SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jim Harbaugh has been an NFL coach for all of three seasons. And in those three years his San Francisco 49ers have gone to the NFC title game (losing in overtime at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants), to the Super Bowl (falling in heartbreaking fashion to the Baltimore Ravens) and to another NFC title game (dropping another heartbreaker at the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks).

So Harbaugh has shown he can coach, and as such he was ranked as the No. 8 coach in the NFL in an ESPN.com poll of 30 league “insiders” (eight current general managers, four former GMs, four personnel directors, four executives, six coordinators and four position coaches).

[+] EnlargeJim Harbaugh
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsJim Harbaugh is 41-14 over his three seasons as an NFL head coach.
ESPN Insider Mike Sando asked his panel to “provide a 1-5 rating for every head coach” in the NFL and New England’s Bill Belichick led the way with 28 votes in the first tier. He was followed by Seattle’s Pete Carroll (23) and New Orleans’ Sean Payton (22).

“Once votes were collected, I averaged the ratings for each coach to produce a 1-32 order,” Sando wrote. “I separated them into tiers at logical cut-off points, based on the voting results (including the tier in which each coach got the majority of his votes, and his average overall score).

“Twenty-three coaches averaged better than a 3.0 on the 1-5 scale (1 was best, 5 worst), and no coaches landed in Tier 5.”

The rest of the Top 9 was comprised of Kansas City’s Andy Reid, the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin, the Green Bay Packers’ Mike McCarthy, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and then the Brothers Harbaugh, with Jim ahead of John, despite John owning that Super Bowl title over him.

As Sando observed, “No NFL coach has more total victories than (Jim) Harbaugh since his arrival with the 49ers in 2011. He and Belichick are each 41-14 over that span, with no other team posting more than 37 victories.

“One GM said he downgraded Harbaugh from a 1 to a 2 over tension between Harbaugh and the front office. Another executive said a 1 should have no real flaws, and that Harbaugh's combustible temperament qualifies as a flaw. Another GM said, ‘the personality stuff is going to show up’ in a negative way at some point in the future.

“A former player working as a personnel evaluator downplayed some of the other concerns. ‘That gets a little old, the animation on the sideline and those things,’ he said, ‘but at the end of the day, he is a good coach. He understands what he is doing. He has won everywhere he has been. I think his guys play for him. You may not like the person, but you like the product. As a player and a coach, you separate that from the other stuff. You are not necessarily best friends with everyone you work with, but if I believe in what you are saying, OK, I can roll with you. That is what I see with him.’”

The lowest-ranked coach? That would be the Oakland Raiders’ Dennis Allen.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- While there is little doubt a multi-game suspension for San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith is coming from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it’s arrival date has the team in a state of flux.

But not in disarray.

That’s because the 49ers know it’s coming, even if they don’t know exactly when or for how many games.

Smith
“Actually, because you have a feeling that something may happen at this point in the season, everybody’s getting reps now,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Tuesday. “All the guys that may play for him -- (Dan) Skuta, (Corey) Lemonier, (Aaron) Lynch, (Chase) Thomas -- all those guys have been getting a lot of reps. They’re all ready to go.

“It’s more of an issue when it happens in the middle of the season, just thrown at you like it happened last year. Then there’s no time to adjust. You just go.”

Last year, Smith checked himself into rehab following a Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that dropped the 49ers’ record to 1-2. He was allowed to play in that game after a single-car accident in which alcohol was involved.

With Smith gone, the 49ers went 5-0.

“Guys, Skuta and Corey, stepped up big time for us,” said inside linebacker Patrick Willis. “It’s going to have to be like that again if we’ve got a situation.

“Regardless whether a player is down with injuries or he’s sick or a family cause, someone else has to step in and play just as well. Aldon has some big shoes to fill, but that’s why we’ve got to play team defense.”

Smith, who has numerous off-field transgressions on his docket including the DUI, weapons charges and a bizarre bomb threat at LAX, met with Goodell more than two weeks ago, making the delay in announcing a suspension a mystery of sorts.

Because while the NFL took heat for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice receiving “only”a two-game suspension after knocking out his fiancÚ, rumors have flown that Smith is in line for up to an eight-game suspension.

Late last week, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he had received no “indication” from the league about a looming suspension for Smith, a fourth-year player who was an All-Pro selection with 19.5 sacks in 2012.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick may have had a hard time finding a rhythm this preseason, but it’s not hard to locate the San Francisco 49ers quarterback in the ESPN.com NFL Nation top 100 players poll.

Kaepernick checks in at No. 33 among offensive players a year after being No. 42.

