49ers Defensive Line Notes

By: Mike Messner (@teachermike72

Arik Armstead, DL


  • Played college ball at Oregon

  • Drafted in 1st round of 2015 draft by SF

  • Didn’t play much in his rookie year; played 33% of snaps

  • in two years Armstead has appeared in 24 games, starting a total of 5

  • showed some nice stuff in the pass-rushing department as a rookie, and showed massively upgraded pass rushing ability in 2016

  • last year, severely injury-hampered second season resulted in him appearing in only 8 games and starting 4; Jim O’Neil’s scheme also didn’t help

  • has recorded 45 career sacks, with 25 last season, and has 34 combined tackles on his career

  • Probably will be at left defensive end (strong-side end might be where he is best), but some discussion about the possibility of him operating as the team’s LEO on base downs

  • even if he is beaten out by another player for LEO, he will be heavily featured in the defensive line rotation to keep Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner fresh

Cap Status:

  • Third year of rookie contract and has a cap hit of just under $27 million this season

  • team will have to decide next spring on his 5th year option

  • if they trade him this offseason, they would carry $1,354,569 in dead money this season and $1,354,569 in dead money next season

  • UFA in 2020


  • Seens as a long term part of defensive line

  • Has come back from injuries before

  • graded positively as a pass rusher per PFF with a 732 pass rushing grade

  • most productive pass rusher at the 3-4 defensive end position

  • Can disengage with a blocker at the right time

  • repairing of his shoulder coupled with a move to Robert Saleh’s aggressive one-gapping scheme should significantly help him succeed

  • pass rushing should continue to improve

  • long, powerful arms and explosive abilities; has the ability to cause offensive linemen serious headaches


  • could be woefully miscast as an edge rusher

  • lacks the prototypical speed, bend and explosiveness that has previously been required of the position

  • Offensive tackles are the only players on the offensive line who are likely to be able to consistently negate his long arm length

  • Needs more refinement

Rated 44.1 overall by PFF (poor)

Ronald Blair, DL


  • fifth round selection in 2016 out of Appalachian State; would have been higher except for poor athletic testing

  • appeared in all 16 games as a rookie

  • made 16 combined tackles (5 assists) and had three sacks

  • played considerably more snaps against the pass than against the run, with 217 pass rush snaps and 82 against the run

Cap Status:

  • Signed four-year rookie deal with $270,404 signing bonus; in 2nd year now

  • cap hit of $607,601

  • UFA in 2020


  • improved noticeably as his rookie season progressed

  • Good pass rusher

  • increasingly found himself part of the 49ers’ defensive line rotation, especially when Arik Armstead was placed on IR

  • experiences both in college and as a rookie taking on double teams should help him to translate smoothly to the strong side end position in the 49ers’ new 4-3 defense

  • he can, if required, kick inside to rush the passer

  • arguably the best suited of the 49ers’ defensive linemen to the new defensive scheme and he is the versatility to play across the defensive line if required

  • move to a 4-3 defense will likely help him


  • Could find himself low on the pecking order if Armstead is not a starter

  • not good at anchoring against the run

Rated 44.3 by PFF (poor)

Deforest Buckner, DT


  • 1st round draft pick in 2016

  • Teammate of Arik Armstead at Oregon

  • 16 quarterback hurries and 17 tackles for loss while earning first-team conference honors and winning the Pat Tillman Pac-12 defensive player of the year award

  • 45 solo tackles

  • 105 sacks during his senior season alone

  • was regularly used as a stand-up pass rusher along the edges at Oregon

  • named Defensive Player of the Year by 49ers Insider in 2016

  • Will probably be used in the under-tackle role in 2017

Cap Status:

  • Entering second year of four-year rookie contract

  • UFA in 2021


  • Can occasionally work as an edge rusher

  • Great stamina, rarely takes a play off

  • Very fast for a man his size


  • Needs to set lower against double teams

  • Lack of rest has prevented him from top performance

  • May have been used too much last year

Rated 77.6 by PFF (average)

Tank Carradine, LB


  • selected in the second round, with the 40th overall pick, in 2013 draft

  • Part of “Team ACL”

  • placed on the reserve/non-football injury list (torn ACL); missed most of his rookie season with the injury

  • has played in 23 career games and has 39 combined tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble

  • Moved to OLB after starting as a defensive tackle; might be moved back there

  • make-or-break situation this year

Contract Status:

  • Signed to a one-year contract extension in September 2016; deal totaled $2,650,000

  • can earn an additional $1 million in incentives for sacks

  • signing bonus was $1,250,000 in 2016, with a 2017 base of $1,100,00 ($1,000,000 guaranteed for injury; fully guaranteed on April 1, 2017)

  • will also earn $250,000 if he is on the roster weekly, which will be paid over the season

  • earned a $50,000 workout bonus for his participation in the offseason workout program

  • incentive of $1,000,000 for sacks

  • 2017 cap hit is $1,978,125

  • Mercury thinks he will be not be renewed; ditto Bleacher Report

  • UFA in 2018

  • Brian Peacock says he’s in trouble this offseason


  • impressive physical specimen with a high ceiling and high motor

  • Has some speed

  • a remote chance he finally starts to show his true abilities in the Niners’ switch to a 4-3 base scheme

  • was a formidable 4-3 defensive end in college; since 49ers are switching to a 4-3 defense this season, that could allow Carradine an opportunity


  • 28 years old

  • should never have started bulking up

  • Hasn’t put pressure on quarterbacks much; has just four sacks over his NFL career

