Welcome to the third weekly edition of the 49ers Tweet-Bag - the feature where you submit questions and we get you answers (or at least opinions that sound well-educated, for the most part). This week will not disappoint as we have new guests joining us once again.
If this is your first Tweet-Bag, let me give you the history lesson as well as the operator's manual:
Twitter is great because people can pose short, blunt questions about all things 49ers. However the 140 character limit can make effectively responding to those questions a challenge. Hence the 49ers Tweet-Bag was born.
I encourage anyone on Twitter to come up with questions, opinions, bold statements, whatever...and tag them with #49ersTweetBag so I can easily find them. Using "hashtags", that is, preceding something with the pound sign - or hash - catalogs tweets together by that hashtag. For instance you would send your tweet like this:
Can I borrow some of Tre9er's supercalifragilistic mojo? #49ersTweetBag
(To answer that question, well, simply put: No. No you may not.)
If you're not on Twitter, fear not...Get on Twitter! Just kidding...but seriously, Twitter is the best way to get breaking news before it hits TV, blogs, newspapers, etc. Yesterday we all found out that Shawne Merriman was claimed off waivers by Buffalo and that Randy Moss would head to Tennessee, and we found this out before a blog post, newspaper article, or TV show spread the word...all thanks to Twitter.
Ok, now that we're all up to speed on what the Tweet-Bag is and how to submit questions, let's get to know the participants in this week's piece. Join me after the jump for a quick bio on each of them, new guys first.
Matt Barrows, @MattBarrows on Twitter, has always been a good, fun read as the 49ers beat-writer for the Sacramento Bee. You can always identify him in press conferences by the glare coming off his bald dome, as well as his somewhat froggy voice. In all seriousness Matt is one of the premier 49ers writers and has some serious contacts for breaking news within the organization. He's witty and energetic which really comes through in his writing. You can find his blog HERE. Since he's new this week, feel free to haze him.
Bay Area Sports Guy, @BASportsGuy on Twitter, started his blog back in 2008 with a goal of providing Bay Area news to those fed-up with the East Coast bias of national media. His writing is from a Bay Area fan's perspective, in terms that a true Bay Area fan really understand. Yeah, there's a lot of "Bay Area"'s in there. You can find the blog HERE and do check it out. Incidentally, "Steve" is the only part of his name I know.
Samuel Lam, @SLam49ers on Twitter, has been a member of our very own beloved Niners Nation for over two years now. He is the only beat writer who is open about being a true fan of the 49ers (I say "open about" because we all know they have a soft-spot for the 9ers...the others just wont admit it). On top of being a fan and long-time member of NN though, Sam is also the 49ers blogger at Examiner.com. Unfortunately he is also one of those heartless Oakland A's fans I mentioned above though, so temper your expectations accordingly. You can find Sam's blog HERE.
Eric Branch, @Eric_Branch on Twitter, is the newest beat-writer on the scene. He replaced Phil Barber as the 49ers reporter for the Press Democrat (blog HERE) not long after Barber took over the reins from Maiocco. Obviously those are big shoes to fill but Eric has done a fine job (especially now that he has a smart-phone and can tweet info earlier than "hours later than the other guys"!). Please don't confuse Eric with a Florida death-row inmate of the same name! In all seriousness Eric is a witty writer and we're glad to have him on board with the Tweet-Bag.
James Brady, @Ninnyjams on Twitter, is someone we all know and love (no, not like that) here on NN. James works tirelessly on features such as the Golden Nuggets - a feature that gives more info regarding the past 24 hours in 49ers news, notes, and discussion than any I've found...anywhere. James also is good for numerous posts on both NinersNation.com and the parent site SBNBayArea.com as well. He probably writes more than anyone currently covering the Bay Area sports scene. He also has a fascination with British people.
A feature I've included this week is to show the participant's Twitter profile picture next to their responses. If you click on the writer's picture you will also be taken to their blog. To the right of their picture you'll notice their Twitter handle. Clicking on this will take you to their Twitter home page where you can then follow them. On to the questions!
@manraj76: Is it possible that Goldson gets benched in favor of Smith? [Poor tackling has been an especially big problem for DG]
@MattBarrows: It’s certainly possible – the staff likes Smith – but I don’t see it happening. Goldson handles the defensive play calls, and I can’t imagine the coaching staff would want two first-time starters, Smith and Taylor Mays, being the last line of defense. Still, you’re right – the tackling in the last game was pretty terrible.
