49ers notes: Crean studies practice, Sopoaga sits etc.


49ers notes: Crean studies practice, Sopoaga sits etc.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean stood on the sideline Thursday, closely studying the 49ers' practice in the rain.

From time-to-time, he took paper out of his jacket pocket and scribbled notes for ideas he can implement on the basketball floor.
Crean, who is married to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's sister Joani, observed there are many similarities in the essential qualities of the two sports."Short-area quickness is big in both sports," he said from field level at Stambaugh Stadium on the campus of Youngstown State, where the 49ers are practicing this week.Crean said he likes to watch defensive backs and offensive linemen in football, in particular, to develop ideas on how he can refine some of the drills for his basketball team. He said he formulates ideas from watching defensive backs change direction and offensive linemen use leverage.Crean's Hoosiers were 27-9 last season and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
SOPOAGA SITS: Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga (left knee, ankle) does not figure to be available for Sunday's game against the New York Jets after missing his second day of practice.Ricky Jean Francois would be slated to take over for Sopoaga. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said not much would change with that alteration to the lineup."They're both pretty similar," Fangio said. "Both are big, physical guys on the nose for us. Ricky's got a little more movement ability. Isaac has a little more stoutness to him. But I don't see a big difference in both guys. We expect Ricky to go out and play really good for us."HEAVY WORKLOAD: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said spending this week in Youngstown has come at a good time for his staff as it prepares for the many looks that the Jets' defense employs."If I appear unshaven, I apologize, but this Jets defense forces our whole staff to stay up into the wee hours of the morning," Roman said."One thing I can guarantee you about the Jets defense is there's going to be 11 players on the field. You never know where they're going to line up, but there will be 11 of them."Roman said the 49ers' offensive coaches were together at 3 a.m. to continue preparing for the Jets. Roman knows Jets coach Rex Ryan will have some new wrinkles to unveil on Sunday. Roman and Ryan were on the same Baltimore Ravens staff in 2006 and '07.Roman quoted Ryan's philosophy: "Run all the new stuff early so our old stuff will seem new."Said running Frank Gore, "They do a little of everything. They bring the pressure, they're big. They play good defense."NOTES: Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), receiver Ted Ginn (ankle) and linebacker Patrick Willis (ankle) were all on field and in uniform at the start of practice . . . "My body feels good," said Willis, who sustained a right ankle sprain late in the 49ers' loss Sunday to the Minnesota Vikings. "Each day, just going to be smart and do what the trainers ask me to do. And we'll see how it feels on Sunday." . . . Rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins wore No. 10, as his assignment for the week is to play the role of the Jets' top receiver, Santonio Holmes, during practice against the 49ers' No. 1 defense.

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.