  • Stiff, not good at turning the corner

  • has never been good stopping the run in the NFL

  • we have seen little to nothing from Carradine

  • play has been somewhat unforgettable and at times, frustrating

  • seems pretty unlikely he will be used in a formidable way

  • new regime may have other ideas than Baalke had for him

  • Might end up being a role player in the nickel

  • NinerNoise says he should be cut in 2017-2018

Rated 61.3 by PFF (below average); unranked

Quinton Dial, DL



  • fifth-round pick in 2013; drafted out of Alabama

  • put on weight and muscle after college

  • eventually became a two-down read-and-react player capable of both stopping the run and getting good pressure when needed

  • missed most of his rookie season coming off toe surgery

  • in 2015, finished fourth on the team in quarterback hits, tackles for loss and tied for second with 25 sacks

  • had a good showing in his third season in the league and the 49ers front office showed their confidence in his future performance by extending his contract

  • Good reserve option

  • Will probably be playing DT in the new 4-3 scheme

Cap Status:

  • signed a three year extension in February 2016 worth $12 million

  • received a $3.227 million signing bonus, and a guaranteed base salary of $1.5 million for 2017

  • additional $14 million is guaranteed for injury

  • included in the contract are roster bonuses worth $400,000, and $15 million in potential escalators

  • due modest pay increases in each of the next two years, and carries a base salary of

  • cap hit is just under $2.9 million

  • UFA as of 2019


  • watched film during the off season to improve his performance

  • loves his role as a leader in the DL meeting room

  • Works well in 4-3 defense

  • Good run stopper

  • Has the right attitude and provides some DL depth

  • still in his physical prime

  • should make more highlight reel-quality plays without having to worry too much about the read-and-react system

Why He Could Regress:

  • any time a new scheme is introduced, there is always a possibility for regression by players who may have to adjust their techniques and routines

  • Not as versatile as he once was

  • Has to compete with Earl Mitchell, who already knows the position and is proven at it

  • new scheme will give him the added responsibility of following centers and guards more closely on outside running plays

  • has a long way to go to earn significant playing time

Rated 68.2 by PFF (below average); ranked 53rd

Elvis Dumervil, DE


  • Played college ball at Louisville

  • drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft by Broncos, who were at that time coached by Mike Shanahan

  • In the first game of the 2007 NFL season, he would get the first interception of his career

  • finished the year with 8.5 sacks in 13 games; total of 2.5 sacks in 2007.

  • 2009 season: made an outside linebacker in his 3-4 defensive scheme, but kept as a defensive end in nickel packages

  • led the league in sacks with 17, and tied a franchise record with 4 in the Sep 20th game against Cleveland

  • near unanimous selection for the All-Pro Team, receiving 46 out of the 50 total votes; finished third in voting for Defensive Player of the Year

  • 2010: signed a six-year $61.5 million contract extension (including $43.168 million in guaranteed payments) to keep him with the Broncos through 2015

  • 8/4/10: suffered a torn pectoral muscle during practice, and missed the entire 2010 season

  • Released by Broncos on 3/15/13 due to contract faxing snafu

  • 3/24/13: agreed to a 5-year-deal with the Ravens worth $35 million, including $8.5 million in the first year of the deal

  • 2014: tied his career high of sacks with 17, as well as forcing two fumbles (the sacks set a new Baltimore Ravens franchise record)

  • was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl and also named to the Associated Press’s All-Pro first team.

  • 2015: highest ranked Raven on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2015 list

  • production would slow down drastically in 2015, despite starting all 16 games for the Ravens for the first time

  • ended the year with 6 sacks, a defended pass and a forced fumble

  • selected to play in the 2016 Pro Bowl as an alternate

  • 3/8/17:  released by the Ravens

Cap Status:

  • signed a two-year deal worth $8 million on 6/5/17

  • received a $1 million signing bonus, with an additional $500,000 in base salary fully guaranteed

  • has a $750,000 roster bonus in each of the two seasons.


  • has undoubtedly been one of the most consistently effective pass rushers of the last decade

  • In the final five weeks of last season, he ranked sixth among all edge rushers with 22 pressures forced from the left side

  • pass rushing tools and awareness are extremely polished and his explosiveness was still evident last season

  • notable lack of depth below him at DE/pass rusher


  • had Achilles surgery in the offseason

  • Was merely serviceable upon his return, not spectacular

  • certainly not the player he was two or three years ago

Rated 76.2 by PFF (average); unranked

Chris Jones, DT


  • played college football for Bowling Green

  • selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Texans; released on 8/31/13

  • claimed by the Buccaneers on 9/1/13; was inactive for the season opener; released on 9/10/13

  • Claimed by Patriots

  • recorded his first career sack against the Bengals on 10/6/13

  • finished the season with 6 sacks in 13 games, which was 2nd amongst rookies

  • earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for Week 7 of the 2014 NFL season

  • finished the season with three sacks and 15 tackles

  • Part of the winning Patriots team in Super Bowl XLIX

  • calf injury caused him to miss the entire 2015 NFL season

  • Patriots waived him on 4/15/16

  • claimed by the Dolphins on 4/18/16; released as part of final roster cuts but re-signed on September 14, 2016

  • played in seven games, starting none, with no sacks and four tackles

  • released by the Dolphins on 11/7/16

  • claimed by the 49ers 11/8/16 when Arik Armstead went on IR

  • was inactive his first two games with the 49ers

  • made starter against the Dolphins on November 27 when Quinton Dial went out; started again the following week and for the final four games

  • had an 89 percent run stop rate, according to Pro Football Focus

  • had the sixth most run stops from Week 12 through 17 among defensive tackles

  • had four quarterback pressures in 74 pass rush snaps

Cap Status:

