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San Franciso 49ers

2009 NFL All-Bay Area Team (Defense and Special Teams)

by vrabbit on Feb.11, 2010, under Football, NFL, Oakland Raiders, San Franciso 49ers

DE – Richard Seymour (OAK): the anti-Moss (definition: that who can deliver the same type of outstanding production on the field regardless of what jersey he’s wearing, or what the scoreboard looks like). Seymour had yet another consistent season, not as good as the season he had in 2008, but right along the kind of production he’s been having for the last few years. It’s worth remembering he was obtained in exchange for a first round pick in next year’s draft, so it’ll be interesting to see if Al Davis and company (Ok, just Al) will be aggressive in resigning him or will simply let him go away.

DT – Aubrajo Franklin (SF): file this one under “did he play that way because of a breakthrough, or because he was in a contract year?” But I will stand somewhere in-between. While there’s no doubt in my mind lots of players in all major sports play with extra incentives in the final year of their contracts, what I saw out of Franklin each week was more than just dollar signs in his eyes. I saw a player that was used correctly by his coaches and was placed in positions where he could succeed, and the result was a career year. Stats mean little for nose tackles in a 3-4 defense, it was his constant closing of the gaps on running of plays and his relentless push on passing plays that made him worth noticing. Should the 49ers resign him? Hm, does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R?

DE – Justin Smith (SF): whenever you want to teach a young football player the meaning of “playing until the whistle blows” you might wanna pull out the Justin Smith highlight reel. Much like the previous two players in the defensive line, it’s not the stats that say what a valuable player he is, it’s his performance on each and every play. Not only does he go full-motor every time the ball is snapped, but in a position where for the most part players rotate in and out of the game, Smith plays the vast majority of the snaps, rarely going to the sidelines when the 49ers defense is on the field. Oh, he also sneaked into the Pro Bowl as a 1st alternate this year after Kevin Williams (Vikings) had to step down with an injury.

OLB – Manny Lawson (SF): the injury-prone former 1st round pick from North Carolina State was  able to stay healthy for all 16 games for the first time since his rookie year, resulting in his best season yet. Already an excellent player in coverage, the 49ers coaching staff was determined to get him involved in the team’s pass-rush plans. Although he’s yet to put up the type of numbers most fans are expecting from him, he was able to lead the team in sacks in ‘09 with 6.5 and had career highs in tackles for a season (68), forced fumbles (3), and tackles in a game (11, week 3 at Minnesota).

MLB – Kirk Morrison (OAK): say what you want about the Raiders defense being on the field for what seems to be two-thirds of the game, Morrison is a tackling machine. He ended the season tied for seventh in the NFL in total tackles (133) and was third in solo tackles (109) only five behind the leader. In his five-year career he is averaging 126.4 tackles per season while having played in all 80 games (79 starts). In 2009 he recorded career highs in forced fumbles (3) sacks (2.0), total tackles in a game (16, week 5 at New York Giants) and solo tackles in a game (13, twice – week 2 vs Kansas City and week 5 at New York Giants).

MLB – Patrick Willis (SF) : arguably the best Middle Linebacker in the game, Willis produced his third straight Pro-Bowl season in his third year in the league. He had double digit tackles in eight games this season. His 2.5 sacks vs the Rams on week 3 set a career high in a game, and help him tie his career high for sacks in a season with 4.0. He also set career highs in forced fumbles (3) and interceptions (4), while leading the league in total tackles (152) and solo tackles (114). He is also the unquestionable leader of a very good 49ers defensive unit that has the makings to be a top-10 (dare I say top-5) defense next season.

OLB – Ahmad Brooks (SF): I have to be honest, no other Outside Linebacker in the Bay was really impressive this season, so I had to resort to giving a shout-out to Mr. Brooks. He went undrafted in 2006  out of Virginia after having several off-field issues and was selected in the supplemental draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played sparingly his first season. His second season ended during his second game due to injury, and he was released after that season. The 49ers signed him in the summer of 2008 but he didn’t play at all that season, even briefly being waived when the team needed room for a backup wide receiver. He didn’t see much action in the first half of last season as Mike Singletary waited patiently for the moment when he thought Brooks would be ready to consistently play again at the NFL level. He had a strong second half of the season, finishing with 6.0 sacks and five forced fumbles, and figures to be an integral part of the 49ers pass-rush next season.