“Since becoming the starting quarterback for the 49ers in Week 11 of 2012, Kaepernick has the third-highest Total QBR in the NFL (70),” according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This preseason, Kaepernick has played in seven series, and the 49ers have scored only two field goals with him leading the offense. It is unlikely he will see much time in the 49ers’ preseason finale Thursday at the Houston Texans.

“We have another chance to go out and work on our offense,” he said Tuesday.

Then is he a little worried at the relative lack of production by the first-string offense through three exhibition games? Kaepernick went full Alfred E. Neuman.

“I’ve never seen worrying help anyone’s problems, or help them get better,” he said. “So I don’t worry.”

Kaepernick has completed 12 of 22 passes in the preseason for 115 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions and two carries for 13 yards and a lost fumble.

Following are the other 49ers players listed thus far on the #NFLRank project, and their respective rankings.

OFFENSE

No. 81 – RT Anthony Davis

No. 54 – WR Anquan Boldin

No. 53 – LG Mike Iupati

No. 51 – WR Michael Crabtree

No. 42 – RB Frank Gore

No. 33 – QB Colin Kaepernick

DEFENSE

No. 97 – SS Antoine Bethea

No. 74 – LB Ahmad Brooks

No. 71 – FS Eric Reid
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN's NFL Nation TV's Spreecast episode No. 20.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter), Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) and Scott Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers reporter) will discuss a range of topics from Johnny Manziel getting sacked and mocked by Michael Sam, the Oakland Raiders being named the least desirable team to play for in the NFL in an ESPN.com poll and the 49ers' offense continuing to struggle in the preseason, among other timely issues.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

It was sometime after taking one of numerous hits in his relatively limited time under center on Sunday when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick approached his two-time Pro Bowl left guard, Mike Iupati.

"C'mon, Mike," Kaepernick implored. "Do better."

Iupati
Iupati let loose an uneasy laugh as he recounted the tale for reporters Monday at the 49ers' facility. Because really, Iupati agreed with Kaepernick.

And the numbers agreed with everyone. Pro Football Focus gave Iupati a grade of -2.4 after he was charged with allowing a sack and a hit on Kaepernick against the San Diego Chargers. Defensive end Corey Liuget made easy work of the 49ers' offensive line in general, Iupati in particular.

Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked what specifically the 49ers could work on with the offensive line to give Kaepernick more time and thus, better looks after he was under siege by Liuget & Co.

"Just continuing to get reps, get reps at the looks that we're going to see," Harbaugh said. "In a preseason game where it's going to be a short week, that will be difficult to do. But we'll attack that."

Iupati, it should be noted, is still recovering from the broken left fibula he suffered in the NFC Championship Game. But he was not about to blame his issues Sunday on a sore leg.

So how does he address it?

"You just watch film," Iupati said. "Sometimes you lose some, you win some. It's mainly technique. But I'm not worried about it. It's something that's an easy fix.

"It's preseason, but it's football. You're going against someone else so you're competitive and you don't want to have that happen. Especially a sack or a QB hit. But you know, it's an easy fix. That's what it is."
[+] EnlargeNaVorro Bowman
AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman continues to recover from a gruesome left leg injury suffered in the NFC title game last January.

As part of their roster moves to get down from 90 players to 75 by Tuesday's 1 p.m. PT deadline, the San Francisco 49ers placed a couple of prominent albeit injured names on reserve lists Monday night.

All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list while running back Marcus Lattimore was put on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Both players have to sit out at least the first six weeks of the season.

It had been expected Bowman would miss half of the season after suffering a gruesome left leg injury in the NFC title game last January. By being placed on the PUP list, Bowman has three weeks to start practicing, after which a three-week window opens for him to either be placed on the 53-man roster, sent to injured reserve or be cut by the 49ers.

Bowman could appear in a game as soon as Week 7, at the Denver Broncos, and as late as Week 15, at the Seattle Seahawks.


(Read full post)


Most significant move: It was already known that All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman would miss half of the season after his gruesome left knee injury in the NFC title game last January, but it was made official with Bowman being placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list on Monday. As such, he has to sit out at least the first six weeks of the season. At the end of that sixth week, Bowman then has three weeks to begin practicing and once he does get on the practice field, he has three weeks to join the active 53-man roster. In short, Bowman could be in a game as soon as Week 7 at the Denver Broncos and as late as Week 15, at the Seattle Seahawks, to be eligible to play in the postseason.

Wild card: Marcus Lattimore entered training camp fully expecting to be practicing after missing all of last season recovering from the injury to his right knee suffered in 2012. Alas, he never made it. Now, being placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, Lattimore must sit out at least the first six weeks of the season. Still, coach Jim Harbaugh insisted earlier this summer that Lattimore would be a part of this team this season. And with Jewel Hampton waived, you wonder if the 49ers are holding an active spot for him down the road.

