Niners De-Horn Rams, go 5-0… R U Believers Now?

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It’s now time to give this Niners team some love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T !!!

Defense carries teams to championships and this is a defense that can now be compared to the Steel Curtain or the Monsters of the Midway or the Gold Rush. They have dominated every game this year and simply thrashed the high powered Rams Offense which made it to the Super Bowl last year.

Points allowed: 7

Total yards: 157

Passing yards: 48 (78 minus 30 yards on 4 sacks)

Goff’s QBR rating: 1.1 (lowest of his career)

Rushing yards: 109

Third down plays: 0-9

Fourth down plays: 0-4 (one of them on the Niners 1 yard line that would have given the Rams the lead before half time)

Total plays: 50  (vs 76 by the Niners)

Time of possession: 21:08 (vs 38:52 by the Niners)

After the Rams first drive netted them 65 yards and their only score of the day, the Niner D held them to 92 total yards for the remainder of the game. The Rams #1 and #2 receivers (Brandon Cooks and Cooper Kupp) had their longest play be 8 yards between them. Toward the end of the game, Goff went to Kupp on both 3rd and 4th downs with a mere 2 yards needed for a first down. Jimmie Ward shut Kupp down on both plays…. Game over. That, my friends, is called domination!

After all of the so-called professional analysts simply stated that the Niners have not played a good team through their first 4 wins, are they now believers after they dominated a Super Bowl team, or are they still Niner haters? Haters will always be haters but at least give this team some credit and respect. This team is for real !!!

No Joe Staley… No Mike McGlinchey… No Kyle Juszczyk… No Ahkello Witherspoon… No problem… Next man up and very little fall-off as this team is extremely deep at all positions. Justin Skule (rookie 6th round pick) replaced Staley, Daniel Brunskill (undrafted 3rd year player) replaced McGlinchey, nobody replaced Juszczyk because nobody can (so Shanahan had to call creative plays), and E-Man Moseley replaced Witherspoon. The two “unknown” tackles gave up 2 sacks to all-world Aaron Donald, otherwise, they played a heck of a game. E-Man has simply been outstanding and the Niners have seen zero drop off from Witherspoon’s CB position.

I’ve been saying all along that the front 7 of the Niner D is outstanding. There is no questioning the front 4 especially with the addition of two of the best pass rushers in the business (Dee Ford and Nick Bosa). DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead have been monsters and the 5 other rotational players are all outstanding. I can now safely say that Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander can be compared to Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. They are fast, athletic, and heat seeking missles. Now, I can also say that the 4 coverage guys (Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon/E-Man Moseley, Jaquiski Tartt, and Jimmie Ward) are as good as any coverage guys in the league. This D had arrived and are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Game ball goes to Defensive Coordinator, Robert Saleh for being persistent in believing in this defense after 2 very bad years.

When Staley, McGlinchey, and Juszczyk (Juice) return, the Niner Offense will get back to the run dominating team that they are which sets up Shanahan’s effective and innovative run-pass option plays that Garoppolo is so good at executing.

This N That:

  • DeForest Buckner likes the media disrespecting this team and likes playing as underdogs. Despite being one of the best interior lineman, he was left off of the Top 100 players of 2018. Through five games this season, Buckner has 21 tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one pass defensed and six quarterback hits.
  • Richard Sherman thinks that the Niners can keep on winning if they do the following: “We got to play to our standard,” Sherman told Deion Sanders after the win over the Rams. “You can’t worry about anything else. You can’t play down to your opponent, play up to your opponent, you just got to play to the best of your ability every week. You don’t got to do anything crazy or outstanding, just do your job. Be one of 11. If we’re a car and you are a tire, just be a tire. Don’t try to be an engine, don’t try to be a carburetor, don’t try to be a radiator. Just be a wheel. If we get four wheels, an engine, a steering wheel and everybody going at the same pace then I think we can get rolling. Our guys trust and believe that and I love playing with them.”
  • LA had a very bad week. Their Dodgers lost again sealing the team of the decade for the SF Giants… Bumgarner: 3 rings, Kershaw: 0 rings… That explains everything… In yesterday’s Ram loss, the Coliseum was a wave of Red making it seem like that Niners were the home team. In the Chargers loss to the Steelers, their entire stadium was full of yellow “terrible towel” waving fans.
  • The media’s Power Rankings are a joke. I would respect any analyst who predicts their power ranking of all teams at the beginning of the year and sticking with their initial rankings for the entire year. Instead, the media change the rankings every week depending on who won/lost. Enough said…
  • Baker Mayfield, QB for the Browns, has an NFL record of 9 wins and 12 losses, yet, he is on many media commercials. What a joke…

Niners Win Ugly Over Steelers With 5 Turnovers

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First, let’s put things in perspective… an ugly Win feels much better than a pretty Loss any day of the week.

Despite 5 turnovers (3 fumbles and 2 INT’s), the Niners somehow pulled out an improbable win against a proud and gritty Steelers team who came to play on Sunday. The 2 INT’s came early in the game on the Niner’s side of the field. Both passes should have been caught by Breida and Pettis but the ball bounced off their hands into the Steelers hands. And, both times, the stout Niner Defense held and limited the Steelers to 2 Field Goals. The 3 Fumbles were lost in the Steeler’s Red Zone, so a potential 9 to 21 points were flushed down the drain. Following are the winning percentages of teams having turnovers based on the 2017 NFL season:

0 turnovers – 73.4 % chance of winning

1 turnover – 56.7 %

2 turnovers – 40.7 %

3 turnovers – 18 %

4+ turnovers – 0 %

The Niner Defense forced 2 Steeler turnovers so statistically speaking, they had an 18 % chance of winning.

