The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - INSIDE SLANT
The San Francisco 49ers have been outscored 57-3 in their two preseason games. The good news, however, is very few of the team's mainstays have gotten much playing time.
Their latest disappointing performance came Sunday, getting shut out 34-0 by the Denver Broncos against the backdrop of opening brand new Levi's Stadium. The starting offense played just two series, while six starters on defense sat out.
"We need to make decisions on who we're playing with," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We're not going to keep experimenting. We've got to tighten this down fast."
Harbaugh and his staff have predictably put a big load on his reserves through two preseason games. After three straight seasons of reaching at least the conference title game, keeping his players fresh and out of the training room has been the mandate two weeks into the preseason slate.
It's been much of the same during practice, with starters receiving scant reps while reserves take the bulk of the load, and the bulk of the day-to-day pounding. Players like running back Frank Gore, tight end Vernon Davis, wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson, linebacker Patrick Willis, and defensive linemen Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have all done very little work to this point during the team's more physical portions of practice.
Sunday's drumming, however, was cause for concern given the ever-positive Harbaugh's reaction to the game.
"Just overall us playing as units needs to be a heck of a lot more precise. That's why we got to drill down now and see who we're playing with and see who rises to the challenge this week," he said.
Denver's first two quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, looked ready for 2014 to start, completing a combined 22 of 27 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
The 49ers defense, lacking their entire starting line along with linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Willis struggled against Denver's up-tempo offense after going against the Ravens' more traditional approach in the preseason opener.
But it was the offense that was receiving the scrutiny for its play Sunday, particularly the quarterbacks.
When San Francisco traded a late-round pick in May's draft for Blaine Gabbert, they assumed the $2 million guaranteed would be a worthy investment. But Gabbert hasn't inspired confidence with his play to this point. After completing just 3 of 11 passes in Baltimore, the former Jaguar connected on 8 of 14 passes, mostly quick hitters, but ended up throwing an interception for the second straight game.
Gabbert was looking for Quinton Patton in the third quarter down the middle of the field, but underthrew him, allowing defensive back Tony Carter to undercut the play and make the easy interception. Had Gabbert thrown the ball further out in front of Patton, he might have connected on a big play. He has not completed a pass of more than 10 yards down the field through two preseason games.
Entering their third preseason game Sunday against the Chargers, the 49ers figure to play the starters more than in the first two games in order to get ready for the regular season. However, it could also be a chance for Gabbert to get extensive work after Colin Kaepernick in order to build some confidence within the new offense heading into the regular season.
NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - NOTES, QUOTES
--Danger was lurking in the opinion of head coach Jim Harbaugh, who stopped practice Wednesday night at Levi's Stadium because of an unplayable field.
By Thursday, workers were ripping out portions of the sod and replacing it with new turf. The 49ers said the field will be ready for Sunday's preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.
Visible divots and chunks of sod, remnants of last Sunday's stadium-opening game in Santa Clara, Calif., against the Denver Broncos caused several players to slip, trip and hit the deck. Harbaugh stopped practice, and the 49ers sent home fans who'd come to the brand new stadium to see the team's final practice at the $1.3 billion facility.
Practice resumed on the team's typical practice fields but was closed to fans who received complimentary tickets and media.
"The 49ers organization would like to apologize to any fans who were inconvenienced by today's practice ending early," team spokesman Bob Lange said in a statement. "We have determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers."
The stadium sod was laid in April.
After Sunday's preseason date with the Chargers, the 49ers do not play at home until Sept. 14, a Sunday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears.
--Starting right tackle Anthony Davis returned to practice Tuesday after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery to repair a "labrum, biceps" injury he suffered during Week 3 of last season. Davis played through the injury, extending his consecutive starts streak to 64 to begin his career after being drafted No. 11 overall in 2010.
With Davis out, Jonathan Martin has gotten the majority of reps with the first team at right tackle. Despite some inconsistencies, Martin received praise from head coach Jim Harbaugh Tuesday.
"Jonathan Martin has done very well. Been a great addition to our football team," Harbaugh said. "Sure glad we got him. Like everybody else on our football team, working to improve in certain areas. He's been very effective and efficient."
Davis is unlikely to play in either of the two remaining preseason games, but is on pace to be back for the regular season opener Sept. 7 in Dallas.
--Left guard Alex Boone's holdout reached four weeks Tuesday, and there doesn't appear to be much headway being made despite conflicting reports on the situation. Some say the 49ers have reached out to Boone and offered a deal that would put him in the top 12 of highest-paid guards in the league. Others have refuted that report.
One of the bullet points of quarterback Colin Kaepernick's new six-year, $126 million deal is a minimal guarantee of $13 million that allows the front office the flexibility to sign new players. But even with that deal, the front office appears unwilling to give Boone a new deal.
"I think that's something that the front office, that's their decision," Kaepernick said. "For me, I try to do something where we gave them space to be able to get players back. Now, who they sign and what they do with it is really up to them."
-Strong safety Antoine Bethea left Sunday's game early after sustaining an apparent concussion. Harbaugh confirmed Tuesday Bethea is indeed going through the NFL's mandated concussion protocols.