49ers’ cuts: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, S D.J. Campbell, TE Kevin Greene, RB Jewel Hampton, P Colton Schmidt, LB Kion Wilson, WR Devon Wylie all waived while WR David Reed was released. RB Marcus Lattimore, FB Trey Millard, CB Keith Reaser and G Brandon Thomas placed on reserve/non-football injury list and LB NaVorro Bowman, TE Garrett Celek and DT Kaleb Ramsey were put on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Also, LB Blake Costanzo was released from injured reserve.
San Francisco 49ers third-round draft pick Marcus Martin did not suffer a season-ending left knee injury in Sunday’s exhibition victory over the San Diego Chargers as widely feared, coach Jim Harbaugh said in a news conference Monday.

Martin, selected No. 70 overall out of USC, is the 49ers’ backup center behind Daniel Kilgore and went down in the fourth quarter. An MRI ruled out an ACL tear though Harbaugh would not put a timetable on the rookie offensive lineman’s return.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Martin dislocated his kneecap and would be sidelined for eight weeks.

“I don’t think that was exactly the medical term for it,” Harbaugh said.

“We’ll just hold off on any definitive comments.”

Adam Snyder, Joe Looney and Dillon Farrell were mentioned by Harbaugh as three other offensive linemen able to play center.

Martin, who could be a candidate for the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list along with nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, suffered dislocated a kneecap in his final college game last November. It’s an injury that many believe make players more susceptible to the same type of damage in the future.

He Tweeted the following after Sunday’s exhibition:



Also, safety Bubba Ventrone’s hamstring injury suffered Sunday was “not a serious one,” Harbaugh said.

Breaking down Chargers at 49ers

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- What were some of the takeaways to glean Sunday’s “all-important” third preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers, a 21-7 victory for the offensively challenged Niners?

There was 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick finally finding an exhibition rhythm. There was Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget dominating the line. And there was, of course, talk of the turf at $1.2 billion Levi’s Stadium, among other things.

ESPN.com NFL Nation Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams and I got together after the game and broke it down.
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Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless debate their level of concern for San Francisco's offense and whether the 49ers are still Super Bowl contenders.
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49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and QB Colin Kaepernick talk about the offense after San Francisco's preseason win over San Diego.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- This season could well be Frank Gore's swan song with the San Francisco 49ers.

Gore has had what some view as a Hall of Fame career; but the reasons he may be near the end in San Francisco are threefold. He turned 31 in May, he is entering the final year of his contract, and Gore's heir apparent, second-round pick Carlos Hyde, has looked fantastic in training camp and in the preseason.

If this is it for Gore, who is 33 yards from breaking the 10,000-yard career rushing mark, he has not gotten the memo. Gore is not about to concede playing time in San Francisco.

As he reported for his 10th NFL training camp, Gore was asked whether he was concerned about the presence of Hyde and Marcus Lattimore, a fourth-round pick last year. Gore just laughed and reminded anyone within earshot that he is a product of the University of Miami. Competition doesn’t scare him.

ESPN’s panelists who selected the NFL’s top 100 offensive players agree with Gore. He is ranked No. 42 on the list. That’s high praise for an over-30 running back. The respect and expectations for Gore are not without merit. He hasn't showed signs of slowing down and continues to be a major cog in the 49ers’ run-heavy offense. He had 1,128 yards on 276 carries (the third-highest total in his career) last season.

Even with the youngsters in camp, Gore has made his presence known. Fullback Bruce Miller said Gore looked like he was in midseason form the first week of camp. Fellow 30-something receiver Anquan Boldin said it is obvious Gore is fueled by talk of his pending demise and looks determined to star again.

The 49ers' coaches sense it, too.

“Frank loves the game of football, and he loves being a part of a team, loves overcoming,” San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “It’s just been the story of his career, so why would it be any different now?"

Added 49ers general manager Trent Baalke: “Father Time is having a hard time catching up to him.”

The real question about Gore: Will he be ranked higher than No. 42 on next year’s ESPN list?
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Gabbert solidified his spot with Sunday's performance.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Hey, if Ronnie Lott Tweets that "Carlos Hyde looks like the real deal," he must be, right?

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Patton appears to be the No. 3 wideout...for now.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

The first 49ers player to catch a TD pass in Levi's Stadium history? Paging Vance McDonald.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Lots of moving parts here with Boone still holding out and Adam Snyder getting first-team reps at right guard after Looney, and Martin suffering a knee injury Sunday.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)
Glenn Dorsey a prime candidate for the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list.