But win they did thanks largely to the Niner Defense who have clearly arrived and are playing like a playoff team. The Front 4 is nine players deep, the LB duel of Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner are playing like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, the CB’s (Ahkello Witherspoon and Richard Sherman) rivals any team’s best CB’s, and the Safeties are young but quickly learning. DeForest Buckner had 8 tackles (7 solo), Kwon Alexander had 7 tackles (6 solo), and Fred Warner had 3 tackles (3 solo). But, I give this week’s game ball to Arik Armstead. He was the disrupter who allowed DeFo, Kwon, and Warner to finish the tackles. I was not a fan of Arik but he is now playing on the Edge and it has become clear that this is his best position. Arik is now playing both the run and pass defense equally well. To give you an example of how well the Niner Defense is playing, they held the Steelers to a mere 76 total yards in the first half. The Steelers did finish with 239 total yards for the game but if you take away the only 2 big mistakes that the Defense made (76 yard TD pass to Smith-Shuster and a 39 yard TD pass to Diante Johnson), they limited the Steelers to a total of 124 yards. They held James Conner to 43 yards on 13 carries and Armstead forced the key Connor fumble late in the game. It’s time to find a good nickname for the Niner Defense… How about “Gold Busters” !!!

On Offense, although they turned the ball over an unacceptable 5 times, they moved the ball up and down the field despite the fact that Garoppolo was pressured all day long. He was pressured 8 times but sacked only once. He finished with 277 passing yards on a very good 23-32 (71.9 %) and throwing the winning TD to Pettis with 1:20 left in the game. I believe that this was Jimmy G’s best effort as a Niner given that he was facing a very tough Steeler defense. He stayed strong in the pocket and threw some very accurate passes under pressure including the game winner. With Joe Staley out, Justin Skule had a solid game at Left Tackle as the Offense stats indicate. Hopefully, he will improve by experience and hold down the fort until Staley returns. After being in Shanahan’s Dog House all season long, Dante Pettis is now on the right track as his practice ethics have improved dramatically and it is now showing on game day. He showed his emotions after catching the game winner. The running game held their own producing 159 yards with Raheem Mostert being the leading ball carrier with 79 yards on 12 carries. Additionally, the Niners have found their badly needed Red Zone power runner in Jeff Wilson. He now has scored 4 TD’s, 2 each in the last two games. Not bad for a guy who was promoted from the Practice Squad two weeks ago when Tevin Coleman went down with a high ankle sprain. The Offensive player of the Game was Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk. He had 3 catches of which 2 were highlight reel plays. The first on a long pass where is stretched and went parallel Superman to make the catch. The second one where he caught the ball, broke a tackle and stiff armed Minkah Fitzpatrick to the ground.  The Niner sideline went wild. But, the real reason that Juice deserves the Offensive game ball is that he was a monster blocker for Garoppolo and for the RB’s. He made key blocks all day long. Not too many teams run the 22 Offense (2 RB’s and 2 TE’s) but the Niners do this on a consistent basis. There are only a limited amount of things a team can do with a 22 Offense with the run being the primary focus. So even though the opposing defense knows that a run is coming at them, the Niners consistently gain yards. As George Kittles said, “That’s our run game. We’re going to try to run through your throats and run through face, and, hey, if you can stop it, try — try your best shot.”

Richard Sherman said that this team needed this kind of ugly game as it demonstrates that the Niners have a lot of improvements to work on to get them to that next level. But, by winning when they should have lost also shows the commitment and character that this team has.

The one area of concern is that Ahkello Witherspoon went down with a foot injury in the second half. Jason Verrett came in and got burned badly on his first two plays. He was called for pass interference, then on the very next play got burned for a 39 yard TD. Depending on how much time Ahkello is expected to be out, the Niners may be back in discussions with Jacksonville for a possible trade for Jalen Ramsey. Stay tuned….

Niners Blow Out Bengals to go Two and Ohhh…

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Make no mistake… Kyle Shanahan was the MVP of yesterday’s huge Niner win over the Bengals. He called a brilliant game mixing runs, play-action passes, and innovative screen passes to completely dominate the game, 41 – 17. The Bengals, who played very well at the Seahawks last week, had no clue of what was coming at them every time Garoppolo came to the line of scrimmage. A sign of a well played game is a balanced run/pass attack. The Niners threw for 313 yards on 26 passes while piling on 259 rushing yards on 42 run plays for a total of 572 yards. This is why they are Two and Ohhh to start the season with both W’s on the road. The last time the Niners started 2-0 was in 2012 when they last reached the Super Bowl. Another great decision made by Lynch and Shanahan was to stay in the East time zone after their opening win at Tampa Bay. They stayed and practiced in Youngstown, Ohio all week so the players were well acclimated to that time zone prior to playing the Bengals. The payoff was immediate as they dominated from the very first snap of the game with a sack of Andy Dalton by Arik Armstead.

Following are noteworthy stats and information:

  • The Niners had 4 sacks and none of them were recorded by Nick Bosa or Dee Ford, although they both pressured Dalton. The sacks came from Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Ronald Blair and Solomon Thomas. This is really promising news as Andy Dalton was under constant pressure all day long. With the strong depth of the D-Line, QB’s will be under pressure all season long. Additionally, the Defense held Joe Mixon to a mere 17 yards rushing on 11 carries.
  • Kwon Alexander is exactly what the Niners were looking for. He is a high energy, high motor heat seeker who is around the ball always. He is smart and fast and can also cover on passing downs. He had a brilliant INT for the only Niner take-away of the day.
  • Akhello Witherspoon looks like the real deal after suffering through inconsistency last year.
  • Jimmy G turned in a very solid performance throwing for 313 yards on 17-25 passes and 3 TD’s for an excellent passer rating of 131.2. He did throw 1 INT into triple coverage, something that he really needs to correct. The season is still young and if he has more success, he’ll learn to eliminate these mistakes.
  • While RB’s Jerrick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman are out with injuries, the Niner running game didn’t miss a beat as Matt Breida ran for 121 yards on 12 carries while Raheem Mostert ran for 83 yards on 13 carries and Jeff Wilson was brought off the practice team to run for 34 yards on 10 carries and scoring 2 TD’s. All of these guys run fast, hard, and shifty. They fit the Shanahan offense perfectly.
  • The O-Line had a super game as they did not allow Garoppolo to be sacked while opening holes for the RB’s to the tune of 259 rushing yards.
  • Joe Staley suffered a broken fibula in his left leg. He’ll be out of action for 6-8 weeks. Justin Skule, a 6th round draft pick this year will assume Staley’s critical role at Left Tackle. Only time will tell how well Staley can teach Skule all the tricks of the trade and how well Skule can perform.
  • Deebo Samuel as a rookie is taking over the starting job from Dante Pettis. He is strong and has no fear running routes over the middle. Pettis played 35 snaps but didn’t have a catch while Samuel had 5 receptions for 87 yards and a TD.

