Inside look

About the Niners' new offense, battle fronts, rookie report and injury report.

Coach Dennis Erickson is not scrapping the 49ers' traditional West Coast offense, as some have suggested. Instead, he will be adding more of what he likes to do on the offensive side of the ball.

In the past, the 49ers used a lot of split-back formations. But Erickson is going to go almost exclusively with the "I" formation to get halfback Kevan Barlow running downhill behind the blocking of fullback Fred Beasley.

That plan to highlight Beasley as the lead-blocker almost took a hit on Saturday in the 49ers' first preseason game when Beasley sustained a left ankle injury on the team's third offensive play.

Beasley said he expected the worse after feeling a pop in his ankle. X-rays proved negative, and Erickson said he suspected Beasley would miss the remainder of the preseason but be ready for the season opener against the Falcons.

"My concern about Fred is Sept. 12," Erickson said. "If he misses some preseason games it isn't really going to hurt. I assume Fred will be ready."

The 49ers this season will also call two plays in the huddle more often than they have in the past, with the quarterback having the option of which play to use, depending on the defense's look.

"We'll also do a lot of 'red ball' stuff, which is no huddle," Erickson said. "But it won't be no huddle in the two-minute sense of urgency. We'll get in any formation that we are going to be in and move the ball and call the play at the line of scrimmage. That can happen at any time during the game."

Erickson said offensive coordinator Ted Tollner is quite comfortable with that wrinkle in the offense from his days on the Bills' staff when Jim Kelly had a lot of success in that role.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 26. The remaining practices through the end of the season are closed to the general public. The 49ers have no scrimmages with other teams.

NOTEBOOK

-- Niners rookie cornerback Shawntae Spencer could not believe his eyes. On the first defensive series of the exhibition opener, Spencer entered when the Raiders had a second-and-goal from the 8-yard line.

"I was watching in the huddle and thinking Jerry might come out to my side," Spencer said of Raiders receiver Jerry Rice. "When he did, I was hoping I wouldn't freeze. I wanted to ask him for his autograph."

As Spencer suspected, Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon tried to hit Rice on a fade over the rookie. But Spencer had good position and the pass fell to the ground. Still, "I wish I would've asked him for his autograph," Spencer said.

--- Kyle Kosier saw action at three different positions on the offensive line, and he's still competing for the starting RG spot with rookie Justin Smiley. Last season, Kosier started 12 games at three different spots.

"Hey, that's part of the job," said Kosier. "The more you can do, the harder it is for them to get rid of you."

The only offensive position that is open to competition is right guard, where Kosier and Smiley are battling to replace Ron Stone, who was released at the end of the season. Erickson said Kosier will essentially be the top backup at every offensive line position, except for center. If he earns the starting job at right guard and an injury occurs to any of the other guard or tackle spots, Smiley would play right guard and Kosier would switch to the other position.

--- Punters Andy Lee and Andy Groom got their first taste of what it's like to punt in Candlestick Park, and Lee fared a lot better than Groom. Lee averaged 43.3 yards on three punts, but Raiders return man Ronald Curry returned one of them 43 yards. Groom averaged just 31.5 yards on two punts.

