farther back than even the other linebackers and he was in coverage a lot so it is hard to tell whether or not he had a good game.

- Nate Clements really made up for getting burned [b]once[/b] by Owens and didn't let Lee Evans beat him deep once and only gave him a few short passes, the 22 yarder was when Walt Harris was on him. Speaking of Walt Harris, he isn't very good anymore. Both Tarell Brown and Donald Strickland outplayed him today in my opinion. Our free safeties, Mark Roman and Keith Lewis, still suck. Roman can't cover or tackle which lead me to want to ask why he is even on the field and Lewis just doesn't have a free safety mentality. He wants to hit someone and doesn't think about coverage or assignments. Michael Lewis had a solid game. He wasn't beat deep but he didn't help in run defense much either.

- The return game really suffered with Allen Rossum out and we need him back but the coverage teams were great. That might have been because Andy Lee and Joe Nedney were both on top of their game and booming kicks even in the inclement weather. Lee was instrumental in this win, pinning them back deep quite a few times.

All in all, while I am not happy about how ugly the game was, I am happy we won. We are the first west coast team to come east and win so that has to mean something and beating a playoff caliber team on the road is impressive. I don't want to hear that Edwards leaving the game is why the Bills lost either because Losman played better than Edwards did in the first half.
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 12, 2008 2:31 pm

Week 10 @Arizona Thoughts and Observations

First let me just say that was the worst officiating sustained through an entire game that I have ever seen in my life.  The officials were throwing flags on penalties that weren't there (i.e. the offensive pass interference called on Anquan Boldin), picking them back up, changing their minds (the pass interference on Bryant Johnson on the "tipped ball" play), and missing obvious penalties (like the facemask on Michael Robinson on the last play.  The 49ers didn't do themselves any favors with terrible clock management and stupid penalties that actually happened but with proper officiating they still would have won that game.

- As a whole the offense was much better than it had been with J.T. O'Sullivan.  Looking at the penalties and turnovers an uneducated observer might not think so but it was. We converted 50% of our third downs for the first time all season and Martz's playcalling wasn't stupid.  He ran Gore 23 times and tried to throw it to him a few more.  There were only a few long-developing, 7 step drops and quite a few quick slants.  I just can't excuse the clock management at the end of the game, though.  There were 45 seconds left when Jason Hill got down to the one yard line and we took 25 seconds to spike the ball.  That is inexcusable.  Then we should have spiked the ball with 4 seconds left and gotten a new play in.  The refs messed up those last few plays but the 49ers messed up more.

- Just as the whole offense was better than in was with O'Sullivan so was Shaun Hill.  He was the reason we converted so many of our third downs.  When he ran for the first down late in the first half and lost his helmet I think we all saw shades of Steve Young.  His three turnovers were bad but they didn't cost us the game and all of them have simple explanations.  On the fumble he just never got the ball cleanly from Heitmann, which is probably because hasn't practiced with him enough, on the first interception

- Every time I do these game write-ups I have to type something about Frank Gore but I really don't know what to say anymore.  The only bad game he has had this season is @ the Giants but other than that he has been great an Monday night was no exception.  He was popping off 4 yards or more on almost every one of his carries even when there was no hole to run through.  Gore did drop a couple of passes, including a swing pass on 3rd down that would have been a big play, but when you judge a player and he has one bad play for every 25 good ones I think that means he is a great player.  Gore was also great in blitz pick-up.  It was good to see Michael Robinson get involved but I would like to see more of it, and not on the game deciding play.  I like MRob but he shouldn't be carrying it in that situation.  Does DeShaun Foster even suit up anymore and if he doesn't then why not bring Thoma Clayton up from the practice squad and get him some carries.  A running back rotation with Gore running 22 times and Robinson/Clayton splitting 15 carries to go along with 20-25 passes a game from Hill would greatly improve our offense.