  • Signed to 1-year deal as of 3/16/17

  • $775,000 contract with a $50,000 signing bonus

  • Niners Nation says he’s fighting for a roster spot


  • some solid play last season

  • has flashed talent in the past

  • there is room to build, and that bodes well for him


  • Not clear what kind of opportunities he might have

  • if he does make the roster, his role could end up fairly limited

Rated 43.4 by PFF (poor); ranked 100

Earl Mitchell, DT


  • Played college ball at University of Arizona

  • drafted by the Texans in the third round (81st overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft

  • signed by the Miami Dolphins to a four-year, $16 million contract including $9 million guaranteed in 2014

  • placed on injured reserve on 9/13/16 (calf); 17 combined tackles in 9 games last year, including a 6 yard stuff in a goal line stand

  • local beat writers gave him good marks for his games against San Diego, Baltimore, and Buffalo

  • had 3 tackles in the playoff game against Pittsburgh

  • has experience with 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina, who was a defensive assistant during Mitchell’s time with the Texans

Cap Status:

  • Signed a 4-year, $16 million deal on 2/25/17

  • 2017 Base salary: $1,650,000 (guaranteed)

  • Signing bonus: $3 million

  • Bonuses: Roster ($750,000), Workout ($100,000)

  • 2017 cap charge: $2,921,875

  • UFA in 2021


  • Lynch praised Mitchell’s character when he signed him

  • PFF listed him as their top-rated DT in 2014

  • Everyone raves about his effort and attitude

  • Miami sportswriters liked his play generally after he came back from injury

  • release was a price/performance issue related to their large payroll


  • has had an up and down career

  • not a man of high statistics

  • Has to compete with Quinton Dial and possibly Chris Jones

  • Drafting D.J. Jones in the 6th round might indicate that Lynch isn’t 100% committed to Mitchell going forward

  • will be 30 by the end of week 3

  • much better on passing downs than in base, which is a problem because San Francisco acquired him specifically to shore up their run defense

  • has never finished higher than 30th in overall grading among defensive tackles during any point in his career

Rated 46.3 by PFF (poor); ranked 78th

Solomon Thomas, DE


  • Drafted in 1st round, 2017, 3rd overall pick

  • was a team captain at Stanford and drove that defense in so many ways

  • Made the winning tackle in Sun Bowl against UNC

  • has been viewed primarily as a strong defensive end player in the base

  • can also slide to the interior line in passing downs, three technique for pass rush situations

  • said the team wants him to learn LEO as well in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio

  • sought out Demarcus Ware for tips on pass rushing

  • also worked out with Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp

  • wrangled an invite to work out with Von Miller

Cap Status:

  • the only rookie that remains unsigned by the 49ers; this is probably because Stanford is late on the academic calendar and the NFL prohibits players from practicing with their new team until classes are no longer in session

  • should receive a contract worth $28,154,382, with a signing bonus of $18,615,912

  • will likely also receive roster bonuses in the second, third, and fourth years


  • Angular build, well-built frame

  • Lined up at multiple positions

  • has ravenous approach to the game

  • excellent against the run, something the 49ers were terrible at last season.

  • Gets out of the blocks quickly and attacks with early, skilled hands

  • Has the ability to lead and take ownership of the defensive side of the roster

  • provides a likable spirit and unifying quality needed

  • Stays hungry and wants to feast

  • Shows ability to win with power or quickness

  • Outstanding athleticism

  • Fluid in his play

  • Transitions from move to move

  • Unpredictable pass rush

  • Attacks both the edges and can crank up a bull rush

  • Hands and feet work in unison

  • Has lightning-quick spin move he can access to unhinge from block and find new life in his rush

  • Violent disengagements from blocks leave no doubt blocker is whipped

  • Relentless approach combined with athleticism makes block recoveries extremely difficult in run or pass

  • Refuses extended engagements to blockers and works himself free

  • Will sniff out gaps and make himself skinny into the backfield

  • Very good pursuit speed and range as playmaker


  • Considered a “tweener” by scouts, who believe he could struggle to keep enough weight on his frame to play along interior

  • Length is below average as five-technique

  • Plays with inconsistent pad level

  • Needs to get bigger and stronger through his lower body

  • Tends to play taller as play rolls along and can get washed out of plays by strong down blocks

  • Gets engulfed at times

  • Had seven offsides penalties in 2016

NinersWire says he has an 87% chance of starting in Week 1

DJ Jones, DT


  • Played college ball at Ole Miss for two seasons; began his collegiate career at East Mississippi Community College

  • played in 25 games (15 starts), and registered 70 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 8.5 TFLs, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR and 1 PD

  • drafted by the 49ers in the sixth round of the 2017 draft

Cap Status:

  • guaranteed salary of $465,000

  • prorated bonus of $36,967

  • no workout or roster bonuses

  • being cut would result in $36,967 in dead money and a cap savings of $465,000


  • Has a big bubble and plays with a wide base

  • Outrageous weight room strength with monster numbers in clean, bench, and squat

  • Plays low and fires upward strikes to elevate the blocker’s center of gravity

  • Has the play strength to rip through an edge once he gets to it

  • Has quick hands and is nice with the swim move

  • Has necessary play traits to be an effective rusher in the twist game

  • Rare reactive athleticism and short-area lateral quickness for an interior player

  • Extended tackle radius allows him to close out running lanes away from his gap

  • Keeps hounding runners down the field for the tackle

  • Instinctive and quickly sniffs out screen passes

  • Very rarely on ground


  • Has a stocky frame with short arms and lacks the length teams like

  • Lack of size could be an issue against NFL double teams

  • Motor gets him too juiced at times

  • Needs to gather himself to prevent running past his target

  • Was unable to overpower strong guards in man-to-man contest

  • Lacked impact tackle production

  • will likely take a back seat to Earl Mitchell and Chris Jones while learning Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme and adjusting to the speed of the NFL

