49ers not making major defensive changes prior to game at Bills

49ers not making major defensive changes prior to game at Bills

SANTA CLARA – After the 49ers’ season-opening shutout over the Los Angeles Rams, the team’s defense has crumbled durign its four-game losing streak.

“Obviously, the biggest thing that we need to focus on is stopping the run,” 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “We’ve got to do a better job there and it’s technique, it’s tackling, it’s doing a better job executing scheme.”

The 49ers rank 31st in the NFL against the run, allowing more than 146 yards rushing per game. Carolina’s Fozzy Whitaker, Seattle’s Christine Michael, Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Arizona’s David Johnson have rushed for more than 100 yards in consecutive weeks against the 49ers.

Johnson on Wednesday was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after his 157-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Cardinals’ 33-21 victory over the 49ers last Thursday.

After four days for the coaches to examine their issues, O’Neil said he does not envision an overhaul of the 49ers’ defense.

“We’re not making major changes, guys,” O’Neil said. ‘I believe in what we’re doing. We’ve got a good coaching staff. We’ve got good personnel. We’ve just got to do a better job focusing on the details, executing and then we’ll do a better job as a defensive staff focusing on what our guys are doing well.”

The problem has been finding what the 49ers do well. The 49ers have surrendered 10 touchdown passes, four of which have come in the past two weeks against the 49ers’ top cornerback, Tramaine Brock.

“I know Brock’s been hit on a couple touchdowns and the one thing I’ll say is, a lot of times in our defense, Brock absorbs the hardest job play in and play out,” O’Neil said. “He’s given up some, but he’s also made a lot of plays for us. So, I wish Brock would have made a couple of those plays, but again, he’s made a lot of plays for our defense. He’s going to continue to be a big part of what we do defensively. So, I’m not down on him at all.”

The pass defense should not face a difficult test on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, who are the only team that ranks lower than the 49ers in offensive passing yards.

However, the 49ers will face a major challenge in trying to contain Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who has gained 447 yards with a 5.3-yard average on the season.

Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season

Frank Gore is returning home to, in all likelihood, finish his professional football career.

Gore, 34, signed a one-year contract to enter his 14th NFL season with his hometown Miami Dolphins, the team announced Friday.

Gore grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School before playing collegiately at the University of Miami.

He played the first 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Gore ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 rushing yards – just 75 yards behind No. 4 Curtis Martin.

After rushing for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns with the 49ers, the club declined to offer him a multi-year contract following the 2014 season. Gore played the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore remains one of the most popular players in 49ers history. When asked recently if he would be willing to “retire” as a member of the 49ers after his final game, Gore reacted enthusiastically about the possibility.

1, Emmitt Smith 18,355
2, Walter Payton 16,726
3, Barry Sanders 15,269
4, Curtis Martin 14,101
5, Frank Gore 14,026

49ers increase competition for starting guard positions


49ers increase competition for starting guard positions

The 49ers are the fifth team to give Jonathan Cooper a chance after he arrived in the NFL as the No. 7 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 draft.

Cooper, 28, caught the attention of the 49ers with his career-high 13 starts last season with the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract this week.

“We signed him to compete for one of the guard spots as a starter,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday at Stanford's pro day. “He played very well in our minds for Dallas last year and kind of resurrected his career. He’s battled injuries, but we really like the way he played, and we think he’s a very good fit for what we do. So we were pleased to add him.”

The 49ers plan to take it slowly this offseason with Cooper, who underwent surgery after tearing the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee during the final game of the season. The 49ers report for the offseason program in mid-April.

The 49ers are certain to have at least two new starters on the offensive line. Former New York Giants center Weston Richburg was signed to replace Daniel Kilgore, who was subsequently traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games at right guard, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent.

Laken Tomlinson has a chance to hold onto a starting job. Acquired shortly before the start of the regular season in a trade from the Detroit Lions, Tomlinson quickly moved into the starting lineup at left guard and started the final 15 games. Tomlinson was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 2015.

“Laken played very well the longer he was there,” Lynch said. “I think people forget with Laken, he came here in Week 1. He was kind of force-fed. We didn’t have many options. But we saw a guy get better throughout the season. He’ll get his opportunity.”

Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, spent last season on injured reserve due to an a knee injury sustained in training camp. The 49ers challenged Garnett to get in better physical condition. He has been cleared for football activity.

“Joshua Garnett has been working extremely hard, so he’ll be in that mix,” Lynch said. “He did a great job embracing the time he has last year to improve as a player. He remade his body and we're looking forward to see him get after it in the offseason.

“I think he’s excited about it. He’s feeling sexy, as he says.”

Erik Magnuson, 24, won a spot on the 49ers’ roster after signing as an undrafted rookie from Michigan. Magnuson could enter into the competition at guard. He displayed unique versatility in his first season, starting two games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. He can also serve as a backup center.

And, perhaps, the 49ers are not finished adding to the competition. The team owns the No. 9 overall selection, and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson could be on the radar in the unlikely event he is not selected within the top eight picks.

When asked if the 49ers could also add another player to the mix with a draft pick, Lynch answered, “We’ll see. We’re always looking to get better there.”