While this team is off to a great start, the Niners have a very tough schedule ahead of them. If they have a successful winning season, it’ll be due to their stout Defense which I believe has arrived as a Top 10 defense. The Offense is also much improved but they will run into some very good defenses which they will struggle with, especially with Staley out for a large portion of the season. What does this team remind me of? The 1981 team when the Niners started 3 Defensive rookies (Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson, and Eric Wright) to go along with Dwight Hicks in his 2nd year. Dwight Hicks and his Hot Licks along with a new guy named Joe Montana took the Niners to the Super Bowl that year which started the Dynasty. Well, one can only dream….

Niners Sloppily Win Game 1

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The Niners’ Supply Management team placed a large order of Rustoleum with Same-Day delivery as they played with a lot of rust showing while Jameis Winston won the game for the Niners by throwing 3 INT’s with 2 Pick 6’s.

While the Rustoleum will be used mostly by the Offense, the Defense has some rust chiseling to do also before they face a surprisingly tough Cincinnati Bengals team this Sunday.

While being critical of their performance, one can easily see that this is a much improved club and the improved talent hid many mistakes.

Let’s look at the good and the bad of the Defense as I believe that the success of the 2019-2020 Niners will depend on how this side of the ball keeps the opposition out of their End Zone.

The Good:

  • They had 3 INT’s with 2 of them directly scoring 14 points. Richard Sherman and Akhello Witherspoon both had Pick 6’s with Akhello’s being the game clincher. Last year’s Niner Defense registered a grand total of 2 INT’s the entire season!!!
  • They had 1 fumble recovery. Last year they had 5 the entire year.
  • They sacked Winston 3 times. The key additions of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa as Edge Rushers was prominently on display and hopefully will continue throughout the season.
  • They allowed the Bucs to score only once out of four times in the Red Zone.
  • When under pressure, the 49ers limited Winston to 4-12 passes for 37 yards and two INT’s for a passer rating of 3.1.
  • The much maligned Defensive Secondary broke up 6 key passes and Tarvarious Moore broke up a 4th down pass in the End Zone which very easily could have been another INT.

The Bad:

  • Although the Niner D gave up only rushing 121 yards, many of those yards came at critical times allowing the Bucs to keep their drives alive. Poor tackling is where they need to improve.
  • They gave up 194 passing yards so although the Secondary is much improved, they have much to work on to compete against more dominant teams.
  • They gave up a 1st down on a 3rd and 17 play. Salah had them line up 7 players 18 yards from the line of scrimmage. As we all know, a Prevent Defense simply prevents them from succeeding. I blame this directly on Salah, the Defensive Coordinator.

The Offense was mostly offensive but they displayed enough to hope that they can come together and generate more consistent drives resulting in more TD’s rather than Robbie Gould 3 pointers. Having said that, I’ll take “Good as Gould’s” 3’s all day long. The only other guy better at 3’s is Steph Curry….

The Bad:

  • The WR’s had only 7 catches with Deebo Samuel having 3. James, Bourne, Pettis, and Goodwin had only 1 catch each. If this doesn’t improve, then their opponents will focus only on shutting down George Kittle who had 8 catches.
  • The Run game was horrendous generating only 98 yards. The RB’s are better than average so the blame goes to the O-Line. They simply did not open holes. If this trend continues, it will be yet another long losing year.
  • Jimmy G had a decent game but made a terrible decision by staring down his receiver and threw a very bad Pick 6. He also made several other bad plays not throwing to wide open receivers.
  • They had 11 penalties for 87 yards with three of those penalties wiping out 3 TD’s. This is a Rustoleum in the brain issue.

The Good:

  • Jimmy G had decent stats with 18 completions out of 27 attempts with a Passer Rating of 80.2.
  • The O-Line allowed only 1 sack of Jimmy G.
  • Jimmy G threw a beautiful TD pass to Richie James.
  • It is clear that Jimmy G has developed chemistry with George Kittle.
  • Deebo Samuel looks like a rising star.
  • Although the running game stunk, Raheem Mostert showed much promise with 40 yards on 9 carries. With Tevin Coleman out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain, Raheem has a chance to shine.

While there are plenty of areas to improve upon, the Niners played hard in an “away” game under hot and humid conditions. An Ugly Win is better than a Pretty Loss no matter how you cut it. They have another “away” game in Cincinnati. If they clean up their mistakes and start with a 2-0 record before their first home game, this will set the direction for their entire season.

2019 SF Giants – In Farhan Zaidi We Trust

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Farhan Zaidi made both the Oakland A’s and the LA Dodgers winners. He will make the SF Giants winners, too!

It will take some time due to years of Farm System neglect but he has already made significant progress in his initial year with the Giants.

Following are the significant trades that he made which have turned a below .500 team into a .500 team and possibly an above average team next year.

Below are the significant transactions that he made:

March 22 – Traded for Mike Yastrzemski (OF) for Tyler Herb (minor league P).

May 1 – Gave a chance to Stephen Vogt (C) to join Spring Training and called him up from Sacramento.

May 2 – Traded for Kevin Pillar for Alen Hanson (IF), Derek Law (P), Juan De Paula (minor league P).

May 7 – Selected the contract for Donovan Solano (IF) from Sacramento after acquiring him in a minor league deal over the winter.

June 10 – Traded for Alex Dickerson (OF) for Franklin Van Gurp (minor league P).

June 21 – Claimed Joey Rickard (OF) off waivers.

