First Look: San Francisco

"First Look" is Bucsblitz.com's premium scouting article for each week's opponent. No one gets you information quicker on the Buccaneers' upcoming opponent, along with updates throughout the week. Today, go inside San Francisco's win over Cincinnati and the maturation of new starting quarterback Shaun Hill.

Shaun Hill arrived at training camp this year as the San Francisco 49ers' No. 3 quarterback on depth chart without much of an opportunity to move up.

That could change next year, if Hill returns to the 49ers.

Hill, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, will make his second career start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He already has put together the 49ers' best showing from a quarterback this season, and he has a chance to compete for more playing time next year, coach Mike Nolan said.

"Without question, anybody, any position when you step into the lineup and get your opportunity, it's your opportunity to play for a job," Nolan said. "That's what he's been waiting for for six years."

Presumptive starter Alex Smith underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Backup quarterback Trent Dilfer is not likely to play again this season after sustaining a serious concussion.

Neither Smith nor Dilfer played consistently when given their opportunities this season. Hill has gotten off to a strong start. Hill led the 49ers to a 20-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in his starting debut.

Although the 49ers still consider Smith the starter for the future, it is possible they could make him earn his job next season.

"There will be competition," Nolan said. "The more competition you have on your football team, the better for your team."

The 49ers began talking about a contract extension for Hill some time ago, but Hill wanted to wait until the end of the season, Nolan said.

Hill wants a contract structure that would afford him some job security. He has never made more than the NFL minimum salary.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Veteran DL Bryant Young stopped just short of announcing his retirement, but he promised he would make an announcement this week if he intends to call it quits after his 14th NFL season.

The 49ers have their home finale this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and this could be Young's final game in front of the home fans.

"It seems like the last few weeks I have really been thinking about my future and really listening to my body and (wondering) if this is the right time to walk away," Young said following the 49ers' 20-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I'll just say ... it's near the end. My days are numbered. I'm just trying to enjoy it if this is my last year and the last moments of being a Niner."

Young is the last remaining 49ers player to win a Super Bowl with the team. The 49ers won the Super Bowl in 1994. Young has outlasted every other player from that team by at least four seasons.

--Backup QB Trent Dilfer's season is likely over, as the 49ers do not want to take any chance of rushing him back into action after he sustained a bad concussion against the Vikings on Dec. 9.

Coach Mike Nolan announced after Sunday's game that Shaun Hill will start the 49ers' final two games of the season. Dilfer, wearing a jacket and tie, was a guest on the pregame show on the NFL Network. He was not in uniform for the game. The 49ers signed veteran free agent Chris Weinke to serve as Hill's backup quarterback.

When asked about his status for the remainder of the season, Dilfer said, "I have no idea. I'll let the medical team evaluate me. We're in good hands (with Hill) right now."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Shaun Hill is scheduled to make his second career start Sunday when the 49ers face the Buccaneers. In Hill's first six quarters of play, he has fared well. Hill has completed 78.2 percent of his passes for 378 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. With Hill, the 49ers have converted 59.3 percent of their third-down opportunities.

--RB Frank Gore, who rushed for 1,695 yards last season, has 919 yards rushing with two games remaining. Gore leads the 49ers with five rushing touchdowns. He is tied for the team lead with 47 receptions for 372 yards.

--K Joe Nedney leads the 49ers with 69 points this season. Nedney has made 17 of 19 field-goal attempts, including 16 of 16 inside 50 yards.

--P Andy Lee leads the NFL with a 42.4-yard net punting average. No punter in NFL history has ever achieved a net punting average of more than 40 yards.

--TE Delanie Walker is seeing more and more playing time in the 49ers' two-tight end formations. He's raised his season totals to 17 catches for 137 yards and one touchdown.

REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- The offensive line gave Shaun Hill plenty of time to throw, Hill made the easy throws look easy and the receivers made the easy catches look easy, too. Hill completed 21 of 28 passes for 197 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He showed good poise and did everything he was supposed to do. WR Darrell Jackson has his best game as a 49er, catching eight passes for 86 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Frank Gore has his best game of the season, rushing for 138 yards on 29 carries. The offensive line did a good job of controlling the smaller Bengals defensive line. Hill got into the act with a 3-yard TD run on a bootleg. He later added a 12-yard run on a third down in the fourth quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- The 49ers did not generate much of a pass rush, which allowed Bengals QB Carson Palmer time to pick the 49ers apart. Despite all the time Palmer had to throw, he burned the 49ers with only one big play. CB Walt Harris and S Michael Lewis surrendered a 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Nate Clements held up well in coverage against Chad Johnson, and he broke up the potential game-tying TD in the closing minutes.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- The 49ers' front seven did a good job against the Bengals' running game. Rudi Johnson was held to just 16 yards on seven carries, while Kenny Watson gained 33 yards on eight carries. As always, Patrick Willis was strong in the run game. The Bengals averaged just 3.2 yards rushing against the 49ers.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Joe Nedney made kicks of 29 and 38 yards, and Andy Lee had just two punts in the game, averaging 45.5 yards. The 49ers got some production from the return game, as they averaged 24.8 yards on four kickoff returns. The coverage units were very strong.

COACHING: B -- While the Bengals looked as if they did not want to be on the field, the 49ers at least looked energized for the game. The offensive plan was solid, as coordinator Jim Hostler used a lot of short timing passes for Hill. Defensively, the 49ers stopped the run without devoting extra defenders to the ground game. Coach Mike Nolan made a bad decision to go for it on fourth down with 6:15 remaining, rather than kick a 42-yard field goal that would've made it a 10-point game. The 49ers had to hold on for the victory after that maneuver backfired.


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