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Morning Tailgate: Aug. 22

Posted by Taylor Price on August 22, 2012 – 10:01 AM

Alex Smith has impressed local reporters all training camp long with his steady development. In his second season running Greg Roman’s offensive attack, Smith has looked like an “expert” in the system according to head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Count Clark Judge as another believer of Smith’s ability to improve in 2012. The CBS Sports football writer recently visited 49ers practices and came away with that distinct impression.

“You can see it in practice when Smith runs the first-team offense,” Clark wrote, “and you can hear it from teammates who believe, as I do, that this is the season Smith shakes his critics.”

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Posted in Morning Tailgate | 42 Comments »

Ricky Jean Francois Builds Strength

Posted by Jacob Most on August 21, 2012 – 4:04 PM

Ricky Jean Francois made a bold claim on Monday when he said he was the strongest man on the 49ers defense. When looking at his 6-foot-3, 295-pound frame the argument is enough to make you stop and think, but ultimately, Jean Francois’ versatility is what makes him so valuable to his team.

Coaches often call Jean Francois the fourth starter on the defensive front, despite the fact that the team utilizes a 3-4 system.

Listed as a defensive tackle, Jean Francois knows all three spots on defensive line and he plays each with impressive effectiveness. That fact allows Jean Francois to push his teammates to improve all the time.

The battle among the 49ers defensive linemen often carries over into the weight room with arguably the strongest unit in the NFL competing with each other just like they’re playing on the field.

Jean Francois’ claims that he can move more weight than any other 49ers defender could raise some eyebrows when considering some of his teammate’s abilities.

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Posted in Announcements | 8 Comments »

Larry Grant Brings Competition to LBs

Posted by Alex Espinoza on August 21, 2012 – 3:10 PM

They may be teammates, but the 49ers linebackers are competitors, too.

As they sit in their meeting room with position coach Jim Leavitt, players like Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Larry Grant like to keep each other on their toes.

“We feed off each other; we learn a lot from each other,” Grant said. “The best thing is that us three – we’re our hardest critics. Every day in the meeting rooms, we talk a lot of stuff to each other to make sure we’re going to be better the next day. It’s a big competition between everybody in our linebacker room, not just NaVorro Bowman, Pat and me.”

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Aldon Smith Returns to Practice

Posted by Taylor Price on August 21, 2012 – 2:13 PM

The 49ers had several banged up players return to Monday’s practice, most notably starting outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks.

In his weekly Tuesday interview with The KNBR Morning Show, Jim Harbaugh said the numerous returns were a result of the injured players staying in Santa Clara over the weekend to receive treatment while the team flew to Texas to face the Houston Texans.

After re-joining teammates on Tuesday, more than a week after suffering a bruised hip against the Minnesota Vikings in the opening preseason contest, Smith was still experiencing soreness in his injured hip.

However, Smith sounded optimistic about returning to game action soon.

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Posted in Announcements | 17 Comments »

Morning Tailgate: Aug. 21

Posted by Taylor Price on August 21, 2012 – 9:58 AM

First-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins continues to progress leading up to the regular season. Jenkins’ 32-yard reception against the Houston Texans last week was the 49ers’ longest passing play of the preseason.

Furthermore, the No. 30 overall selection got behind the Texans defense several times last Saturday night and could have produced even greater numbers if not for a few overthrown passes in the second half.

Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee recently wrote about Jenkins’ promising big-play potential and discussed the receiver’s progress with fifth-year quarterback Josh Johnson who completed the 32-yard pass to Jenkins in the third quarter of a 20-9 defeat.

“Johnson said the rookie did a great job of ‘holding the red line,’ an imaginary line on the side of the field between receiver and sideline that gives the quarterback a few yards of cushion in which to place the ball,” Barrows wrote. “Johnson lofted the pass into that zone, and Jenkins detached from the defensive back in time to make a 32-yard reception.”

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Posted in Morning Tailgate | 32 Comments »

Isaac Sopoaga Leads By Example

Posted by Jacob Most on August 20, 2012 – 5:55 PM

Isaac Sopoaga often uses his Samoan heritage to bring a unique energy into the 49ers locker room.

