49ers notes: QB rotation of Smith, Kaepernick, Smith

49ers notes: QB rotation of Smith, Kaepernick, Smith

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Alex Smith will start the 49ers' third exhibition game Saturday night against the Houston Texans, coach Jim Harbaugh said.Colin Kaepernick will get into the game as early as the 49ers' third offensive possession. And, then, Smith might return the favor and replace Kaepernick.Harbaugh is taking a non-traditional approach to the third exhibition game, which is typically the closest thing to a dress rehearsal to the regular season. Instead, Harbaugh said he will likely use the opportunity to get many of the team's top reserves ready for the regular season."The reason for that is for those guys fighting for their football life, we want them to have the ability to play in the game," Harbaugh said. "But, also, see them against other starters, against the Texans' starters."RELATED: 49ers camp report (824): My two left feet
Kaepernick is the 49ers' backup quarterback. Harbaugh said he wants the rookie to get experience against a starting NFL defense, just in case he is needed at some point during the regular season."Just looking forward to what's going to happen during the season," Harbaugh said, "I'd rather have Colin ready and experience football with the starters, against the starters and National Football League savvy before we have to get to that point."After Smith leaves the game, he might return to action to brush up on some "situational football," Harbaugh said."You want to get your starters into as many situations as possible," Harbaugh said. "He might return for a two-minute drill or another series."Harbaugh said he would like to get veteran third-string quarterback Josh McCown some action in Saturday's game, too.
Receiver Michael Crabtree has yet to be removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list after reporting to training camp with a left foot injury. But the 49ers expect major contributions out of him during the regular season.Behind the scenes, Crabtree is rehabbing his foot and being an active member of group discussions, Harbaugh said."He's been outstanding with his participation in the meetings," Harbaugh said. "His understanding and knowledge of what we're trying to do is very good." Crabtree and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) are two starters from a year ago who are nursing injuries. Harbaugh was asked if Crabtree and Spencers were "assumed starters.""No, I wouldn't say that," Harbaugh said. "Football players get better by practicing football. That's what we go by. Who's practicing better? Who's playing better in games? Who's playing well?"49ers Mailbag: What Crabtree can learn from Edwards
And without having any practice time this summer to evaluate, Harbaugh said the coaching staff must go back and look at last season's game films."There's a level that you can evaluate there: poor, medium, outstanding, so you can predict how they will fit in once they're healthy," Harbaugh said. Receiver Dominique Zeigler could see his first playing time of the exhibition season after he was removed from the PUP list this week. Zeigler is returning from a torn left ACL that he sustained Dec. 16 against San Diego."He's surprised me with what he can do so quickly after re-engaging on the practice field," Harbaugh said.Zeigler is one of 11 healthy receivers battling for a spot on the roster. Undrafted rookie Chris Hogan also returned this week from an ankle sprain.

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles


49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

UPDATED: The 49ers announced Monday morning that Joe Staley has accepted a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team. He will replace Dallas offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

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Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is expected to benefit from the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Staley, originally chosen as an alternate, is expected to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl to take the place of Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28, in Orlando, Florida. Members of the Super Bowl participant Eagles and New England Patriots will not play in the all-star game. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The other Pro Bowl offensive tackles representing the NFC are Dallas’ Tyron Smith and Los Angeles’ Andrew Whitworth, who replaced Washington’s Trent Williams.

Staley got off to a rough start last season as the 49ers opened on a nine-game losing streak. The idea of his career coming to an end began to creep into his mind, he said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

But Staley said he had a talk with coach Kyle Shanahan that got him refocused for the remainder of the season. The 49ers finished with a five-game win streak to finish with a 6-10 record, and Staley played well down the stretch.

“I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment early in the year that I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that,” said Staley, 33, an 11-year NFL veteran. “I feel like I can still play.

“I think this last half of the season I played some of the best football of my career. I feel very confident in what we’re doing schematically with the people surrounding us, and it shows in my own play.”

Staley would join fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who was the only 49ers player named to the Pro Bowl when the teams were announced last month.

Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII


Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII


PHILADELPHIA -- Hey Philly, maybe it's time to forget Carson Wentz. Nick Foles might be good enough to win the Eagles their first Super Bowl.

Foles was on fire Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Philly made big play after big play on both sides of the ball in a stunning 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship.

Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles' first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then, AFC champion New England.

Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia (15-3) under another regime has been brilliant.

His best work might have come against Minnesota (14-4) and its vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.

In doing so - helped greatly by the Eagles' domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson - Foles ruined the Vikings' hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium

Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on Feb. 4; their last championship came in 1960.

OVER AT HALFTIME: Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia's defense looked confused on the play.

That didn't happen again for Philly.

Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson's 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.

Inspired, Philly's D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.

Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long.

It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimized by all season.

A blown coverage - another rarity for Minnesota - on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Elliott's 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.

DANCING IN THE LINC: Fifty seconds into the final quarter, with the score 38-7, Eagles players on the sideline and waiting to kick off on the field were dancing up a storm and fans were chanting "We want Brady."

They get Tom Brady and company in two weeks.

BACK TO THE BIG GAME: Long won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots, as did Blount. Now they return on the other side.

QUICK DRIVE: Philadelphia got the ball with 29 seconds remaining in the first half at its 20. Foles hit passes of 11 yards to Jay Ajayi, 36 to Ertz and 13 to Ajayi before Elliott's field goal to end the half.

THIRD DOWNS: Minnesota was the league's best team defending third downs and was third in converting them. Yet Philadelphia went 10 for 14.

NEXT UP: Minnesota returns home to watch two other teams play at its stadium for the Lombardi Trophy.

With the entire stadium singing "Fly Eagles Fly" during the NFC trophy ceremony, Philadelphia can look forward to facing New England in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4