Long time snapper Jennings gets Que Sera Sera from Niners

By David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–Saturday was cut down day at the 49ers and that signals an end of the preseason and there were not a lot of big surprises. You’re certainly not going to see any huge names on the list but the only name I suppose is semi surprising is safety Brian Jennings, he has been the 49ers long snapper for 13 seasons and he’s tied for the most consecutive games played by any 49er player in their team history.

It’s a shame to lose him he’s been an excellent long snapper for this team he made the Pro Bowl a couple of times, he’s the last player on the 49ers who was drafted by the late former head coach Bill Walsh. That certainly is a distinction to take with Jennings as he moves forward if he continues to play or if he decides to retire. Jennings has been a fantastic player for this 49ers team it’ll be a shame to see him go.

The main reason Jennings was cut was simply a salary consideration. As a 13 year veteran he’s been in the middle part of salaries he’s been getting about $1.5 million a year in that range. The Niners didn’t necessarily mind paying that but for a long snapper that’s quiet a bit of money, especially when he doesn’t play anywhere else. Jennings is like a deep backup on the offensive line. He doesn’t see much action other than long snapping on punting and field goal tries.

He’s not the most versatile player at this stage of his career and when they got a new guy an undrafted free agent who was also a very good long snapper the 49ers decided it would be time to move onto a new player in that position and all the while they appreciated all that Jennings has contributed to this team the salary considerations were something the Niners had to consider for that position. It’s very sad to see Jennings go, he’s certainly good enough that he could sign on somewhere else, the salary issue is going to be a problem no matter where he goes just because he’s played so long.

The 49ers wish him well and he has the ability to catch on somewhere for a team that needs a good long snapper, someone who can be a mentor to younger players in terms of not only how to be a long snapper but also how to be a professional and how to carry yourself on a team. Jennings fans wish him well and the best in his future endeavors.

Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins cut: It’s not super surprising Austin Collie was cut he was the wide receiver who for most of his career played for the Indianopolis Colts but suffered several concussions and had a knee injury last year and did not play at all. Collie certainly had some talent. The 49ers decided they had several other wide receivers who are in better condition and in better shape who can contribute right away.

Collie didn’t have much of an impact during the pre season so that’s why he was let go, he could come back if nobody else decides to sign him and the Niners feel the need to add someone but he didn’t really contribute enough to warrant making the team.

A bigger surprise was Lavelle Hawkins he was the former Cal receiver who actually had a very good preseason and had that great touchdown reception in the game on Thursday in San Diego. He had that kick off return for a touchdown two weeks ago he also had several bone headed penalties which weighed against him. Hawkins is someone the Niners could look to if they decide to add another receiver down the road.

Hawkins is good enough to catch on with some other team so, I don’t know if he’s going to sit out there for the 49ers to grab whatever they want. He certainly made an impression and he’s someone the 49ers should consider in the future if they need more help at wide receiver. Those penalties really hurt Hawkins in the end, he was a borderline case while he certainly had the talent, the mental aspect probably knocked him back a couple of notches.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

Preseason preview week 3, 49ers vs Vikings

By Gabe Schapiro

In the third game on the preseason schedule, this Sunday, August 25 at 5pm, the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) will be taking on the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) at Candlestick Park. Last season the Vikings went 10-6, clinching a wild card birth before being eliminated in the first round by their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers. This offseason the Vikings made several big moves to try and improve on what was a surprisingly successful season last year. The most note-worthy ws the trade of their star but at times controversial wideout Percy Harvin, the signing of Greg Jennings to replace him, and their impressive haul of three first round draft picks.

Last week the 49ers squeaked out a win against the Kansas City Chiefs, 15-13, predominantly thanks to the leg of new kicker Phil Dawson and the arm of rookie quarterback B.J. Daniels. Dawson went
three-for-three on field goal attempts, and Daniels led the 49ers on their only touchdown drive of the game on a 13-play drive in the fourth quarter. A seventh round pick out of South Florida, Daniels didn’t receive a single snap in the teams first preseason game against the Broncos, but turned some heads with his play last week. He is fighting for the backup job behind Colin Kaepernick with Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien.

