As the pre-season comes to a close – even though I think it should be over with already – the San Francisco 49ers look to take care of a few things before week one kicks off.
DT Aubrayo Franklin was an instrumental part of the 49ers defense last year and ended up being an integral part of the 49ers frontline. The 6-foot-1 317-pound Franklin plugged up the line last year recording 36 tackles, two sacks and found himself an interception. Un-like the departed Kentwan Balmer, Franklin’s hard work is what has brought him to this league and it is what will keep him on the 49ers.
“It’s the work ethic. It’s the intelligence. It’s the physical work combined with the mental work,” said D-line Coach Jim Tomsula. “The guy’s a worker. I mean, he works, he’s in here, he’s on film, he’s on scouting reports. He’s on everything. He just works.”
Franklin has been a valuable piece to the growing 49ers defense, but there is one area of 49ers training camp that has yet to be decided, and that’s who will be returning kicks come the start of the season. The 49ers return game has struggled in recent years with players like Allen Rossum and Arnaz Battle filling in for one another for special teams.
Going into training camp my thought was that the acquisition of Ted Ginn Jr. was meant to fill that void, but by the looks and sounds of it, the 49ers are hesitant to give him the gig. The question isn’t whether he would be able to handle it, the 49ers would just rather he be the third wide-out for the offense.
In last week’s game against the Vikings, Bobby Guillory handled the five punts and both kickoff returns during the Sunday night game. Ginn, Dominique Zeigler, nor 6th-round pick Kyle Williams touched the ball on special teams. If the 49ers refuse to let Ginn handle the return game in pre-season he won’t be ready during the regular season and for a team looking to improve an area that has suffered, they’ll need to figure it out within the next two weeks.
I would look for Williams and or Zeigler to return kicks this weekend in Oakland, as Guillory failed to impress a week ago.
According to Phil Barber of the Press Democrat, Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook, and Michael Crabtree are all expected to play. Alex Smith and his starting offensive line are believed to play the entire first half. Singletary was uncertain as to who would be coming in for Smith. Nate Davis has looked good in camp so my guess is that he’ll be the first replacement for Smith on Saturday.
Summary of injuries: CB Shawntae Spencer (hamstrings), C David Baas (stinger) and T Alex Boone (dehydration) returned to practice but Vernon Davis (knee), ILB Matt Wilhelm (headaches), T Barry Sims (oblique), TE Tony Curtis (quad) and OLB Brandon Long (knee) will remain on the sidelines.
Picture courtesy of 49ers.com