NinersWire says he has a 37% chance of starting in Week 1

Pita Taumoepenu, DE




  • sixth round pick out of Utah in 2017

  • specialist pass rusher

  • left college with the fifth most sacks overall by a Utes player (21.5), including two in his final game (played at Levi’s Stadium in the Fosters Farm Bowl)

  • appeared in 46 games at Utah, starting 7 of them

  • sack totals increased each year, with one as a freshman, 5.5 as a sophomore, 6 as a junior and 9 as a senior

  • had 25.5 tackles for a loss, of which 12 came as a senior

  • ran a 4.67 40 yard dash (92nd percentile amongst defensive linemen), with a strong 1.65s 10 yard split, at the combine

  • also performed exceptionally well in the three cone drill with his 6.91s effort placing him second amongst d-linemen at the combine

  • was sixth best at the combine in the short shuttle (4.33s)

Cap Status:

  • First year of rookie contract

  • base salary of $465,000

  • cap hit of $501,361

  • dead cap hit of $145,444 if he is cut


  • Quick-twitch athlete with light, bouncing feet

  • has the athleticism to translate to the NFL

  • Able to stick his foot in the ground and redirect quickly to mirror change of direction from running backs and quarterbacks

  • Probably their second best, pure LEO player after Aaron Lynch — and Lynch has been out of shape

  • demonstrates the traits to get after the quarterback

  • first step alone could threaten most tackles and alleviate some of the issues surrounding his size

  • has a good swim and rip move to take advantage of tackles over-adjusting to his speed

  • effective as a backside run defender, with the speed to get to running backs

  • Always looks to crash down inside and catch ball-carrier before he hits the hole

  • might warrant consideration as a 4-3 WILL

  • could offer an explosive presence as a specialist pass rusher

  • Plays with terrific urgency and a motor that is always humming

  • Relentless in his pursuit with a good closing burst to the ball no matter where he is on the field

  • Good explosiveness out of his stance and into his rush If he times-up snap, can race up the field and beat a tackle around the edge

  • Uses a well-timed inside counter when he senses his opponent has set far enough up the field

  • Second-effort sack man

  • Has attributes to potentially shine on special teams


  • Undersized and underpowered for the edge

  • Has to compete with Lynch, Eli Harold and Quinton Dial

  • Lacks upper body power and overall play strength to set a strong edge and will get caught inside losing contain responsibilities at time

  • easy to block out of a play

  • When tackles clamp into his frame, he is unlikely to unhinge in a timely fashion

  • Has no chance of channeling speed-to-power as a pass rusher

  • Pass rush plan is lacking

  • Face-up rushing style will require cleaner hand usage to create some openings

  • Ducks head into contact as a tackler and allows too many broken tackles

  • Carries very little thud behind his pads as a tackler and is forced into wrap and drag finishing

  • Has just seven career starts; limited exposure to the game

NinersWire says he has a 9% chance of starting in Week 1

Noble Nwachukwu, DL




  • son of two immigrants from Nigeria

  • Appeared in 47 games during his five years at West Virginia

  • Finished with 126 tackles, 29.5 TFLs, 15.5 sacks, 7 PDs, 3 FFs and 1 FR

  • as a senior in 2016, led the team with 4.0 sacks and finished with 40 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 2 PDs, 1 FF and 1 FR

  • in 2015, started all 13 games for the second-consecutive season and tallied 47 tackles, 13 TFLs and a team-high 8.5 sacks, 1 PD and 1 FF 2.0 sacks, 3.0 TFLs, 1 INT and 1 FR

  • Signed as UDFA with SF in 2017

Cap Status:

  • Signed 3 year contract

  • Will be paid $465,000 this season

  • No guaranteed money

  • UFA in 2020


  • explosive off the ball, with good twitch, considerable strength and the ability to drop into pass coverage

  • good tackler and has a high motor


  • late start in the game

  • just not NFL size: height, short arms, tiny hands

  • Has to compete with Pita Taumoepenu, who is 25 pounds lighter, a quarter inch taller, a little faster, and had more sacks in a tougher conference


Kyle Shanahan; Problem Instead of Solution?

By: Stefán Krüger (@jav_95)img_1386
Final Edit: (@Zachhernan)


This is basically my very first expression every morning I wake up, look at the calendar and realize that we are still in the NFL’s no-man’s-land. The length of an NFL off-season is unbearable, especially the time between OTAs and training camp seems to be never-ending (which is why I’m quite excited for the American Flag Football League to be honest, but that is something for another day). For comparison – I am from Germany and my league number one is the Bundesliga – European soccer clubs went into summer break the first week of June. First trainings started July 1st. Between that, some players even played in international tournaments. This is the schedule I am accustomed to. There is hardly any break and I can enjoy a sport I love year-round. I sadly cannot do that with the NFL. While one half of the year drowns in action, the other half is just a waiting game for August to come.

As you probably all remember, our new player-turned-broadcaster-turned-general manager John Lynch said in January during Atlanta’s playoff game against Seattle that (the then still Falcons offensive coordinator and front-runner for the 49ers head coaching position) Kyle Shanahan was rumored to be arrogant sometimes. With no news and a lot of time on my hands, I decided to go through some old stories about the former offensive coordinator and I found some, well, interesting things.

