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‘100 PERCENT MY FAULT’ SAYS KAEPERNICK AFTER 49ERS LOSS

GLENDALE — On Thursday, 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said the teams playbook had been scaled back to focus on plays that quarterback Colin Kaepernick was “most comfortable with.” Kaepernick replied by saying he was “being asked to be myself this year,” and that he was in a “comfort zone.”

Sunday, he had one of the worst statistical games of his career.

He threw for a career-high four interceptions. They led to 24 points for the Cardinals.

During the 47-7 defeat to the Cardinals, Kaepernick win 9-of-19, for 67 yards and a career low 16.7 passer rating.  He also became the first 49ers quarterback to throw two touchdowns for interceptions since 1980.

“Today was 100 percent my fault,” said Kaepernick. “There’s nothing anyone could have done in that locker room to change that game today the way I played.”

The 49ers offense finished with 10 first downs and 156 total yards on the day. Its worst showing since a 2013 contest against the Carolina Panthers.

Head coach Jim Tomsula isn’t comfortable pinning all the teams misfortunes as of late on the offense.

The 49ers have surrendered 680 passing yards, five touchdowns and 13 completions of 20-plus yards in their past two games. On Sunday, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer finished with 311 yards and a 102.5 QBR. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald finished with 134 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ve got to play better defense,” Tomsula said. “We’ve got to play better offense. We’ve got to play better special teams. We’ve got to play better everything.”

It seems the ugly monster of the teams inexperience everyone spent all summer talking about has shown its face in the 49ers locker room as well.

Said linebacker Ahmad Brooks: “The losses that we had were big people – guys like Justin Smith and Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith. Those are big shoes to fill.”

“But at the end of the day, we’re all professionals. We’re all here for a reason. So this is our team and we’ve got to make the best out of who we have,” Brooks added.

On the day where Kaepernick spent less than 30 miles from his offseason training facility, it seemed he could just never figure out exactly what to do with the ball.

SHOULD BILLY BURNS BE AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?

OAKLAND — While the A’s playoff dreams may be expired, there are some bright spots left on the roster. 25-year-old rookie outfielder Billy Burns has proven to be one of those spots consistently since joining the team in May, and now several fans (and some writers) have begun discussing whether or not he should be considered in the American League’s Rookie of the Year voting.

Widely considered to be a 4th outfielder, Burns was never technically supposed to play for the A’s this season. Some questioned whether or not he had big league potential at all. He was seen in the dugout during the first two games of the 2015 season, then found himself back in Triple-A. After Coco Crisp was shut down due to injury, Burns was brought back.

During his first two months in the bigs, Burns had a 16-game hitting streak, and kept his average above .300. His average currently sits at .295 with 27 RBI, 24 stolen bases and 21 walks. He has committed just one error in center field. Amongst all MLB rookies, Burns is ranked second behind San Francisco’s Matt Duffy. There is no doubt he has added a spark to the lineup, and has become a hit in the clubhouse. A’s All Star Stephen Vogt had this to say about Burns:

“He’s the Rookie of the Year so far this year. He’s not getting the recognition that he should be nationally. (But) he’s been probably our most consistent player all year and is doing it as a rookie.

Despite missing the first month of the season, Burns has played the second most games of any rookie in the American League. His impact and almost immediate transition into the lead-off role, regardless of the team’s slumping status is indisputable. The answer to the question is yes, Billy Burns should be this year’s Rookie of the Year.

San Jose Earthquakes GM John Doyle Looks Back On 2014 And Previews Next Season

On Friday morning, San Jose Earthquakes general manager John Doyle held his end-of-year conference call with reporters to explain what went wrong in 2014, and how he and new head coach Dominic Kinnear plan to turn the club around.

The team executive provided an update on whether record-setting goalkeeper Jon Busch will be returning to San Jose, why the team could be leaning against bringing back Yannick Djalo, and how the new stadium will allow the Quakes to “catch up” to the big-spenders in MLS.

Here’s a partial transcript of the call:

On the underwhelming 2014 season:

“Obviously, the 2014 season was a huge disappointment. Everybody knows that, but very difficult and you go an you look at it, whether it be injuries, signings, coaching. All those different things that for whatever reason it didn’t go well.”

