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|SANTA CLARA Tony Dorsett Jersey , Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers sure are getting a lot of attention for a team coming off a six-win season that hasn’t even sniffed the playoffs the past four years.
That’s what a season-ending five-game winning streak and the presence of a potential franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo will do.
One group not buying into all the hype is in the San Francisco locker room.
“There’s no one (here) who thinks we arrived,” said left tackle Joe Staley, the only player left from the Niners‘ last playoff team in 2013. “We have a ton of work to do. We were a 6-10 football team. We were happy with the way we finished last year, but that’s in the past.”
San Francisco put together that sterling 5-0 finish after a dreadful start to the first season under coach Kyle Shanahan that featured nine straight losses to begin the schedule, including a record five straight by three points or fewer.
That all began to change after the team acquired Garoppolo before the trade deadline from New England. After a few weeks to learn the offense, Garoppolo stepped in and showed why the Patriots had groomed him as Tom Brady’s successor.
He completed 67.4 percent of his passes last season, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt with seven TDs, five interceptions and a 96.2 rating to improve to 7-0 in his career as a starter.
Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts last season, Garoppolo ranked first in yards per attempt, fourth in completion percentage. His 308.4 yards passing per game in his five starts also would have led the league had he played a full season.
But more importantly, he changed the mindset of a whole franchise.
“Jimmy is confident in himself,” Shanahan said. “I think everyone felt that right away. That’s why guys gravitate to guys. It doesn’t matter what people say or how they act. People can tell when people believe in themselves and when they don’t. But Kevin Hogan Jersey , it shows the most on the field. When you’re having success as a quarterback, as a receiver, as anybody, that confidence is only going to grow. When people start seeing you, the more plays you can put together the higher it gets.”
Here are some other things to watch this season:
SHERMAN’S HEALTH: One of the most high-profile moves San Francisco made in free agency was signing Richard Sherman after his release in Seattle. After years of tormenting the Niners, Sherman has flipped sides in the NFC West rivalry. But how effective he will be will depend heavily on his health. His 2017 season was cut short by surgery on his Achilles tendon. Sherman hopes to overcome that at age 30. He was slowed by a hamstring problem in camp, so it’s uncertain how much speed he’s lost from his days as the league’s top cover cornerbacks.
REUBEN’S ROLE: Reuben Foster showed signs of being an elite inside linebacker as a rookie when he was on the field. The problem was he missed five full games with injuries and left several others for periods of time. Having Foster at middle linebacker is key and the Niners have tried to get him to use his hands more to limit the wear and tear on his body. But Foster already will miss the first two games because of a suspension following two offseason arrests, and San Francisco can’t afford to be without him much more.
RUSH THE PASSER: San Francisco failed to generate much pass pressure last year, getting only 30 sacks. Elvis Dumervil was cut after leading the team with 6 ½, and no one else had more than three. Despite the lack of production, DeForest Buckner is one of the league’s top defensive linemen. He generates consistent pressure and could get more opportunities outside to get one-on-one matchups that could lead to more sacks.
DEEP THREAT: One of the most impressive 49ers last year was speedy WR Marquise Goodwin, who smashed his career highs with 56 catches for 962 yards in his first season with San Francisco. The former Olympic long jumper proved he can be more than a deep threat as he ranked in the top six in catches (29) and yards (384) in five games with Garoppolo.
“He’s continued to get better in every facet of his game http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/ezekiel-elliott-jersey ,” Shanahan said. “He probably hasn’t gotten faster, he’s always been fast. But his hands have gotten better, he’s gotten more consistent. He tracks the ball well. It’s not just catching the easy ones now, he’s starting to make some tough ones.”
RUN THE ROCK: The Niners let Carlos Hyde leave in free agency and replaced him with a more versatile back in Jerick McKinnon. But McKinnon went down with a season-ending knee injury, leaving a big hole on the offense. Alfred Morris was signed midway through camp and could be the main back with little-used Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert the other options.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The ovation moved Aaron Rodgers to tears.