- I have been saying for a while that Jason Hill impressed me more in the preseason than Josh Morgan but for some reason he hasn't been getting playing time.  In the past two games he has gotten his chance and made the most of it.  Ten catches for 122 yards and a touchdown in two games is good for anyone but it is especially impressive how good some of the catches and runs afterwards have been.  If not for two great moves by Hill on our last drive we wouldn't have even been in position to win the game.  Even though Hill was better Josh Morgan was still good himself.  Those two look like they could be our #1 and #2 receivers of the future.  Dominique Zeigler, who was as good as those two in the preseason as well, had a good catch and ran on that late 3rd and 25 and I saw him open a few other times when he was him.  Maybe he can be our #3 down the road.  Neither Isaac Bruce nor Bryant Johnson did anything Monday night and unless his performance picks up there is a very small chance that Johnson will be in San Francisco next season.

- After Vernon Davis caught that touchdown before the half I was estatic but then he committed a typical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and I hated him again.  Then he pulled up when he could have caught another touchdown and I hated him even more.  I want him to do well for the rest of the season and build on that next year but if he keeps up the pace he is going at right now I don't know if he will be around next season.  Davis is a great blocker, though.  At this point he has probably even surpassed Billy Bajema as a blocker.  Delanie Walker did nothing but I would like to see him, as well as Davis and Gore, get more screen passes thrown their way so they can run after the catch.

- The offensive line was definitely better than it had been all season.  Adam Snyder was much better at right tackle than Barry Sims had been and David Baas was better at left guard than Snyder was.  Baas did have some pass protection issues, as did both Eric Heitmann at center and Tony Wragge at right guard.  The Cardinals seemed to be attacking the middle with blitzes all night long.  At left tackle Joe Staley was only beat once but on the play he pushed his man back enough to allow Shaun Hill to step up into the pocket and complete the pass.  Chilo Rachal got in for a sometimes and made some great blocks, one on Gore’s long sweep to the right and the other when he pushed his man 7 yards downfield on Morgan’s touchdown.  I guess what the scouting reports said about him, that once he locked up it was over, were true.  It seems like every week I say we should have a different offensive line configuration but this time I think I have it.  Staley-Wragge-Baas/Heitmann-Rachal-
Snyder.  We still need an upgrade at right tackle and left guard but right now that gives us the best line, I think.

- I am going to take some heat for this but I am going to say again that the defense played better than the offense again Monday night.  Sure they allowed 29 points and were cut up but Kurt Warner but they made plays when it mattered the most and completely shut down Tim Hightower.  They held Arizona to 30% on third down, forced field goals for most of the game, stopped the Cardinals from going up by 7 points by stopping he two point conversion, and gave the offense the ball back with great field position with a chance to win the game.  The problem that allowed Warner to carve us up was the same problem as usual, no pass rush.  I'm now conviced that Manusky is, and was under Nolan, running the defense because we have the same vanilla gameplan, don't blitz at all and hope the front four gets pressure on the opposing QB.  It isn't working and yet we still continue to do it.

- The defensive line played great against the run, which when you look at them is really what they are built for.  None of them are really pass rushers.  On the positive (?) side, our defensive line has pretty much been the most consistent part of our team all year.  Justin Smith holds up against the run and sometimes pressures the passer, Isaac Sopoaga holds the point of attack but rarely pushes anyone back and takes up double teams, when Kentwan Balmer plays he holds the point of attack admirably, Ray McDonald will sometimes beat a weak right tackle off the edge, and Parsy Haralson and Roderick Green are both good situational pass rushers.  Yep, pretty easy to predict how our defensive line will play.