@BASportsGuy: I'm actually surprised it hasn't happened already. Reggie Smith was perhaps the best 49er on either side of the ball during the preseason and has looked pretty good in limited action this season. With Goldson pretty much invisible in his contract year, why not see if Smith would be an improvement? Perhaps the only reason why it hasn't happened is because the 49ers are wary of another Michael Lewis-type scenario playing out, or are hoping that Goldson's breakout 2009 wasn't a fluke. However, I think during the bye week there are going to be a lot of evaluations of this team's current structure, followed by some changes. They're committed to Taylor Mays, and one of the team's biggest failings is all the breakdowns in coverage -- the Niners just made Brandon Lloyd look like Jerry Rice, which was pretty humiliating. I wouldn't be surprised to see Smith start against the Rams on Nov. 14, or replace Goldson in the second half if Sam Bradford goes off in the first.
@SLam49ers: I don't think so. Goldson still has a lot of potential and I believe that the 49ers still want him to get as many opportunities as possible. Goldson finished the season last year with a strong second half and the team right now is hoping that they can see that kind of performance again. Replacing him with Smith would be a move that would surprise me. The 49ers still have to figure out if they want to keep Goldson for next season, as he becomes a free agent, and quitting on him would mean that they don't want to keep him. That's not a message the team wants to send in the midst of their struggling season.
@Eric_Branch: In a word, no. I don’t see Goldson’s starting spot being in jeopardy, but as your question suggests he has been unusually quiet in his contract year. After last year’s breakout season he’s on pace for 94 tackles (114 in ’09) and doesn’t have an interception (4 in ’09), a forced fumble (3) or a sack (2). He wasn’t the only Niner to miss a tackle on Demaryius Thomas’ 31-yard catch-and-run against Denver, but his head-down whiff was certainly the ugliest missed tackle of the bunch. With all that said, Goldson, 26, is still relatively young (26 career starts) and is playing a position that takes several seasons to master. He’s shown flashes this season – he sprinted to the line and decked DeAngelo Williams two weeks ago seemingly just as the ball was snapped. It was an eye-opening play that showcased his skills. The Niners, obviously, hope to see such plays on a more consistent basis in the season’s final eight games.
Tre9er: To be honest with you I'm not sure what's the answer. I checked today and Goldson is tied for third on the team in tackles in 2010. Personally I think he'd be 2nd outright if he hadn't missed so many tackles with the missile technique (no armed launch at ball carrier) but that has ruffled some feathers this week so I'll rest it. Goldson's coverage is what concerns me though as I said, I think part of it is a product of scheme and, in-turn, lack of pass rush. Still it's hard to ignore the stagnant stat-line thus far for "The Hawk". I know Reggie was a CB in college and other than a lapse in coverage in the preseason he was looking pretty good coming in to 2010. I think the coaching staff will give Dashon the benefit of the doubt for a few games after the bye, but after that if the performance isn't great they have to determine what 2011 holds in Smith because we all know that Goldson is a free agent after this season and is rumored to want top-safety money...something his play hasn't warranted.
@Ninjames: I don't think it's likely to happen, but I'm thinking more and more that it should. A lot of Goldson's mistakes are with tackling, and mistakes involving coverage are mistakes in which blame can certainly be shared with the rest of the secondary. He's not totally to blame for every play that seems like it might be his fault, but he's part of the problem on defense. Last year, he was part of the solution. Is Reggie Smith any better, though? Reggie Smith doesn't provide much big-play potential, but he does seem to provide consistency in the coverage department. The staff likes Smith a lot, and they do have a good preseason to look to and build on.
@yougomango: What do you think it would take for T Smith to be named starting QB for the rest of the season & how soon could that happen?
@MattBarrows: If Singletary is smart, he’ll keep his options open for as long as possible. He doesn’t want to alienate Alex Smith, who will be needed if Troy Smith bombs – always a possibility – or if he gets hurt. That is, if I were Singletary, I’d be super vague about Smith’s recovery at least until the Rams game. If Troy Smith is great in that game, then the choice is obvious. If he stinks, then the choice is obvious.
@BASportsGuy: You mean besides lead the team prayer? (Kidding!) Against Denver, Troy Smith did two things Mike Singletary is looking for from his QB: avoid turnovers and win the game. Time is running out for Singletary, and the fans have booed this team more than I've ever heard before. If Troy leads the 49ers to a win over St. Louis at The Stick and leaves the field to a loud ovation, he'll probably be named the starter in the next day's press conference.
