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Scouting report: San Francicso 49ers


Head coach Mike Singletary has led the 49ers to a 3-2 mark in 2009

The Texans (3-3) host San Francisco (3-2) this Sunday at Reliant Stadium in a Week 7 matchup at 12 p.m. CT.

Head coach Mike Singletary and the 49ers are coming off a bye in Week 6. Before that Sunday off, they were thumped at home by the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 45-10. Despite the loss, Singletary and company are still in a tie with Arizona for first place in the NFC West.

Singletary is in his first full season as head coach of the 49ers. He served as interim head coach for the last seven games of 2008 after Mike Nolan was fired. The team won five of those seven games to end the season with a 7-9 record, placing them second in the NFC West, two games behind the eventual NFC Champion Cardinals. Singletary served as the assistant head coach/defense for the previous two-plus seasons before taking over head coaching duties and is now in his fifth season with the team.

OFFENSE Quarterback: Shaun Hill was named the starting quarterback midway through the 2008 season. He has compiled a 10-5 record, which has helped him retain the starting position over former No. 1 overall draft choice Alex Smith. So far in 2009, Hill has completed 81-of-144 pass attempts for 898 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 80.7 (24th in the NFL).

Against the Falcons, Hill struggled, completing just 15-of-38 passes for 198 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. His best performance so far in 2009 was a 14-of-24 effort that netted 152 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Just once in five games has Hill topped the 200-yard mark, and that was in a Week 1 victory at Arizona when he was 18-of-31 for 209 yards.

In nine games last season, Hill completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for more than 2,000 yards. He threw 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Running back: The strength of San Francisco's offense lies in the running game with Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore, who is the first 49er in team history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. His 3,833 yards over the past three years are the second-most in the league, trailing only San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson.

This season, Gore was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 2 when he rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle. He was sidelined the following week with a right ankle strain and a hind right foot sprain and has been out since.

Gore is expected to return to the lineup this week against the Texans. In his absence, rookie running back Glen Coffee struggled to replicate Gore's production, but he picked up 183 yards on 71 carries with a touchdown.

Wide receiver: The 49ers have not had a wideout with more than 61 receptions since Terrell Owens' departure after the 2003 season. Looking to address the position, they selected one of the most prolific wide receivers in college football history, Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech, with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

The team has yet to benefit from Crabtree's presence, as the first rounder held out for more than two months. He is expected to make his NFL debut against the Texans. San Francisco is currently ranked 30th in the league in total receiving yards through Week 6.

Isaac Bruce is in his second season as a 49er after leading the team with 61 receptions, 835 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last year, earning the team's Len Eshmont Award in his first season with the squad. Bruce was selected to the Pro Bowl four times as a wide receiver for the St. Louis Rams from 1994-2007.

Against the Falcons, Bruce was thrown to four times but didn't record a single catch. His best game of the season came in the opener against the Cardinals when he caught four balls for 74 yards. Bruce has yet to catch a touchdown in 2009. In 1995 with St. Louis, he recorded career highs when he snagged 119 passes for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Josh Morgan has the most catches and yards in the wide receiver corps, 13 and 202, respectively, but his starting job has reportedly been taken by Crabtree. Morgan's most productive game was a four-catch, 78-yard performance against Atlanta.

With five receptions for 40 yards, Arnaz Battle ranks third in the 49ers receiving corps. The seven-year veteran recorded 600-plus receiving yards in both 2006 and 2007.

Tight end: The 49ers' leading pass-catcher through five games has been tight end Vernon Davis, who has 22 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

In the three seasons prior to 2009, the former Maryland Terrapin hauled in 103 passes for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns. His best outing of the year was the Week 3 road loss to the Vikings, when he snared seven catches for 96 yards and a pair of scores.

Backup tight end Delanie Walker has three catches for 66 yards in 2009, with a 39-yard reception coming against the Falcons.

Offensive line: The San Francisco offensive line already has allowed Hill to be sacked 16 times in the first five games. It also has paved the way for a run game that is averaging 4.2 yards per attempt.

Backup Tony Pashos will get the start at right tackle in place of Adam Snyder, who will move over to right guard and split time with starter Chilo Rachal. Eric Heitman has started at center for the 49ers since 2002 and is the anchor of the line, as well as a team captain.

