Dre Greenlaw

Three key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins

Three key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins

The 49ers’ pre-draft roster has taken shape, and most of the team’s starting jobs appear obvious at this stage.

Things will come into sharper focus at wide receiver with the 49ers’ actions in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 49ers have selected a wide receiver in 17 consecutive drafts, and San Francisco will undoubtedly extend that streak with one of their top two selections -- Nos. 13 and 31 overall -- or with a trade-back option.

The 49ers have to replace wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, and they will probably use a combination of players to fill those spots.

But here are three positions that shape up to have good head-to-head competitions in training camp:

Dre Greenlaw vs. Kwon Alexander

Dre Greenlaw went from being a part-time player as the strongside linebacker to an every-down player at weakside linebacker when Kwon Alexander sustained a torn pectoral.

When Alexander came back for the postseason, Greenlaw remained in the every-down role. Now, there figures to be competition between Greenlaw and Alexander to determine which player will remain on the field in nickel situations when one linebacker leaves the field.

Greenlaw proved to be a quick study as a rookie. He made the defensive play of the season last season when he saw what was coming and reacted quickly to stop Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just shy of the end zone on a fourth-down play in Week 17 to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Although Alexander was a big-ticket acquisition last year, Greenlaw earned the right to at least compete for the every-down job based on his performance over the second half of the season.

Emmanuel Moseley vs. Ahkello Witherspoon

Ahkello Witherspoon started the season strong after a disappointing second season. When he missed several games due to a foot injury, Emmanuel Moseley stepped in and held his own.

Then, Witherspoon struggled after returning to the lineup, and Moseley generally played well in the postseason after taking over.

The 49ers could use a pick on a cornerback during the first day or two of the draft. But, as of now, it appears to be Moseley vs. Witherspoon. There is added motivation for Witherspoon, who is entering the final year of his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency.

Moseley would enter camp as the clear favorite, but Witherspoon will have the opportunity to make some noise with a strong training camp.

[RELATEDHow 49ers' free-agent additions fit into 2020 season plan]

Tom Compton vs. Daniel Brunskill

The 49ers released starting right guard Mike Person after agreeing to terms with Tom Compton, who joins his sixth NFL team of the past six seasons. Compton has been a backup throughout his career, but coach Kyle Shanahan obviously sees something in Compton he likes. He coached him in Washington and Atlanta.

Brunskill served a valuable role for the 49ers last season due to his versatility. He started games at right tackle, left tackle and right guard. Brunskill should benefit from a competition, where he can focus on playing just right guard.

Brunskill showed he can step into the lineup and play at a high level. He is 26, and he should continue to improve for a while -- especially if he’s able to concentrate on just one position.

How you can watch every 49ers, NFL game of last decade free online

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AP

How you can watch every 49ers, NFL game of last decade free online

During this unprecedented time amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has been wonderful to see companies and organizations going the extra mile so as to hopefully make the situation easier on their customers. As we each (hopefully) do our part in committing to social distancing and staying home to "flatten the curve," the NFL has a treat to help pass the time.

Football fans are going to love it.

The NFL announced Wednesday that NFL Game Pass will be free for all fans through May 31. Typically, it costs $100 annually.

For those who don't know, NFL Game Pass is the league's online library of every game played from 2009-2019. The service offers multiple versions of each game, including full broadcasts, condensed games and even All-22 access for the true diehards. NFL Game Pass also includes previous seasons of "Hard Knocks" and more.

To take advantage of the offer, simply sign up at NFL.com/GamePass.

Once you create an account, however, you might be wondering where to start. With so many games to choose from, how do you decide where to begin?

Have no fear. That's why I'm here.

Below I've ranked the five games from the last decade that 49ers fans will want to prioritize, culminating with the most thrilling game the team has participated in since 2009. Some of them are obvious, while others you might have forgotten about. Given the current climate, I figured nobody needed any reminders of previous disappointment, so don't worry: San Francisco wins in the end every time.

Honorable Mention: Pick at the Stick

The final game at Candlestick Park just barely missed making the list, but it deserves some honorable mention for the fact that it will be remembered for arguably the most iconic 49ers play of the last decade. With San Francisco's playoff berth hanging in the balance and the Atlanta Falcons driving in 49ers' territory with a chance to take the lead, linebacker NaVorro Bowman intercepted a bobbled pass and raced into the end zone on the opposite side of the field amid pure and utter Candlestick chaos. Watch it again to feel that moment.