On how the coaching change came about:

“I was excited when our owner came to us three-quarters of the season gone and said, ‘Listen, I would like to make a coaching change and I want you to start looking.’ ”

On when roster decisions will be made:

“Option letters go out in three weeks, and one thing that Dominic [Kinnear] made really clear to every player was, ‘Hey, I’m taking all the time necessary to make my decisions.”

On how much turnover there will be:

“I think anytime you don’t have a successful season, there’s going to be some changes, but I also don’t think it’s a thing where, I heard this from a coach that I have a lot of respect for, ‘Good players don’t all the sudden become bad.’ I think we have a lot of good players. I think we, maybe in 2012 we had career years for a lot of guys. In 2014, we had career bad years for a lot of guys and there are a lot of reasons why.”

“So as far as turnover goes, really, we don’t know.Obviously there will be turnover. There’s turnover every year.”

“But I wouldn’t say it’s going to be the whole team turned over, that’s for sure. But, you know, a new coach comes in, and a coach with a lot of experience and a lot of success, is going to make changes.”

On whether Djalo will return:

“You have a difficult situation on him. When players on loan do really well, you have no chance of getting them back. That’s obvious.”

“So, had Djalo scored 15 goals and been healthy all season and we had a wonderful season, there would be no option to get him back most likely.”

“But we’ll look and see what, if there’s an option. It’s a difficult situation, it’s a difficult decision just because of the amount of time he was injured. Everyone who watched him play knows he’s one of the most talented players in Major League Soccer. It’s just when he’s on the field or not. And to put a ton of resources into somebody who plays a third of games…we can’t do that.”

On the future for Martin Perez Garcia:

“Perez Garcia 100 percent will be back.”

What positions will the club look to strengthen in the offseason:

“As far as positions go, that’s something Dominc and I will keep between ourselves.”

On the impact that the new stadium will have on ownership’s spending:

“There’s already been an increase in spending from ownership, which has been great. I think the owners see this as an opportunity to start to spend a little bit more. I wouldn’t say we’re going to be one of the highest-spending teams in Major League Soccer that’s for sure, but I think we’re going to start to catch up a little bit with the league.”

On the club’s level of interest in bringing back Jon Busch who is out of contract:

“He’s in a category of a lot of players where we’re evaluating it and we have to make decisions in three to four weeks. But I think Dominic wants to look and evaluate, so there’s been no decision on bringing Jon back or keeping Jon. That’s where we’re at.”

On whether the 2014 team was capable of competing for a playoff spot in the Western Conference:

“Yea, I do. I think there was a lot of talent on the team. I think it just was for whatever reason, we didn’t, we weren’t able to, and again, I think it’s excuses. It’s not excuses when you have players injured, and players—just it was one of those years and things didn’t go well, but I think we have some talented players that’s for sure.”

On how different the coaching style will be  under Kinnear as opposed to Mark Watson:

“I thought tactically we sat back this year. And I don’t expect we’re going to be sitting back—especially at home. We soaked up a lot of pressure at times.”

“We just didn’t put teams under pressure, we soaked up pressure.”

On how the news stadium will allow the team to “catch up” to the “big-spending team[s]:”

“I think the stadium is a big thing. I think that’s going to help to drive us to be more successful. I think it gives us a way to earn money so that the team can spend more money. I think when you’re playing in a small stadium like Buck Shaw, and the revenues aren’t coming in, it’s more difficult to spend as much. But now I think with the stadium, I think, again like I said, I don’t think, hey, I would love us to be a big-spending team. I don’t think we’re ever going to be one of the top, but you never know. Our owner has the ability to do that, but I think we’re just going to just start to catch up, and we’re going to have to.”

Jimmie Ward on His Way to Winning Nickel Cornerback Job

When asked if the nickel cornerback job is close to being resolved, Vic Fangio mentioned Jimmie Ward first.

“Well, Jimmie’s doing a good job out there,” said the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator.

The 49ers landed Ward with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

“Obviously Jimmie’s made nice progress and progresses every day. He’s not a final product by any means yet. But, he learns well, doesn’t repeat mistakes and has shown good skill level there. So, we’re very hopeful there.”

