Midseason report: Offense


Midseason report: Offense

First-half storyline: There was plenty of skepticism when the 49ers were unable to sign veteran Matt Hasselbeck, whom the organization pursued as a free agent, and Jim Harbaugh began the season with Alex Smith as the starting quarterback. But everything has worked out just fine. The 49ers are not winning in spite of Smith. They are winning in large part because of Smith.

He has been ultra-efficient with 10 touchdown passes and two interceptions in the first half of the season. The 49ers rank 30th in the league in passing yards, but Smith is sixth in the NFL with a 97.3 passer rating. The 49ers averaged 19.1 points per game in 2010. In the first half of this season, the 49ers averaged 25.8 points. Smith has done everything asked of him while the running game has taken off behind a constantly improving offensive line and powerhouse running back Frank Gore.MVP: Gore. He entered the regular season happy with a new contract extension, but things got off to a rough start. After three games, Gore averaged just 2.5 yards an attempt and many questioned whether he was finished as an elite running back. Five games later, Gore has left little doubt that he remains one of the best in the business. It does not seem to matter that opposing defenses have been geared to stop him. Gore became the first player in 49ers history to rush for more than 100 yards in five consecutive games. And he enters the second half of the season with 782 rushing yards (4.9 average) and five touchdowns.Biggest surprise: Smith. He demonstrated incremental improvements when he was healthy through his first six NFL seasons. But under the new coaching staff, Smith's game has taken off. He has thrown fewer interceptions than any other starting quarterback in the league this season. And he is a huge reason the 49ers are a plus-12 in the takeawaygiveaway column.Biggest disappointment: The 49ers offensive line did not get off to a good start on the season, and at halftime of their Week 3 game at Cincinnati, a change was made. Right guard Chilo Rachal, a second-round pick in the 2008 draft, was benched in favor of veteran Adam Snyder. The move has worked out for the 49ers, who have not lost since the change was made.Best play: It was Smith's least-consistent game of the season, but when the 49ers needed him to be perfect, he was. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line against the Detroit Lions, Smith put a quick slant on the money to tight end Delanie Walker, who lined up as a wide receiver on the right side. Walker caught the pass at the 2-yard line and kept his knee off the ground while Lions defensive back Louis Delmas tried to bring him down short of the end zone. The touchdown provided the 49ers with the go-ahead points in their eventual 25-19 victory over the previously unbeaten Lions at Ford Field.Worst play: In the closing minutes of the 49ers' 48-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, receiver Josh Morgan caught a 19-yard pass from rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Morgan's left leg got caught underneath on the tackle, and he sustained a broken ankle. He underwent season-ending surgery the next day. Morgan was emerging as a down-field threat in the passing game while also impressing coaches with his contributions as a blocker.Key to the second half: The focus of the offense will always be Gore and the run game. But the 49ers must also find a way to get big-chunk plays in the passing game from Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards. The 49ers do not have to open up the offense and change their philosophy in the second half of the season. But they need to take advantage of their big-play chances while also being more consistent on third downs. The 49ers rank 26th in the league, converting just 31.1 percent their third-down chances.

Report: Stubblefield taken into custody, booked into jail in no-bail case

Santa Clara Sheriff Office

Report: Stubblefield taken into custody, booked into jail in no-bail case

Former 49ers defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield is behind bars. 

According to the Mercury News, Stubblefield was led away from court to jail in handcuffs Friday after a judge found there was probable cause to hold him over for trial on charges of rape stemming from May 2015. 

Stubblefield is charged with raping an intellectually disabled woman on April 9, 2015 at his Morgan Hill home when she had gone to interview for a babysitting job. 

According to the same report, Stubblefield had been free on $250,000 bail for more than a year. But the judge ordered him taken into custody Friday after prosecutors formally added the allegation that Stubblefield used a gun during the assault, which made it a no-bail case.

Stubblefield has pleaded not guilty and publicly denied the five felony charges and gun enhancement that prosecutors say could lead to at least 15 years to life in prison if he is convicted.

Stubblefield played 11 seasons in the NFL, including the first five with the 49ers. He later returned to the 49ers in 2001 and ’02, before finishing his career with the Raiders.

Stubblefield, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 1993, was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording 10.5 sacks. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year with a career-high 15 sacks in 1997. He signed a lucrative contract with Washington in 1998.

Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts


Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

The 49ers recently re-signed eight of the 10 players who finished the season on the team’s practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who was not among the first wave of 49ers signings to 2018 contracts, signed Wednesday with the Indianapolis Colts, ending his three-season association with the organization.

Smelter was one of general manager Trent Baalke’s redshirt draft picks. The team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft despite a torn ACL that ended his final season at Georgia Tech.

Smelter spent his first season on an injured list. He was waived at the beginning of the past two seasons, finishing both years on the 49ers’ practice squad. Smelter appeared in two games in 2016 and caught one pass for 23 yards.

Last season, the 49ers signed wide receivers Louis Murphy and Max McCaffrey to spots on the 53-man roster instead of Smelter, who remained on the practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Carter, who also spent the entire season on the practice squad, was signed recently to the team’s 90-man roster.

Others who finished the season on the 49ers practice squad to remain on the team’s offseason roster are: quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Cole Wick, offensive linemen Andrew Lauderdale and Pace Murphy, linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and defensive backs Trovon Reed and Channing Stribling.

The 49ers also signed fullback Malcolm Johnson, who spent last season on injured reserve with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson appeared in 19 games over the 2015 and ’16 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was a sixth-round draft pick in ’15.

Offensive linemen Cameron Hunt, who finished the season on the 49ers’ practice squad, remains unsigned. Guard JP Flynn is also unsigned. He sustained a torn patellar tendon in November and underwent surgery that was expected to keep him out up to nine months.