Most 49er fans knew Frank Gore was expecting a new deal this summer before camp started, and his brief holdout to start camp was a statement made by him that he's certainly not happy with his current deal.
Gore returned to camp after just a couple of days though, and it looked as if all things were headed in the right direction. 3 weeks later though, still no new deal for the 49ers top offensive force, and apparently he's starting to take his frustration out on 49ers coaches. This can't be good for an offense that's still trying to get it's feet under them and survive another year with Alex Smith behind center. The 49ers made a big addition to their offensive unit by bringing in Braylon Edwards, and Michael Crabtree is healing up quickly and should be ready by week one. All signs are pointing towards an improvement offensively for San Francisco, but in order for them to go, they need Gore to revert to his 2006 form (2,180 total yards, 9 TD's). Supposedly, Gore's agent is using DeAngelo Williams' deal as a comparison to what Gore should get, and the 49ers are hesitating giving a back who's played a full 16-game season just once and missed 5 games last season. Still, Gore is 27 years-old and one of the better backs in the NFL, certainly better than Williams. The 49ers need to lock this guy up sooner rather than later and ease the tension that's brewing. They've been saying they'd like to make Gore a 49er for life, so it's time for the York's to fork out for their franchise player.
Even if Gore does get his deal and has a big season, the 49ers will only go as far as Alex Smith can take them. Colin Kaepernick is not NFL ready yet, and won't likely be for some time, and Josh McCown is the epitome of a back-up QB as you don't really want him playing for more than maybe a game or 2 the whole season. That leaves the duties squarely on Alex Smith, and I'm going to be watching him like a hawk in Saturday's regular season "dress rehearsal". With most of the regulars likely sitting out all of next weeks preseason finale, this will be their final tune-up and they get a very formidable opponent in the Houston Texans, who will also be playing their regulars well into the 3rd quarter. Not only will it be key for Alex Smith and the offense to get on the same page and all clicking together, the Texans, with Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, pose a perfect challenge for the new-look 49ers defense. I believe Carlos Rogers will be the only starting defensive player who won't play, giving young corner's Tarrel Brown and Tramaine Brock plenty of reps as they battle it out for the #3 corner spot behind Rogers and Spencer. I've always liked Tarrel Brown and he just keeps getting better and better each year it seems. He's got 5 picks in the last 3 seasons, despite being a 3rd and 4th corner. Jim Harbough has been raving about Brock all preseason too and he looked good vs. Oakland. I'd say Brown wins this battle though.
That's about the only really battle to focus on this weekend, otherwise it's all about getting the first team extended game time to get acclimated. I'm really looking forward to watching Kendal Hunter get some reps vs. the Texans first team defense. In my opinion, the rookie Hunter has had as good of camp or better than any other 49ers player. His impressive practices have translated into big-time production in the first two preseason games as he's breezed by Anthony Dixon to become Frank Gore's caddy. Hunter had the skill-set to be a 1st round pick, but his 5'7", 197 pound frame and the fact he doesn't translate into a prototypical every-down back knocked him down a few rounds, but I think he could end up being one of the steals. Remember another undersized speed back who came out of Oklahoma State about 20 years ago (Barry Sanders)? Hunter is cut from a very similar cloth.
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