San Francisco 49ers

Stadium: Levi's Stadium | Coach: Kyle Shanahan
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense17th100.8 (22nd)233.2 (16th)
Defense25th121.3 (24th)230.5 (20th)

49ers report: Strategy and personnel

The Sports Xchange
Strategy and personnel · Notes, quotes · Inside slant

The 49ers might be inclined to rotate offensive linemen more than they have in the past, coach Mike Nolan said. It is conceivable that the club could plug Adam Snyder into the lineup at left guard in place of Larry Allen on occasion. The team could do the same thing at right guard, where David Baas has shown strong improvement but might not beat out Justin Smiley.

"It would be too crazy to slip in a Baas or a Snyder to keep guys fresh," Nolan said. "I don't like doing too much of that, but at the same time guys get worn down."

--RB Arkee Whitlock was signed after the 49ers went down a couple players. The Vikings released Whitlock, an undrafted rookie from Southern Illinois, earlier in the week.

--S Darnell Bing has been working into the action slowly with the 49ers after being claimed off waivers from the Raiders. "I like the way he looks," Nolan said. "You want bigger, stronger, faster guys. But it's too early to tell where he is as a football player."

--WR Taylor Jacobs had an impressive offseason, and he has carried it over to an impressive start at training camp. Jacobs is also working on punt returns, which could determine whether he earns a roster spot.

--WR Brandon Williams has made significant strides in the offseason from last season. Williams' main value to the team appears to be as a punt returner. He is sure-handed but he average less than seven yards a return as a rookie.

--LT Damane Duckett is making the transition from the defensive line. He has shown some potential but he is still very raw. He had a rough scrimmage, as he tried to work against Tully Banta-Cain.

--LB Hannibal Navies, who worked most of the offseason as an outside linebacker, has been moved to the inside during training camp.

Derek Smith vs. Patrick Willis for starting "mike" linebacker -- Smith is have a strong opening to camp after a rocky season in which he had an eye problem that clearly affected his play. Smith is a reliable veteran who has a good grasp of the defense. Willis, the No. 11 overall pick, has fantastic physical tools. He has great speed and awareness. The team marvels at how quickly he has picked up the defense. Currently, Willis is slated to be the team's nickel linebackers while Smith is No. 1 on the depth chart in the base defense. "It's like when you have a veteran quarterback who's a good quarterback versus a guy coming in who has a rocket for an arm and all those things," assistant head coach Mike Singletary said. "Which one do you play? I think you play the one who helps you win at the moment."

Michael Robinson, Maurice Hicks and Thomas Clayton are in competition for the backup RB job. The 49ers need to find someone reliable behind Frank Gore, who might not play in the exhibition season due to a broken hand. Robinson and Hicks are clearly ahead of Clayton at this stage.

Kwame Harris vs. Joe Staley at RT. Harris, the incumbent, started every game the past two seasons. He is strong as a run-blocker and not as consistent in pass protection. Staley, a rookie, has shown good feet and strength. Staley has a legitimate chance to emerge as the starter. Justin Smiley vs. Davis Baas at RG. Smiley is coming off a strong year, but he is in the final year of his contract. Smiley's future with the 49ers is in question, and Baas showed tremendous improvement in the offseason. Still, it looks as if Smiley will win the job.

Tight end Vernon Davis. He has created a stir on the practice field with his actions, but there is no denying Davis is playing football at a high level. The 49ers have an improved corps of wide receivers, but Davis seems to have asserted himself as quarterback Alex Smith's top target. With the 49ers' emphasis on improving on third downs and in the red zone, Smith has consistently looked for Davis as one of the top options in the offense. Davis has responded. He looks more comfortable than at any point in his rookie season, and he is catching the ball much better.

Linebacker Patrick Willis stood out on the practice field during the first week of practice because of his speed and hitting ability. Willis spent extra time after at least one practice working against wide receiver Marcus Maxwell on his cover skills. ... Right tackle Joe Staley has looked strong in both pass protection and run-blocking. He has a strong chance to unseat Kwame Harris as the starter at RT. ... Receiver Jason Hill is working primarily with the third team but has shown some flashes of his speed and receiving skills. He will make the 53-man roster but it's uncertain if he'll work into the rotation. ... Defensive end Ray McDonald is working with the second unit at RDE. He could be a factor as an inside pass rusher in nickel situations. ... Nose tackle Joe Cohen played well in the scrimmage. He is likely competing against Isaac Sopoaga for a roster spot. ... Safety Dashon Goldson is a second-team safety. ... Running back Thomas Clayton has experienced some struggles early in camp as he learns what the team expects from its backs. ... Outside linebacker Jay Moore is working with the second unit. He made one of the best plays of the scrimmage when he tip an Alex Smith pass at the line of scrimmage and then scrambled back to make a lunging interception. ... Cornerback Tarell Brown is a backup behind a set of quality veteran players. His physical skills have been apparent through a week of camp.

RB Frank Gore could return to practice this week with a broken right hand. The team might hold him out of the preseason games to allow his hand to fully heal for the regular-season opener.

--DL Bryant Young has experienced some soreness in his back. He practiced sparingly in the first week, but the condition does not appear to be a concern at this stage.

--WR Arnaz Battle was held out of two days of workouts to rest his sore right knee.

--WR Darrell Jackson has been practicing after missing most of the offseason program with a turf toe. It looks as if he's holding back a little to make sure he doesn't aggravate the injury.

--OT Tavares Washington is likely out a week with a knee sprain.

--LB Jeff Ulbrich was held out a couple days as a precaution after feeling "woozy" from a hit.

--RB Michael Robinson was held out a couple days after being taken to the hospital to be treated for dehydration.

--LT Jonas Jennings experienced a stinger in practice. Two days later, he was held out of the team scrimmage to give him some rest.

Copyright (C) 2007 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


More 49ers