49ers-Browns: Matchups to watch


49ers-Browns: Matchups to watch

Aldon Smith leads the 49ers and ranks second among NFL rookies with 5.5 sacks. And on Sunday at Candlestick Park, he'll go up against Joe Thomas, whom many consider to be the top offensive lineman in the league.
Tale of the tape
Smith (99): 6-4, 258, Missouri, Rookie
Thomas (73): 6-6, 312, Wisconsin, Fifth seasonIn six games, Thomas has surrendered 1.5 sacks. In 16 games a year ago, he surrendered four sacks. Thomas has been outstanding since entering the NFL as the No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 draft.Thomas has not missed an offensive snap in 70 games since coming into the NFL. In August, Thomas signed a seven-year, 84 million contract extension. With the strength throughout the 49ers' front seven, Thomas will likely be left alone to handle Smith in Sunday's game. It's important that the Browns provide ample protection for quarterback Colt McCoy, who has been sacked 13 times this season.McCoy is averaging a lowly 5.46 yards per passing attempt, and the Browns might need to hit on some big plays down the field to stay in the game. The Browns will rely on Thomas to keep the rookie away from McCoy.
"He's a good pass protector," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Thomas. "Obviously, he's a good run-blocker. He's what you're looking for from a left tackle. You don't tend to worry about him so much because he's such a good player."Now, we're going to get challenged this week for sure. So I think we're counting on him to have one of his better games against an opponent that's going to be a big challenge."Smith does not start for the 49ers, but he will enter the game in place of Parys Haralson at right defensive end in nickel situations. Other matchups worth watching
49ers left guard Mike Iupati (77) vs. Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (71): The 49ers like to run to the left side behind 331-pound Iupati, and he'll have perhaps his stiffest challenge of the season. Rubin, a 330-pounder, might be the best player on the Browns' defense. The club signed him to a three-year, 27 million extension in the offseason with 18 million guaranteed. Rubin rarely comes off the field, as he stuffs the run and also adds quickness off the snap to get up the field as a pass-rusher. Rubin leads the Browns with three sacks on the season.49ers punter Andy Lee (4)kicker David Akers (2) vs. Browns return man Joshua Cribbs: The Browns have struggled on special teams, while the 49ers have excelled. That switch in fortunes has coincided with special-teams coordinator Brad Seely's move from Cleveland to the 49ers this season. Cribbs will be in the starting lineup at wide receiver, replacing Mohamed Massoquoi, who will miss the game with a concussion. Cribbs, the all-time NFL career leader with eight touchdown kickoff returns for touchdowns, will still be asked to make a healthy contribution in the return game, He ranks 12th in kickoff returns with a 25.0 average. Cribbs is also 12th in punt returns with a 10.8 average. Akers has done a good job of limiting the chances for the opposing kick returner. Twenty-two of his 37 kickoffs have been touchbacks. And the average start point for the opposition is the 21-yard line. Likewise, Lee's 44.4 net average is tied for the best in the league.

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’


LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

LeBron James is an avid football fan. He's now an even bigger Colin Kaepernick fan than the sport. Following the Cavaliers' practice on Sunday, James opened up on Kaepernick and his absence from the NFL. 

"I've commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him," James said to ESPN. "Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn't see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature."

James believes the masses don't truly understand what Kaepernick was doing when he first took a knee as a protest against social and racial injustices in America. For his actions, James respects Kaepernick choosing his beliefs over his sport.

"When it's something that's new and it's something that people are not educated about or don't understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge and people are so quick to say that what you're doing is wrong," James said. "For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he's done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that."

Add James to the list of those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee last season. The more games he watches, the more James sees the evidence on the wall. 

"I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that," James believes. "Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."

Kaepernick, who recently turned 30 years old, appeared in 12 games for the 49ers in the 2016-17 season. Through the air he completed 59.2 percent of his passes and ended the year with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kaepernick also added 468 yards and two more scores on the ground. 

"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."

For his career, Kaepernick has thrown for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. With his speed as a dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick has also gained 2,300 yards rushing and 13 more touchdowns. 

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.