Sad News

As you all know, Robin Williams died yesterday, by his own hand apparently. While the news is sad and he had his problems to deal with, he was a local legend. He grew up in the North Bay and went to Redwood high school in Larkspur. He was a fixture at Giants and 49er games over the years, and I did manage to bump into he and Will Durst at a Giants game somewhere in the late 80s. We talked baseball for about 10 seconds and he was on his way to the nice seats behind home.

Saw his stand-up a bunch of times in the 80s, when you couldn’t walk 5 blocks without hitting a comedy club in San Francisco. He would often crash other comedians’ routines, and he did that one night when a few of us went to see Rick Reynolds. He did about half an hour with Rick, and then did about 2 hours of his own stuff. Just non stop crazy. The crowd was all in pain from laughing so long and so hard.

Truly sad day. RIP, Robin.

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So Much For That

The 2014 season got off to a resounding thud, as the Johns beat the Jims 23-3. Yet another loss for Jim at the hands of his older brother. This one of course doesn’t mean as much, but still, John Harbaugh has to feel a little smug next time they meet for dinner at their parents house.

All in all, a very desultory effort by the team, as the offense stalled out behind Gaine Blabbert (and later Josh Joshson), and the backup defense was gashed for 8 yard runs all night. Unfortunately for me, I missed the opening drive until the very point I wanted to see something different. Which of course was the 3rd and 1 from the 7. Per usual, we packed the line and ran up the middle for no gain. If you haven’t heard me yet, this is a large issue with me. I mean, why do we even practice the 0 yard rush? We do it 3o times a game. Yes, there were a lot more 2 WR formations on 1st and 2nd down, but again there were a lot of 1st down rushes for 2 yards or less. Yippee.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

I know I shouldn’t read too much into this, but the philosophy seems to be the same as last year. Anyhow, the 49ers were very lucky the only injury they suffered on defense was and ankle injury to Lawrence Okoye, as the defense was on the field for 40 of the 60 minutes.  Jimbo should give them the week off as they had a full week of practice time in that game.

Highlights are the solid returns and a catch by Bruce Ellington, who showed a nice burst. I hear Hyde looked good on that opening drive, Ward was solid in run support, and Tank & Dial looked pretty good to great on the line. Mike Purcell on the other hand wasn’t all that good at NT, but then again, the LBs were often nowhere to be seen in run support or on screen plays. Wilhoite looked good, but the rest were out of position most of the time. Even Christian Okoye had a couple nice plays before getting hurt. And Chris Cook had a nice pick late, and he played well in single coverage on an end zone pass.

Reclamation project Blaine Gabbert looks to be way behind schedule in regards to becoming a decent backup. Then again, there were a lot of drops. Stevie Wonder among the few. I’m still not very thrilled with our passing game. Our routes do not seem to be designed to gain separation from the DBs out there. They seem to be strictly comeback routes and sideline passes. These are fairly easily defended, and with Gabbert throwing, it was  ugly, as he ended up 3/11 for a whopping 20 yards. Josh looked like he had a better idea of how to run the offense (6/8-63 yards), but we’ll see if Gabby gets left behind.

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(Pre) Game (Season) Day ! ! !

Well, here we are, on the cusp of the 2014 football season. In our brand spanking new stadium. With our brand spanking new offense. And some brand new spanking players.

Other than that, we are in the Land of Balt. Let’s hope for some non-injurious football for these next few days.

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Football is Back!

Well, preseason anyway. I missed the thrilling Battle of New York in Canton Ohio yesterday as the New Jersey Football Giants of New York prevailed over the Buffalo Buffaloes of Buffalo New York in the Hall of Fame game. I did catch turnover machine Eli Manning get into mid-season form by fumbling on his own 12 yard line. Seeing as these are the Dark Ages for 49ers to be inducted into the HOF, I’m not nearly as thrilled to watch this shit as I once was.

