Place Your Bets

The exhibition games have concluded and we blognoscenti now have all the evidence we’re going to get about what kind of 49er team to expect in 2014. Ergo, it’s time for the annual crystal ball efforts. Roll the old orb out and swami up to the plate, gentlemen. Predictions for 49er regular season record will be accepted through Friday of this week.

Those optimistic about the 49ers’ chances this year did not enjoy the Labor Day weekend. Aldon Smith was suspended 9 games, Ray McDonald was arrested for spousal abuse, and mean spirited other teams cherry picked a couple of the more decent players released on cut down day.

On the plus side, Alex Boone ended his hold out and reported for duty Monday. This puts the offense in good shape, better than last year’s season opening model, by far. The defense, however, is missing key players and plugging in some newbies. It’s anybody’s guess how well they’ll hold up.

No details have been released regarding the arrest of McDonald, yet he has been tried, convicted, and sent to hell by various members of the media and blogosphere. In addition, demands have been hurled at the 49ers for not immediately cutting McDonald to straighten up the moral compass of the team, which has been deemed wayward of late, racking up a league leading ten arrests over the past three years. Yet nearly half of those arrests — four by my count — belong to one guy — Aldon Smith.

It may well be that McDonald is guilty as hell, and needs to be punished, but goodness, the rush to judgment is more than unseemly. Expecting moral behavior out of a business is also quite naive. It may sound applaudible as a PR tool, but business works precisely like the justice system at large. Rich or elite entities get different and better treatment than poor or marginal types. It’s not fair, but it’s not news, either. To hold the 49ers to a higher standard of values than other teams is myopic and virtually begs for an impeccably mediocre franchise.

That said, jeez, Niner guys, will you cease and desist with the getting arrested shit?

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Posted in FOS Speculation

49ers 40, Texans 13

The 49ers closed out the 2014 Exhibition season by thoroughly routing the Houston Texans, 40-13. It was the scrubs finest hour. And for many of them, their final hour, too.

The first half looked pretty similar to the starting unit’s motif — dick around ineptly for almost a half, then suddenly catch fire and score two touchdowns in the final two minutes. After intermission, Josh Johnson took over at QB and shredded the Texans, making a strong case to be Colin Kaepernick’s backup this year, even though his case is more than likely to be denied, as it was in 2012.

Today and tomorrow are final cut down days. Sad days if you’re a cutted character, but fairly humorous and interesting if you’re a sadistic couch potato. 704 players will be fired. 320 will be rehired to practice squads. Leaving 384 to join the unemployment lines of America and begin the nomadic NFL career of a marginal, occasionally employed entity.

The 49ers are going to lose some good players, that’s for sure. And the Texans, who have first claim on waived specimens, were probably eyeing the Niners’ scrubs with particular interest Thursday night.

After getting torched in the first two exhibition games, the 49ers defense allowed a mere two TDs in the final two games. It was opined that the defense was tired in the first two games, after a rigorous but legal training camp, and a more refreshed crew lived up to its billing in the final two. Since the opination is comfortable and reassuring, I’m buying it and moving on into the regular season with inflated hopes!

Today is the final day for Roger Goodell to announce the length of Aldon Smith’s suspension. It’s quite tacky of the commissioner to wait this long to reveal his decision. Should the Niners plan on Aldon’s absence for a couple of games or half a season. It might be kind of important to know before making final roster cuts. Probably not, but any time righteous grumbling can be associated with Goodell it’s a fine day in the world that should be milked for all it’s worth.

The next two days are likely the most tense time of the year between GM Trent Baalke and HC Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh knows who he wants on the team, but final say on the roster belongs to Baalke. Harbaugh’s only concern is talent, but Baalke has to consider cap dollar trade-offs and, of course, his own ego. Blaine Gabbert versus Josh Johnson could come down to some steam wafting skyward from Harbaugh’s head. Johnson looks like the far better option at backup QB, but Gabbert was signed by Baalke and has a $2 million guarantee. Good luck, boys. No pie throwing in front of the players, please.

A great two days for waiver wire transactions, gentlemen. Let’s sit back and enjoy the drama.

