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in F r e i s t i l 29.09.2018 03:42
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Mike McGlinchey's first test as an NFL tackle came against one of the league's top pass rushers in Dallas' DeMarcus Lawrence.

Things will only get tougher this week when McGlinchey must contend with three-time former AP Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney when the 49ers travel to Houston for two days of practice against the Texans before an exhibition game on Saturday.

"It's going to be fun. It's definitely going to be fun Youth Dion Phaneuf Jersey ," McGlinchey said. "That's why you play in the NFL, to play against the biggest and the baddest dudes and they have three or four of them. It's going to be pretty fun. I'm more worried about the heat monster than those guys. As long as I can stay upright and not lose 15 pounds in practice, I'll come out a winner."

McGlinchey and the 49ers were pleased with his exhibition debut against the Cowboys when he was matched up with Lawrence 鈥?who tied for second in the NFL with 14 1/2 sacks last year 鈥?on the first drive and stayed for two more to get as much experience as possible before the start of the regular season.

McGlinchey mostly held his own, although he was upset about his technique on a bull rush move by Lawrence that led to a hit on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

"I was really happy with Mike," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "First game for him. That's why we left him in there a little bit longer. By no means was it perfect, but it was very easy to see that the game is not too big for him. He's very comfortable out there. He looks like the player he looked in college when we studied him, how he's looked in practice. He got out there and didn't change. He's a guy who I think gets better as the game goes on because he is talented, but he also is very smart and doesn't get overwhelmed with things. When he does make a mistake, he usually learns from it."

The 49ers are counting on big things this season from McGlinchey after drafting him ninth overall out of Notre Dame in April and then trading last year's starter at right tackle, Trent Brown, to New England.

San Francisco immediately put McGlinchey in the starting lineup in the offseason and is grooming him to eventually take over for stalwart Joe Staley on the left side.

The two have struck up an immediate friendship based in part on a shared history. Staley's college coach at Central Michigan was Brian Kelly, who later took over at Notre Dame. Several of Kelly's assistants coached Staley in college and used him as an example at Notre Dame.

McGlinchey said that because the two approach the game in a similar way, he has peppered Staley with 20 to 30 questions each day about how to excel as a tackle in the NFL.

"It's been great Lars Eller Jersey ," he said. "I really can't think of myself being any luckier than I am because I do ask a lot of questions. I don't really leave him alone. He doesn't ever turn me away. He doesn't ever say shut up or anything like that so he's there for me. He's there to help me with anything I see."

It's become a bit of a running joke how close the two have become the past few months with Staley calling McGlinchey his best friend and little brother.

"The reason why is I see so much potential," Staley said. "He has the absolute right mindset to succeed in the NFL. The guy is really hungry to learn every single day. He comes to meetings and asks the right questions and picks up the playbook really well. I just see all the potential he has. I think he has nothing but great things ahead in his career. I look forward to being a mentor to a younger guy and teaching him things I've learned and hopefully he can surpass me some day."

NOTES: The 49ers signed RB Alfred Morris to a one-year deal to add depth with Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder) injured. ... OL Alan Knott was waived to make room on the roster.

Four of the five teams that gave up the fewest points during the regular season are the last four left with a shot at the Super Bowl, something that had never happened since the NFL-AFL merger nearly a half-century ago.

And three of the four toughest to gain yards against are still around, too.

Still think that all a team needs to succeed in the modern game is an elite QB? Go ahead and take a close look at Sunday’s matchups for the conference championship games.

Sure, Tom Brady (assuming his injured right hand is good to go) and the New England Patriots will be playing for the AFC title, just like they always do, but they’ll be going up against Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles will send Nick Foles out to face the Minnesota Vikings and Case Keenum, hardly a marquee matchup between quarterbacks, and one set up by injuries to other signal-callers.

What this quartet of teams does have in common is solid defense, showing once again that while everyone is paying so much attention to one side of the ball, it’s the other that might truly matter the most. The more league rules and officiating tend to favor offenses, the more figuring out ways to slow that down is imperative.

”When you have a defense that can shut that type of firepower down Niklas Hjalmarsson Jersey ,” said Brian Robison, a linebacker on the Vikings defense that ranked No. 1 in yards and points allowed, ”it allows you to win ballgames.”

Minnesota gave up 15.8 points per game. Jacksonville was No. 2 at 16.8, followed by No. 4 Philadelphia’s 18.4 and No. 5 New England’s 18.5.

”There’s teams that have really good defenses that aren’t talked about,” Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. ”We’re one of them.”

It’s the first time since the 1970 merger there has been that sort of defensive dominance among the NFL’s final four. The closest was at the end of the 2010 season, when teams that ranked No. 1 (Steelers), No. 2 (Packers), No. 4 (Bears) and No. 6 (Jets) in points allowed reached the conference title games.

”The most heralded guys on the field are the quarterbacks. So I would say, nine times out of 10, your detail goes into your offensive planning and things like that,” said Jacksonville’s leading tackler, Telvin Smith, who returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown last weekend. ”Offense sells tickets Marcus Foligno Jersey , and defense wins championships. I’m happy I’m on the defensive side.”

He is part of a young, talented and speedy D that rose to prominence quickly via a combination of shrewd drafting (linebackers Smith and Myles Jack, defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr., cornerback Jalen Ramsey) and free-agent signings that panned out (defensive lineman Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson).

Take a look at the regular-season rankings in various defensive categories, and you can’t miss the Jaguars. That helps explain how they made it this far with Bortles, whose 84.7 rating ranked 22nd among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts and whose 13 interceptions were exceeded by only six players.

Campbell tied for second in NFL with 14.5 sacks, while Ngakoue added 12 and led the league by forcing six fumbles. Bouye tied for third with six interceptions, while Ramsey, Gipson and Church each had four. As a unit, the Jaguars were No. 2 in yards allowed at 286.1, trailing the No. 1 Vikings (275.9) Nick Foligno Jersey , with the Eagles (306.5) at No. 4. The Jaguars were also second in sacks and total takeaways, while they topped the NFL with seven defensive TDs.

Exceptional defense can carry a team far: In nine of the last 10 seasons, the No. 1 or No. 2 team in points allowed participated in a conference championship game. The exception was 2015, when the Seahawks led the league in that category but lost in the divisional round, and the Bengals ranked second but lost in the wild-card round.

”Now it’s down to, `May the best defense win,”’ Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said. ”We each get to showcase what we can do.”



AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Kyle Hightower in Foxborough, Massachusetts; Mark Long in Jacksonville, Florida; and Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.



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