Anyhow, the Niners are well on their way to getting a lot of younger players into the line up by injuring themselves nearly every day of camp. The latest casualty is Glen Dorsey, our big DT who is subbing for Ian Williams, our previous pseudo-NT who broke his ankle last year, and is still on the mend. Notes out of camp? With some cursory digging, I’ve seen that Vance McDonald is well on his way to continuing his maddening habit of dropping passes, Carlos Hyde has overcome some early shakiness to showing some solid pass-catching skills, and Jimmie Ward has made some nice plays in the defensive backfield.

The battle to replace Navorro Bowman rages on between Michael Wilhoite, Dan Stuka, and Corey Lemonier. Wilhoite appears to be in the lead. As far as covering for the newly-injured Dorsey, Williams is ‘close’ to coming back, Mike (who?) Purcell, 2nd year guy from the University of Nowhere, is taking the 1st string snaps at this point, but that looks to change as Quinton Dial and Eddie Jerrod-Eddie are getting reps at NT as well.

If anything, it gives these young guys some real-time action with the 1st team and will hopefully get these guys battle-tested before the real thing in 34 days at JerryWorld. Frankly, the only guy that MAY come back after this rash of injuries is LMJ. The least likely guy to make the team.  He may not have a spot when he comes back. I really would like to see him on the edges and out in the flat wreaking havoc. Need a deeper passing game for that, though.

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Medic ! ! !

Well, the once overabundant amount of running backs has been waylaid by the injury bug in 3 short days. First, Marcus Lattimore was placed on the PUP list last Wednesday, due to a combination of his previous knee injury, and a more recent hamstring injury.  Then on Thursday, Kendal (endzone) Hunter blew his knee out in a non-contact drill. Then of course, on Friday, LaMichael James, a guy who would have likely gotten more looks with the other injuries, turned his good fortune into a dislocated elbow, and he’ll be out for a month.

Other than that, C Marcus Martin, Bruce Ellington, OLB Aaron Lynch, and DL Kaleb Ramsey were also PUPed. Martin and Ellington both suffered minor ankle injuries, and they should be back pretty quickly. No idea ’bout the other guys. I really want Ellington on the field as much as possible.

Anyhow, who among you think this is a bit of a blessing in disguise? Sure, Gore looks to be the starter, and Hyde the backup, that was pretty much set in stone. But Hunter was a good change of pace guy, but not as elusive as LMJ, but that’s a different can of worms. Either way, the lack of depth could force the coaching staff to look to the passing game more than they might have. Having a healthy corps of WRs certainly is a change from previous years when we had scrubs and decoys.. This could be looked at as the next step in the growth of Colin Kaepernick as  quarterback as well. Give him more options to evaluate, and have him read the field more rather than the one-read-and-run that was apparently the usual play design.

I’m not too concerned with these injuries, other than Hunter. For his limited role he brought a different skillset than Gore. Either that, or we have a Jewell in the rough . . .

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The 49ers Are Happy Campers . . .

. . . for the most part. The 49ers started camp yesterday, and most of the gang came to the festivities. VD showed up, as everyone knows. Boone didn’t, as everybody knows. The good news is this latest break in football activities didn’t result in anyone hitting the police blotter or TMZ. Kappy is thrilled about the new-look offense and his newly inked WRs that he has to throw to. The coaches are thrilled about Carlos Hyde and his emergence as the backup to ageless Frank Gore.  Justin Smith is feeling better than he has in a couple years after undergoing shoulder surgery this offseason. An injury that he played through all last year. And, of course, VD showed up and silenced the folks (me) calling for his head on a plate, with a side of Rhino.

How this all shakes out is a mystery, what with a newly re-tooled defensive backfield, a missing RG, and a crowded offensive backfield. That being said, one has to feel good about the fact that Colin Kaepernick has a lot more options to throw to, and a coaching staff  that, as of now, seems to wants to give more power to our young QB. And a staff that seems willing to pry open the passing section of the playbook. Boone should show up at some point. And if he’s learned anything, he should heed Joe Staley.  Show up, do your job, plant some seeds about your discontentment. But SHOW UP. The team has said over and over they will not negotiate with absentee players. Boone, for his part, changed agencies, and went with Schwartz & Feinsod. They of course are famous for having Darelle Revis among their clients, and their insistence of taking a hard line (advising clients to hold out rather than negotiate) instead of working things through more amicably.

