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Notebook: Bakhtiari Goes the Distance

Posted Aug 19, 2012



HOUSTON – The last time Eric Bakhtiari played four quarters in a football game, Jim Harbaugh was his coach.

Fast forward to Saturday’s 49ers 20-9 preseason defeat to the Houston Texans and the outside linebacker was once again playing all four quarters for a Harbaugh-coached team.

“I haven’t done that since college,” said Bakhtiari, a standout for Harbaugh’s University of San Diego teams who has gone on to be a member of six different NFL practice squads.

Bakhtiari made good use of his extra playing time. Inserted into the starting lineup for starting outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, Bakhtiari finished Saturday night with a game-high seven tackles.

Bakhtiari, who totaled 2.0 sacks last week against Minnesota, nearly recorded another sack on Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates. Instead, the 49ers defender caused a holding penalty from Houston’s rookie guard Brandon Brooks.

The efforts of San Francisco’s steadily improving outside linebacker were recognized by teammates, too.

“It’s not easy playing an entire preseason game,” said Parys Haralson, who also made a start at outside linebacker for Aldon Smith. “I look up to him for that. He’s always learning and I think he played well today, and last week, too. He’s always learning, comes to work every day, understands the defense and he plays hard. I think that’s all you can really do, play your heart out and make plays.”

Harbaugh doesn’t see it being any different than his experience coaching Bakhtiari in college.

"Eric plays all-out every snap,” Harbaugh said. “I was very impressed. He had a couple that he'd like to have back, but it's a good step forward for him.”

Bakhtiari’s spot on the 53-man roster is not assured, but his hard-working approach remains consistent.

So while Bakhtiari was pleased to be involved for all four quarters of Saturday’s matchup against a quality offensive opponent, he also wanted to make strides in his run defense, a key component to playing in San Francisco’s 3-4 defensive alignment.

“One thing I needed to focus on based on the last game was setting the edge,” Bakhtiari said. “That’s what our defense is predicated on. With their zone run game, the outside linebacker needs to set the edge, so that was one thing I was focused on and I think it showed up for the majority of the plays.”

Bakhtiari made several of his seven tackles on perimeter runs by Houston’s offense. But even after leading the 49ers in tackles, he’s already looking towards next week’s opportunity.

“You’ve got to take the negative, which is the loss, and turn it into a positive,” he said.

FIRST HALF GROUND ATTACK

The 49ers racked up 94 of their 118 rushing yards in the first half of Saturday’s matchup with a physical Texans defensive front. Second-year back Kendall Hunter rushed for a game-high 46 yards on just seven carries.

The offensive line did its part in creating running lanes for Hunter, but guard Alex Boone, who sprung Hunter for a 17-yard gain, said it’s more about Hunter’s excellent vision than the line’s efforts.

“It was Kendall being Kendall,” said Boone, who made his second consecutive start of the preseason at right guard. “He’s been doing a great job, he runs it hard and he knows where to find a crease.”

In total, the 49ers carried the ball 24 times for 118 yards, good for 4.9 yards per carry.

“I think we did a good job as a unit,” Boone said, “but overall we must always improve to get better. A loss is a loss anyway you look at it. We’ve got to keep grinding.”

JACOBS AND JAMES

The ground attack did have a few unfortunate moments Saturday involving two of its new high-profile members. First, veteran running back Brandon Jacobs took a helmet to his right knee from Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson on an 8-yard carry. Harbaugh said Jacobs’ would miss time, but the injury wasn’t believed to be a season-ender.

Late in the game, second-round pick LaMichael James was injured when he appeared to collide with a 49ers lineman. James tweeted after the game that he’d be back to practice on Monday. Harbaugh reiterated it wasn’t a serious injury, but didn’t specify a timetable on his return, either.

JENKINS’ BIG CATCH

The biggest play from scrimmage for the 49ers Saturday night was turned in by first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Randy Moss was targeted the most on the evening, catching three catches for 24 yards, but it was the No. 30 overall pick who turned in the top reception.

With reserve quarterback Josh Johnson entering the game in the third quarter, Jenkins got behind Houston’s defense to catch a perfectly thrown 32-yard deep corner route down the 49ers sideline.

“It was a great job on Josh’s part throwing the ball,” Jenkins said. “My job was easy. He put the ball in a position to where I could have a really easy catch. All props go to him.”

Jenkins was being modest about the catch. Not only did he display great speed to get downfield in a hurry, but the 6-foot, 192-pound wideout had great body control while sticking both feet inbounds to complete the reception.

Jenkins said he is pleased with the improvements he’s made thus far.

“I’m making my strides,” Jenkins said. “I feel comfortable with where I’m at and I’m going to keep making more strides.”

Count the young wideout as one of the first 49ers eager to pop on game tape and evaluate his latest performance.

“That’s what the preseason is about, you go in and evaluate,” Jenkins said. “You’re obviously not going to win every game, it’s the preseason, but now you have a chance to look at film and get ready for the next two preseason games. You just keep playing and then we have Green Bay, so we’ll keep playing hard.”

SACKS FROM ROOKIES

The only sacks turned in Saturday night were from 49ers rookies. Safety Michael Thomas and linebacker Joe Holland, both undrafted, recorded second-half sacks.

“A bunch of the rookie free agents were out there just trying to make plays to try and make this team,” Thomas said. “I took advantage of the opportunity they gave me.”