JOSE CANSECO, DENNIS ECKERSLEY, DAVE STEWART TALK 1989 A’S, REUNION WEEKEND

Prior to Friday night’s thrilling walkoff win by Josh Donaldson and the Oakland A’s, members of the 1989 World Champion A’s roster took part in a media session, answering questions about the reunion weekend, their careers, reflections about the game and other topics. Among those participating included Jose Canseco, Dave Stewart,Dave HendersonCarney LansfordMike MooreDennis Eckersley and others. Rickey Henderson was slated to appear but didn’t make it in time for the media session (though he showed up afterwards for other reunion activities). By far the most noteworthy participant of the event – and the reunion weekend as a whole – was Canseco, who was making his first appearance back at the Coliseum since writing his controversial 2005 book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. Needless to say, that was one of the topics Canseco spoke the most candidly about.

Canseco, on whether time can heal all wounds as it pertains to his PED use and the book’s ramifications:

“I hope so, I hope we can move forward. I’ll be honest with you, I’m pretty disappointed in myself for writing that book. I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it, for me it’ll always be something that I deeply regret.  And believe me I’ve had my share of nightmares because of it and I continue to have nightmares about it.”

“The reason why I did it was not a good reason, I was angry at the time. “

On his relationship with Mark McGwire:

“One of the gentlemen I would have liked to have met and talked to is Mark McGwire, and of course he’s the hitting coach of the Dodgers. You know, Mark, to me, actually when I played with him…I looked up to him, I idolized him for a lot of reasons. You know – the guy who was on the field and the guy who was off the field.

And believe me, it haunts me to today…haunts me that I said those things. I think I could have gotten my point across but I let anger and disappointment in, overwhelm me.”

Canseco and Dave  Henderson
Canseco and Dave Henderson

Thoughts on being included in the reunion weekend:

“They embraced me, which is great. So far it’s been great, I think this occasion right now, getting a bunch of guys that played together in the world series and won, to really relive that is a very positive thing. That said, I’m still really nervous, I don’t know what to think, or how the fans will react, I have no idea so I’m kind of putting myself out there. Most vulnerable state possible and see what happens.”

And finally, Jose explained the origins of the goats he frequently mentions on his Twitter account:

“Oh, my god. My girlfriend saw these things, they’re called fainting goats. Of course, she talked me into getting a couple of them so we drove three hundred miles to somewhere where there’s nothing out there, we stay overnight in this little hotel that’s like makeshift…it was like a shack, an aluminum shack. So the next day they pick us up in this truck, and the lady’s got a monkey wrapped around her neck. They take us to this farm, there’s nothing out there, and when we pull up you can see about fifty of these fainting goats. I’m like ‘oh my God am I really doing this?’ We pull up, my girlfriend sees two of them, and ironically enough the ones I like were pets. So we end up getting these two other fainting goats, and literally when you scoop them up, they faint.

They lock up their muscles and they just faint. So we put them back in my truck, but they put diapers on them. So just imagine: Jose Canseco with an RV, two goats in the back with diapers on. Now I’m speeding, trying to get back home about ten miles over the speed limit. And they pull us over. And I kid you not, the officer pulls us over, goes up to the window, looks back and starts laughing. Because he sees these goats with diapers on, realizes who I am, and he’s like ‘what the hell… is going on here?’ I’m looking at my girlfriend and we all just start laughing. I explained to him what happened, he’s still laughing, finally he gives me a ticket for going like five miles over the speed limit, we took a picture of it and it was put on YouTube, Twitter, something like that.

And it made some strange international news. “

Dennis Eckersley, on winning the ’89 Series after “that play” in the 1988 World Series loss to the Dodgers:

“(laughs) I don’t care about us, but about me, man, thank God we won. That got me off the hook.”

On the fallout from Canseco’s book:

“I don’t know, if he had attacked me it’d be a different story.  It’s not for me to say. Talk to Mac. Part of me is glad it happened, because I kind of like having people be exposed.”

When asked if he’s impressed with the work of Sean Doolittle this season:

“Absolutely. To do what he does with just one pitch, right? He doesn’t know, man, he hasn’t been pitching that long. How long he’s been pitching, two years, three years? Come on! Hasn’t gotten burned this year, well he did give up a grand slam. Big deal! If you do this job for a long time there’s going to be a lot more hurts.