@Eric_Branch: Based on Mike Singletary’s comments during his Tuesday press conference, it appears Troy Smith will be given the opportunity to start the season’s final nine games. Singletary postgame instructions to Troy Smith to not be a “one-game guy” certainly suggest he will be given the start against the Rams on Nov. 14. Singletary also criticized the lack of offensive leadership during a production meeting with CBS announcers Dan Dierdorf and Greg Gumbel – a thinly veiled criticism of Smith – and didn’t back away from those comments Tuesday. While indirectly knocking Smith’s leadership skills, he’s praised Troy Smith’s leadership ability since naming him the starter last week in London.
Here’s a blog on the topic: http://blog.pressdemocrat.com/49ers/2010/11/leadership-and-the-smiths.html
@SLam49ers: It's a hard question to answer because of the expectations of Alex Smith this year. The entire offseason was used to help prepare him. If he gets outplayed by Troy Smith and loses the starting job, then it essentially means that the Alex Smith experiment was a failure -- something the 49ers don't want to admit. For Troy Smith to be the full-time starter, he has to play a whole lot better than he did in London. Even though they face a Rams team that has improved, Troy Smith has to be a big leader on offense to get the 49ers the win. Troy Smith has to have a very convincing performance that tells the coaches that he is a better option than a healthy Alex Smith. That's the only situation in which I see Alex Smith not returning as the starter when cleared to play.
@Tre9er: I think that Troy Smith will need to play another game or two without un-timely turnovers or failure to convert make-able key plays. Basically what I mean is he needs to either not be a big part of the reason the 49ers lose, or be a big part of the reason they win. If he does that convincingly for another few games...there's no reason not to put him on "start until you bomb a few games in a row" notice, as is where just about every NFL QB stands.
@Ninjames: I think it would take a good performance versus the Rams and essentially nothing more. If there's something definitive there, he's the starting quarterback. If he's not, well, Alex experiences a miracle recovery and is the starter again, which of course, he never "stopped being." Best to just label him as starting due to Alex's injury and see how things go after the Rams game.
@KieranChristian: What changes can be made in the 49ers secondary to improve the pass defense? Do we have the talent to do so?
@MattBarrows: As noted above, the 49ers have a safety on the bench, Reggie Smith, who is good in coverage. (Preseason blunder notwithstanding). It’s true that Goldson has been a poor tackler of late, but it’s been Taylor Mays who has given up the big pass plays against Carolina and against the Broncos. What had to be a little alarming to coaches is that Mays hasn’t shown any ball skills when the pass is in the air, which was one of the critiques coming out of college. Also notable: Mays had trouble catching up with Brandon Lloyd – hardly a burner – on that long pass play at Wembley.
@BASportsGuy: Right now the 49ers have two safeties who can hit, but neither Mays nor Goldson or really dominating in coverage. I actually hoped before the season that the 49ers would convert Nate Clements to a safety, but obviously that didn't happen ... though Clements has had a much better year in 2010 than last season. Perhaps replacing Goldson with Smith might help, as mentioned earlier. The pass rush is a problem for the same reason that the coverage has looked bad at times: inconsistency. Some flashes of brilliance, but in important situations everything looks disjointed out there, and I think it's more of a problem with coaching than anything else. Like the offense, I have the feeling that if the coaching staff knew what to do with the talent that exists they'd go much further. Also -- like on offense -- Singletary's dated, run-centric idea of what football is and should be is harming this team. The NFL is a passing league, but the 49ers' defense is geared to keep opposing runners' yards-per-carry down more than anything else. So yes, I think the talent's there to improve the pass defense, but I don't have confidence that a Singletary-led coaching staff can harness it.
@Eric_Branch: The secondary has not been good. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 65.5 percent of their passes (26th in NFL) and have a 90.2 passer rating (25th). In addition, the back end has come up short at the end of close losses to New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina. So, what to do? It doesn’t appear lineup shuffling will solve the problem. The best players, for better or worse, are on the field. And there will continue to be growing pains with Taylor Mays, who had a rough day against Denver, most notably on Brandon Lloyd’s 71-yard catch. The Niners have done an OK job of pressuring the quarterback – they rank 12th in the NFL with 17 sacks – but that pressure hasn’t been consistent. Against Denver, for example, they knocked Kyle Orton around, but there were plenty of occasions when he had time to throw, resulting in 369 passing yards. Greg Manusky has come up with creative schemes against some elite quarterbacks – plans that helped stifle Petyon Manning and Kurt Warner last year and limited Drew Brees this season. More creative game-planning might be necessary to help a secondary that’s allowed 677 passing yards the past two weeks.