- With every week that passes I love the Takeo Spikes signing more and more.  He is just playing lights out football, especially against the run.  It seems like every time we stop a back close to the line of scrimmage Spikes is in on the tackle, along with Patrick Willis of course.  Willis has been playing even better than Spikes and at least as good as he did last season, if not better.  P-Willy is definitely Pro Bowl bound.  (I didn't see Manny Lawson in at all, did he play?  After such a great game against Seattle I would have thought he would be in on every play)

- It is officially time for Walt Harris to be replaced as Anquan Boldin abused him all night long.  Tarell Brown played well and he should probably be promoted to the #2 corner.  Nate Clements proved that he doesn't need any help covering a team's #1 receiver.  He was in man coverage with Larry Fitzgerald for pretty much the whole game and didn't let him catch anything except short 4-6 yard gains.  Nate's 5 yard bumps were more like Fitzgerald running into a wall.  Mark Roman is pretty much the worst free safety in the league at this point.  He can't cover one-on-one, he can't play zone coverage, and he can't make tackles.  Michael Lewis wasn't much better, at least this week.  He got embarrassed on a pump fake multiple times and missed a few tackles himself which is very unlike him.

- The special teams was one of the main reasons we were in the game at the end.  Allen Rossum had a couple of good returns, including the last punt return, that set us up with great field position.  Then there was obviously the kickoff return for a touchdown during which MRob made not one but two great blocks.  Joe Nedney's kickoff from the 15 right before halftime was a thing of beauty and so were the rest of his kicks.  The coverage teams just have not played up to the level they are capable of this season but still, they haven't really allowed any returns that cost us the game.
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 29, 2008 10:49 am

Mid-Season Grades

Now that half of the 49ers schedule has been played it is time to grade each aspect of the team.  I love how our bye week splits our schedule perfectly in half because the team gets rest at the perfect time and it gives me time to write this long review and it gives you guys something to read during the bye week.  Without further ado let's get to the position-by-position review and analysis.

Quarterback (Grade: D-)

The only thing that stopped me from giving J.T. O'Sullivan an 'F' is that he did have a couple of good games, though it was against terrible teams in Detroit and Seattle.  Outside of those two games he was about as bad as a quarterback could be.  He finished his season with 17 total turnovers (11 interceptions, 6 fumbles, plus 5 fumbles that the 49ers recovered) and while he did put up decent touchdown, yards, and yards per attempt numbers, 8 touchdowns, 1678 yards, 7.7 yards per attempt, but every quarterback in Mike Martz's offense has done that so it isn't much of an accomplishment.  Neither his 58.4 percent completion nor his 74 passer rating helped his cause.  As if his bad stats weren't enough he held the ball way too long and took sacks that he didn't need to.  I am okay with a quarterback trying to make a play outside of the pocket, to an extent, but when you are two yards away from the sideline and there is a defender bearing down on you you have to get rid of the ball and not lose yardage for your team.

Runningbacks (Grade: A-)

Some of you might ask why I am giving Frank Gore an 'A-', well I'm not.  Frank Gore by himself gets an 'A+', 629 rushing yards (4th in the league), 4.6 yards per carry, 940 yards from scrimmage(2nd), 5 total touchdowns, 32 receptions, and 311 receiving yards (2nd among running backs), but the rest of the backs did so little they bring the grade down.  As much as I love Michael Robinson he just didn't do much.  It was because he didn't get enough touches and that isn't his fault so I probably could cut him some slack but I'm not.  DeShaun Foster has been a disappointment and I say that even though I only thought of him as an insurance policy in case Gore got hurt.  When Foster has gotten carries he has done nothing with them.  Zak Keasey seems like a waste of a roster spot even with his good special teams play because he does nothing on offense.  With Shaun Hill at quarterback we should see more running in the second half of the season and hopefully it is with MRob

Tight Ends (Grade: C-)

Now a 'C-' might seem like a high grade considering the numbers our tight ends have put up (322 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown) but both Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis, I list Walker first because he is better than Davis in my opinion, have contributed in blocking.  Davis has been especially impressive when blocking.  I have seen him lock up on Pro Bowlers, such as Patrick Kerney, and block them like he was a Pro Bowl tackle.  Much like it should be with the running backs we should see more production from the tight ends with Shaun Hill in because with his weak arm, no offense, we will see a lot of underneath passes that give Walker and Davis a chance to run after the catch and we know that the can both do that very well.