5. Offensive explosion vs. Buffalo Bills -- Oct. 7, 2012

We didn't know at the time that the 49ers were headed to the Super Bowl in 2012, but we received a pretty good indication in their Week 5 beatdown of the Buffalo Bills.

On the way to a thoroughly dominant 45-3 home win, San Francisco had its way with Buffalo, both on the ground and through the air. It remains the only game in NFL history in which a team both passed and ran for 300 yards. 

If you need a pick-me-up and just want to watch the 49ers run roughshod through an opponent, this is the one for you.

4. 2012 NFC Championship comeback

While the win was never in doubt in the previous selection, this one is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Six seconds into the second quarter of the 2012 NFC Championship game, the 49ers trailed the Falcons 17-0.

Gulp.

Don't worry. It gets better. San Francisco began its comeback, and limited Atlanta to just seven more points throughout the remainder of the contest. Frank Gore scored two second-half touchdowns to put the 49ers in front for the first time, and Bowman broke up fourth-down pass to seal the victory and send San Francisco to the Super Bowl. 

The first half is likely to give you plenty of anxiety, but the payoff is worth it in the end.

3. 2012 NFC Divisional Playoff game vs. Green Bay Packers

Ironically, the next game on our list is the one that, in reality, preceded the last one. Before the 49ers could complete the comeback against the Falcons, Colin Kaepernick introduced himself as the Packers' nightmare.

His first playoff start couldn't have begun worse, as Kaepernick threw a pick-six on the first possession. From there, though, he morphed into a problem that Green Bay had absolutely no answer for. In addition to completing 17-of-31 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns through the air, Kaepernick also rushed 16 times for 181 yards and another two scores. He individually accounted for more total yards than the Packers did as a team, and the 181 rushing yards remain an NFL record for a quarterback.

For a dominant individual display -- not to mention a glimpse at Kaepernick's coming-out-party -- look no further.

[RELATED: Ranking best players still available in NFL free agency]

2. Win by an inch

What a game. What a finish.

The 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have combined for plenty of memorable meetings over the past decade, but their most recent one might take the cake. With a victory, San Francisco would claim the No. 1 overall seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. A loss, however, would mean dropping to the No. 5 seed in the NFC, no first-round bye and a wild-card round game on the road.

Thanks to rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw, the 49ers avoided that undesirable postseason path, but only by the smallest of margins. On fourth-and-goal from San Francisco's 6-yard-line in the final seconds, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson found tight end Jacob Hollister near the goal line. Hollister made the reception and thought he had the winning play, but Greenlaw stopped him cold, mere inches short of the end zone.

One hell of a play by a rookie, and one hell of a rivalry win.

1. 2011 NFC Divisional Playoff game vs. Saints

This game had everything, and appeared to be over multiple times. It wasn't, though. Not until Vernon Davis came down with the most important catch of his career.

The NFC was extremely top-heavy in 2011, with the Packers finishing 15-1 and both the 49ers and Saints going 13-3. New Orleans laid waste to the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round, setting up a heavyweight bout at Candlestick Park in the divisional round. What followed did not disappoint.

In what was a one-score game throughout the entire second half, the final 4:02 featured four separate touchdown drives, each of which changed the lead. The Saints got their big plays from Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham, but both times they were one-upped by plays that will forever be cemented in 49ers' lore. Alex Smith provided the first one with a 28-yard touchdown scamper down the left sideline, and then connected with Davis on a 14-yard TD pass with nine seconds remaining to finish off the wild victory.

It was the most exciting and fun game the 49ers played in -- and won -- over the last decade. We could all use another taste of that right now.

49ers' Dre Greenlaw, Emmanuel Moseley benefit from NFL's performance-based pay

49ers' Dre Greenlaw, Emmanuel Moseley benefit from NFL's performance-based pay

Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and linebacker Dre Greenlaw ranked among the top earners in the NFL’s performance-based pay distribution for the 2019 season, the league announced on Thursday.

The extra compensation for players comes from funds created for a supplemental form of compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary. In general, players with lower salaries who play a high percentage benefit most from the program.

Moseley, who entered the league as an undrafted player in 2018, picked up $500,519. Greenlaw, a fifth-round draft pick, earned an additional $339,981 through the program.

[RELATEDCoronavirus: NFL cancels Annual Owners Meeting later this month]

Greenlaw and Moseley both made salaries of $495,000 last season. Greenlaw started 11 regular-season games, while Moseley started nine games.

Kansas City cornerback Charvarius Ward made a league-high $654,750 in performance-based pay.