DEFENSE Defensive line: The 49ers employ a 3-4 defense. Up front, the ends are Isaac Sopoaga and Justin Smith. Sopoaga has 10 total tackles so far in 2009 and is coming off a career year in 2008, when he finished with 27 total tackles.

Smith is in his second season with the 49ers and his ninth season in the NFL. He has earned the reputation as an Iron-Man with a motor that never stops. Since his arrival in San Francisco, he has been utilized at a number of different positions, including right defensive end, left defensive end and either outside linebacker position. He has a nose for the ball no matter where he lines up.

Last season, Smith was named the team's Bill Walsh Award winner, given to the 49ers MVP as voted upon by the coaches. Smith led the team in quarterback pressures to go along with 73 tackles, 7.0 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception and four passes defensed.

In Week 1, Smith tallied a sack, a forced fumble at Arizona. The sack and forced fumble came as time expired to seal the victory.

Aubrayo Franklin has played an instrumental role as a starter on the 49ers' defensive line since being signed as an unrestricted free agent from Baltimore in 2007. A stalwart against the run, the defensive tackle started 14 games for the 49ers in 2008 and tallied career-highs of 77 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. He has played a big role this season in the 49ers holding their opponents to just 3.0 yards per carry, which ranks tied for third in the NFL

Linebacker: Third-year linebacker Patrick Willis is the leader of the group. As a rookie in 2007, Willis earned All-Pro, Pro Bowl and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In 2008, he led the 49ers in tackles for the second straight season, which earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl for the second time. So far in 2009, Willis has 49 tackles (35 solo) with 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Next to Willis on the inside is Takeo Spikes, a veteran with 12 years experience. Spikes is a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2003-04) and was named All-Pro in 2004. He has nine 100-plus tackle seasons along with 15 career interceptions. Spikes has 25 tackles, a sack and an interception in 2009.

Manny Lawson starts at one of the outside linebacker positions and is tied for fourth on the squad in total tackles with 27. Lawson also has a sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble through the early part of the 2009 campaign.

Lawson has played a key role on defense for the 49ers since being drafted in the first round in 2006. He tallied career-highs of three sacks, two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks in 2008 after having a promising 2007 campaign cut short by a season-ending knee injury.

Also starting at linebacker on the outside is Parys Haralson, who registered a sack in Week 1 against the Cardinals and has 13 total tackles on the season. Haralson had a breakout season in 2008, leading the team with a career-high 8.0 sacks, a total that tied for second-most among NFC linebackers. It was the most by a 49ers linebacker in a single season since Kevin Greene recorded 10.5 in 1997.

Secondary: Strong safety Michael Lewis is a former Pro Bowl player who is in his third season in San Francisco. He has averaged 128.5 tackles a year in his first two seasons with the club. Lewis currently ranks second to Willis in tackles with 30 tackles (22 solo) in 2009. He's also registered a tackle for a loss.

At free safety, Dashon Goldson already has amassed 27 tackles, a sack and an interception in 2009. The third-year pro picked off the first pass of his career in the third quarter vs. Seattle in Week 2. He also registered career-highs in total tackles (11), solo tackles (6) and assisted tackles (5) in that game. Goldson tipped a pass from Brett Favre that was intercepted by cornerback Shawntae Spencer in the third quarter of the Week 3 matchup with Minnesota.

At the cornerback spots, Spencer and Nate Clements are a pair of experienced players for San Francisco. Clements has been busy through the first month or so of the season, as he's near the top of the team leaderboard with 29 tackles. Clements intercepted Kurt Warner in the first quarter of the win versus Arizona, the 30th pick of his nine-year career.

Spencer, in his sixth professional season, has 12 total tackles and an interception.Backup corner Dre' Bly also has an interception that he returned for 31 yards. Bly has 13 total tackles on the year.

Special teams: The 49ers have a consistent group of special teams performers, led by punter Andy Lee and veteran kicker Joe Nedney.

Lee has established himself as one of the best in the league. His back-to-back averages of 47.3 and 47.8 in 2007-08 are the two best for a 49ers punter in 60 years. Nedney's 87.8 percent field goal accuracy is the best in 49ers history among kickers with at least 100 attempts.

After releasing return-man Allen Rossum during the bye week, the 49ers are expected to count on veteran Arnaz Battle, their No. 3 wideout, for contributions in the return game.

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