The new most note-worthy development as the roster begins to shake itself out with two preseason games remaining, was the announcement on Monday that A.J. Jenkins had been traded to the Chiefs in return for fellow receiver Jon Baldwin. In a classic change-of-scenery type move, both receivers are former first round picks who have struggled to make an impact since arriving in the NFL. Jenkins appeared in just three games last season and didn’t record a catch. He hadn’t been showing much so far this preseason, and so it appears that San Francisco finally decided to move on. Baldwin, a 26th overall pick from the 2011 draft, has played in 26 games over the last two seasons, hauling in 26 catches for 579 yards and two touchdowns.

Baldwin enters a still unclear picture at wide receiver for the 49ers, and last week failed to bring the situation into any kind of focus. For the second week in a row Anquan Boldin and Marlon Moore were the starters, but remained in the game for just the opening drive. Chad Hall was inserted against the Chiefs starting defense, finishing with two receptions for 39 yards, and a team high five targets. Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins were inserted into the game late, and finished with one catch for 11 yards and two catchers for 20 yards respectively. Undrafted rookie Chuck Jacobs had the one touchdown reception of the game late in the fourth quarter. Kyle Williams and Quinton Patton dressed for the pregame warm-ups, but did not play. As has been the case ever since Michael Crabtree went down, the receiving corp will continue to be possibly the biggest area to keep an eye on through these last two preseason games.

San Francisco’s defensive unit, however, seems to be as stout as ever. The team gave the Chiefs starting offense line fits, and finished the game with seven sacks. The battle at cornerback following the loss of Chris Culliver appears to be going well, with Parrish Cox, Tramaine Brock, and Nnamdi Asomugha all putting in solid outings last week. At free safety Craig Dahl started for the second straight week, but coach John Harbaugh said following the game rookie Eric Reid will be getting looks with the first team defense.

The third game of the preseason tends to be when the starters really start to see more playing time as they gear up for the regular season, so as always, keep an eye on these key position battles, and hope for good health.

Preseason preview week 2, 49ers at Chiefs

By Gabe Schapiro

This Friday, August 16 at 5pm, the San Francisco 49ers (0-1) face off against the rebuilding Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) at Arrowhead Stadium. Despite just being the preseason, this matchup comes with some intrigue. After a dismal 2-14 season last year, the Chiefs underwent a major overhaul. They brought in a new general manager, John Dorsey, and head coach, Andy Reid, who had previously spent over a decade with the Philadelphia Eagles. In addition, the Chiefs got themselves a new starting quarterback. In June these two opponents completed a trade that sent Alex Smith, who was somewhat controversially replaced last season by Colin Kaepernick, to the Chiefs for a couple of draft picks. This will be the first time Smith will be taking on his former team of seven years.

Last week in the preseason opener the 49ers lost to the Denver Broncos 10-6. As is to be expected the assumed starters saw little action, mostly just playing in one series. The first-team offense looked solid, going on a 13-play drive for a field goal in their opening possession. The second and third units have some work to do after combining for four turnovers, but that is what this time of year is all about. As will continue to be the emphasis in the coming three weeks, the preseason is all about staying healthy, settling position battles, and gearing up for the real deal on September 8.

With week 1 in the books, the competition at wide receiver seems to be more up in the air than ever. Anquan Boldin already seems to have an established chemistry with Kaepernick, which is great news moving forward, but after Boldin the depth chart looks unclear. Kyle Williams didn’t play last week as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury. Marlon Moore, Chad Hall, Kassim Osgood, and Austin Collie had solid games. AJ Jenkins, however, struggled. He saw his fair share of snaps, but was targeted just three times, and only had one reception. To make matters worse, on his one reception he promptly fumbled, accounting for one of the teams’ four turnovers. By all accounts Jenkins has the talent, but as of yet just hasn’t been able to put everything together. Keep a close eye on the receiving corp, Jenkins in particular, heading into week 2 against a lesser defense.

The competitions at free safety and cornerback continue as well, although both positions look far less muddled. At safety Craig Dahl started the game last week, but presumed starter Eric Reid had a strong debut, getting a lot of playing time and finishing with six tackles. Looking to step up for the injured cornerback Chris Culliver, the trio of Parrish Cox, Tramaine Brock, and Nnamdi Asomugha did well. The group will look to show what they’ve got against former teammate Alex Smith.