July 31:

  • Traded for Mauricio Dubon (prospect IF) for Drew Pomerantz (P) and Ray Black (P).
  • Traded for Dan Winkler (P) and Tristen Beck (P) for Mark Melancon along with his huge contract.
  • Traded for Jaylin Davis (prospect OF), Kai-Wei Teng (prospect P), and Prelander Berroa (Prospect P) for Sam Dyson (P).
  • Traded for Joe McCarthy (prospect OF) for Jacob Lopez (minor league P).
  • Acquired Scooter Gennett (IF) for cash. They later released him to give Dubon more playing time.

Currently, the Giants Top 30 Propects are:

Future Value: 50+
1. Heliot Ramos (grade up)
2. Marco Luciano (grade up)
Future Value: 50
3. Joey Bart
Future Value: 45+
4. Alexander Canario (+1)
5. Hunter Bishop (-1)
6. Logan Webb
Future Value: 45
7. Mauricio Dubon
8. Sean Hjelle
9. Seth Corry (+1, grade up)
10. Gregory Santos (-3, grade down)
Future Value: 40+
11. Logan Wyatt (-2)
12. Jake Wong (-1)
13. P.J. Hilson (-1)
14. Trevor McDonald (-1)
15. Sam Selman (-1)
Future Value: 40
16. Melvin Adon (-1)
17. Luis Toribio (-1)
18. Jose Marte (-1)
19. Ricardo Genoves (-1)
20. Zach Green (-1)
21. Conner Menez (-1)
22. Franklin Labour (-1)
23. Tristan Beck
24. Jairo Pomares
25. Kai-Wei Teng
Future Value: 35+
26. Luis Matos
27. Prelander Berroa
28. Sean Roby (-6)
29. Raffi Vizcaino (-6)
30. Tyler Fitzgerald (-5)

Each player on the list receives a prospect grade on the 20-80 scale. For a quicker rundown one can think of grades with these meanings (with an example in parenthesis):

80: Top-5 player in baseball (8+ WAR a season)
70: Top 10 player in the baseball (5-8 WAR a season)
60: All-Star (3.5-5 WAR a season)
55: Above-average everyday player (2.5-3.5 WAR a season)
50: Average everyday player (1.5-2.5 WAR a season)
45: Platoon player/fringe everyday (0.5-1.5 WAR a season)
40: Bench player (0.2-0.5 WAR a season)
35: AAAA player (0-0.2 WAR a season)
30: AAA Player
20: Organization player (<0 WAR a season)

Even with the trades that Zaidi made this year, one can see that the Giants still have a long way to go to catch up to the top tier teams. Having said that, he was able to get the most out of what he started with.

Giant fans have to hope that the Top 10 prospects pan out and some in their Top 11-30 surprises while Zaidi continues to look under every rock and continues his magic in the upcoming years.

While Farhan is an analytics genius, he also has a very good sense of dealing with fan, player and administration feelings. 2019 is a very special year as future HOFer, Bruce Bochy, will be retiring at season’s end. Although many wanted Zaidi to clean house and trade Bumgarner and Will Smith, he found a way to keep both players who had the best trade value while improving the roster. Bochy has a chance to win 2,000 games as a coach so Zaidi was sensitive to giving the Giants the best chance to win as many games as possible this year.

Bochy has led his teams to four Pennants and three World Series championships. His teams have posted a 44-33 (.571) record in the postseason. Only Joe Torre (84 wins), Tony LaRussa (70) and Bobby Cox (67) have more postseason victories than Bochy. The Giants have won 11 of their 12 postseason series in Bochy’s tenure, with their lone loss coming in the 2016 NLDS against the Cubs. From 2010-2016, Bochy won 11-straight postseason rounds, which tied Joe Torre (Yankees, 1998-2001) for the longest streak ever by a manager.

While it may take some time to get the Giants into a top tier team, if any GM can turn a team around, it is Farhan Zaidi.

Introducing the 2019 SF 49ers Roster

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In the third year of the Lynch/Shanahan era, the 49ers are ready to make some noise, open some eyes, turn some heads, and surprise NFL analysts who are ranking this team in the lower quadrant.

Shanahan and Lynch both have been clear and consistent about saying that the cut to the 53 man roster this year will be the toughest that they have faced. They are also saying that the decisions will be hard but this is a very good problem to have as this translates to the deepest roster that they have ever had.

This year, Shanahan has the luxury of saying that they will look at all options including making decisions on who they think will be on the field more than some better players who have a history of injuries.

Lynch is fielding calls from other NFL teams about the depth of their Defensive Line. They will be cutting D-Line players who could be potential starters on other teams.

Richard Sherman has stated that this year’s Defense compared to last year is like night and day.

During the off season, the Niners addressed their weaknesses in a very big way. Their lack of a pass rush was their achilles heel and the lack of impact wide receivers was also evident.

Trading for Dee Ford and drafting Nick Bosa as pass rushers along with an already strong D-Line will have a huge positive impact in this and future years. I wrote an article during the off season about “Wouldn’t it be nice to see Dee Ford in a Niner Uniform?” They didn’t stop there… They also added Kwon Alexander as our weak side LB and Jason Verrett as a potential starting CB. Alexander was the heart and soul of the Buccaneers defense. Verrett has had a history of injuries but when healthy, he was an All-Pro. The Niners drafted a LB out of Arkansas, Dre Greenlaw, who is an absolute heat seeker. He has shown very well in training camp and in the pre-season games. Kentavious Street (DL), whom the Niners drafted in 2018 but didn’t play last year due to an ACL, looks healthy and proving that the Niners made a good investment in him last year.

The Niners also improved their WR position by drafting Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd this year. Both look strong and versatile. Samuel is fast, strong and can play any of the WR positions and also can be used on special teams as a Punt or Kick-off returner. Hurd was a big running back who punished defenders and converted to a WR in his final year of college. So, Shanahan can use him in any number of ways. He, along with Kittle will create nightmare miss-matches for the opposing defense.

Shanahan loves players who are versatile as they give him weapons that the opposing team has a difficult time matching up with. Another impact player that he added to the team is Tevin Coleman at RB. Coleman played for Shanahan at Atlanta and had career numbers when Shanahan ran their Offense. He is fast, runs over defenders, and has soft hands so is a receiving weapon out of the backfield.