Wide Receivers (Grade: C)

It's really hard to judge the receivers because, just like quarterbacks, they put up good numbers in Martz offense's.  Both Arnaz Battle(318 yards) and Isaac Bruce(399 yards) are over 300 yards right now and have had a 100-yard game.  Bruce is tied for 3rd in the league in receiving touchdowns with 4.  Before he got hurt Bryant Johnson was looking good and hopefully his hamstring will be healed after the bye so he can continue that.  Josh Morgan had that one good game against the Giants and Jason Hill looked good in the second game against Seattle.  Both look like they have a ton of potential and hopefully a quarterback that throws the ball to his own players instead of the other team can bring it out.

Offensive Line (Grade: D+)

I admit that I have jumped all over JTO for taking too many sacks but even if you take the ones that are his fault away the line certainly hasn't been good in pass protection.  Barry Sims has easily been the worst of the bunch.  I think that according the sites that track sacks allowed Sims has allowed the most of any 49er offensive lineman, even though he didn't play he first game, but even some of the ones that he wasn't credited for have been his fault because when he got beat JTO had to step up or roll left right into on of the other offensive linemen's man.  The second worst lineman was Adam Snyder at left guard but that isn't his position so I expected that.  Like a lot of 49er fans I think Snyder is a perfect fit at right tackle but he never gets a chance to play it for some reason.  David Baas replaced Snyder against Seattle in week 8 but he wasn't much better.  His footwork was bad and his pass protection suffered for it.  On the bright side his run bocking was a vast improvement over Snyder's.  At center Eric Heitmann has been solid outside of a few times when he has been pushed back into the quarterback's face.  Tony Wragge started off the season pretty well but has gotten progessively worse with each game but he is still a serviceable right guard until Chilo Rachal is ready to start.  The best offensive lineman has been Joe Staley, though that isn't a huge accomplishment.  Considering this is his first season a left tackle I am excited about how good he can be with some experience.  There have been a few times when he made a mistake, like week 8 when he didn't even realize Julian Peterson was blitzing, but he has been in the top half of the league when it comes to left tackle rankings

Offense Coaching (Grade: D+)

Mike Martz has been a huge disappointment.  After week 3 against Detroit I thought he had changed his ways and realized he should run the ball 30+ times a game but it looks like he was just trying to piss off the Lions, who said he wouldn't run the ball.  Every time the opposing team gets even a slight lead, even with a lot of time left, he almost completely abandons the run.  Frank Gore only has 22 4th quarter carries and the 49ers have been within 10 points with 10 minutes left in the game in every game this season except for last week against Seattle.  You don't even want to get me started on the 3rd down play calling but suffice to say it has been bad, 31 percent conversions on third down.

Offense (Grade: C-)

The offense as a whole has been bad but it hasn't been nearly as bad as last year.  Even with JTO's constant turnovers he stil moved the ball some and Frank Gore is having a great season.  The stats are bad but likeI said, not as bad as last year.  19th in passing yards, 19th in rushing yards, 22nd in total yards, 13th in yards per play, and 19th in points.  None of those are great but at least none of them are bottom 5.  The only offensive categories we are in he bottom 5 in are turnovers and time of possessin but those can be put squarely on JTO's shoulders.

Defensive Line (Grade: C)

When it comes to stopping the run the defensive line has been good.  While they have given up 112 yards per game (19th) on the ground they have only allowed 3.6 yards per carry (6th).  The problem is the same as last year.  The offense can't stay on the field so the other team gets a lot of carries.  Justin Smith is having a solid season with 40 total tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception and Parys Haralson (4 sacks) and Roderick Green (2 sacks) are both peforming well as situational pass rushes.  None of the defensive tackles is playing great but Isaac Sopoaga has been good.  Ray McDonald looks great in the preseason but hasn't done much in the regular season.  Kentwan Balmer hasn't gotten a lot of playing time but whenever I have seen him he has looked solid to good.  Aubrayo Franklin has been pretty much awful.