But he seems like he’s just unaffected, that’s what I’m impressed with. I’m jealous! I went through hell for like fifteen years before I did that. He’s a special kid, he really is.”

Dave Stewart on the ’89 Series:

“We would have beaten the Giants regardless. If it hadn’t have happened I still think we would have won in four games. How the World Series is remembered is how it should be remembered. It was an earthquake series, there were some unfortunate things that happened here in the Bay Area, but I do believe through it all that it brought two sides of the Bay together.”

The ongoing “A’s in Oakland” debate:

Stew’s thoughts on the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade:

“To me that’s an over-the-top deal indicative of what Sandy Alderson or Walter Haas would have done to try and take the team to where they need to be. It was a great move, obviously the timing was done at a great time. I feel really confident that this team – these kids – that they have the essentials to get to the World Series. “

As Matt Kemp‘s agent, what does Stew think about all the trade rumors surrounding the Dodgers outfielder?

“That part we can’t control. We want to be in a position where we can help somebody win. He’s going to continue to play and do his job. If a trade does happen, we’re okay with that, and if it doesn’t happen we’re okay with that. He prefers to play every day, at some point he’d like to play center field again.”

San Francisco 49ers Ian Williams Trying ‘To Get Back to 100 percent’

Ian Williams still hasn’t watched the play that ended his season in Week 2 in Seattle.

The San Francisco 49ers nose tackle suffered a broken fibula and severe ligament damage when he was cut-blocked by J.R. Sweezy back on September 15, and has slowly been working his way back ever since.

“It feels good, just a little weak,” said Williams recently during the team’s organized team activities. “That comes with having surgery, but it’s feeling better every day, every week.”

Actually, it wasn’t just a single surgery that Williams underwent, but four.

“So, it’s going to take a while to get it back to 100.”

During the 49ers offseason practices, Williams didn’t take part in drills with the majority of the team, but instead worked on a side field with other rehabbing players. Williams is targeting training camp for his return.

“That’s the goal.”

A goal that 24-year-old thinks he will reach.

“It’s attainable. I just want to make sure I’m as close to 100 because my position is very different from others. I have two guys at times, pushing on me, so, I’ve got different angles I’ve got to hold—700 pounds sometimes. So, I want to make sure my ankle is as close to 100 percent as possible.”

Even with his layoff stretching into its 10th month, Williams continues to focus on the positives.

“Things happen for a reason and you just have to get back up, and keep pushing on. When you get back up and keep fighting, it built adversity and made the game fun again.”

San Francisco 49ers OTA Notebook: Josh Johnson Excelling, Vernon Davis Still AWOL and Brandon Lloyd is ‘On His Way’

It’s still early, but Josh Johnson is already starting to build a compelling case to win a spot on the San Francisco 49ers 53-man roster.

On Tuesday during the  OTAs, the former Oakland Tech standout threw a couple of touchdown passes during a red zone drill and then he caught one, as well. The quarterback was filling in at wide receiver because the 49ers only had four players available at that position.

“They needed me,” explained Johnson, who didn’t want the receivers to do too much running. Then he clarified: “But that’s not what I do. I’m a quarterback.”

Ultimately, that versatility can only be a good thing when head coach Jim Harbaugh makes his final roster decisions. As Johnson pointed out, he’s always “learning something” but he feels more prepared to make the roster this year after getting cut back in 2012.

“The comfort factor in this offense is a lot smoother right now. I’m an older player, more experienced. So, now I’m just really learning my guys and just taking advantage of every rep that’s given.”

Vernon Davis was nowhere to be found at the team’s training facility in Santa Clara.

The veteran tight end is dissatisfied with his contract situation and has so far been absent from the 49ers’ optional offseason program. That decision has already cost Davis a $200,000 workout bonus. Tight end Vance McDonald would love to see the 30-year-old back on the practice fields.

“He’s just that classic Vernon influence. He’s goofy, goofing off, but when it comes to football he’s always full tilt, but I miss the dude. I’ll be honest.”

Guard Alex Boone, who is also seeking a new deal, wasn’t at the facility on Tuesday either.

..

Brandon Lloyd hasn’t played in the NFL since 2012, but it sure doesn’t look like that, at least according to his teammates.

Here’s what Patrick Willis had to say about the receiver:

“That guy’s still fast…He’s like a rubber band or something.”