The Green Bay Packers fans showed their appreciation with the two-time NFL MVP about to take his first snaps at Lambeau Field in almost a year. Once he got behind center, Rodgers needed just one drive to look right at home back in Titletown.
Rodgers connected with tight end Jimmy Graham for an 8-yard score , and Tramon Williams had a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage of the Packers’ 51-34 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
“The biggest thing, the goal tonight with Aaron in that first drive was to get the ball in the end zone,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “And I thought we did a nice job.”
The response from fans seemed just as meaningful to Rodgers.
He was 2 of 4 for 35 yards in his first game at Lambeau since Sept. 28. He broke his collarbone two weeks later at Minnesota, an injury that doomed the Packers in a 7-9 season.
“To be back at Lambeau was a thrill and the ovation touched me,” Rodgers said. “I have to kind of wipe away some tears in my eyes.”
Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger watched from the sideline in shorts and a T-shirt. He and second-stringer Landry Jones had already been ruled out for the game when Roethlisberger left a training camp practice on Tuesday with a possible concussion.
Big Ben looked just fine while chatting with Rodgers as they walked to their respective locker rooms at halftime. After the game John Miller Jersey , Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger was out of the concussion protocol.
Sounds like he’ll be back at practice Saturday.
“He’s out of the protocol. He’s a full participant,” Tomlin said.
The Steelers got off to rough start after Mason Rudolph threw the interception returned by Williams.
But five minutes later, Rudolph found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Rudolph, who is competing with Joshua Dobbs for a backup job, was just 5 of 12 for 47 yards in playing the first half.
Dobbs didn’t look much better after throwing a 22-yard interception returned for a touchdown by rookie cornerback Josh Jackson in the third quarter.
“We’d just like to have those plays back, but the deal is you don’t get those plays back,” Tomlin said. “So, hopefully, there’s a learning process there in it for all of us.”
Dobbs finished strong and connected with rookie receiver James Washington for two second-half touchdowns . He was 12 of 17 for 192 yards.
GOING TO GRAHAM
Green Bay is always a threat in the NFC as long as Rodgers is healthy. This year, he has an intriguing option in the red zone in the 6-foot-7 Graham, who signed as a free agent in the offseason.
Rodgers drew the Steelers offside on third-and-10 from the 13 for a 5-yard penalty.
On the next play, he stood tall in the face of a rush before throwing a high pass into the middle of the end zone for Graham. He spiked the ball before heading into the stands for his first Lambeau Leap.
Besides Roethlisberger http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/josh-jackson-jersey , the Steelers didn’t have two other stars. Receiver Antonio Brown sat out, while running back Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t signed his franchise tender.
But Smith-Schuster is picking up where he left off following a promising rookie year after scoring his second preseason TD. The score wrapped up a wild opening five minutes in which the Packers raced out to a 14-point lead before the Steelers scored two straight touchdowns.
Green Bay’s backups pulled away from there.
Second-string quarterback Brett Hundley was 6 of 9 for 77 yards. He also scored on a 10-yard run . Third-stringer DeShone Kizer connected with receiver Jake Kumerow for an 82-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
James Conner had a 26-yard touchdown run for the Steelers in the first quarter while the Packers still had many starters on the field. Washington scored on a 19-yard pass from Dobbs after turning and extending his arms past a defender to retrieve the ball.
“Every time he gets a rep, my eyes are on him. I’m just studying him each and every day, picking his brain, just trying to become a better receiver.” — Washington on watching Brown in practice.
Steelers: Backup C Patrick Morris left in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury.
Packers: RG Justin McCray (calf) and RB Jamaal Williams (ankle), both starters, left in the second quarter. … Kumerow left in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
There were no apparent displays of protest by players on either team during the national anthem.
Steelers: Host the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 25.
Packers: Visit the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 24.
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