Urban: Champs to be tested in midseason stretch


Urban: Champs to be tested in midseason stretch

July 21, 2011


Mychael Urban

We'll know quite a bit about the Giants' chances of repeating of world champions by the end of next week, when the non-waiver trade deadline passes.We'll know even more, though, when the Giants wrap up a grueling 19-game stretch against legitimate playoff contenders that starts Friday against the powerful Brewers and ends Aug. 10 against the surprising Pirates.
RELATED: MLB standings
Essentially we're looking at nine days before the non-waiver deadline, and including deadline day we're looking at 11 days after it.Twenty days, 20 things to consider as the Giants either slog, thrive or tread water throughout what might end up being a defense-defining stretch.

1) Winds of change I: There was a time when GM Brian Sabean suggested that adding significant payroll to what's already a franchise-record tab of about 120 million was less likely than Barry Bonds making a comeback. Now? Not so much. You've been to the Dugout Stores, right? If the G's spend for a slugger, that's your sweatshirt dollars at work.2) Winds of change II: Sabean also has been adverse to "rental players" during most of his long tenure with the team. Now he's at least considering the notion, so your free-agents-to-be are very much in play.3) Dancing with your date: Perhaps you're among those with such great faith in the pitching staff that you don't feel adding offense is an absolute must. Sabean disagrees.4) Ditching your date: Aaron Rowand rode pine for not hitting last season, despite his big price tag. Ditto Barry Zito on the pitching side. This hasn't always been the way the Giants roll. It is now. They won a ring with that approach, and they can't win again without it. Thus, you're on notice, Mr. Huff. Mr. Belt, stay loose.5) Life is not fair. Neither is baseball: Three terrific starts and he's skipped for one bad one? Some people think Zito is being unfairly singled out. Not really. What's being spotlighted is the Brewers' bevy of right-handed power hitters.6) Skip one, skip another: As long as the Giants are skipping one Zito turn, it's curious that they aren't skipping another, i.e., keeping him away from hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies next week. Two reasons for that. One, the Phils are not the powerhouse juggernaut they've been in recent years offensively. Two, the Reds -- Zito would face them were he skipped in Philly -- are. And they play in even more of a bandbox.7) Sanchez I: By the end of this stretch, if not before, Jonathan Sanchez will almost certainly be ready to return to the active roster. What's his role? That largely depends on Zito.8) Sanchez II: Also by the end of this stretch, the Giants likely will have decided what to do with Freddy Sanchez. He's eligible to come off the 60-day DL on Aug. 11. Not the end of the world if he's not ready by then, but if he's not even close to ready, surgery will be inevitable and it's Jeff Keppinger or bust from here on out.
URBAN: Scouts high on newest Giant Keppinger
9) Brew Crew comes calling: The Giants dropped two of three in Milwaukee earlier in the year. The Brewers entered Thursday's action holding a slim lead in the NL Central and they're playing high-intensity games almost daily because the division is so tight. It's crucial the Giants win this series so Milwaukee doesn't start feeling like they have the champs' number.10) Kid Crawford: The Giants' lone win in Milwaukee came in Brandon Crawford's grand slam game. Crawford isn't expected to see much time in the series that starts Friday, but he'll certainly get some time during this 18-game stretch. Can he be counted on when the division race tightens in late August and September? We'll know when this stretch is over.11) Meet the Prez: The Giants go to the White House on Monday. What does that have to do with the pennant race? Nothing. But it's pretty cool, and it'd be even cooler if Brian Wilson were to bust out a white version of his ESPYs outfit. At the very least, it'll save time in the security screening process. No secrets with that get-up.12) Philly awaits: Don't think the fans in Philly haven't had this series circled on their calendar all year. It'll be the most hostile road environment the Giants have faced this season.13) Seeing Red: Dusty Baker's boys have played uneven baseball all season. If they get right by next weekend, the Giants could be in trouble, because they simply can't bang with that team in that yard.14) Seeing Ramon: The Giants need a catcher. The Reds have two. One is Ramon Hernandez, a solid hitter and veteran handler of strong pitching staffs. Don't be stunned if Hernandez moves from one clubhouse to another next weekend.15) Homeward bound: The Giants play better at home. Most teams do. But being at home for the final three series of this stretch is huge. The trade deadline will have passed, and the club will have a pretty good idea of what they're working with going forward.16) Killing them off: The Stephen Drew-less Diamondbacks are first up on the homestand, and if the Giants have, say, a six-game lead over the Snakes by then, a sweep would effectively behead the serpent.17) You again: No matter what happens in Philly next week, the Phils' series in San Francisco is going to be a doozy. If the Phils win at home next week, winning at AT&T becomes paramount for the Giants. It's not a statement series. It's a matter of respect.18) Yes, the Pirates: It's been a generation since the Bucs were relevant, but they're right there in the thick of the NL Central race, so you have to take them seriously. Imagine if the Giants are 10-6 going into the last series of the stretch. Huge difference between 13-6 and 10-9. It's gotta be at least 12-7 when it ends with Pittsburgh.19) And if it's not: Duck. Sabean will be throwing stuff.20) There is no 20. It's just a nice, round number to end on. Enjoy.