CB – Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK): his stats in ‘09 were so bad, every defensive lineman listed in this entry had better stats than him. Yet he is still the best cornerback in the Bay, so good in fact, quarterbacks don’t throw it his way. The seven-year veteran was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career.

CB – Shawntae Spencer (SF): He wasn’t even mentioned that much during last offseason, a far thought from Nate Clements and the competition going on for the #2 CB job between Tarell Brown and Dre’ Bly. He now stands as arguably the best Cornerback in the 49ers roster. He was announced as the winner of the #2 CB job before the season over Brown and Bly to the surprise of many, but the news weren’t too much of a shock considering his production during his first few seasons in the NFL. He finished the season with the most tackles by a 49er CB (53) and two interceptions, while also doing a good job in run support. His vast knowledge of former college teammate Larry Fitzgerald makes him a great asset in divisional games vs the Arizona Cardinals, and if Clements is able to go back to his old ways the 49ers might just have a nice one-two punch to match up against opposing starting wideouts.

FS – Dashon Goldson (SF): The former 4th-round pick was finally able to crack the starting lineup in his third season out of Washington, and he all but assured himself a spot as the 49ers starting Free Safety of the future. Known for being a takeaway machine in practice, Goldson carried that onto the field leading the team with seven takeaways: four interceptions (team-leading) and three forced fumbles, to go with his 94 tackles and 2.0 sacks. He has a tendency to go for the big hit as opposed to making a play on the ball which kept his numbers from being even better, but regardless he’s a nice commodity for the 49ers defense next season.

SS – Tyvon Branch (OAK): The second-year player out of Connecticut may soon be a name well known around the NFL. He had an impressive 124 tackles this past season to go with two forced fumbles and 1.0 sack while being a strong presence in the backfield vs opposing running games. Raiders fans would like to see more interceptions out of him instead of such high number of tackles, so it’ll be interesting to see his progress going into his third season.

K – Sebastion Janikowski (OAK): The 10-year veteran arguably had his best season thus far, converting a career-high 89.7 % of his field goals (26 of 29) while hitting a career-long 61-yard FG at Cleveland on week 15. His six field goals made of 50 or more yards also tied a career high initially set in  2007. He made all 17 of his extra point attempts.

P – Shane Lechler: led the league in gross punting yards (4909), gross punting average (51.1), and net punting average (43.9) to go with 12 touchbacks. The 7.3 average return yards on his punts was 7th best in the NFL, and with the help of his coverage he landed 30 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (tied for 5th best in the league with the other Bay Area punter, the 49ers Andy Lee).

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2009 NFL All-Bay Area Team (Offense)

by vrabbit on Jan.15, 2010, under Football, NFL, Oakland Raiders, San Franciso 49ers

QB – Alex Smith (SF): I wouldn’t really brag about this honor if I was Alex. Picking the 49ers starting QB was almost a no-brainer considering his competition:

Shaun Hill: was benched after 5 games (3-2) as the 49ers offensive struggles became more apparent as the weeks passed.

Jamarcus Russell: if some people consider Smith a bust, what does that mean for Russell?

Charlie Frye: Pro – he was an upgrade over Russell. Con – that doesn’t really say much.

Bruce Gradkowski: Surprised many around the NFL with his fiery play for the Raiders. His mobility was a perfect match for Oakland’s struggling line, and his decision making was on point for the most part. These two aspects alone separated him from Jamarcus and gave the Raiders and their fan base hope, but knee injuries kept his starting gig at four games (2-2, 6 TD’s, 1 interception).

