49ers notes: Hunter provides highlights


49ers notes: Hunter provides highlights

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rookie running back Kendall Hunter provided the highlights Saturday night for the 49ers, a team that struggled in every aspect of its exhibition opener a week earlier.Hunter, a fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma State, tore loose on a 53-yard touchdown run that gave the 49ers their first touchdown in an eventual 17-3 victory over the Raiders at Candlestick Park.
Yes, Hunter's run was difficult to overlook. He picked up good blocks from an offensive line that redeemed itself nicely and showed a nice burst of speed en route to the end zone.
But the play that might have showed that he is ready for an opportunity to be a significant contributor as a backup for starter Frank Gore came on the next series. Hunter upended blitzing Raiders safety Matt Giordano to enable quarterback Colin Kaepernick to hit tight end Konrad Reuland for a 13-yard gain."You know you can't play unless you can do blitz pickup and you're able to block," Hunter said. "I have an advantage because I'm low to the ground. I'm short (5-foot-7). So as long as I get on them, I'll be all right."RECAP: Hunter runs 49ers past Raiders 17-3
Hunter finished the game with 105 yards and a touchdown on nine rushing attempts to lead an offense that rolled up 239 yards on the ground."It's the O-line," Hunter said. "They get all the credit." Gore rushed for 21 yards on four tries before calling it a night's work. Anthony Dixon gained 53 yards on 12 carries. In the second half, Xavier Omon, the 49ers' No. 4 running back, added 62 yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts."Offensively, I think it started with our offensive line, which was reflected a lot by what the running backs did, with Frank Gore, Anthony Dixon, and Kendall Hunter, who had a big day," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Xavier Omon had (a big day) as well. I think it's a reflection on our offensive line, the way they handled the blitz pick-up I thought was a big improvement from last week."The 49ers, who were sacked six times in the opener against the Saints, were sacked twice by the Raiders. The 49ers gained 402 total yards, while holding the Raiders to just 214 yards.SMITH REBOUNDS: After struggling along with the entire 49ers' offense in the exhibition opener against the Saints, quarterback Alex Smith made some strides. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 126 yards. However, the 49ers managed just three points while he was in the game.The 49ers second drive ended when Smith threw an interception when he failed to recognize defensive end Matt Shaughnessy dropping into coverage in front of tight end Vernon Davis at the left sideline."We talked about it, we feel like it's a correctable thing," Harbaugh said. "We know why it happened and we have to do a little better job with our eyes and we will get that corrected."The 49ers opened the game with a 16-play, 75-yard drive but did not come away with any points after a field-goal was botched. The 49ers' next drive halted after seven plays on Smith's interception."Obviously, we improved from last week," Smith said. "But if we want to be the kind of team we talk about being, we have to do better in the red zone and we can't turn the ball over. Those first two drives, we didn't finish. Can't do that."EDWARDS-SMITH CONNECTION: Receiver Braylon Edwards and Smith spent a lot of extra time on the practice field during the week. During their time together in the first quarter, they hooked up twice for 46 yards, including Edwards' spectacular one-handed grab for 32 yards."There are some thing that he and I probably feel more comfortable than others," Edwards said. "There are some things more foreign to us and some things that aren't."LEE BRUISED BUT OK: Punter Andy Lee sustained a possible right hip pointer upon being thrown to the ground while trying to throw a pass after a mishandled snap on a first-quarter field-goal attempt. Lee was in obvious pain after the game, but he is expected to be all right."I don't think it's a serious thing," Harbaugh said.Lee was unable to punt the rest of the evening, forcing kicker David Akers to handle those duties. Akers had a 44-yard punt on his first try. The 49ers sent just 10 players out for his second attempt, which was blocked.DEFENSIVE STAND: The 49ers' first-team defense was challenged at the beginning of the second quarter after the Raiders had a first-and-goal at the 49ers' 2.Patrick Willis ran down Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell for a 1-yard loss on first down. On third and goal from the 1, Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois stuffed fullback Marcel Reese for a 1-yard loss. Then, outside linebacker Parys Haralson sacked Campbell on a fourth down from the 2."That's kind of what we pride ourselves on," Haralson said. "You have Justin (Smith) and the big guys that are stopping it in the middle and once you're going for fourth and something, you're just coming off the ball and playing football."The 49ers eventually knocked Campbell out of the game when Ahmad Brooks delivered a hit to Campbell's left shoulder after Justin Smith recorded a sack and forced fumble.NEWS: Raiders' Campbell leaves game 'feeling dizzy'
The 49ers also recorded two interceptions in the game, as cornerback Tarell Brown and safety Madieu Williams picked off Raiders quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller, respectively.

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.