Before I get into any more detail, I want to make absolutely clear that I am a huge fan of the Shanahan hire and that I like his attitude from what I have seen so far. What follows, though, is a quick history of Shanahan’s troubles and criticism he has faced with other teams and regimes. The situation now is fairly different, but starting in 2011, there is somewhat a trend to be noticed. I will give a quick recap of some of the articles written at the given time and, at the end, compare that to the current situation. Without

further ado, let’s get started.


Although Kyle Shanahan’s coaching career began in 2004, there were no negative reports whatsoever about him at first; not in his two years in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden, not in his four years in Houston under Gary Kubiak, despite being in the spotlight more often from 2008 on, serving as Kubiak’s offensive coordinator. In 2010, however, his father Mike Shanahan, Super Bowl winning coach with the Broncos, was hired to be the next head coach in Washington. He brought in Kyle to be the offensive coordinator. During the next four years, reports would start surfacing about his personality.


It all started in the offseason of 2011. Washington had finished the previous season at 6-10 after having traded for an aging Donovan McNabb. He then was on his way out and Rex Grossman was about to take over.

Jun. 7, 2011

Grossman gives an interview in which he details how Shanahan operates his offense and training. This leads Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio to publish an article with the subtle headline “Kyle Shanahan emerges as full-blown control freak.” In it he points out the OCD-like behavior Shanahan showcases when it comes to executing the offense, calling him a silver-spoon assistant coach. He even goes as far as to declare that “Shanahan has developed into football’s answer to Veruca Salt.” For those who aren’t familiar with this; she is a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a main antagonist; basically, a greedy, bratty, demanding, manipulative, spoiled child.
Granted, this article was an outlier at the time, but it was a first indication of what would ensue.


In the offseason before the 2012 season, the Washington team acquired Robert Griffin III in the draft. They also landed Alfred Morris and the next season the offense took a huge step forward. These two players carried the offense basically by themselves with Griffin posting a passer rating of 102.4 for the season, winning AP Rookie Of The Year, and Morris rushing for over 100 yards per game. They also combined for 40 touchdowns. Still, not everything was sunshine and rainbows.

Sep. 23, 2012

After their second loss in just the third game of the season, things got heated. Less than two minutes to play, Washington trailed Cincinnati by 7 points, but managed its way into the Bengals Red Zone. Then several penalties and confusions caused by the referees ensued, the team lost the game and the younger Shanahan his cool. He stormed from the field to face the referees in the halls of the stadium. The language was R-rated.
This is what ESPN 980 reported afterwards:


The season once more did not appear to be a great one with the team record being 3-6 just before the bye week in early November. Then a major turnaround happened and Washington finished 10-6, winning 7 straight, and the division to end the regular season, scoring 30 PPG on the way. However, supposed franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a knee injury in Week 14 which ultimately led to a full ACL, LCL and meniscus tear, respectively, in the playoff game against Seattle.

This injury was the beginning of the end of the Shanahan tenure in Washington. I think it is well-documented how that was handled by the parties involved.

Griffin rushed back from the injury and played through the first 13 games of the 2013 season, leaving Washington with a 3-10 record before being shut down. This was an ugly last season for both of the Shanahan’s in Washington, and as expected (because it always happens) some people came out criticizing the regime.


Dec. 15, 2013

Jason La Confora publishes an article annihilating Kyle Shanahan. He interviewed “numerous team sources” and cites “current and former staff members”, all falling into a similar tone when it comes to Shanahan’s personality. In the article Shanahan is depicted as Veruca Salt from PFT’s article earlier. Some say he is the de facto head coach, just no one knows; he is whining about everything and anything, even the food in the cafeteria; he surrounded himself with his “buddies” in the coaching staff so no one would challenge him because he is not that confident; he has entitlement-syndrome and holds grudges over small stuff because he is so petty; he bitches about everything and then his father goes out and fixes it for him.


After this tumultuous last season in Washington Kyle Shanahan was hired to be the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator. At first everything was fine, now 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer led the team to a 7-4 record with the offense scoring 22 PPG. However, Hoyer didn’t play well in his last starts from Week 10 through 14, averaging out a completion percentage of below 50 % (49.69) while throwing for only 2 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions. The front office then pushed for Johnny Manziel to become the starter, much to Shanahan’s dislike.


Oct. 26, 2014

Before Manziel was named starter and Hoyer had his bad stretch, though, the latter had some good games; among them the Browns victory against the visiting Oakland Raiders. Before Hoyer threw his first and only touchdown pass of the game, there was an interesting sideline exchange between HC Mike Pettine and Shanahan in which Shanahan gave Pettine that overconfident I-know-it-all look.




Jan. 8, 2015


Shanahan’s contract with the Cleveland Browns is terminated. He requested a release after continuous front office meddling with football decisions. As Mike Silver so eloquently put it:




According to La Confora it took some deliberation and negotiation among lawyers to free Shanahan from the Browns. He even pitched a 32 sheet Power Point presentation to Pettine, detailing why he wanted out of Cleveland.

Kyle Shanahan did not stay unemployed for very long. He was rumored to become the Buffalo Bills new head coach, but instead he was hired to be the Atlanta Falcons offensive-coordinator under new Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who had just won the Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for Seattle. The team started fiery, going undefeated in the first five games. However, as hot the team was in the first five games, as fast it flamed out, losing 7 of the next 8 games and finishing 8-8 overall. Again, criticism arose. In the midst of it? You guessed correctly, Kyle Shanahan.

Nov. 15, 2015

A petition to fire Kyle Shanahan emerges. Falcons fans everywhere come out and blame Matt Ryan’s regression on the offensive coordinator and his unwillingness to adapt to his quarterback. “The dude is terrible”, “How Kyle Shanahan continues to find work amazes me”, “Dan Quinn fucked up extraordinarily with this hire and I honestly think he is the main problem why Atlanta is so bad” are common opinions. Even Matt Ryan reportedly criticized his coordinator for implementing a scheme too complicated to grasp.
Amid this heat Dan Quinn stuck to his guy and decided not to fire Shanahan after the 2015 season. Criticism ensued, especially from one franchise-great who believes he was disregarded the season before.

