49ers

49ers Mailbag: What's the impact if Justin Smith can't play?

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49ers Mailbag: What's the impact if Justin Smith can't play?

The next Biggest Game of the Year is coming up Sunday in Seattle. Let's open the 49ers Mailbag to see what's on the minds of readers . . .

How negatively will the defense be affected if Justin Smith can't play? (@jw49ers)
Ricky Jean Francois did just fine while filling in for Smith on Sunday night against the New England Patriots. But let's not forget that after Smith left the lineup, the Patriots -- after an interception -- scored touchdowns on drives of 73, 86, 66 and 92 yards.

Smith does not have the flashy stats, but don't let that mislead you. He is still the player on the 49ers that the opposition accounts for more than anyone else. He pushes the pocket in the passing game, and he keeps interior offensive linemen from getting to the second level to put bodies on NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis.

The specifics of Smith's left elbow injury are not known. But, clearly, this is something more serious than a bump or a bruise. After all, Smith's elbow injury kept the toughest, most-durable 49ers player on the sideline during a time that the team saw its four-touchdown lead slip away.

If Justin Smith doesn't play, do you think Aldon will be as effective? (@AndrewM49ers)
No. It's as simple as that. Without Justin Smith on the field, the Seahawks can place more focus on Aldon Smith, who can expect to see nothing but double-teams on Sunday night. Aldon Smith can still have a good game, but it'll be a lot more difficult.

Is there any chance Manningham plays Sunday night? (@branteboy49)
Mario Manningham has been practicing on a limited basis, and he looks a lot better. But he didn't even make the trip to Foxboro, Mass., last week. His availability for Sunday night is questionable.

Is Moss finally comfortable with his subtle playmaking role? No longer the center of attn even while the media thrust him there? @MiriYum
Who said Randy Moss wasn't comfortable in the first place? Early in the season he told me that he was having a great time with the 49ers. His teammates really seem to enjoy his company. He and Colin Kaepernick have developed a nice rapport, too. I haven't heard even a whisper of dissatisfaction with anything concerning Moss.

What are the chances David Akers is still on the roster come playoff time? (‏@GodsSonNasir)
The chances are very, very good. Have you seen Mason Crosby with the Green Bay Packers? His kicks look horrible, and the Packers have held onto him because they don't believe there's anyone better out there. Akers is striking the ball very well, but he's been missing. The 49ers have come this far, so I think they'll keep Akers around. The alternative is to bring in a veteran -- either Nate Kaeding or Billy Cundiff -- known for huge playoff failures.

NOTE: The Miami Dolphins signed Kaeding on Friday and placed kicker Dan Carpenter on injured reserve.

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

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AP

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?

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USATSI

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.