And, most importantly, Jimmy Garoppolo is back at QB after recovering from an ACL. He looked rusty in his first pre-season outing but looked like the old Jimmy G that we know in his last outing vs the KC Chiefs.

Below is the Niner depth chart as of August 20.  There are a few oddities about the chart and I’ll comment on my take on who may or may not make the team.

QB’s: Shanahan stated that he will keep 3 QB’s but his statement came after the shocking Andrew Luck retirement announcement. The Colts will be in the market for a QB so by keeping all three, the Niners have some trading leverage instead of releasing one and the Colts picking up that player for free. My belief is that they will start the season with two with the backup being Nick Mullens.

RB’s: It is odd that Jerrick McKinnon isn’t even listed so his return from last year’s ACL has not progressed well enough. The Niners made a very wise decision to bring in Tevin Coleman. Additionally, Jeff Wilson has looked remarkably strong as he added 15 pounds of muscle. Along with Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, the Niners have the fastest set of RB’s in the league.

WR’s: Trent Taylor may start the year on IR but he will join the team when he gets healthy. Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are locks but the other choices are very interesting. Kendrick Bourne can make spectacular catches but drop the easy ones. Many are saying that Marquise Goodwin is a lock but one can’t overlook Richie James making the team as he is more versatile than Goodwin in that he can return punts and kick-offs. Shanahan is giving Dante Pettis plenty of tough love as Pettis is not playing to his potential. He was a high second round draft pick last year and the Niners gave up a third round pick to move up to draft him so it will be highly unlikely that Shanahan will give up on him. But, Pettis is playing like he is a bubble player.

TE’s: George Kittle will have a monster year with Garoppolo throwing to him and Shanahan calling plays. Look for Ross Dwelley and Kaden Smith to make the team. They are have solid camps.

OL: With the loss of Shon Coleman for the entire 2019 season due to a badly fractured ankle, the Niners depth at Offense Tackle got significantly weaker. Daniel Brunskill, Sam Young and Justin Skule will have to step up and prove themselves to be worthy backups to Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. The guy on the bubble is Joshua Garnett, a former first round pick. Garnett has been injury prone and is one of those players that Shanahan was referring to when he made the comment that he may select a player who he trusts can be on the field more than others who have a history of injuries.

DL’s: Lynch said that he is fielding calls from other teams about his D-line personnel. My take is that Lynch should do whatever he can to deal Arik Armstead and/or Soloman Thomas. Armstead has never lived up to his first round pick potential. Although Soloman Thomas has been living a very difficult life since his sister committed suicide, the fact is that he has also played like a bubble player.

LB’s: I like this group very much. Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander may bring back memories of Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. The others that are playing really well are Dre Greenlaw, David Mayo and Azeez Al-Shaair. It may be time to move on from Malcolm Smith who also has a long history with injuries.

CB’s and NB’s: Richard Sherman is another year removed from his achilles injury and says he feels stronger than ever. At the other CB position, Ahkello Witherspoon, is a much improved player from last year. However, if Jason Verrett is healthy, look to see him as the other starting CB. At Nickel Back, K’Wuan Willimans will be the starter. There will be a battle for the backup with D.J. Reed and Emmanuel Moseley.

SS’s and FS’s: Jaquiski Tartt will start at SS and Jimmy Ward, who isn’t even listed below, will start at FS. Ward is returning from a broken collar bone. He is another good player with a history of injuries but he is a lock to make the team as he is versatile enough to play CB and NB as well as FS. Look to Tarvarious Moore and Marcell Harris to also make the team.

I am predicting that at the end of the year, the Niners will be in the Top 10 on both Offense and Defense. That is a loud cry from where they ended up the last three years.

2019 GS Warriors – The Human Side of Our Beloved Sports Stars

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With 8 seconds left in Game 5 and the Warriors clinging to a 106-105 lead, Kawhi Leonard held the ball with the intent to score the winning basket and give Toronto its first NBA title in their history. Kawhi was guarded closely by Klay Thompson but when he made a move to the right, Andre Iguadala rushed up to double team Kawhi leaving him no option but to give up the ball. With time running out, Kyle Lowry had an open 3 point shot from the corner. But, Draymond Green ran hard at him with the proper angle and tipped the ball away. Game over, the Warriors stayed alive, and Game 6 will be played at Oracle in Oakland.

As an avid Warrior fan, I thought I would be jumping up and down when Klay drained those two 3’s and Steph also knocked down a 3 and the Warriors outscored the Raptors 9-2 in the final 3 minutes of the game. And I thought I would go wild when Draymond blocked Lowry’s shot at the buzzer. But, I just watched this thrilling ending with a strange calmness as my mind was on Kevin Durant and what he was going through after his leg injury. At the time, I didn’t know the severity of KD’s injury but I did know that we would not see him for the remainder of this 2019 Championship Final.

While watching the post-game interviews, my entire focus was on the status of KD. When Bob Myers broke down at the podium to announce that KD’s injury was to his Achilles, my heart sank. As Bob spoke of the greatness of KD as a player, as a great teammate, and as a wonderful “person” that he was lucky to know, I also broke down. It re-kindled what I always thought about sports celebrities… They are human and have the same emotional drives and feelings just like anyone else. We, as sports fans, focus only on what our sports stars do on the playing field and our idea of them is measured only on whether our teams win or lose. If they get hurt, we expect them to recover as quickly as possible and get back to playing so our teams have a better chance of putting up another W on the board.

I confess that I am as guilty as most other sports fans as I look to sports as a way to relax and get away from thinking about what’s going on in the real world. I wanted KD to come back as his greatness as a player gave the Warriors the best chance to win another title. When KD went down last night, the Raptor fans began cheering his injury which is perfectly understandable as the Warriors without KD gave the Raptors the best chance to win their first title. In the NBA, there is a brotherhood throughout the league. Kyle Lowry and Danny Green urged their crowd to show respect to KD. Only then did the fans began showing their respect.