LINEBACKERS (8)

Willis made his preseason debut Sunday and combined with Wilhoite on a key 4th-and-1 stoppage inside the 49ers' 10-yard line.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Should the corners take most of the heat for Philip Rivers completing nine of 10 passes against the 49ers' first-team defense?

SAFETIES (4)

Ward, a hybrid safety-corner in the nickel defense, had an acrobatic interception and is an excitable player for the 49ers' secondary.

SPECIALISTS (3):

The stink eye Dawson gave the Levi's Stadium sod after slipping on a successful PAT was worth the price of admission.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers got a glimpse of their future late in their 21-7 exhibition victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday, and it looked promising.

First-round draft pick Jimmie Ward had an interception.

Second-rounder Carlos Hyde averaged 6.3 yards per carry.

And fifth-round selection Aaron Lynch had a sack and deflected a pass.

Coach Jim Harbaugh might not have felt the 6.1 earthquake centered near Napa that rocked Northern California early Sunday morning, but he did notice the aforementioned trio’s contributions that afternoon.

Especially Lynch's.

“He’s playing strong and he’s coming along, coming along pretty darn good,” Harbaugh said. “Just making improvements every day, really. He’s learning and he’s listening, so, that’s really encouraging. Got high hopes for him.”

Said Lynch of his sack of Brad Sorenson: “It makes me happy because when I do that, it’s better for the whole defense. If I can get a good bull-rush off, that sets up the tackles and the ends or the blitzing linebackers to get to the quarterback. If you know you can push the tackle into the quarterback’s lap, it stops him from being able to make a pass and it helps out our DBs and it helps out our linebackers and our other guys on the defensive line.”

Indeed, it was Lynch who tipped Sorenson’s pass that Ward was able to corral.

Ward, a hybrid safety-cornerback, has been seeing much of his time in the nickel defense. He said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, secondary coach Ed Donatell and assistant secondary coach Greg Jackson did a “good job of pampering me” in his recovery from a foot injury.

“But, now since I’ve been back [Perrish] P-Cox was the other nickel back, he’s been helping me out a lot,” Ward said. “I think film study, because before this game I was watching a lot of film, and I think that helped me out too. So, I think good coaching and a lot of film (helped).”

The only negative when it came to the 49ers’ rookie class is when backup center Marcus Martin, a third-round pick, suffered a knee injury. Harbaugh did not have an update on his condition when asked after the game.
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jim Harbaugh liked what he saw from his first-team offense on Sunday.

“Some good things," he said. "Moved the ball. Thought our precision was better.

"Just productive plays. Execution.”

Surely, after the San Francisco 49ers' starters were limited to a field goal in four possessions against the San Diego Chargers in each team's third preseason game, Harbaugh had to be referring to one series in particular in the 49ers' 21-7 victory.

The one in which the 49ers drove downfield for Phil Dawson's 39-yard field goal to break an eight quarter scoreless streak that went over 23 possessions dating to their exhibition opener at the Baltimore Ravens.

Harbaugh
Consider: before that drive, in which the 49ers went 55 yards in 12 plays, they had 17 total yards, with running back Frank Gore losing 2 yards on his lone rush and quarterback Colin Kaepernick overthrowing a receiver, taking a sack and losing a fumble, among other unmemorable plays.

“We have some things to improve on before we get to the season,” said Kaepernick, who was hit numerous times due to a leaky left side of his offensive line.

“We have good plays, we just didn't execute.”

Added tight end Vernon Davis: “We've been struggling a little bit ... once we get rolling, then it's all downhill after that. We can do whatever we want, whatever we put our minds to. But it's just about getting into that zone.”

More twilight zone than anything before, the 49ers finally clicked on that fourth offensive series.

Kaepernick begin to find his receivers, the offense started to flow as he completed five straight passes to five different receivers.

He found Anquan Boldin for a 9-yard pickup and then hit LaMichael James for a 7-yard gain. Davis was next for 16 yards and then Michael Crabtree caught a 10-yard bullet before Kaepernick's dump off to Bruce Miller picked up 7 yards, and the 49ers were at the Chargers' 17-yard line.

That's when a familiar bugaboo reared its head -- Kaepernick's issues in the red zone. Sure, he tried to continue spreading the ball around, but his passes to Quinton Patton and Vance McDonald were both knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

The 49ers had to settle for Dawson's field goal and, after being outscored by a running 64-0, they were on the board.

After the 49ers scored, the day was over for their first-team offense for all intents and purposes.

“We just have to keep it together, keep it tight,” Davis said. “Because if one guy, two guys fall off and they're not on the same page as everybody else, then it could be a disaster.”

And we've already seen a glimpse of that in this preseason.

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