@SLam49ers: Aside from Taylor Mays, the 49ers are playing with the exact same starting defensive group as they had last year. Last year's team played pretty well for the most part so in that sense, we know the team is talented enough to do so. I'm not sure if any serious changes need to be made to improve. LB Manny Lawson played well in London and he could be the key in getting the pass rush back to where it should be.
The big plays have hurt the 49ers and that comes on the heels of the secondary biting on pump fakes and double moves. The team has given up the fifth most amount of 20+ yard pass plays this year (as noted in my midseason report card). It could just be that the defense has yet to play to their best level so far and obviously with the season as it is right now, there is very little room for error.
@Tre9er: I realize this seems like a repeat of an earlier question, or at least closely related. However I think this is two-fold. First of all the 49ers are not proving to be able to get consistent pressure on the opposing QB, which is a huge contributor to the secondary's performance or lack thereof. Secondly, I think that safety play has been sub-par all year - spanning back to Michael Lewis, thru now with Goldson and Mays. The safeties that you would expect to be back deep preventing anything from going for a big play...well they more often than not are trailing those big plays, getting beat. Chalk it up to inexperience for Mays and, well...next question.
@Ninjames: Do we have the talent to do so? That's a hard question to answer. We're not doing it so, and I believe "talent," is an all-encompassing phrase that essentially includes everything about a player's ability to play. If the secondary is not playing well, there are problems all around, with talent and all. But this is essentially the same unit from a year ago, and I'll tell you right now, the change from Michael Lewis to Taylor Mays is not going to randomly create a lapse in coverage ability. Adding Reggie Smith into the mix could improve things dramatically, I'd say.
@49erLou52: Should the Niners go after Randy Moss? Who would the team drop to make room for him? [perhaps to keep him from the Rams/another NFCW team?]
@MattBarrows: That’s an expensive game of keep away and one that risks alienating the 49ers locker room. … I keep going back and forth on Moss. I think – and have thought for a while – that the team needs truly dynamic and fleet playmakers to make their stodgy offense run correctly. However, Moss is a risky acquisition, a guy with the potential to light up a defense but also blow up a locker room. The one feeling that seemed to pervade the locker room on Tuesday: optimism. The 49ers feel very good about their roster despite their 2-6 start. My sense is that they feel they can run the table with the crew they already have.
@BASportsGuy: There's no way the 49ers would shell out over $3 million for a half-season of Moss, so it's a moot point. If the 49ers thought they were one receiver away, they would have been in the running for Vincent Jackson. But in regards to the Singletary angle, Randy Moss and Vernon Davis are nowhere close to the same guy. VD's problem was he was his passion/emotion would get the best of him and he'd lose his mind on the field, collect stupid penalties, take his eyes off passes, etc. Moss is only interested in getting paid and staying healthy. If Moss couldn't keep his mouth shut in New England during a contract year where all he had to do was catch passes thrown by Tom Brady, there's no way he's going to listen to a coach who's 2-6 on a squad with no QB on the roster who's ever led a team to a winning season. After the first overthrown deep ball by one of the Smith quarterbacks, Moss would surely start complaining about more than just the food the 49ers serve after practice.
@Eric_Branch: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think 21 other teams will pass on Moss and Tennessee will claim him. OK, obviously this question got a bit moldy, but it’s clear the Niners felt the price tag and distraction wasn’t worth the benefit. And they weren’t alone.
@SLam49ers: I don't think the 49ers will go for Moss. His presence will hurt the development of Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan. Plus with an offense that has yet to prove itself with a dangerous aerial assault, how much of an impact can Moss have? The 49ers aren't the type of team to try to make such a big splash of a hit in my opinion. As much as it would be great to take away an opportunity for the Rams, it could be a bad move for the locker room and a potential headache the team doesn't need to deal with.
@Tre9er: I realize by the time this posts, the move will have already been made. My stance going in was that sure, Randy Moss would help the 49ers offense in that having a legitimate playmaker on the outside opposite Crabtree would draw attention away from Vernon Davis, the running game, and Crabtree himself. Still, is it worth the risk of locker-room undermining? I suppose the rest of the question is what are the current 49ers coaching staff trying to accomplish at this point? A last-ditch effort to put all the chips in the pot and make a run towards a .500 season? Or are they more focused on the future (which some might say is foolish, that Singletary is surely doomed anyways) and thus wouldn't consider such a risk? I tend to think that as naive as it may sound, they would fall into the latter category.
