Dixon expands versatility in quest for roster spot


Dixon expands versatility in quest for roster spot

SANTA CLARA -- In a period of five days late this month, 1,184 hopefuls will be trimmed from NFL rosters.Running back Anthony Dixon, whose role on the 49ers is anything but secure, does not expect his name to be one of the team's 37 cuts."I feel like I'm still one of the best at what I'm doing, and I can help any other team," Dixon said Tuesday. "But to tell you truth, I don't feel like that's going to happen. I feel like I'll be right here. I'm going to keep working my butt off and make sure that happens."Dixon said he has not changed positions, though the 49ers depth chart now lists him at fullback. Rather, Dixon said he opted to show his versatility when he approached coach Jim Harbaugh and running backs coach Tom Rathman on the first day of training camp to ask for snaps at fullback."Coach is always preaching, 'The more you can do, the more you can do for the team -- the more value you have,'" Dixon said. "That was big coming into the camp. Of course, we signed Brandon (Jacobs). Of course, we drafted LaMichael (James). I didn't change my position. I wanted to expand my role and make my value more."Dixon played just 52 snaps for the 49ers last season as the team's No. 3 running back behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, both of whom return. With the additions of Jacobs and James, there stood little chance for Dixon's return as the third back.So Dixon is banking on an improved work ethic and a willingness to contribute at fullback and special teams to enable him to earn a roster spot. The 49ers added veteran Rock Cartwright in the offseason for a potential special-teams ace.MAIOCCO: 49ers camp battle -- Anthony Dixon vs. Brandon Jacobs
Dixon realizes his best chance to win a roster spot is to prove his game features qualities of Gore, fullback Bruce Miller and Cartwright. He is slated to be starting on three special-teams units when the 49ers open the exhibition season on Friday at Candlestick Park against the Minnesota Vikings.Dixon had a rough beginning to his second NFL season, and that is why he entered the offseason program and training camp more focused.He admits that he did not report to camp in the best shape a year ago after the lockout. Dixon had difficulty learning the new offensive system. He also says he got into Harbaugh's doghouse when he said some things to opposing players on the field during games."My actions weren't what coach Harbaugh wanted," Dixon said. "I had to learn that. Dealing with a new coach, I had to learn that, I had to learn how he wanted us to do things. As the year went on, I got better and better."Now, he said all the feedback has been positive. Harbaugh recently singled out Dixon on the practice field for keeping his pad level low. And his position coach has appeared impressed, too.
"Coach Rathman helps me every day," Dixon said. "He tells me he loves the way I'm making contact. And my stock is going up."I feel like I am a good running back and I'm becoming a good fullback."

What they're saying: Happy Thanksgiving 2017


What they're saying: Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Bay Area sports teams and your favorite players have plenty to be thankful for this year. 

Check out how the teams and players are celebrating Thanksgiving in 2017.

Shanahan: Garoppolo's best football will come next season


Shanahan: Garoppolo's best football will come next season

SANTA CLARA – The two quarterbacks who finish this season with the 49ers are probably going to be the same two quarterbacks the organization carry on their 2018 roster.

So every decision coach Kyle Shanahan makes with C.J. Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo is being made to consider what is best for those two players.

Shanahan made the expected announcement this week that Beathard will make his fifth consecutive start on Sunday when the 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

Beathard is coming off his best game as a pro. He was a major contributor to the 49ers’ first victory of the season, throwing for 288 yards, throwing two touchdowns and rushing for a score in a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants. His performance seemingly did enough to earn him another start.

Meanwhile, Garoppolo pulled up to 49ers headquarters on Oct. 31 with no prior knowledge of Shanahan’s offensive system. Even as a rookie, Beathard has five more months of experience in the 49ers’ offense than Garoppolo, a four-year professional who made just two starts during his time with the New England Patriots.

“We’ve had C.J. in there for some time,” Shanahan said. “He’s getting more used to it, and I’m getting more used to him. The players are getting more used to him around him. It’s been nice to add a few things each week for him.”

General manager John Lynch reiterated this week he considers Garoppolo the 49ers’ quarterback of the future. Garoppolo is not under contract for next season. If the 49ers are unable to work out a multi-year extension, the club would be expected to designate him as their franchise player to retain him for the 2018 season.

Garoppolo is likely to get some playing time in the final six games of the season, but the 49ers have every reason to take their time in order to give him the best chance at success. On the first three days of the bye week, Garoppolo had a chance to go back to the beginning and learn the basics of the scheme in meetings with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello and Shanahan.

Shanahan’s scheme is complex with unique verbiage and an abundance of adjustments that are required on any given play. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan took a step backward in his first season in Shanahan's scheme. The next year, Ryan was a runaway MVP winner with a career-high 38 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions.

It took Ryan a full season of experience with Shanahan to fully grasp his responsibilities, so it is unreasonable to believe Garoppolo would be able to do much more than just function if he gets onto the field for extended action.

“Jimmy gets more and more ready each week,” Shanahan said. “Is Jimmy going to be the best he can? To me, that’s impossible. He just hasn’t been here long enough, and I think he’ll get an opportunity to be better each week.

“I don’t think we’re going to see Jimmy’s best football, to be fair to him, until next year because that’s what guys need. But C.J. did play his best football last week, which definitely, to me, made the decision easier.”