Linebackers (Grade: B+)

Patrick Willis is picking up were he left off last season which is playing at an All-Pro level.  He is 2nd in the league in total tackles with 71, 1st in solo tackles with 57, has 1 sack, has knocked down 8 passes, and has an interception which he returned 86 yards for a touchdown.  Takeo Spikes is playing almost as well himself.  He has 48 total tackles, 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble.  Manny Lawson didn't get much playing time because Nolan was stupid but when he finally got the chance to play the whole game against Seattle he was great notching 6 solo tackles for -3, -1, 1, 10, 2, and 0 yards as well as a sack.  When he is in the game the 49ers run defense is dramatically better and the opponents tight end does nothing.

Secondary (Grade: B)

Considering they have been playing with almost no pass rush the secondary has been pretty good.  They have allowed 217 passing yards per game (18th), 7.1 yards per pass (17th), 18 plays of 20+ yards (12th), and a passer rating of 82.1 (13th).  Those numbers themselves don't warrant the 'B' grade but like I said, there is no pass rush so they are more impressive.  Nate Clements doesn't have great numbers this season but that is because no one is throwing his way.  I have only seen a handful of passes completed to his man when the 49ers are in man coverage.  Walt Harris has been extremely up and down.  At some points he looks like an All Pro but other times he gets burnt like a rookie.  Michael Lewis is doing what he does, making plays near the line of scrimmage and playing solid in coverage.  Mark Roman is just playing terrible and has gotten burned at least once in every game this season.  The back-up second year players, Tarell Brown and Dashon Goldson, have really done well whenever they have played, especially Brown.  Both will probably be starting next year in place of Walt and Roman.  I haven't seen much of Reggie Smith.

Defensive Coaching (Grade: D-)

The coaching is the second biggest reason why the defenses numbers are so bad, the first being JTO.  For some reason whoever is controlling the defense thinks that our defensive line is good enough to pressure the opposing quarterbacks without blitzing anyone else.  Well that obviously isn't true but they still refuse to bring pressure even when it seems like every time pressure is brought something good happens.  Then there is the decision to keep Roman starting over Goldson even though anyone with eyes could tell you that Goldson is better.  The third down defensive playcalling is almost as bad as the offensive.  On 3rd and 20 they give the quarterback all day to throw and eventually someone gets open and on 3rd and 1 they blitz to the outside instead of up the middle.  It is just stupid.

Defense (Grade: C)

Even if the stats don't show it the defense has been better than the offense.  They may have allowed 28.8 points per game (31st) but that is because the other team gets the ball in 49er territory so much because of JTO's turnovers.  They are 19th in the league in total yards allowed, 18th in passing yards allowed, 19th in rushing yards allowed, and 15th in yards per play.  If the offense could stay on the field those ranks would get drastically better and hopefully that will happen after the bye.

Special Teams (Grade: B)

The special teams has been good but not great like last year.  Allen Rossum has been great on punt returns averaging over 20 yards per on 4 returns and solid on kickoff averaging 26 yards per on 31 returns.  Andy Lee's average and net average are both down about 4 yards from last year but a lot of that is because the coverage team hasn't been nearly as good as it was last year.  Joe Nedney is really booming kickoffs allowing the coverage team to get down there and make the tackle after minimal gains and he is 17/19 on field goal, matching his totals from last year already.
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 18, 2008 8:05 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2008 7:18 pm

Sorry I have been MIA the past couple of weeks

My internet has been done and this is the first chance I have had to get to the library and post this.  I should be up and running again by Monday, Tuesday at the latest.  If I am not back by Tuesday then the official 49er blogger alternate should take over for another week or so.  Again, I'm sorry that I have missed my duties and I am extremely sorry that I have so many post to read and catch up on.  Thanks and hopefully I will be here talking 49er football with you guys Monday!


So like I said, whoever the alternate 49er blogger is should take over for the next week.  I thought I could get this fixed by last Monday but something with school came up so it won't be fixed until at least this Sunday now.
Category: NFL
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