@Ninjames: Well, we know how that went at this point, but the question is still apt. "Should the 49ers have gone after Randy Moss?" No, there's no way on any plane of existence that Randy Moss would have made sense. The only thing he had going for him was that he would have had a bye week coming in here to acclimate himself with things. That's just one week of not getting him the ball that he could theoretically cry about and bring down the team. No thank you.
@one49ers: Realistically, can the 49ers overcome the 6 losses and make the playoffs? Can they actually win the next 8 games?
@MattBarrows: Let’s put it this way. Everyone’s been talking about the San Francisco ’s Giants’ amazing second-half turn around that propelled them to a World Series title. Their record at the halfway point: 41-40 – about even. … And yet, I still can’t see any other team running away with the division. The Seahawks are Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, and they just put two more starters on IR. Of the 49ers eight games, five are against division opponents. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that like last season, they go 5-1 in the division with one loss at Seattle . That means they’d probably have to win two of three games against Tampa Bay , Green Bay and San Diego . Gee, I just don’t see it happening. But if it does happen, it will be a finish that tops the Giants’ (regular-season, anyway).
@BASportsGuy: The remaining schedule's as easy as they come, but to realistically expect a team that lost to the Carolina Panthers less than two weeks ago to go 7-1 or 8-0 to end the season is ridiculous. The 49ers don't have an advantage when it comes to either passing offense or defense, so they really don't have a substantial edge over any team. Add that to the fact that the Niners play horribly on the road and they face four teams with winning records at home (St. Louis, Arizona, San Diego and Green Bay), and I see them winning no more than five of their last eight games to finish 7-9. (The same record I predicted here .
@Eric_Branch: Realistically, yes. Kind of. Maybe. They are only two-and-a-half games behind first-place Seattle in the NFC West and have a home game remaining against the Seahawks, one of three teams they will play with a winning record in the final half of the season. Not insurmountable. But let’s assume Seattle (4-3), St. Louis (4-4) or Arizona (3-4) finish 8-8. Can the Niners finish the season 6-2? To me, that’s unlikely. There’s a reason they are 2-6 -- and it’s not simply bad luck.
@SLam49ers: They can, but I'm not sure if they will. With the talent on board, they can do it but I still haven't seen anything that tells me they are capable of doing so. A 6-2 finish is probably the best they can do with the team they have. Obviously, a playoff berth is still very possible with the weak division and five more division games left on the schedule. The division title is possible but the 2-6 hole is too much for this team to overcome in my opinion.
@Tre9er: A part of me foresees the 49ers getting it together and going on a Cinderella-like run throughout the second half of the season, putting together a 7-1 record to finish just above .500 and surprising everyone. Then I wake up, slap myself around and realize hey...that's possible. Yes, I said it...it's possible. Do I think it WILL happen? I wont speak in absolutes this far out. I think Troy Smith and Mike Johnson are the keys though. Sure the defense has let us down here and there but I think that the offense could really start clicking and put up enough points to take pressure off the defense, let them take some chances, and rather than rely on the defense to keep us IN games...they might just take OVER games. Yeah, can you tell I'm a 9ers fan? Good.
@Ninjames: They've got five divisional games coming up. Providing they pull what they pulled last year and bring in a 5-1 divisional record, they've got Tampa Bay, San Diego and Green Bay on the docket. Two of those three teams have been a little streaky this season, and they're winnable games if the 49ers can build up some amount of steam. I don't know how to approach this all-that realistically. I'm going to say no, it's not realistic to think that they can, but the NFC West is so ... inconsistent this year, anything is possible.
Thanks so much to Matt Barrows, Bay Area Sports Guy, Eric Branch, and Samuel Lam for participating in the Tweet-Bag alongside James and I this week. Please be sure to check out each of their blogs as well as follow them on Twitter. Again, clicking on their picture in the upper left-hand corner of any one of their responses will take you to their blog. Clicking their Twitter handle in a response will take you to their twitter page where you can follow them.
Footnote: Fooch wanted me to let you all know he fully intends to participate in the Tweet-Bag in the future, after he re-acclimates himself following his return from London. Personally, I don't believe him. So I'd email him incessantly if I were you.