"It's based on how they respond with their symptoms," said Harbaugh. "When they're asymptomatic, then they're progressed to running. And then another day goes by, or two, until they're not symptomatic and show they're not symptomatic from running and exerting themselves. Then it progresses to practice without contact. Again, if they're asymptomatic, then it progresses to contact, again. See what the symptoms there are, if any. If not, then they're progressed back into playing."
It appears unlikely Bethea will play again this preseason. He was at practice in street clothes observing positional drills Tuesday.
--Inside linebacker Patrick Willis suffered an apparent stinger during the team's three practices in Baltimore following the preseason opener. Willis suited up and went through warmups in Sunday's 34-0 loss to the Broncos but did not play.
"He's working through something. Didn't feel like it was prudent to play in the game," Harbaugh said.
Willis was wearing a blue non-contact jersey during Tuesday's practice.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Rookie sixth-round cornerback Kenneth Acker was one of the few bright spots in Sunday's drubbing from Denver. He had a pass breakup at the goal line, drew an offensive pass interference penalty and also made an interception, although it was called back because outside linebacker Aaron Lynch was offside at the snap.
Acker has good size (6-foot, 190 pounds). It looks like San Francisco would have a hard time getting him through waivers to the practice squad. As it stands, the 49ers have six corners earmarked for roster spots ahead of Acker, but he's making a good impression and could push second-year player Darryl Morris for a job. Morris was undrafted last season and ended up on the team's practice squad at the start of the year, but was elevated to the roster after Nnamdi Asomugha suffered a knee injury.
Morris, perhaps San Francisco's fastest player, became a standout on special teams coverage. And he has been one of three players getting significant reps at the nickel position in the slot while Acker has been working predominately on the right side. To this point, Acker has shown more promise on defense, while it remains to be seen if he could provide the same value on special teams as Morris.
NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--The 49ers signed defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey to a two-year contract extension through the 2016 season. Dorsey is currently sidelined with a torn biceps tendon, but could return late in the season if he goes on injured reserve with the designation for return.
"Glenn is a true pro who has quickly become a valued contributor to our organization both on and off the field," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. "He is a quick study and a very good football player that has earned this extension, and we look forward to his future contributions."
During his first season with San Francisco in 2013, Dorsey (6-1, 297) appeared in all 16 regular season games (13 starts), in addition to the team's three (two starts) postseason contests. He recorded two sacks, tallied 100 tackles for the first time in his career and helped the team rank fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (95.9) in the NFL. He was also selected by his coaches and teammates as the 49ers Defensive Blue Collar Player of the Year.
--WR Michael Crabtree was away from the team Tuesday after welcoming a son, Michael Anthony Crabtree III, Monday in his native Texas. Crabtree played three snaps in Sunday's loss and couldn't come down with a catch on his only target.
--RB/KR LaMichael James and NT Mike Purcell were wearing blue non-contact jerseys at the start of Tuesday's practice. James has been out since the first weekend of training camp when he suffered a dislocated elbow and is on pace to return by the regular season opener, if not sooner. Purcell's injury is unknown.
--WR Brandon Lloyd made his 49ers debut Sunday. He made one catch for seven yards on two targets. He worked with the first team after WR Michael Crabtree exited after just three plays.
--RB Frank Gore also played three snaps, getting two carries for 12 yards on San Francisco's first possession.
--WR Bruce Ellington led the team with four catches on seven targets for 24 yards. Ellington also had kickoff returns of 32 and 24 yards.
--LB Patrick Willis did not play after suiting up for warmups and offering a pregame motivational speech on the field. Willis has not played at all this preseason. Last year, Willis missed time with a broken hand before dealing with a groin injury Week 3.
--After returning to the active roster last week after needing four surgeries to repair his broken ankle, NT Ian Williams did not play Sunday. There is no word on the prognosis for his return, but it's likely Williams will be back for the regular season.
--Rookie C Marcus Martin made his 49ers debut Sunday after not playing in the opener against the Ravens. Martin came into camp with an ankle injury that caused him to miss the first week.
--First-round pick S Jimmie Ward played 52 snaps Sunday, third-most behind DE Tank Carradine and DE Quinton Dial. Ward, playing corner in the nickel and free safety with the second team, has impressed to this point and is the favorite to be the team's No. 1 option at nickel corner entering the season.
--S Antoine Bethea suffered a concussion in the first quarter Sunday. Following the game he tweeted "I'm doing well and appreciate all of the concern!!" It's likely Bethea remains out for the remainder of the preseason.
--Rookie CB Kenneth Acker might have been the 49ers' defensive MVP Sunday. He had a pass breakup at the goal line, forced an offensive pass interference call and had an interception, although it was called back after rookie OLB Aaron Lynch was ruled offside at the snap. Acker has an outside shot at a roster spot, although he would have to overtake incumbent second-year player CB Darryl Morris, who was a fixture on special teams in 2013.
--QB Josh Johnson and QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson also turned the ball over Sunday, a part of four giveaways for the 49ers.
--LB Michael Wilhoite and rookie LB Chris Borland remain neck and neck in the competition for the starting job to replace former All-Pro LB NaVorro Bowman, who will miss at least the first six weeks of the season following his ACL and MCL tears in the NFC Championship Game in January.
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