So Smith gets the nod here almost by default. He can take pride in the fact he improved over his last full season as a starter, but it’s fair to say he left lots of doubts about his potential as a franchise quarterback for the 49ers. He was good enough to get the coaching staff’s support to anoint him as the starter going into 2010, but also inconsistent enough that he still doesn’t have the full support of the fan base.

RB – Frank Gore (SF): he became the first running back in 49ers history to run for over 1,000 yard in four consecutive years. His rushing yards (1,120), and rushing average (4.9 yards/carry) were his best since his career year in 2006. He had career highs in rushing touchdowns (10), receiving touchdowns (3) and total touchdowns (13), and his hands continue to make him a dual threat for the 49ers offense, catching 52 balls for 406 yards.

Oh, and he did all of this while missing three full games.

WR – Michael Crabtree (SF): his holdout is now a blur in our memories after 11 strong games. If you were watching the 49ers for the first time on October 25th, you could not tell #15 was playing his first game with the team after just a couple of weeks of practice. He easily has the best hands on the team, and has been a team player ever since donning the red and gold. We’re still patiently waiting for an MC Hammer dance-celebration after a touchdown.

WR – Louis Murphy (OAK): many Raiders’ fans were looking forward to a solid season from their rookie wideout, they just weren’t expecting this rookie to be the one to breakout. Murphy had at least one catch in all but three games this past season while playing in all 16 contests. His route-running, solid hands, and commitment to blocking in the running game made it hard for Raiders’ coaches to keep him off the field. He carries a certain swagger as a result of his days at the University of Florida, but isn’t much of a diva considering the position he plays. If that other wideout the Raiders drafted last season can start to play at Murphy’s level, Oakland could have a nice future at this position.

TE – Vernon Davis (SF): finally had a breakout season after three frustrating years, and his reward will be a starting gig for the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl later this month. He shattered the 49ers record for touchdown catches by a tight end in a single season, previously held by Brent Jones and Ted Kwalik (9), while tying the NFL record of 13 touchdown catches set by the Chargers’ Antonio Gates in 2004. He had more touchdowns this season than in his previous three combined, and was the only 49er to have over 100 yards receiving this season, doing so in three different games (vs Titans, at Packers, at Seahawks). While he had no fumbles this season, he led the league in drops with 11, and is not yet considered an elite player at his position in the league.

TE – Zach Miller (OAK): was the only constant in the Oakland passing game this season, leading all Raiders’ receivers in receptions (66) and receiving yards (805) while scoring three times. His numbers have improved in each of his three seasons, and so has his blocking. He was named as an AFC Alternate for this year’s Pro Bowl.

T – Joe Staley (SF): even though he was hurt for a good portion of the season, he was playing at a very high level before his injury in week eight at Indianapolis. He was not credited with any penalties this season, and gave up three sacks.

T – Barry Sims (SF): was a pleasant surprise for the 49ers filling-in for Staley. His pass-protection was superb, even against some of the elite pass-rushers in today’s NFL. Was credited with just two penalties (both false starts) for seven yards, and two and a half sacks for seven yards. He put himself in a good position to be part of the 49ers roster next season.

G – Robert Gallery (OAK): the former first-round pick has found his niche inside the offensive line. Gallery was a bright spot for the Raiders during all six games he was able to play this season, and while he clearly will not be Oakland’s LT of the future, he at least has been able to shrug off the bust label.

G – David Baas (SF): while he wasn’t as consistent as you would like a starting offensive linemen to be, Baas was the recipient of the Bobb McKittrick Award, given anually by the 49ers to the offensive linemen who best represents the courage, intensity, and sacrifice displayed by McKittrick, the team’s longtime offensive line coach. Much like Alex Smith, Baas gets the nod here not so much for his level of play, but for the lack of production from other Guards in the Bay Area.

CEric Heitmann (SF): Heitmann has become a positive constant in the 49ers offensive line, and is a valuable asset to the team not only as a blocker but also as the quarterback of the line.

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Coming soon: Defense & Special Teams. Stay tuned!

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