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Posted in Post Game Spread

49ers 21, Chargers 7

The spectacular 49er offense sputtered and clanked its way to a blowout 21-7 victory Sunday afternoon. After the starters got off the field, that is. Those bums played five and a half minutes into the second quarter and produced three measly points, with 74 total yards, fifty-five of which came on the last and only drive.

Much maligned 2nd string QB Blaine Gabbert led an impressive drive near the end of the first half, converting two third downs, throwing some nifty passes, and topping it off with the first 49er TD of the preseason — a sweet little flair pass to TE Vance McDonald. VMcD also had a good game and looks much improved heading into his second season.

Rookie RB Carlos Hyde continued his fine play, with a nifty outside run and a thumping first down run up the gut. UDFA Glenn Winston stole the show in the fourth quarter with eight carries for 58 yards, including a powerful 27 yard TD run. It may not earn him a roster spot, but it surely guaranteed that the marginal 49er career of Jewel Hampton has come to an end.

For those who revel in the little things, LaMichael James made two impressive pass protection blocks, to go with his minimalist 7 carries for 9 yards.

James’ much larger pass blocking cohort, Mike Iupati, did not fare as well, getting torched three times and getting Colin Kaepernick nearly killed. Maybe there’s a reason the 49ers have not offered the big LG a contract extension. His pass blocking has never been great, and it was awful Sunday.

The right side of the O-line, the side we’re supposed to be concerned about, gave up no pressures. Both RG Joe Looney and RT Jonathan Martin had solid games.

The most encouraging aspect of the game was the play of the defense. With Training Camp ended, HC Jim Harbaugh eased up on the practice work load and it showed Sunday. Our boys did not look exhausted and inept, as they had in the first two preseason games. To be fair, Chargers QB Philip Rivers lit up the first string in his one quarter of work, completing nine out of ten passes and one TD. The second string defense held San Diego scoreless the rest of the game.

There were some notable efforts on defense. 5th round rookie OLB Aaron Lynch, with a sack, a tackle for a loss, and two passes batted down. This kid looks like a keeper. Fellow rookie Jimmie Ward has an impressive diving interception and a called back pick six. And NT Mike Purcell played a strong game.

The good news is our depth looked better Sunday. The bad news is that neither the first string O or the first string D has resembled anything like a championship team. And the best news is there’s only one more fake game, and it’s over with this Thursday night in Houston.

After that, a whole lot of players will be packing their bags on cut down day and looking for work somewhere else.

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Posted in Post Game Spread

Let the Big Dogs Eat

Posted on August 21, 2014Skeebers 172 Comments ↓

Through two exhibition games, the 49er scrubeenies have definitely gotten a lot of work. Most of it, in fact. The good news is the coaches have copious reams of tape for their cut-down day evaluations. The bad news is the team’s supposedly excellent depth hasn’t performed very excellently. Back to you, Bill and Ted.

Jim Harbaugh characterized the first two games as a period of “experimenting.” Not sure what the experiment was, unless it involved the notion of playing the scrubs all season and seeing how many games we could get drubbed before the tar and feathers squad appeared outside 49er HQ.

Evidently, Harbaugh sensed these entities were near enough to sound a sense of urgency that has been missing so far. Or he just looked at the date and realized it was time to start preparing for the season opener against the Cowboys, hoping he had convinced the rest of the league that the 49ers could be discounted this year as serious contenders.

Perhaps Sunday’s game against the Chargers will quicken our blood.

Alex Boone did not report for duty this week and now, compliments of the new CBA, has 16 days left to show up for work or lose an accrued season. In the older days, he could have reported after the 10th game of the season and still gotten credit for the season. Not now. Here’s the wording of the CBA: “Any player under contract with a team that fails to report within 30 days prior to the first regular season game will not receive a season towards free agency.”

Any way you look at it, Boone has essentially handed his starting job to Joe Looney. Maybe he didn’t think Joe could cut it, but that assumption seems to be inaccurate. In a certain sense, Boone might actually have more value as a backup. He can play both tackle spots, as well as RG. I doubt the Niners will trade him without a very nice return, which doesn’t seem likely this late into camp.