Known as one of the team’s emotional leaders for his enigmatic personality, Sopoaga showed that liveliness to the media during a press conference on Monday.

Sopoaga entered the media tent at 49ers headquarters and stepped up to the podium with headphones in his ears. The entrance puzzled most of the media members in the attendance until finally a reporter asked the nose tackle what he was listening to.

Sopoaga ran with it to start by pretending he couldn’t hear the question, which drew a loud laugh from the media present before he finally responded that he was listening to a musical genre not likely to make the team’s pre-game playlist anytime soon.

“I love my Samoan church music,” the 6-foot-2, 330-pounder said. “The words are strengthening. They are some powerful wise words.”

The upbeat tunes seem to be keeping the Samoan in a positive frame of mind through more than three weeks of training camp.

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Posted in Announcements | 7 Comments »

Frank Gore Paces RB Group

Posted by Alex Espinoza on August 20, 2012 – 2:27 PM

It was only for a few seconds, but the 49ers Faithful finally got a glimpse of 2012 Frank Gore on Saturday night in Houston.

Lining up with the first-team offense to start the preseason matchup, Gore took a handoff from Alex Smith and broke off one of his vintage runs. In classic Gore style, he found a crease in the trenches before bursting past the line of scrimmage, picking up 14 yards and a first down in a flash.

Gore has played in just four snaps this preseason – all of them coming in the Houston matchup – and recorded two carries. Asked if he has been lobbying to Coach Jim Harbaugh for more playing time, a big smile crept across Gore’s face.

“When I got out there against the Houston Texans, I wanted to keep going,” Gore said. “I got that first carry and it was a pretty good run, so I wanted to get that rhythm and keep going. But I’ve got to listen to coach, he knows what’s best for me.”

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Morning Tailgate: Aug. 20

Posted by Taylor Price on August 20, 2012 – 10:42 AM

The reviews are in. The 49ers have finished a second preseason game, a 20-9 defeat to the Houston Texans, and there’s been plenty of time to break down the action ever since thanks to NFL’s Preseason Live.

The 49ers had bright spots in defeat, but there’s always room for improvement. In reality, the best thing for the players is having more game tape to dissect and utilize as they prepare for the regular season.

In the same way coaches and players detail their every move on the football field, several Bay Area football writers have broken down the game tape with an eye on who stood out Saturday night against the Texans.

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Posted in Morning Tailgate | 45 Comments »

Miller, Whitner Discuss Texans Matchup

Posted by Taylor Price on August 17, 2012 – 1:14 PM

Oh, what a difference a year can make. Bruce Miller can certainly attest.

The confidence and poise the 49ers fullback exudes these days is all directly related to his time in the team’s offseason program, training camp included.

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Morning Tailgate: Aug. 17

Posted by Taylor Price on August 17, 2012 – 10:31 AM

Jim Harbaugh doesn’t subscribe to the “breaking camp” theory. Although there won’t be a practice today, the 49ers will conduct a “Mock Game” before departing to Houston for the team’s first preseason road trip.

To get you ready for San Francisco’s matchup with the Texans, check out our latest Niner Talk podcast which features interviews with quarterback Scott Tolzien and Drew Dougherty of Houston Texans TV.

Tolzien discussed Randy Moss’ positive influence on the locker room, as well as his mindset heading into an important preseason game. Tolzien said it’s all about maximizing opportunities. Dougherty also gave perspective on the opponent’s side of things and said the team’s fans are very friendly when it comes to tailgating. In you’re in Houston for the game, put on a smile and they’ll likely pass you some grub.

As for the current state of the 49ers, ESPN.com’s Mike Sando recently filed his Camp Confidential report on the recent developments in Santa Clara.

Sando asks if the strides shown by the 49ers passing game last season were only the start of something greater.

“That question ran through my mind while watching Smith fire passes on time and on target during a recent three-day stay at 49ers training camp. The answer became clearer every time Smith connected with newcomers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, which was frequently. He appeared more accurate, more confident and more in command than I can ever recall seeing Smith during a training camp — or any other time, for that matter.”

More 49ers headlines can be found after the jump.

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Posted in Morning Tailgate | 120 Comments »