"There is nothing like kicking in that place," Erickson said. "The swirl and wind moving around will be good for them. We had No. 1 kickers come in here and I don't remember anybody being outstanding in the kicking game in that park. To me it's an advantage for us, but they have to learn."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not going to take (stuff) from anybody. That's the nature of this sport. If you want to make it in this sport, you have to have that swagger" - 49ers LT Kwame Harris when asked if the 49ers have too many nice guys on the team.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Brandon Doman vs. Cody Pickett for No. 3 QB - When the 49ers drafted Pickett in the seventh round, they initially thought they could keep him on the practice squad this season because of the new rule that increased the developmental teams from five to eight. But if Pickett keeps looking good, the 49ers would be taking a major risk by cutting him. Pickett completed 5 of 7 passes in his debut for 89 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 153.3, with 158.3 being a perfect score. Meanwhile, Doman struggled a little. He completed 5 of 9 for 34 yards. Doman lost the competition for the No. 3 job to Ken Dorsey last season. Pickett took the lead in the competition for the No. 3 job, but Doman can get back in the picture with an impressive final three games.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Ronnie Heard has taken the lead over Dwaine Carpenter in the battle for the starting FS spot. It wasn't so much that Heard played well in his limited duty in the opener, but Carpenter did not have a good night. Carpenter missed a tackle that resulted in 15 additional yards, then he took a poor angle while playing two-deep coverage, getting beaten for a touchdown. Carpenter's night ended with a left medial-collateral sprain, which might keep him on the sideline. ... There is good competition between Jimmy Williams and rookie Shawntae Spencer for the team's nickel back. Spencer, all in all, had a good opener as he played about 50 snaps in the exhibition opener. Williams has looked steady in training camp. ... The biggest competition on offense will be at WR, where Brandon Lloyd is penciled in as the starter at split end and Cedrick Wilson is scheduled to start at flanker. However, veteran Curtis Conway, rookies Rashaun Woods and Derrick Hamilton and second-year player Arnaz Battle also figure into the mix. ... The No. 3 DT position is up for grabs, with rookie Isaac Sopoaga, Michael Landry and Josh Shaw the main guys fighting for a spot in the rotation. Landry has the edge, with Sopoaga falling behind in the competition after missing valuable practice time with a lower back strain.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Arnaz Battle - He played just eight games last season because of a turf-toe injury that ultimately required surgery. But Battle has come back this season with focus and determination to be a contributor. Battle has overtaken rookie Rashaun Woods for the No. 4 job, according to coach Dennis Erickson. He could end up being a factor on offense, but Battle looks as if he is already going to be one of the core special-teams performers. Battle made two tackles on kickoff coverage early in the game, forcing one fumble in the process. But he turned a lot of heads with his remarkable 61-yard punt return for a touchdown, during which he spun out of the grasp of four Raiders would-be tacklers.

ROOKIE REPORT: Woods, the team's top draft pick, has missed most of the first two weeks of practices with hamstring pulls. Because he has not been able to take the field, Woods is falling behind in his quest to be a major contributor to the team this season. The club is hoping he can stay healthy for a full week of practice and be ready to play in Saturday's second preseason game against the Bears. ... Spencer had an up-and-down week of practice, but he generally played well and with confidence in the 49ers' exhibition game against the Raiders. Spencer made four tackles and broke up two passes. He also had two more tackles on special teams. ... LB Richard Seigler, who played for Erickson at Oregon State, demonstrated a nose for the football. The middle linebacker led the 49ers with seven tackles and he broke up a pass, too. ... Hamilton, the club's third-round pick, has remained healthy but probably will not be in position to make much of an impact as a rookie. The team would like to see him step forward in the return game, but he has not looked sure-handed while fielding kicks.

INJURY REPORT: Backup FB Jasen Isom will miss another two weeks with an MCL injury to his right knee. ... QB Tim Rattay missed another week of practices because of an inflamed throwing forearm. If Rattay practices this week, it is questionable whether he would be cleared to play Saturday against the Bears. Rattay is in the final stages of his rehabilitation from surgery to reattach the adductor tendon in his groin. ... DE Andrew Williams, whose improved play as a reserve was expected to be a key to the defense, will miss approximately five more weeks with a broken left fibula. ... OL Jerome Davis is expected to miss another three weeks with a right knee injury. ... C Jeremy Newberry underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage under his right kneecap. He has not practiced since Aug. 2. He will probably not play in the preseason, but will be ready to go Sept. 12 for the opener. ... DTs Sopoaga (lower back) and Anthony Adams (right ankle) have missed a large chunk of training camp and did not play in the exhibition opener. Their availability for this week's game is also very much in doubt. ... CB Ahmed Plummer was cleared to return to full-speed practices after missing several days with tightness in both sides of the groin. He was held out of the exhibition opener but should be ready to play this week. ... TE Marcus Helfman (right hip) is expected to miss another week. ... DL Brandon Whiting, acquired from Philadelphia in the Terrell Owens trade, remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He has not recovered from offseason surgery on his left shoulder. The 49ers expect Whiting to play this season. They have until Sept. 1 to decide to keep him or send him back to the Eagles for a third-round pick in the 2005 draft.


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