49ers camp summary (816): Offense ends on high note


49ers camp summary (816): Offense ends on high note

Summary: Quarterback Alex Smith began Thursday's practice on another hot streak. His only incompletion among his first 15 pass attempts in the 7-on-7 and team portions coming when fullback Bruce Miller dropped a pass that hit him between the numbers.The 49ers had their final full practice before leaving Friday for an exhibition game against the Houston Texans. There were periods in which the first-team offense and defense worked against scout teams. The 49ers had music -- including ACDC's "Back in Black" -- blaring on the practice field to get the offense some work in noisy conditions. And when it was "49ers vs. 49ers," the offense took strides toward evening the score after the defense dominated early in camp.Injury report: Cornerback Perrish Cox rehabbed an apparent leg injury on a side field and did not practice. . . Outside linebacker Aldon Smith (bruised right hip) was spotted without crutches for the first time since sustaining his injury last Friday against the Minnesota Vikings. Smith has now missed five practices. Smith watched the final portion of practice from the sideline. . . Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (left knee) and tight end Delanie Walker (right knee) both missed their fourth consecutive days of practice. . . Rookie linebacker Cam Johnson missed his fifth consecutive practice. He underwent offseason knee surgery. . . Receiver Joe Hastings missed his 13th practice day with a right hamstring strain. . . Running back Jewel Hampton (left foot) is on the non-football injury list, while outside linebacker Darius Fleming (left knee) is on the physically-unable-to-perform list.Transaction report: The 49ers waivedinjured tight end Nate Byham, a sixth-round pick in 2010. He missed all of last season after sustaining a torn ACL. He did not suit up for Friday's exhibition opener. In the likely event Byham clears waivers, he will revert back to the 49ers' injured reserve list.Offensive play of the day: In a first-team vs. first-team drive situation, the offense was given the ball at the 40-yard line. It took Smith and tight end Vernon Davis all of one play to get into the end zone. Linebacker Patrick Willis had coverage on Davis, who ran a deep corner route, caught Smith's perfect throw in stride and took it the rest of the way for the touchdown.Offensive play of the day II: Shortly after the Smith-to-Davis pass, Josh Johnson had a similar result. It took him four plays, but Johnson connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Chris Owusu against the coverage of safety Trenton Robinson for a touchdown.Veteran move: Wily wide receiver Randy Moss ran a deep sideline route against undrafted rookie Anthony Mosley. As Smith's pass was in the air, Moss never broke stride, nor did he give Mosley any clues that the ball was en route. Moss let the ball drop softly into his hands before Mosley could react.Rookie report: Undrafted rookie receiver Brian Tyms caught touchdown passes of 12 and 7 yards within a three-play period from quarterbacks Johnson and Scott Tolzien.Tying up loose ends: On Wednesday, cornerback Carlos Rogers ranked Michael Crabtree's hands among the best in the league. He mentioned Crabtree in the same glowing terms as Arizona Cardinals All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. On Thursday, Crabtree dropped would-be touchdown passes from Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith in red-zone drills.Notable: Newly signed outside linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis is going through the acclimation process and will be eligible to play in Saturday's exhibition game. "Will he play? We'll see," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. . . New tight end Joe Sawyer has made a good first impression and might get some action Saturday. "So far, he moves around and looks the part out there," Harbaugh said. "He catches the ball and runs like a guy who belongs at this level." . . . Harbaugh said he expects running back Frank Gore, receiver Mario Manningham and defensive lineman Justin Smith to see action against the Texans. Each of those players was held out of the 49ers' exhibition opener.
Next practice: The 49ers have a one-hour "mock game" scheduled for Friday. The club will then depart for Houston. They will not have any more practices open to the media throughout training camp or the regular season.

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.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.