Gi­ants’ Barkley pre­sents dual threat to Nin­ers’ de­fense

Gi­ants run­ning back is a threat on the run and in the pass­ing game

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Cam Inman cin­man@ba­yare­anews­group.com 49ERS

Five things we learned Thurs­day as the 49ers be­gan full-speed prac­tices for Mon­day night’s visit by the New York Gi­ants: 1. BRAC­ING FOR BARKLEY » It has been 33 years since Roger Craig ( No. 33) be­came the first player to to­tal 1,000 yards both rush­ing and re­ceiv­ing, and New York Gi­ants rookie Saquon Barkley is threat­en­ing to reach those to­tals, a feat only also ac­com­plished by Hall of Famer Mar­shall Faulk.

“Shoot, the tape speaks for it­self,” line­backer Fred Warner said Thurs­day. “He’s, for sure, one of the most tal­ented backs in the league al­ready as a rookie.”

Barkley, drafted No. 3 over­all, has 519 rush­ing yards and 497 re­ceiv­ing yards for the Gi­ants (1-7). Craig’s 1985 his­tor­i­cal ef­forts pro­duced 1,050 rush­ing yards and 1,016 re­ceiv­ing; Faulk, in 1999, had 1,381 rush­ing, 1,048 re­ceiv­ing.

“He’s got the dual threat, of course, with his God­given tal­ent, he can do a lot of dif­fer­ent things to hurt us,” Warner said. “Not only is he strong in his lower body, he’s quick and fast with break­away speed, and he can run through tack­les.”

Coach Kyle Shana­han said he knew Barkley wouldn’t be avail­able when the 49ers drafted ninth over­all, and this sea­son is show­ing why.

“It’s ev­i­dent that he is as hard of a guy to tackle as I’ve seen,” Shana­han said. “So, whether that’s hand­ing the ball off to him or throw­ing it to him, if that guy has the ball in his hands in space there’s not many peo­ple in the world who can get him down very con­sis­tently.”

Barkley’s 58 re­cep­tions would lead the 49ers, who in­stead are paced by tight end Ge­orge Kit­tle’s 41 re­cep­tions. 2. KIT­TLE CAU­TION » Tight end Ge­orge Kit­tle prac­ticed in a blue jersey, but not as an ode to for­mer Gi­ants tight end Mark Bavaro. Kit­tle wore the non-con­tact jersey be­cause of a chest con­tu­sion that tem­po­rar­ily forced him from last Thurs­day’s win over the Raiders.

Kit­tle showed no sig­nif­i­cant hin­drance in Thurs­day’s warmups and looked as up­beat as usual. He has four games of at least 90 re­ceiv­ing yards, one shy of Ver­non Davis’ 2009 record by a tight end. His 692 re­ceiv­ing yards are 13th in the NFL and sec­ond-most among tight ends be­hind Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (51 catches, 741 yards).

Get­ting fol­lowed by Kelce on Twit­ter, by the way, ranks as “the coolest thing” Kit­tle said of his break­out sea­son. 3. MUL­LENS’ RA­DIO » Shana­han ac­knowl­edged there’s a bal­anc­ing act when it comes to re­lay­ing calls into quar­ter­backs’ hel­met ra­dios. In Mul­lens’ de­but, he tried telling Shana­han to stop talk­ing so he could share the play in the hud­dle, to which team­mates laughed be­cause it’s not a two-way ra­dio.

“It’s funny be­cause I know if I was a quar­ter­back and some­one was yelling in my ears, I would han­dle it much worse than those guys would,” Shana­han said.

“… Some­times I think they didn’t hear it and I start re­peat­ing it again, and they’re just try­ing to call it, and I’m yelling it again in their ear, and I’m driv­ing them crazy, as I should. So, I wish there was a two-way talk on it. It’d be a lot eas­ier.” 4. RICH­BURG’S ‘RE­UNION’ » Cen­ter We­ston Rich­burg has good rea­son not to be ex­tra emo­tional at who he’ll op­pose this week, even though he played the past four years for the Gi­ants. “Out of the whole de­fense, I counted maybe five guys I was there with,” Rich­burg said. “The whole O-line is dif­fer­ent, so I don’t know any­body there and it’s kind of crazy.”

Rich­burg and run­ning back Jer­ick McK­in­non were the 49ers’ most ex­pen­sive ad­di­tions in free agency, Rich­burg ar­riv­ing on a five-year deal ($ 47.5 mil­lion with $16.5 mil­lion guar­an­teed).

Now snap­ping for his third dif­fer­ent quar­ter­back this sea­son, Rich­burg said Mul­lens doesn’t feel like a new QB, adding: “He’s bright and knows what he’s do­ing. He’s very con­fi­dent and that kind of feeds us. He didn’t seem like a kid play­ing in his first game.” 5. COUSINS COM­PAR­I­SON » C. J. Beathard may be benched again, but Shana­han re­mains an ar­dent sup­porter, so much so that he’s re­layed an en­cour­ag­ing com­par­i­son.

Said Shana­han: “Kirk Cousins in his first nine games, do you know what his record was? 1- 8. He had 19 picks and 18 touch- downs. C. J. is 1- 8. I think he has 13 picks. It doesn’t mean that’s on him … C. J. has the men­tal tough­ness to get through that and even­tu­ally, some­day, I don’t know when, he will get his op­por­tu­nity. Hope­fully he’ll heal up, get fresher and learn from what he did good and what he did bad.”

Cousins, whose ca­reer started with Shana­han in Wash­ing­ton, is 5-3-1 as the Min­nesota Vikings’ $84 mil­lion quar­ter­back.

• Wide rec eiver Pierre Garçon ( knee), line­backer Reuben Fos­ter ( ham­string), safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoul­der) and left tackle Joe Sta­ley (rou­tine rest) did not prac­tice.

• Quar­ter­back Jimmy Garop­polo, a month af­ter knee surgery, has down­sized from two crutches to one.

• Greg Mabin re­turned to the ac­tive ros­ter, hav­ing been waived af­ter the 49ers’ Oct. 28 col­lapse at Ari­zona and moved to the prac­tice squad. Prompt­ing Mobin’s re­turn was the fact cor­ner­back Em­manuel Mose­ley suf­fered sea­son- end­ing shoul­der in­jury last game in his NFL de­but.

• Mabin’s prac­tice-squad spot was filled by Tar­varus McFadden, who spent the off­sea­son and train­ing camp with the 49ers, fol­lowed by a brief stint on the In­di­anapo­lis Colts prac­tice squad.

BRAD PEN­NER — AP IM­AGES FOR PANINI

New York Gi­ants run­ning back Saquon Barkley has 519 rush­ing yards and 497 re­ceiv­ing yards this sea­son.

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