Sorry, Rhino. You are a nice guy, and a great story overcoming your problems, but adios. Guards aren’t that hard to find, or replace. The Niners have enough in camp right now to absorb your loss. And if you want to miss the Super Bowl ring that you just might get, well, tough shit dot com.

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Bring Me the Head of Johnnie Morton

Well, I stand corrected. I thought our WR coach was the ex-Detroit Lion WR Johnnie Morton. He’s John Morton, a training camp casualty and World Football Leaguer. He got so far as the Raiders practice squad in 1993 and never got on an NFL  field. He has been the Niner WR coach for 3 years. He worked with Turner an Gruden with the Raiders, did some good work with Payton in Nawlins, and at USD with Harbaugh, so his creds seem fine.

But really, what the hell is wrong with the WR corps on the 49ers? Never has a group been so underwhelming for so long. The list of WRs that failed to catch on (unless you are Anquan Boldin) is too long to list, but Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards, Mario Manningham, and Ted Ginn are recent washouts. No to mention Kyle Williams. Granted, some of this is by design as the Niners want to run, and rarely use more that 2 WRs at at time, but, Moss’s time here was especially frustrating as he was almost always covered 12 yards off the line, and the Niners rarely exploited the fact that they could have thrown 10-yard comebacks all the way down the field with little resistance.

Throw in the fact that the 3rd WR position has produced miniscule numbers in recent memory. Galling is the facat tat Ted Ginn caught more passes last year as the 3 in Carolina than he did in 3 years here. What did that get him? Well, a one-way tiket to AZ, but the point remains that we didn’t do very much with him as our speed guy. Once he lost his effectiveness as a PR, he was toast here. But obviously, for all his disappointmnt as a 1st round draft choice, and subsequent horrible numbers as a Niner, he’s a viable WR who is better that what we got out of him.  Manningham sort of follows suit.  He started well, and was beset with nagging injuries, and never got rolling. Swett Brain campe in and had little impact. Bye bye. The rookies? Well, AJ Jenkins may be the bust of this decade draft-wise, but others haven’t fared well wither. Ronald Johnson didn’t make it through camp, Quniton Patton looked promising, then he got hurt. He came back late and made a couple nice catches. Now we have Bruce Ellington. He looks like a guy weith speed to burn.  A guy wh0o can open up the top on a defense. Alas, he just hit the PUP/Non-NFL injury report.

Yay. Another guy who looks to red-shirt his rookie season. At what point do you turn to the coaches to find out why the 49ers fid it so hard to integrate WRs into their offense? Is it incomprehensible blocking schemes that they are required to learn?  This certainly must play a part because it has a lot to do with why Frank Gore is so hard tounseat as the go-to RB on the Niners. Gore may have scored a 6 on the Wonderlich, but his knowlege of the 49er playbook has reached Einsteinian levels. Is this the reason? Is it our rudimentary offense? Our 1-2 WR formations that appear to be nothing more than 12 yard outs (which occasionally get jumped for pick 6’s) and mid-range come-backs? We certainly don’t show a lot of double moves, slants, or deep routes for our WRs. The deep balls go to VD. Slants? A relic from the past. As are screens, unless its the dreaded bubble screen to the WR.

Which brings us to John Morton. What the hell is he actually doing? Either he’s been given shit to work with (not likely as some guys leave here and still produce) or he can’t elevate these guys to play better than they’ve shown. We’ve all heard about the new-age passing offense that is coming. The multiple-WR sets. In the immortal words of Steven Tyler, “same old story., same oldsong and dance, my friend.” Seeing Carlos Hyde drafted in the 2nd round gives me even more pause to think this is all preseason babble.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

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