Mar. 7, 2016

 Roddy White’s agent stated:

“There is one reason Roddy is no longer with the Falcons and it is Kyle Shanahan. Kyle forced the Falcons to choose between him or Roddy. This was not Roddy’s choice.”

Mar. 13, 2016

Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz:
“My view on Shanahan is that while he’s not nearly as bad a coordinator as he has been painted, he gets overly married to scheme, like most OCs, and he struggles to accept input. He seemed to mentally close the door to [Roddy] White’s potential role in the offense from Day 1. He tends to hear only one voice — his own — which Quinn didn’t exactly deny and certainly doesn’t embrace.”
What ensued, though, after years of much criticism and little praise was a phenomenal 2016 season. There is no doubt that it was the Shanahan play-calling and scheme that propelled the Falcons to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1998. Matt Ryan finally grasped the offense in its entirety and the results were astonishing. The team scored the 8th most points in the history of the NFL in a regular season (540) and Ryan was voted AP MVP after posting a 116.8 passer rating. The offense was able to outperform itself in the playoffs, dropping 36 points on the feared Seahawks defense in the Divisional Round and 44 points on the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

Feb. 5, 2017

The Falcons do what they did all season; crush opponents with their seemingly unstoppable offense and play with a speedy defense. They storm out to a 21-3 halftime lead and even extend said lead to 28-3 with just over two minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. However, the Patriots recover, the Falcons players get more and more exhausted and Tom Brady and Co. manage to fabric the biggest comeback on the biggest stage, winning 34-28 in overtime. Quickly someone had to be found to put the blame on and since Kyle Shanahan continued to call plays aggressively, he was the one called out for losing the game for the Falcons.
“In the biggest moment of his professional career, Shanahan blew it. He got cute, and it cost the Falcons dearly.”

Jul. 19, 2017

Even months later the quarterback Shanahan made into an MVP openly criticized his former coordinator. He suggested Shanahan took too long to get his plays to the QB so that Ryan didn’t have any time to change them,
if necessary: You’re talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines. He also implied he would have changed a call to a run in one of the fatal pass plays in the fourth quarter that took the team out of field goal range: “We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I’m all for it. But there’s also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there”.


To summarize, Kyle Shanahan has faced lots of criticism at every stop in every year since 2011, much of it not just about his play-calling and scheme, but rather about his personality and alleged pettiness and arrogance. In my opinion, most of it is uncalled for, though. Yes, he is a little bit arrogant, but he also gets rave reviews about his football knowledge and is by now called the best offensive mind in all of football.
Other than that, I don’t see a lot of criticism holding up. Rex Grossman in his interview rather praised Shanahan for micro-managing him because that would help him on gameday. Florio then once again twisted these words into a head-scratching criticism. As these two comments perfectly sum it up:
As to the Jason La Confora piece; he is a hypocrite and obviously does everything for a story because just one year later he wrote an article about Shanahan, praising him, painting an entirely opposite picture. Maybe some of the allegations are true, but to me it shows that Shanahan is a meticulous coach and doesn’t complain for the sake of complaining, but to elevate the standards. We also need to keep in mind that most of the interviewees were former (and more importantly anonymous) employees which is an explosive mixture and not necessarily the best source for accurate reports. However, Shanahan was also criticized for bringing too many of his buddies on the staff and not a lot of established coaches. He indeed had some first or second-year guys under him, but as it turned out he wasn’t entirely wrong. Shanahan’s TE coach Sean McVay was named youngest head coach in the history of the modern NFL at just 30 years old at signing; QB coach Matt LaFleur is now also with the Rams, serving as offensive coordinator. Mike McDaniel is still with Kyle Shanahan now on the 49ers, having followed him to Cleveland and then Atlanta previously. All these position coaches still serve in the league years later having been on several coaching staffs, so it speaks for a certain capability they all possess. Lastly on this piece: Shanahan’s recent appearance on the Simms and Lefkoe podcast. They asked what his “24-year-old-I-can’t-believe-I-just-did-that moment” was back when he started as a coaching assistant on Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa and this was his response:
“I’ve been called into rooms and told to keep my mouth shut and didn’t do that. You learn and you move on, but those guys were never expecting it, too. I am now in a position where I have guys like that and you want guys to challenge you, you want guys to challenge what you say because you’ve been doing things a certain way and you’re always looking to improve. When you have people of different views you want to hear it and you don’t want ever to discourage those people from [speaking] up because it’s only going to hurt your team in the long run.”

I think I’ll keep it short on the Cleveland chapter, until their most recent front office changes it was one big dumpster fire and I don’t fault anyone for wanting out of that situation, and if it takes a 32 sheet Power Point presentation.

The one last thing I want to tackle, though, is the situation in Atlanta. Shanahan got a lot of flak for his scheme and play-calling and also the handling of the Roddy White situation. Yes, White wasn’t a big part of the 2015 offense, but he was nearing retirement and Shanahan felt he could have more success without him. White slowly fizzled out in Atlanta and it was somewhat telling that he could not continue his career anywhere else. I must add that his agent’s statement earlier was vehemently denied by Dan Quinn who said he and Dimitroff alone were responsible for roster moves.