49ers snap count: Reid no longer starter; rookies see more time on offense


49ers snap count: Reid no longer starter; rookies see more time on offense

Veteran safety Eric Reid returned from a knee injury that kept him out three games to discover he lost his starting job.

Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt has continued to serve as an every-down player for the 49ers’ defense. On Sunday, Reid played 48 snaps (64 percent) as the 49ers employed six defensive backs against the Dallas Cowboys three-receiver sets.

The 49ers had to adjust their sub package after nickel back K’Waun Williams sustained a hip injury. Rookie Adrian Colbert entered the game at safety with Jimmie Ward taking over Williams’ role. Colbert played 29 snaps.

Newly signed defensive linemen Leger Douzable and Tony McDaniel saw a lot of action in their 49ers debuts. Douzable played the third-most of any defensive lineman (behind Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner), seeing action on 47 of the team’s 75 snaps. McDaniel played 25 snaps.

On offense, the 49ers appear to be making a point to go with younger players. Rookie Cole Hikutini played 21 snaps, taking over as the No. 2 tight end over Garrett Celek and Logan Paulsen.

Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, another undrafted rookie, played a season-high 23 snaps. On fourth-and-4 from the Dallas 28 early in the third quarter, coach Kyle Shanahan decided to go for it instead of kicking a 46-yard field goal. Bourne was the intended target. But he stumbled after a spin move from the slot, and C.J. Beathard’s pass was incomplete.

“As I was throwing the ball he tripped,” Beathard said. “If he hadn’t tripped on a DB’s feet or whatever happened there, it would’ve been a big play.”

Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:

(66 plays)
Quarterback – C.J. Beathard 66
Running back – Carlos Hyde 51, Matt Breida 15
Wide receiver – Pierre Garçon 46, Trent Taylor 46, Marquise Goodwin 39, Aldrick Robinson 30, Kendrick Bourne 23
Tight end – George Kittle 31, Cole Hikutini 21, Garrett Celek 18, Logan Paulsen 11
Offensive line – Joe Staley 66, Daniel Kilgore 66, Laken Tomlinson 66, Brandon Fusco 52, Trent Brown 45, Garry Gilliam 20, Zane Beadles 14

(75 plays)
Defensive line – Solomon Thomas 61, DeForest Buckner 50, Leger Douzable 47, Earl Mitchell 38, Xavier Cooper 26, D.J. Jones 25, Tony McDaniel 25, Elvis Dumervil 15
Linebacker – Reuben Foster 53, Eli Harold 31, Ray-Ray Armstrong 27, Brock Coyle 22, Dekoda Watson 9
Cornerback – Dontae Johnson 63, Rashard Robinson 51, Ahkello Witherspoon 35, K’Waun Williams 20
Safety – Jaquiski Tartt 75, Jimmie Ward 75, Eric Reid 48, Adrian Colbert 29

(24 plays)
Elijah Lee 21, Coyle 21, Raheem Mostert 16, Celek 15, Colbert 16, Witherspoon 15, Breida 14, Harold 12, Hikutini 12, Armstrong 10, Tartt 10, Bradley Pinion 9, Jones 8, R.Robinson 8, Ward 8, Johnson 7, Kyle Nelson 6, Buckner 6, Thomas 6, Paulsen 6, Reid 5, Mitchell 5, Douzable 4, A.Robinson 3, Taylor 3, Robbie Gould 2, Foster 2, Staley 2, Kilgore 2, Gilliam 2, Beadles 2, Tomlinson 1, Fusco 1, Brown 1, Dumervil 1, Watson 1, Williams 1

QB Brian Hoyer

WR Victor Bolden
DB Dexter McCoil
FB Kyle Juszczyk (back)
LB Mark Nzeocha
LB Pita Taumoepenu
DL Aaron Lynch (calf)
OL Erik Magnuson

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent


Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J.  Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.

Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.

But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.