Professional sports is a multi-billion dollar industry. Since the world revolves around money, our sports stars are under a lot of pressure to win as fans pay top dollars to watch them perform and TV advertisers overpay to get their products out in front of the fans watching their teams. Also, the sports media are paid to sensationalize every angle of every game with special attention given to championship games. As KD was recovering from his first injury in the Houston series, the headlines focused on:

  • If the Warriors win the title without KD, it’ll be his worst nightmare as he isn’t needed for the Warriors to win.
  • If the Warriors win, KD will leave… If they lose, he will stay…
  • KD will not return for this championship series as he doesn’t want to risk getting hurt which will affect his free agency and earn him top dollars in his next contract.
  • The Warriors are confused and pissed off that it is taking KD so long to recover from his initial injury.

Now that KD did suffer a devastating injury last night, the media coverage is all about:

  • The Warriors should never have allowed KD to come back.
  • KD’s injury will have a profound impact on the entire NBA in July when free agency begins. Teams like the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, Lakers and others have already made big moves to trade players and clear their team salaries to entice KD to join their team. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent and hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent for KD’s new contract.
  • Which team will still offer KD a max contract knowing that he will not be playing next year and also not knowing if he can fully recover.

There is no media coverage on how KD is feeling as a person. How he feels does not generate interest thus does not generate revenue.

During Bob Myers’ report on the status of KD, he made a point that KD is the most misunderstood person that he knows. The reason that Bob said that is due to the sensationalistic reporting by the media about KD. Many media reporters make up stories about KD which are totally untrue simply to stir up controversy. This is the reason that KD and many other sports stars hate the media. Not all media reporters are bad. They also have a job to do and the better ones do thorough investigating and report on facts. But, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the entire barrel and because sports stars are real people too, many are very reluctant to reveal too much when being interviewed. DeMarcus Cousins said it best when he was interviewed last night about KD’s injury and his critics:

“F— them, f— them,” Cousins said at Scotiabank Arena following the Warriors’ 106-105 win.

Cousins made it clear that he didn’t like the crowd’s initial reaction. 

“Trash,” Cousins told reporters. “So trash. But like I said, we’re idolized as superstar athletes, not human beings. It’s always about what we can do between those lines [on the court]. That’s it. That’s all that ever matters. 

“And then once we lash out and do human-type things, then we’re considered bad guys.”

None of us really know our star athletes on the teams that we cheer for. But, we can get a pretty good idea of what kind of person they are by what they do for our communities, how loved they are for giving to charities, and how loved and respected they are by their teammates and the organization. By these measures, it appears to me that most if not all athletes who play for the Warriors are good people who care for one another and also their community.

Whether the Warriors win or lose this year’s championship, they will always hold a spot in my heart knowing that this is a team that plays exciting ball because they are not only talented but they also care for one another and care about the community that they serve.

2019 GS Warriors – Houston, We have a Problem

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Houston’s biggest problem is the Golden State Warriors!!! Houston’s other problem is that their entire game is based on isolation (ISO) play. Both James Harden and Chris Paul dominate the ball and everyone else stands at the 3 point line. That method of play works perfectly fine during the regular season but when they face the Warriors who have perfected the art of total team play, they are simply over matched.

First order of business is to congratulate the Warriors who played the 4th quarter of Game 5 and all of Game 6 without one of their key All-Stars, Kevin Durant (KD), and this entire series without another All-Star, DeMarcus Cousins (Boogie). With their Core Four (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguadala) and their Strength in Numbers bench, they kept the team in the game in the first half (57-57) even though Steph was scoreless and had committed three fouls. What transpired in the second half of Game 6 was beautiful basketball at both ends of the court by the entire Warriors team. They out-scored the Rockets 36-26 in the 4th quarter crunch time even though the Rockets were playing for their Playoff lives. We saw the 2 time MVP and 3 time World Champion Steph Curry come alive and score an astounding 33 points in the second half with 23 in the critical 4th quarter. Klay scored 27 with 21 in the first half, Andre scored 17 with 5-8 from the 3 point line, and Draymond scored 8 but had 7 assists, 10 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block.

The Strength in Numbers bench:

Kevon Looney had 14 points with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 huge block with the game on the line.

Shaun Livingston had 11 points on 4-6 including 1 monster dunk.

Jordan Bell, who hadn’t seen the court in the Playoffs, had 4 points on 2 huge dunks and 2 rebounds in 10 minutes.

Jonas Jerebko had 2 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists in 12 minutes.

Quinn Cook had 2 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal in 15 huge minutes while Steph sat on the bench with 3 quick fouls in the 1st half.

The Strength in Numbers bench scored 33 points but more importantly played great at both ends of the court. In many ways, the bench was the MVP but in reality, the entire team including Steve Kerr was the MVP.

Steve Kerr is a genius when it comes to basketball (Hear that, Kyrie?). When KD went down, he knew he couldn’t rely solely on the Core Four to all play 40+ minutes so he went back to the basic principles that made the Warriors 3 time World Champions… Strength in Numbers team play!!! The so called expert analysts were saying that the Warriors simply can’t win without KD. Since KD joined the team, the Warriors have an astounding 35-4 record when KD doesn’t play. Simply put, this is the reason that they continue to be the Kings in the Game of Thrones.

I’m certainly not saying that the Warriors are better without KD. They are a much better team with him, period. With the promising news that KD’s calf strain is relatively minor, there is a good possibility that he’ll be able to play again within the next week or two. The same can be said about Boogie and Damien Jones. Damien has been out since the beginning of the year with a torn pectoral but is now cleared to play and practicing with the team in 3-on-3 drills. Boogie’s recovery from a torn quad has been amazingly swift and he may be available for the Western Conference Finals. This is especially good news as Denver’s Nikola Jokic has been a beast. But, Boogie has handled him superbly with his own big body. Portland’s big guy, Enes Kanter has also been playing well but Boogie has his number as well. This doesn’t bode well for either Denver or Portland.

Congratulations to the entire Warrior’s organization for keeping a great team together in a time where all other teams are shuffling their personnel and salary caps to try to de-throne them. The Rockets are openly obsessed with beating the Warriors and have made huge decisions in trying to reach their goal. Although they are a very good team, they have failed in their mission.

Follows are tweets by prominent NBA personnel congratulating the Warriors:

LeBron James: Never underestimate the heart of a Champion.