The other candidate for backup swing tackle is Jonathan Martin, whom Harbaugh praised this week. Of course, Harbaugh praised AJ Jenkins last year at this time, and we saw what that meant. Squatola. Jenkins, BTW, continued his invisibility last Sunday for Kansas City. Nine KC receivers had catches in the KC vs Panthers game, yet Jenkins posted a ZERO on his one and only target. Kyle Williams, OTOH, stomped Jenkins by recording one catch for one yard.

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Posted in FOS Speculation

Broncos 34, 49ers 0

Posted on August 18, 2014Skeebers

The 49ers christened their new stadium by offering us a throwback game to 2005, the year Jed York christened himself as the new owner. A thoroughly tidy demolishing by the Denver Broncos was the result, 34-0. Anybody still think watching a bad team is better than watching a team good enough to lose NFC Title games?

Jim Harbaugh is a great believer in having his team look like shit in the exhibition season, but this year he’s really mastered his craft excrement-wise. It’s 57-3 after two games, prompting Harbaugh to comment: “We need to make decisions on who to play. We’re not going to keep experimenting. We need to tighten this down fast.”

Not to be redundant or repetitive, but No Shit, Jim.

For starters, let’s play some. Starters, that is. The first team defense has yet to play at all and the top tier offense has played only three series, one in the first game and two Sunday.

The third exhibition game is next Sunday against the Chargers, which leaves three weeks until opening day. It seems safe to assume that if holdout RG Alex Boone doesn’t report in this week, he won’t be in the starting lineup when the season begins.

Sixth round rookie CB Kenneth Acker was one of the very few highlights of Sunday’s thrashing. Cornerback depth has been a concern all camp and finding a diamond in the rough would be a most pleasant surprise. Of course, he was playing against the third team Denver receivers, so a rush to gushiness might not be warranted just yet.

The new stadium at least got good reviews Sunday. In fact, the crowd seemed more interested in wandering around checking it out than actually watching the game. Who can blame them?

The new, explosive offense promised all offseason by OC Greg Roman is still a closely guarded state secret. Obviously. Three points in two games is quite a long way from explosive.

Everybody says top rookie Jimmie Ward is playing well, but I have yet to see him knock down a pass when playing slot CB. Which is what we need him to excel at this year. Maybe I missed a play somewhere along the way while observing our D-line getting shoved off the map.

Astute readers may note I have not yet mentioned our backup QBs, who each coughed up a turnover Sunday, while methodically throwing high, wild, and nowhere. Saving the pain for the area of the column when most readers have already abandoned reading. Colin Kaepernick had best stay healthy this year. That is all I have to say.

Every year I tell myself not to worry about exhibition games and every year I worry about them anyway. P.T. Barnum is smiling in his grave. Seattle is destroying its opponents effortlessly and we’re getting destroyed limpily and I’m not supposed to worry? Please, real 49ers. Can you just give us poor saps a brief glimpse next Sunday of your manliness? Is that too much to ask?

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Posted in Post Game Spread
2014 Schedule
1. 9/7 @ DAL
2. 9-14 vs CHI (Sunday night)
3. 9/21 @ ARI
4. 9-28 vs PHI
5. 10/5 vs KC
6. 10/13 @ STL (Monday night)
7. 10/19 @ DEN (Sunday night)
8. BYE
9. 11/2 vs STL
10. 11/9 @ NO
11. 11/16 @ NYG
12. 11/23 vs WAS
13. 11/27 vs SEA (Thanksgiving)
14. 12/7 @ OAK
15. 12/14 @ SEA
16. 12/20 vs SD
17. 12/28 vs ARI
2014 Draft Class
1 Jimmie Ward, S/CB
2 Carlos Hyde, RB
3 Marcus Martin, C
3 Chris Borland, ILB
3 Brandon Thomas, OG
4 Bruce Ellington, WR
4 Dontae Johnson, CB
5 Aaron Lynch, LB
5 Keith Reaser, CB
6 Kenneth Acker, CB
7 Kaleb Ramsey, DE
7 Trey Millard, FB