Back to Shanahan’s offense, though. Yes, it is a complex scheme to learn, that is public knowledge by now. However, the learning curve is very much worth it, evident by the first five games of 2015 for the Falcons and the entire last season, averaging more than 30 PPG and producing busted coverages or missed defensive assignments see mingly every play. It might or might not be very pretty this year, but judging from the past we can expect to see huge improvements in year two the latest.

Regardless of the execution, Shanahan remains – for me at least – the best play-caller the league has to offer at the moment. Even the two plays that were criticized earlier were blown up by individual mistakes by Devonta Freeman and Jake Matthews, respectively. On the first play (8:32 to play, 3rd & 1, 28-12 lead) Shanahan called a deep shot to 49ers free agent addition Aldrick Robinson who had beat the Patriots secondary. Freeman missed the pass blocking pick-up and just as Matt Ryan started throwing, Dont’a Hightower hit the quarterback for a sack and fumble which New England recovered. Here are visuals to the play.

Hightower strip sack

Hightower strip sack

One might say calling a run would have taken away the possibility of a sack, but there is a risk involved in every single play. Who knows if Ryan had not fumbled the exchange, or Freeman the ball running. Plus, the Patriots completely dried up the run game in the second half, after being run over in the first half (Freeman: 1H 12.17 YPC, 2H 0.80 YPC, Coleman: 1H 5.00 YPC, 2H 2.60 YPC). In my opinion, the play-call was correct and had Freeman picked up Hightower, it would have been instant game over.


The second scrutinized play came on Atlanta’s next possession. On 1st and 10 from the NE 22 Freeman rushes and loses a yard. Shanahan calls a pass on second down to make it a manageable 3rd down. Ryan gets sacked and loses 12 yards. It is now 3rd and 23 from the NE 35 and the Falcons need some more yards to make it a more manageable field goal for Matt Bryant. Shanahan calls another pass and Ryan connects with Mohammed Sanu for 9 yards. However, Jake Matthews gets penalized for a hold on a Patriots pass rusher which negates everything. Again, here are visuals:

Jake Matthews holding

Jake Matthews holding

I do not fault Shanahan one bit for it. As play-caller you expect your players to execute the called play and both times I would rather blame Freeman and Matthews because they were the reason the plays did not work out.

As you can see, I do not see anything specifically that causes me major concern. I think Shanahan is a brilliant offensive young mind who has immense knowledge of the game. I also do not see the micro-managing accusations as a concern moving forward. Keep in mind, Chip Kelly was heavily criticized for being way too controlling. When he came to San Francisco, though, he said everything he was criticized for was standard practice there already. It is usually the innovative or great minds that rub established, old-school people the wrong way which then gets way overblown in the media. And since we are talking about former 49ers coaches; Jim Harbaugh was criticized by ex-49ers for making them work hard. Judging from all that I refrain from taking every bit of criticism too seriously.

Hoping For Improvement and Development Heading into Training Camp

By: Stewart Mathurin (@SoLockedIn)img_1386

Final Edit: @Zachhernan

With last season slowly fading away in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to take a look at a few players who showed signs of promise in 2016. Also, breakdown why I’m looking forward to their improvement and development come training camp and the start of the season. Without further ado, let’s get to the list!

Jeremy Kerley


NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals


He came to this team from the Detroit Lions via trade last preseason and immediately became a play-maker for a team that desperately needed help. Once Anquan Boldin left, Kerley seamlessly slotted into the wide receiver group alongside veteran Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton. He led the team in receiving with 667 yards and grabbed three touchdowns – one less than the team-high, four, per ESPN Stats. Kerley showed he was willing to make tough catches over the middle of the field and more often than not he managed to get open in aid of his quarterbacks. He played well enough to earn a new contract during free agency. Now, I’m looking forward to development under his new regime. The additions of Aldrick Robinson, Pierre Garçon, and Marquise Goodwin will help with motivation (which never comes into question in Kerley’s case) and also attract more attention from corners.

Rashard Robinson


NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers


#33 is a long-armed, super confident press-corner. Coming out of D(efensive)B(ack)U(niversity) aka LSU, Robinson has all but developed into a true shut-down corner for the 49ers. He was quite the pleasant surprise of 2016. standing out with his press coverage and rapid development. We all have been hoping for the 49ers to acquire a top-notch corner, well we might just have one in our hands with Robinson. The 21 year-old racked up 28 tackles and one interception. Also, Robinson finished the season with 13.2 coverage snaps per reception, which ranked #1 among rookie corners (with over 250 snaps), per PFF. As a 4th-round pick, Robinson has certainly out-played his draft spot, which is usually a key attribute of successful teams. Not to mention his development came at the perfect time, as the team had just released veteran corner Tramaine Brock right after news broke of an arrest for domestic violenceA young group of corners to lead and a starting spot should really bring out the best in Robinson. I know I’m not the only one extremely eager to see how he improves come both training camp and the season.

Carlos Hyde




By now, many people know of Kyle Shanahan and his running back coach Bobby Turner’s well-noted success with backs in their respective careers. So, when they drafted Joe Williams and signed vet Tim Hightower this off-season, some assumed the writing was on the wall for Hyde. They might argue Hyde has yet to play all 16 games in a season. Well, I’m here to tell you that Hyde had 217 carries for 988 rushing yards, resulting in six touchdowns behind an atrocious offensive line (worst in the league, per PFF) and he did not have much help in terms of other weapons on the offense to take the attention off of the running-game. Hyde’s physical style was a must behind the aforementioned OL, 83.9% of his runs for positive yards occurred after contact, per Rob Lowder of Ninerswire and Jeff Ratcliffe of Pro Football Focus. His noted battles with injuries are in honesty, are a bit worrisome at the least. Hyde came from a zone-based scheme at the Ohio State University where he thrived. He put up the numbers mentioned earlier in Chip Kelly’s version of the zone scheme. Kyle Shanahan is now in charge, and brought in not only help, but competition as well all along the offensive side of the ball. A new group of wide receivers and tight ends can only bode well for Both Hyde and the run-game overall. New general manager John Lynch said of Hyde, “we’re really high on him and what he can do in this offense and he is a very talented young man” per Chris Wesseling of NFL Network. That statement echoes my sentiments regarding Hyde completely. A big, talented, fast back with something to prove, I’m eagerly awaiting Carlos Hyde’s answer to all those who ever questioned him.