Magic Johnson: Steph Curry is not only one of the greatest shooters we’ve ever seen, he is one of the greatest clutch players the game has ever seen. 33 points in the second half to lead his Warriors over the Houston Rockets…Incredible! Golden State showed why they are one of the greatest and most entertaining teams of all time. The splash brothers were splendid and Draymond Green just showed the world again why he is one of the best all-around players in all of basketball.

Daryl Morey (GM of the Rockets): You come at the Kings, you best not miss. Congratulations.

Morey’s tweet pretty much sums up the Rocket’s futile chase of the Warriors…. “You best not miss”. The Rocket’s entire philosophy is to play ISO ball with two of the very best ISO players in the world, James Harden and Chris Paul. The other players simply camp out at the 3 point line. They best not miss!!! In their do-or-die Game 6, they chose to put the entire game plan on the shoulders of Harden and Paul. Both of these great players did have good games (Harden – 35 points and Paul – 27 points). But their other starters had only 34 points and their entire bench had only 17 points. It really boiled down to 2 Rockets playing against 11 Warriors. I’ll take Strength in Numbers any day of the week.

My opinion only, but I believe that the Rocket’s downfall began when they traded 8 players for Chris Paul, then a year later gave him a huge contract even though he is old and injury prone. The trade netted the Clippers Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and a 1st round pick which turned out to be a very good player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Rockets also gave an average player, Clint Capela a huge contract. Now, they are on the hook to pay a 34 year old Chris Paul $160,000, James Harden $153,000, and Clint Capela over $87,000. This leaves very little $$$ to attract star free agents to their team. They are stuck with the players they have who have proven that they can’t beat the Warriors. My belief only, but if they had kept Beverly, Williams, and Harrell, the Rockets would have been a much more dangerous team. Just as Steve Kerr is a genius coach, the Clippers special advisor, Jerry West, is also a genius who masterminded this monster trade and has put the Clippers in a position to challenge the Warriors going forward. They have great young players with a low overall salary so have the ammunition to attract the star free agents. Remember that West played a key role in putting the Warriors team together.

I’ll let Chris Paul’s and James Harden’s actions speak for themselves. Last year, they stated emphatically that they would have beaten the Warriors had Paul not gotten injured. They never mention that had Andre Iguadala not gotten injured, the Warriors would have beaten them in 5 games. This year, the Warriors beat them with both KD and Boogie injured. No injury excuses please… Injuries are part of the game and teams have to play with the next-man-up philosophy. Both, Harden and Paul have perfected the art of flopping and drawing fouls. Their tactics didn’t work in Game 6 as the Refs called the game as they saw it. Both Harden and Paul walked off the court immediately after the game without congratulating the Warriors… poor losers…. After the game, Harden stated that “They know exactly what they need to do to beat the Warriors”. How about playing team ball and making free throws to start with…. Later, we all found out that Steph Curry reserved the Toyota Center on Thursday night to get some practice in. Chris Paul found out about this, went to the Center and chased Steph off the court preventing him from practicing. Steph tried to compromise with Paul and asked if he can shoot on one end of the court while Paul practiced on the other. Paul would have none of that and chased Steph off the court. After the win, Steph was heard yelling “Chase me off the court again, boy!!!”. We now know a bit more about the character of both Harden and Paul. Now, they both have much more time to make more State Farm commercials… Or, just maybe, State Farm is looking for a new pair of stars for their commercials…

The state of the Warriors look as bright as ever while the state of the Rockets look as bleak as ever… Houston, we have a BIG problem!!!

2019 SF 49ers – Niners’ Monster Free Agency Catches

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At the end of the 2018 season, I wrote a blog asking, “Wouldn’t Dee Ford look good in a Niner Uni?” After their free agency signings and before the NFL draft, I am now asking, “Wouldn’t an NFC Western Division title look good on the Levi Stadium wall?”

My optimism for this “worst-to-first” scenario is attributed to the following:

  • Dee Ford in a Niner Uni has become a reality. The Niners now have a legitimate Edge Rusher. One will never know, but his bonehead play in the AFC Championship game where he lined up off-sides with the Chiefs in the lead with less than a minute left in the game may have played a part in the Chiefs agreeing to trade Ford for a 2020 2nd round pick.
  • Kwon Alexander, the heart and soul of the Buccaneer’s defense, became a Niner and is simply a heat seeking beast that the Niners haven’t had since Patrick Willis. Paired with Fred Warner, the Niners just may have the fastest LB’s in the league. He did tear his ACL last season after achieving All Pro status, but his rehab is reportedly going great. Additionally, the Niner medical team performed a thorough exam on Kwon to make sure that he’ll recover fully.
  • Tevin Coleman is another speedy Running Back who Shanahan knows well as he coached him at Atlanta during their Super Bowl year. Tevin has great hands which is a Shanahan requirement along with his tough and speedy running skills. The Niners now have four RB’s (Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman) who have all run the 40 in 4.1 seconds or faster.
  • Jordan Matthews is the big and strong Red Zone WR that the Niners haven’t had in recent memory. Wouldn’t it be great if he could be nearly as good as John Taylor? It turns out that Jordan is Jerry Rice’s cousin and has been a lifetime Niner fan. He is 6’ 3” and 215 lbs. and has caught most of his passes in the Red Zone, a glaring weakness in the Niner offense for years. Niner fans wanted Lynch and Shanahan to trade for either Antonio Brown or O’Dell Beckham. Rightfully so, they never showed interest in Brown due to his character, age and high salary demands. The Niners did come close to trading for Beckham but were unwilling to give up their #2 draft pick in this year’s draft. I am in total agreement with Lynch and Shanahan. The Niners still have many holes to fill and their 3-5 year plan is to get younger and build mostly from within. Additionally, they are not a team built to throw the ball deep on a regular basis. They are a run-first team with a passing game designed to create miss-matches with TE’s (George Kittle) and the speedy RB’s that I’ve already mentioned above.
  • Jason Verrett is a CB that Richard Sherman thinks highly of. He was a 1st round pick in 2014 but has had multiple injuries including to his shoulder, ACL and Achilles. In his only healthy year (2015), he earned All Pro status. He passed the Niners physical prior to signing and very well could be the starting CB opposite Sherman. Ahkello Witherspoon had a poor 2nd year and must come into this training camp with plenty to improve upon. Tarvarious Moore, on the other hand, came on strong at the end of last year and may be the Niners future at CB.