As a whole, expect to see slightly more playing time for all of the starters as everyone gets game ready for the regular season opener.

49ers vs Broncos, preseason preview

By Gabe Schapiro

August 5, 2013

This Thursday, August 8 at 6pm, the preseason schedule kicks off when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park. This matchup features two of the league’s best squads from 2012, and the two odds-on-favorites to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Last season the Broncos finished 13-3, winning the AFC West before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. The San Francisco 49ers finished 11-4-1, winning the NFC West, before falling to the same Ravens in the Super Bowl.

First the obligatory disclaimer that this is still just preseason football. The outcomes don’t matter and aren’t indicative of how well a team will do during the regular season. Instead, it’s a time to hope for good health, to keep an eye on a few key position battles, to look for growth and improvement from key players, and to hope for good health some more.

San Francisco has already been dealt a couple of blows due to injuries, most notably to their top wideout Michael Crabtree who is expected to be out until at least around week 12 with a torn Achilles. He joins receiver Mario Manningham on the PUP list. The 49ers have a stockpile of receivers in camp vying for roster spots, with really only Anquan Boldin penciled in as a sure thing as the new go-to option for Colin Kaepernick. AJ Jenkins, Kyle Williams, Kassim Osgood, and rookie Quinton Patton have all also been limited or have missed several practices due to minor injuries. The team recently signed Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins to join the fray at the position, which also includes Ricardo Lockette, Marlon Moore, and Chad Hall. The wide receiving corp as a whole may be the biggest single thing to look for during the preseason, both in terms of who can stay on the field and who can seize the opportunity and fill out the depth chart behind Boldin.

More recently, San Francisco lost cornerback Chris Culliver for the season with a torn ACL. He had been penciled in as the team’s third corner behind Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. It’s a big blow at a position that already had questionable depth. Keep an eye on Nnamdi Asomugh, Tramaine Brock, and Perrish Cox who will be fighting to take over the spot.

The other major position battles to watch will be at kick and punt returner, free safety, and nose tackle.

LaMichael James appears to have the inside track to be the return specialist, as he is listed atop the first game release depth chart the 49ers have issued at both kick and punt returner. He struggled when he was given brief looks at returning punts last season, but reportedly has impressed during camp.

At free safety, CJ Spillman is currently listed as the starter. First round pick Eric Reid, who the team traded up to get, however, is still considered the favorite to start game one of the regular season. Craig Dahl has reportedly had a very strong spring, but is on the outside looking in at this point.

Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey are fighting it out for the nose tackle spot. Both have been performing well at camp, but Williams has the edge.

Notes: Star linebacker Patrick Willis suffered a fracture in his right hand, which will require surgery. Willis has a history of broken hands, and most importantly a history of playing through them without missing a step. He is still expected to be ready to go for the season opener against the Packers, but will be sitting out Thursday’s preseason opener.

49ers add depth, sign Collie, Hawkins

By Gabe Schapiro

August 2, 2013

On Friday the San Francisco 49ers signed wide receivers Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins to one-year contracts. Both players impressed during a tryout Friday, as the 49ers continue to try and address their ailing receiving corp. Center Sherman Carter and punter Colton Schmidt were released to make room for the duo on the 90-man roster.

Collie, a former fourth round pick, has spent his four-year career with the Indianapolis Colts. In 42 career games he has hauled in 173 receptions, 1,845 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns. He has been a productive slot receiver when healthy, however he has dealt with significant injury problems. He has sustained multiple concussions, and last season played only one game before rupturing his patellar tendon. San Francisco had previously brought in Collie for a tryout in June.

Hawkins, a 27-year old Cal product, has seen limited action during his five-year career with the Tennessee Titans. In 52 games he has 71 receptions, 771 receiving yards, and one touchdown, with his most productive year coming in 2011.

The two join a thinning group of wide receivers at training camp. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are on the
physically-unable-to-perform list; AJ Jenkins, Kyle Williams, and Kassim Osgood have missed several practices with hamstring strains; and finally rookie Quinton Patton has an injured middle finger and is unable to catch passes.

The defending NFC Champions continue to prepare for the upcoming season as the team’s first preseason game approaches next Thursday. How they will handle their depleted depth at wide receiver will be a major factor to keep an eye on.