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49ers sign kicker Cundiff to compete with Akers

49ers sign kicker Cundiff to compete with Akers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Francisco 49ers signed kicker Billy Cundiff on Tuesday to compete with struggling veteran David Akers.

``He's thrilled with the opportunity to be in a position to help the team in any way he can this postseason,'' said Cundiff's agent, Paul Sheehy. ``It's a great opportunity, with a great organization.''

The team announced the move a day after coach Jim Harbaugh said that the NFC West champion Niners (11-4-1) - off this week as the NFC's No. 2 seed - planned to try out kickers because of Akers' prolonged funk.

Cundiff was released by the Washington Redskins on Oct. 9 after missing 5 of his 12 field goal attempts. He had already worked out once for the Niners on Nov. 27 before they invited him back this time, as Harbaugh initially chose to stick with Akers.

Now, Akers and Cundiff will compete to see who kicks in the team's NFC divisional playoff game in prime time Jan. 12 at Candlestick Park. San Francisco will play Green Bay, Seattle or Washington.

The 49ers cleared a spot on the 53-man roster for Cundiff by waiving linebacker Eric Bakhtiari. Players had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday - so that will be the first look at both kickers together.

Cundiff spent the 2009-11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, who are coached by Harbaugh's big brother, John. But Cundiff was cut after last season, when he missed a potential tying 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game that sent New England to the Super Bowl.

Jim Harbaugh said Monday he might keep two kickers on the roster and open up a competition.

``If we had two on the roster at the same time, then they can kick in practice,'' Harbaugh said. ``And that's an option. That's a possibility. I think there are three options. We go forward with David. We bring in a new kicker. Or, we have two and let them compete for the job. We'll make that decision as we go.''

Akers, who made 44 of 52 attempts in his sensational 2011 season and first year with San Francisco, is just 29 for 42 this year. He is only 7 for 13 from 40-49 yards and missed wide left twice from that range in Sunday's 27-13 victory against Arizona in the regular-season finale.

The 38-year-old Akers signed a three-year contract as arguably the 49ers' biggest offseason acquisition ahead of the 2011 season, aside from the hiring of Harbaugh. And he delivered at nearly every opportunity - until recently.

He had a 21-yard attempt blocked by Red Bryant in a 42-13 loss at Seattle on Dec. 23, and Richard Sherman returned it 90 yards for a touchdown.

The 32-year-old Cundiff joins his sixth team in 10 NFL seasons. He has also played for Dallas, New Orleans and Cleveland.

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4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all starts Monday!

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as both teams look to take early control of the series.

Can the Caps steal one on the road to start? Here are four keys to winning Game 1.

Win the first period

The Golden Knights have not played a game since May 20. While rest can benefit a team at this time of the year, there is such a thing as too much rest and over a week would certainly qualify. If there is absolutely any rust in Vegas’ game to start, the Caps need to take advantage.

T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas crowd have already built a reputation in year one. The atmosphere is going to be electric, but the Caps can combat that with a good start to the game and by scoring first.

Vegas is 10-1 when scoring first this postseason. If they are able to come in and get on the board right off the bat in the first period after seven full days between games, that does not bode well for the Caps’ chances.

Don’t allow Marc-Andre Fleury to pick up where he left off

Fleury is having a postseason for the ages, but it’s hard to believe momentum is simply going to carry over to a new series after such a lengthy break. Players are not simply going to pick up where they left off and play as if there’s no rust to shake off. The need to get to Fleury as early as possible.

What that means is getting traffic in front of the net, making him move, contesting rebounds, making him feel uncomfortable as much as possible and generating quality offensive chances.

The Caps can do is starting flinging pucks at the net and giving him easy saves. Getting 12 shots in the first period would be great, but not if they are all perimeter shots for easy saves that help bring Fleury's confidence back to where it was in the Western Conference Final.

Limit the turnovers

Turnovers are blood in the water for Vegas. The high-effort, high-speed style of play of the Golden Knights has caught several players off guard at points this postseason. No one can afford to be casual with the puck at any point in this game because Vegas has a knack for turning those turnovers into goals.

Winning Game 1 on the road will be hard enough without giving the Golden Knights at any help.

Shut down the top line

Only three players have reached double digits in points for the Golden Knights in the playoffs: Jonathan Marchessault (18), Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (13). What do these three have in common? They all play on Vegas’ top line. To compare, the Caps have seven players in double digits.

Much has been made of Vegas’ offensive depth and their ability to roll four lines, but the play of Fleury in net has really masked how much this team relies on its top line for offense. The Caps need to get Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against them and focus on shutting them down. Force the Golden Knights to win with their other three lines and see if they can.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: Redskins will have a lot of starter stability in 2018

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Need to Know: Redskins will have a lot of starter stability in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 28, 15 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Stability at the top of the depth chart

This post was originally published on March 23 Note that this was prior to the draft.

A Redskins defense that ranked 27thin total defense and was dead last against the run is likely to return nine or 10 of the players who were the primary starters in 2017. The Washington defense, which was 16thoverall and 27thrunning the ball, will certainly return seven starters and could have eight the same as last year. 

I’m sure that this will alarm many Redskins fans, but it shouldn’t. Before getting into that, let’s look at the changes. 

On defense, the nine starters who are assured of returning are DE Stacy McGee, DL Jonathan Allen, OLB Preston Smith, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, ILB Zach Brown, ILB Mason Foster, CB Josh Norman, S Montae Nicholson, and S D.J. Swearinger. 

As of right now, a tenth returning starter has to be penciled in at nose tackle. Yes, if the season started today it would be Ziggy Hood at nose tackle again. More on that in a minute.

The only starting spot that is certain to turn over is the cornerback opposite Norman. Even though Bashaud Breeland’s contract agreement with the Panthers fell through due to a failed physical he is much more likely to lad on another NFL team than he is to return to the Redskins. 

It is impossible to think that the Redskins will not do something to address the nose tackle position, whether it’s in the draft or in free agency. Then again, it’s impossible to believe they have run the 3-4 defense since 2010 without coming up with a long-term solution at the nose. (Udate: Of course, they did this in the draft when they took Daron Payne and Tim Settle).

On offense, the seven starters certain to return are WR Josh Doctson, WR Jamison Crowder, OT Trent Williams, C Chase Roullier, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses, and TE Jordan Reed. RB Samaje Perine could be an eighth returning starter depending on if the Redskins take a running back early in the draft. 

The new starters will be QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, and someone at left guard. 

Having between 16 and 18 returning starters from a team that went 7-9 in 2017 may not be enough turnover for some fans. That’s not a completely unreasonable point of view. However, there is a such thing has having too much churn in your starting lineup and some stability for the Redskins may be a good thing this year. 

They had five new starters on defense last year and a new defensive coordinator. They also had a new coordinator on offense along with two new wide receivers and, by midseason, changes in the starters at running back and center. This is not counting all of the on-the-fly changes that had to be made due to injuries. 

Continuing to make changes in the starting lineup is not always a recipe for success. Sometimes you just need to pick a group of players and, to the extent that you can in the free agency-salary cap world of the NFL, stick with them. Sure, you have to address weakness like nose tackle and possibly running back and fill holes created by free agency departures. However, it is often better to give a player time to acclimate to a system and, especially with a rookie, time to learn the fine points of the game.

Tearing things down and starting over again after a mediocre season is a recipe for, well, more mediocre seasons. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler