49ers

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

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USATSI

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

HOUSTON -- Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night in Week 2 of the exhibition season...

Interior D-line has Depth

The 49ers still don’t really know from where their outside pass rush is going to come, but the interior of the defensive line looks to be in good shape. Veteran Earl Mitchell is a solid presence at nose tackle. And DeForest Buckner could become one of the league’s better defensive tackles.

Behind Mitchell and Buckner are a couple of young players who have put together strong training camps. Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones continued their impressive play on Saturday with strong showings against the Texans.

Day recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, while Jones came up with three tackles and a forced fumble, too. Day is in his first summer with the 49ers after the club claimed him off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Jones, meanwhile, has made tremendous strides since his rookie season. He said he lost 20 pounds from the end of last season when he regularly found himself on the inactive list for games.

“I feel like it’s been a big turnaround, the way I changed my body in the offseason,” Jones said. “Toward the end of the season when I wasn’t playing, the way I practiced, it got me prepared for this season.”

In the Right Slot

Second-year player Trent Taylor missed most of the offseason program after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his lower back. He has slowly been working back into form during training camp.

Taylor clearly made a lot of progress during this week in Houston. He was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target during the two days of practices against the Texans. And Garoppolo looked for Taylor again on Saturday with a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap the 49ers’ first drive of the game.

“I’m starting to get stronger and get my legs back under me,” Taylor said. “It’s always good to feel improvement as you work. I still have a little ways to go, but it definitely felt great being out there tonight and getting my first catch as a TD.”

Taylor, the team’s primary slot receiver, had only two catches for 7 yards. But his other reception was a 5-yard catch to extend the 49ers' second drive on a third-and-4 play.

Penalties Galore

The 49ers certainly have a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to avoiding flags. Kyle Shanahan’s team was called for 15 penalties, totaling 140 yards.

What always gets to Shanahan most are the pre-snap penalties. Joe Staley (false start), Kendrick Bourne (illegal formation), Darrell Williams (false start) and Cedric Thornton (neutral zone infraction) were called for those kinds of infractions.

The worst sequence of penalties, however, went to veteran center Weston Richburg. He was guilty of a rare double-penalty on the first play of the second quarter when he was flagged for holding, then another 15 yards for his ensuing dialogue with the official.

Two of the penalties might have been excusable, though. Raheem Mostert and Jeremiah Attaochu were called for strict interpretations of the NFL’s new rule on lowering the helmet to initiate contact.

49ers legend Steve Young presents Gatorade Player of the Year Award winner

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Gatorade

49ers legend Steve Young presents Gatorade Player of the Year Award winner

Sophie Jones runs the soccer field, both literally and figuratively. 

She tallied 18 goals, 16 assists and 1.55 points per game for the Knights of Menlo School in Atherton, Calif. Those stats helped lift her team to a 20-win season, which turned into a Central Coast Section Division 1 tournament title.

With those achievements, Jones walked away with the Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year honor Wednesday. 

A friend presented the senior with the trophy -- but not just any friend: 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young.

"It's such an honor, and I can't believe they chose me," Jones said in Gatorade's promotional presentation video.

Jones also maintains solid numbers off the field, with a 3.65 GPA that helps her be recruited by some of the nation's top athletic programs. According to Gatorade, she plans to attend Duke later this year.

A "stellar human being with a fierce inner strength," as her teachers describe her, Jones also volunteers for a U-14 youth soccer team and the Boys and Girls Club, and has worked at the Special Olympics Buddy Program. That shows in her playing abilities on the field as well, with her coach saying he's never witnessed such a selfless player.

"Sophie worked tirelessly to elevate her game year after year, becoming high-impact talent," said Chad Konecky, Gatorade Player of the Year director. "She wins balls, finishes, defends, disrupts and creates in transition, and arguably reads the game as well as any U-20 player in the world."

Young complimented Jones, calling the achievement an exciting one -- and one that very few have ever done. 

Congrats, Sophie!

49ers' Mitch Wishnowsky has deep repertoire of punts from Aussie rules days

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AP

49ers' Mitch Wishnowsky has deep repertoire of punts from Aussie rules days

Mitch Wishnowsky admits he could have been more consistent during the 49ers’ recently concluded offseason program.

The rookie punter, at his best, was very good and gave his teammates and coaches a reason to believe a fourth-round draft pick spent on a punter was a worthy investment.

The 49ers selected the native of Australia with the No. 110 overall selection. General manager John Lynch opted to fill the spot vacated when Bradley Pinion signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rather than select a defensive back or an offensive lineman.

Wishnowsky has an assortment of different punts, which he picked up playing a sport in which punters are not considered specialists. Everyone must learn to punt, oftentimes while on the move, in the game Wishnowsky played back home.

“A lot of the punts you sort of learn growing up playing Australian rules football,” Wishnowsky said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “There’s tradeoffs with every punt.”

Wishnowsky explained his different styles:

“The stock-standard end-over-end punt is a lot more accurate but you can’t get quite as much height or distance on it.

“The spiral, obviously, is the biggest ball. It goes the highest and the furthest.

“The helicopter punt is great, very hard to catch. You can’t kick it quite as far as the spiral. But if you slightly mishit it, it’s going the opposite direction that you want it to.”

Wishnowsky moved to California to punt on the Santa Barbara City College football team in 2014. He transferred to the University of Utah, where he won the 2016 Ray Guy Award and was the only three-time finalist in the history of the award.

The only downside of his final college season was three blocked punts, something he worked to eliminate during his offseason with the 49ers.

“I’ve got to get the ball off in 1.3 seconds, which is what I’ve been doing pretty consistently,” Wishnowsky said. “And the snap is a .7. So if the whole operation is 2 seconds or below, you should be good. Then, also launch point. You want to pretty much as it hits your foot (you’re) directly behind the snapper, so you’re not at risk of getting it blocked.”

[RELATED: Why No. 2 QB job between Beathard and Mullens is toss-up entering camp]

Wishnowsky also will be the 49ers’ holder and, likely, handle kickoff duties. He said he has yet to speak with veteran kicker Robbie Gould, who remains unsigned as the team’s franchise player. Gould has demanded a trade. The 49ers said they will not trade him.

In the meantime, Jonathan Brown, who spent the three previous offseasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and has not appeared in an NFL regular-season game, was the only kicker in Santa Clara.

“The last two years, I’ve been with Matt (Gay), who was drafted to Tampa Bay (in the fifth round),” Wishnowsky said. “I’ve been around great kickers, and Jon is up there. He’s phenomenal the way he contacts the ball. Jon is a very impressive kicker.”