Team Notes 11/03/2000
There have been many changes to the 49ers team since the start of the season, and it not just a matter of improved play. The 49ers have been forced into an awkward situation of having to play backups of backups and have had to fight to put a squad together week to week. Luckily, this week should mark the return of some of the more regular players, thus easing the pressure on everyone playing. The rash of injuries is uncharacteristic for such a young team, but these injuries are unavoidable and not characteristic of older teams. The most amazing part is that with such a banged up team, the 49ers have been competitive in just about every game they played.
Former 49ers running back Roger Craig was recently nominated to the Hall Of Fame. This happens to be the best news for former 49ers in three weeks, after Leo 'The Lion' Nomelini passed own and John Brodie suffered from a stroke. Craig was the first player to gain one thousand yards in the receiving and running in the same season. He effectively altered the game, as it was known forcing teams to focus on stopping a whole offense rather than eliminating either the pass or the run. Providing Craig is inducted to the Hall Of Fame, he will be the fourth 49ers' player in two years.
Garison Hearst returned to practice for the first time this week. The 49ers have three weeks to decide if Hearst will be added to the active roster. In the mean time, the 49ers are going to evaluate the situation closely. They are not intending on working him back to quickly, and are more hopeful now than ever that he will return to field. The 49ers will have a big decision to make for next season, the team will most likely be unable to keep both Hearst and Garner under contract.
Jerry Rice and JJ Stokes are not fully satisfied with their roles this season. Rice would like to be a little less of a possession receiver, while still holding the secondary role, where as Stokes is just looking to get on the field. Stokes was quoted saying he wanted to make a difference, his heart is there, and it's too bad more 49ers can't think like him. The 49ers will have a tough time getting everyone who wants the ball enough play time, but should look to open up the offense more.
The 49ers are playing terribly on third and fourth down. The lack of success is largely due to dump off passes way short of the first down marker. Garcia needs to look to make the first down, rather than the completion. A more open offense could benefit him in this area.
The tight end position has evolved drastically on the 49ers team since the departure of Steve Young. Greg Clark's role has been reduced to primarily blocking. While Clark's blocking ability is valued, the team has always been known to find the tight end for several completions. Clark's role in the offense should be expanded particularly on third down.
The 49ers offensive line has been a decline lately. The line that normally seems to come together as the season progresses seems to be drifting in the opposite direction this season. Garcia needs more time to find receivers, and make plays, the line must find a way to give it to him.
Fullback Fred Beasley came out very strong at the beginning of the season, but as the 49ers have been evolving this season, Beasley has all but disappeared from the offense. The 49ers should be looking to Beasley in short yardage situations.
Rookie defensive back Jason Webster has been playing quite well since cracking the starting line up. Webster and fellow rookie Ahmed Plummer look promising but would benefit greatly from a pass rush. Rookie John Engelberger has been the 49ers largest pass rushing threat, while all-pro Bryant Young has been playing with injured ribs and recorded a measly one sac.
The 49ers have a long way to go the rest of the season, but they should continue to grow. The team is young and bound to make mistakes, but penalties have been a killer to this team. The 49ers must cut down on penalties before they make any real advancement in the win/loss columns.