The Niners did look at available free agent safeties and pursued Earl Thomas. With his age, injury and salary, the Niners made the wise decision to stick with Jimmie Ward and play him at Free Safety. The Strong Safety position will be either Jaquiski Tartt or Marcell Harris who also came on strong at the end of last year.

Heading into this year’s NFL draft, the Niners have already made positive noise in Free Agency. This gives Lynch and Shanahan some options.

There are potentially 2 impact pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Tennessee). The Niners are drafting 2nd overall so will be guaranteed a shot at one of these two edge rushers. Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals may very well use their #1 pick on QB Kyler Murray. If they do, then the Niners in essence will have their #1 pick at their fingertips.

If they stay at #2 and if Arizona does pick Murray, they can pick either Nick Bosa, the consensus #1 Edge Rusher or Quinnen Williams, the consensus #1 defensive end in this year’s draft.

Since they already signed Dee Ford, another option is to trade down with potentially the Raiders (#4), the Buccaneers (#5), or the Jaguars (#7) to gain an additional draft pick in either round 1 or 2.

If they do trade down, a player that I like very much is Devin White, LB from LSU. He is another heat seeking LB. Or, they can possibly get Montez Sweat or Rashan Gary as their Edge Rusher. After all, there isn’t too much separating Bosa, Allen, Sweat and Gary. With their additional pick, they can draft a highly rated WR (N’Keal Harry, Kelvin Harmon, Deebo Samuel, Parris Campbell, Hakeem Butler, or Riley Ridley) and use their own #2 pick on a highly rated OL (Cody Ford, Garret Bradbury, Dalton Risner, Elgton Jenkins, Erik McCoy, or Kaleb McGary).

The first two rounds of this year’s draft seem to be filled with talent so whatever decisions Lynch and Shanahan make, I am firmly on board.

Worst to First is the Niner theme for 2019 !!!

2018 SF 49ers – Wouldn’t Dee Ford (KC Chiefs) Look Good in a Niner Uni in 2019 ?

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Dee Ford is an unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 and had a monster year in his contract year. He is the Edge Rusher that the Niners have been needing ever since Charles Haley left the Niners in 1991. Yes, it has been 27 long years since the Niners had an impact pass rusher.

How good was Ford’s 2018 season?

  • He had a league leading 11 QB pressures that directly resulted in turnovers. Putting it another way, the entire Niners defense totaled 7 turnovers and Dee had 11 by himself.
  • Ford’s strip sack of Andrew Luck in the 3rd quarter of yesterday’s playoff game took just 2.54 seconds, the fastest yet of this year’s playoff games.
  • When the Niners played the Chiefs this year, Ford had 7 QB pressures that resulted in 2 sacks and 5 hurries.
  • Dee finished the year with 13 sacks and 46 hurries along with his 11 forced turnovers.

That, my friends, is what is called a monster year in his contract year and he will be commanding a huge payday.

There is this thing called the “franchise tag” which the Chiefs will most likely use to prevent Ford from signing with any other team. So, although Dee Ford would look so good in a Niner uniform next year, the likelihood of this happening is slim to none.

There are other pass rushers who will become free agents this year:

  • Frank Clark (Seahawks)
  • Jadeveon Clowney (Texans)
  • Trey Flowers (Patriots)
  • DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys)

These players are all great options for the Niners as well. But, they are also “franchise tag” candidates along with Dee Ford. But, a lot can happen between now and the NFL draft so if any of these great edge rushers are not ‘tagged”, the Niners should pounce on the opportunity to get one of these players.

There are potentially 2 impact pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Tennessee). The Niners are drafting 2nd overall so will be guaranteed a shot at one of these two edge rushers. Again, a lot can happen between now and the NFL draft in late April. If the Niners are able to sign one of the five premium pass rushers mentioned above who have already proven themselves, Lynch/Shanahan may opt for the “best available” player in the NFL draft instead of focusing solely on Bosa/Allen.

This leads me to what I feel would be the dream scenario for the Niners in 2019.

  • Sign one the of five established edge rushers who will be free agents this year with Dee Ford at the top of my list.
  • Instead of drafting Nick Bosa or Josh Allen, draft Quinnen Williams (DT from Alabama). He may be the next Aaron Donald (LA Rams). With Williams, Buckner, Armstead, Thomas and one of the five edge rushing free agents, the Niners may just become one of the best defenses in the league. Teams won’t be able to double team any one of these players so the QB pressures will increase dramatically. The other added benefit is to the Niners defensive backfield. With QB pressures, their coverage time will be reduced and the chance for turnovers will increase.

Other free agents that the Niners should strongly consider are Earl Thomas (Safety from the Seahawks), Landon Collins (Safety from the Giants), Tyrann Mathieu (Safety from the Texans), C.J. Mosely (LB from the Ravens), Anthony Barr (LB from the Vikings), and Chris Conley (WR from the Chiefs).

After picking Quinnen Williams in the first round, their next priority is to pick the best available Corner Back in the second round.  The 2019 draft class is deep at the CB position:

  • Greedy Williams (LSU)
  • Deandre Baker (Georgia)
  • Byron Murphy (Washington)
  • Amani Oruwariye (Penn St)
  • Julian Love (Notre Dame)
  • Kris Boyd (Texas)
  • Trayvon Mullen (Clemson) (Defensive MVP in CFP Championship game)
  • Travon Diggs (Alabama)

As for Wide Receivers, every year, an impact WR emerges who was picked in the middle-to-late rounds in the draft. Lynch/Shanahan have to find that diamond in the rough. I do not recommend that the Niners trade for either Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham as the asking prices will be too high.

Although their record doesn’t show it, the team roster has improved dramatically since they took over. I expect that this trend will continue and the W’s will follow.