“I remember when we played against him, a few times he got behind our DB’s. But you see him on film, I swear I don’t know how he comes off his start as fast as he does.”

“He’s very athletic. He doesn’t look like he’s missed a year of football at all. I’m glad to have him on the team. I know he’s going to make some plays for us.”

Special team specialist and receiver Kassim Osgood offered the following:

“Brandon Lloyd is on his way. He’s a professional. He’s been around for a while, so he knows what to do, and how to do it. So, it’s fun to be a part of it. He’s a funny guy. He’s got a lot of positive energy to add to the team. He’s jumped right it and just got right back at it.”

Plus, Josh Johnson added:

“Great body language. Smooth. Always in the right spot. Very veteran-like. Engaging with the quarterbacks, at the same time knowing what we’re doing so he can be on the same page. He’s a hell of an athlete. The catches he makes daily, it’s pretty impressive.”

Willis had high praise for the talent assembled on the current roster. When asked if he’d ever seen this much depth on the squad, the linebacker remarked:

“I haven’t. I’m not sure if that’s due to the new CBA or not, but whatever it is, I don’t complain about it. It gets you some rest.”

During special team drills, running back LaMichael James and receiver Devon Wylie handed punt returning duties.

General manager Trent Baalke made an appearance on the practice fields. The team executive shook hands with and talked to a number of players. However, he spent the most time of all with Aldon Smith.

San Francisco 49ers: Five Red Zone WR Draft Prospects

The San Francisco 49ers have some immediate needs that they need to address if they want to win their sixth Super Bowl. Over the next few weeks, I will identify these needs and look at some ways that the front office can address them through the draft. The most glaring need has been highlighted throughout the past two seasons. The ending to last year’s Super Bowl and the NFC Championship game this year showed the need for a big wide receiver. The 49ers need to take a long, hard look at this draft because there are a some players that can come in and make an instant impact in the red zone.

Often times, we hear about the catch radius and about being a big target when big receivers are being talked about. The ability to in effect, get a rebound by boxing out is the key to winning in the red zone. As a result, prospects that have some kind of basketball background have become attractive to general managers. They see value in the things that basketball players are taught as far as getting in position to get the ball under the basket or get a rebound from a missed shot. The translation to the NFL is the ability to high point the ball.
Here are some of the big body receivers that will be in the 2014 NFL Draft:

1) Kelvin Benjamin Florida St. 6-5 234 lbs

Benjamin showed his red zone value in the National Championship. Everyone in the stadium knew that the ball was going to him but there was nothing that Auburn cornerback, Chris Davis could do. I spoke to an ACC insider that told me not to be surprised if Benjamin becomes the second receiver selected in the draft. He said that Benjamin may run a 4.4 at the scouting combine. If he does that, watch his stock soar. It would be hard to bypass a player with that kind of height/weight/speed measurables. Benjamin still has to develop as a receiver but his immediate impact would be in the red zone. Some people are down on him due to his not running the full route tree. I do like Benjamin running the post from the slot position. He is also a down field threat on back shoulder throws. Benjamin’s size and speed make him a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. Personnel people will be impressed with his wingspan measurements at the combine. That will further show how large his catch radius is.

NFL Comparison: Brandon Marshall

2) Mike Evans Texas A&M 6-5 225 lbs

Mike+Evans+Texas+v+Mississippi+oMmxk4M8YDOxEvans was ultra productive in his two years at Texas A&M. Nick Saban is known for defense. His Alabama teams have sent quite a few defensive backs to the NFL. Evans had 279 yards receiving against Alabama. It’s not often that those kind of numbers are put up against Saban. As I mentioned earlier, general managers like players with basketball backgrounds. Evans averaged 8.4 rebounds as a senior at Ball High School in Galveston, Texas. Getting into position for the ball is no new thing to him. He was a consistent down field threat for Johnny Manziel. Unlike Benjamin, Evans is a threat when he catches the bubble screen. He is expected to run in the 4.5 range however. That’s still not bad for a guy his size. Evans’ tenacity is both a gift and a curse. He has an NFL ready body and is very physical. The problem is he relies too much on his physicality and size to win at the catch point. He will need to learn how to create more separation at the next level.

NFL Comparison: Vincent Jackson

3) Davante Adams Fresno St 6-2 216 lbs

Davante+Adams+New+Mexico+v+Fresno+State+V9HOLbts1mzx_2It is hard to deny the production that Adams put up. He posted video game like numbers: 131 receptions 1,718 yards and 24 touchdowns. His Palo Alto roots certainly make him a favorite of many Bay Area fans. Adams is built for the combat that receivers go through in the NFL. He showed that he can win at the catch point with his strong hands and leaping ability. Although he isn’t as tall as the other prospects in this article, he is still a legitimate red zone threat. He clearly exhibits that hunger and relentless desire that is needed for making plays in the red zone especially when he has to high point the ball. His thick body will allow him to box out defensive backs on back shoulder throws and fade routes. If there are any knocks on Adams, it would be that he doesn’t have break away speed. Others may look past his production because of the level of competition that he went against or because of him playing in a spread offense.

NFL Comparison: Alshon Jeffrey

4) Martavis Bryant Clemson 6-4 200 lbs

Martavis+Bryant+Clemson+v+Ohio+State+sL-kUPH9z44x_2Bryant can stretch the field as shown by his 19.7 yards per catch last year. His height along with his long arms make him a potential option in the red zone. Bryant also showed that he has good leaping ability. Despite his being a long strider, he has good short area quickness which will help in the red zone. Something clicked with him and it showed over the last six weeks of the season. Bryant was mostly cast in the shadow of Sammy Watkins, the top ranked receiver in this draft class. I have heard that some of the coaches on the Clemson staff feel that he actually has more potential than Watkins. The potential word is one that can be a good and bad thing though. Bryant may be the fastest of these big receivers. He has been clocked at a 4.38 recently. That may cause him to get drafted a bit earlier than he should be. He is very lean and could stand to put on a few extra pounds to go against the more physical defensive backs in the NFL. He needs to be more consistent catching the ball an needs to refine his route running skills.

NFL Comparison: Denario Alexander

5) Brandon Coleman Rutgers 6-6 220 lbs

Brandon+Coleman+Rutgers+v+Pittsburgh+XDxbAM2tygDxIt is easy to fall for Coleman when you see his height and weight. Many will point to that alone as a reason to use him in the red zone. There are many different opinions on this tree like prospect. I personally am not as high on him as others. Coleman is a hard prospect to really get a grade on. His numbers dipped some but that was definitely due to some rather shaky quarterback play. We also saw Coleman lose some of his explosiveness as he tried to recover from off season knee surgery. One thing that did stand out is his 18.9 yards per catch. Gil Brandt is an analyst for NFL.com and he has been doing this for longer than most of us have been alive. Brandt feels that Coleman should have gone back another year to develop more. That being said, Brandt expects Coleman to test very well at the combine. That will do wonders for his draft stock because a receiver his size is rare. The question remains, why wasn’t he more dominant at Rutgers? Some will question how fast he is and his inconsistent hands.

NFL Comparison: Plaxico Burress

These are just some of the options that the 49ers can go to at receiver. This list is solely from a red zone threat perspective. It is not an overall list. There are receivers such as Marquise Lee, Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson that would fill the wide receiver need in a different way. Benjamin and Evans would more than likely require a trade up to secure them. The St. Louis Rams have the 13th pick and will be likely to select a receiver if they don’t with their 2nd overall pick. It is not likely that they would trade with the 49ers so the Chicago Bears at pick 14 would be the sweet spot. There are six teams in front of the 49ers that could end up selecting a receiver.

Senior Bowl: Day Two South Practice Notes

The South team had the second practice. The wind really picked up when they came out to warm up. This was going to be a good test for the quarterbacks. Here are some notes from the South practice:

– Telvin Smith (Florida St LB) is a natural when the lights come on. He provided me with the best interview of the week so far. Smith said that teams better grab him because he is “hot like Krispy Kreme donuts.” The 49ers have spoken to him. Smith refuses to switch to safety. He showed a lot of energy on the field and surprised me with his ability to get to the ball in pass rushing drills.

– Kyle Van Noy (BYU LB) was the most impressive player to me today. He showed that he is the best linebacker here. Van Noy was very smooth in pursuit drills and caught the ball well with his hands in every drill. He showed that he can either blow up the running back in pass rushing drills or use a finesse move. Van Noy almost came up with an incredible one handed interception but he couldn’t pull it in.

– Jaylen Watkins (Florida CB) looked very good. He got beat at the line in one on ones but he recovered and undercut the slant route to intercept the ball. He covered bigger receivers in Jordan Matthews and Cody Hoffman very well.

– Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt WR) showed that he is a hard worker. He called Phil Savage at 5:30am to have someone come up the facility so that he could watch film. After practice he stayed and ran routes with Derek Carr and Cody Hoffman while other players conducted interviews. Matthews did well against a bigger corner from Utah in Keith McGill. He made a nice diving catch on the sideline and consistently caught the ball in traffic.

– Ryan Grant from Tulane impressed me in one on ones. He is very shifty at the line and is smooth within his routes. Grant used a nice move to get off of press coverage against Watkins.

– Jalen Saunders (Oklahoma WR) is the smallest player here. He showed a lot of wiggle in his routes and at the line. Saunders caught everything that was thrown to him with his hands. He is also a very good return guy.

– Lorenzo Taliaferro (Coastal Carolina RB) impressed me in pass pro drills. He stonewalled pretty much every defender that he came across. He is a big running back at 6’2″ 230 lbs.

– Derek Carr (Fresno St QB) showed that he could throw the ball in the wind. His throws cut through the wind well.

– Jordan Tripp (Montana LB) looked pretty smooth in drills. He took some reps at inside linebacker. He showed the ability to break down and accelerate towards the running back in a few drills.

Senior Bowl Observations From The North Practice

The North practice was definitely full of action today. I was watching practice more from a 49ers perspective but there where a few guys that surprised me today. Some such as Deone Buccannon confirmed what I saw on film. Here are a few notes from day one of practice:

– Logan Thomas is a big quarterback. He’s every bit of 6’6″ 250 lbs. He has a big arm and was very accurate on his down field throws, especially in one on one drills. He connected with Jared Abbrederis on a nice corner route in one on ones. Thomas was also precise in team drills making good NFL type throws to the deep out and comeback.

– Deone Buccannon is the real deal. This is my top safety prospect at the Senior Bowl. He was very fluent in back pedal drills. He was said to be 195 lbs but weighed in at 216 lbs. This weight gain didn’t cause him any speed. He is a well built athlete that fits the safety mold to a tee. Bucannon did well in one on ones and was near the ball on a lot of plays in the team period. He has already assumed a leadership role with this team as shown by how he was getting the secondary lined up. I spoke to him after practice. He said that he has no problem dropping down to cover in line tight ends and he loves to be physical against the run. Bucannon can also play special teams. He closed practice with a big time hit on Jeff Janis (WR Saginaw Valley St) during punt return practice.

– Josh Huff from Oregon was a very impressive wide receiver today. He was consistently behind the secondary. Huff was able to use a double move to beat Dontae Johnson in one on ones and to open up team period. Taj Boyd overthrew him even though he was wide open. He didn’t see many deep passes at Oregon but he has shown signs of being a deep threat today. I spoke to Pat Kirwan after practice and he compared Huff to Eddie Royal when he was at the Senoir Bowl.

– Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a long cornerback. He didn’t really like to press too much but was able to make plays with his long arms. He broke up a few passes in 7 on 7 today.

– Pierre Desir is a small school standout at cornerback. He is from Lindenwood. At 6’2″ 206 pounds he fits the mold of the long corners that many teams are looking for. He showed excellent footwork and was able to redirect receivers today. Desir also was able to turn and run with the receivers very well. He gave up a slant route to Mike Campanaro but was able to regroup and punch the ball out, Peanut Tillman style.

– Ahmad Dixon struggled in DB drills. During one of the backpedal drills he actually got his feet tangled up and stumbled as he was attempting to turn and run. Dixon got a good lick in on a receiver running a tunnel screen route.

– Jordan Zumwalt from UCLA looked good in the linebacker bags drills. He was able to accelerate well out of his backpedal. At 6’4″ 230 lbs he will be an interesting prospect.

– Ra’shede Hageman from Minnesota was very impressive. He is a high motor guy. At 6’6″ 311 lbs he is a very impressive looking athlete.