DeForest Buckner




When you’re drafted inside the top-10, you’re expected to make sudden impacts. Well, Buckner did just that! He gave fans a glimpse of his abilities – long, high-motored with brute strength. The former Oregon Duck was a standout for a 49ers team who were practically begging for stars last season. Ever-present on the defensive line (which struggled mightily), Buckner still managed to amass 73 tackles and 6 sacks, per ESPN Stats. This upcoming season, Buckner will have the benefit of having worked out with other top NFL defensive linemen this off-season. I’m really looking forward for Buckner to show better pad-level and strength. He’ll have former Oregon teammate Arik Armstead healthy and this year’s first, first-round pick Solomon Thomas to help ease his troubles. Also, the 49ers won a bidding war over veteran lineman Earl Mitchell, frequently of Miami. Having the help will take some pressure off Buckner, he’ll be fresh and also face less double-teams. If he can build off of his solid rookie season and shows the expected development, the 49ers could have an All-Pro brewing in Buckner.

Jimmie Ward




Mr. Versatile, Jimmie Ward was a first-round pick who mainly had experience in the slot or as a nickle corner. When he came into the NFL, the 49ers asked him to play outside-cornerback. He showed some promise last season as a cornerback – 53 tackles, one interception, and also one sack, per ESPN Team Stats. Ward is currently transitioning into a new position as the 49ers convert to the 4-3 defense from the 3-4. New defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will implement Ward as a single-high free safety, one of the most important positions in the 4-3 defense. The free safety cleans up the mistakes made by corners or linebackers in coverage. Ward played some safety in college at Northern Illinois, but this is his first stint at the role full-time in the NFL. Ward has displayed his speed, shiftiness, and ability to cover in the league. He has great feet, which should help him thrive in the middle of the field. What gives me pause is that there aren’t many natural fits behind Ward on the depth chart after rookie free-agent Lorenzo Jerome, meaning Ward could be on the field for extended periods of time. The team also picked up his fifth-year option which may be an indication of how highly the staff regard Ward, or it could just be an oversight. If he is consistent and concentrated, I fully expect Jummie Ward to have an impressive season. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the first reports on Ward at training camp.

Training Camp Watch List



  • Daniel Kilgore vs Jeremy Zuttah: a nice battle for the starting center gig, but the loser still has a shot at the offensive guard positions.
  • Arik Armstead vs Aaron Lynch vs Elvis Dumervil: the fight for the LEO position will be a major talking point, as these three men will give it their all for the premiere pass-rushing spot. A vet fighting to prove he is still in his prime vs two young guns with a lot to prove – should be plenty of fun.
  • Trent Brown vs Garry Gilliam: the battle of the right tackles! I’m actually a huge fan of Trent Brown. I think he has the potential to be a great tackle. Brown is up against a former Seattle Seahawk Garry Gilliam who is very athletic and seemingly fits what the head coach wants to do. The loser of this battle might be forced out to be the swing tackle.
  • Kyle Shanahan’s beard: I saw a nice photo of Kyle Shanahan rocking a beard on NinersNation and I must be honest – it looked great, check it out for yourself!

The Life of Brian

By: Mike Messner (@teachermike72)img_1386

Final Edit: @Zachhernan


Veteran QB Brian Hoyer certainly must be hoping that SF is the last stop on his long, winding career.

Just weeks away from the beginnings of the 2017-2018 football season, it’s probably a good time to take a look at what the 49ers’ prospects are, and why they will achieve those prospects.  We’re treading on shaky ground, of course, because no one knows with absolute certainty what the future holds.

But let’s assume for the moment that the team touched bottom last year.  Since the end of the worst season since 1979, Colin Kaepernick and Blake Gabbert have been sent packing, Trent Baalke has been expelled from Santa Clara (and maybe from football completely), and the team had what most observers would call an excellent draft.  A new coach, a new GM, and a new attitude have taken up residence; Joe Staley said he’s actually enjoying himself again.

The tough thing is that, despite all that, no one I have read thinks the team will resurrect itself completely this season.  They call it rebuilding, improvement, baby steps, retrenchment, or the first step on the Quest for Six. (Okay, we’ve heard that last one since Steve Young was our quarterback, but you get my drift.)  And frankly, there are too many unknown quantities on the team as we sit here to make really outlandish predictions.

So let’s say the team makes it to…take a breath…7-9 this next season.  And miss the playoffs.  Again.

It isn’t great.  It isn’t good.  It isn’t even dignified.  But it would be progress.  Don’t forget, even Bill Walsh didn’t manage 7 wins in his second season with the Niners.  Steve Mariucci had two seasons where the team didn’t win that many games.  And Jim-by-God-Tomsula only bagged 5 wins as head coach in Santa Clara (although I still feel he was set up for failure from the beginning).

A year from now, the team will have a lot of reasons to feel like it is, finally and blessedly, on the right track.  The defensive line will have cut the yards gained by opponents’ running games by 40% or more; Deforest Buckner will be an all pro and Solomon Thomas will have had the best rookie season in team history since the 1981 secondary.  Reuben Foster will inflict not just tackles but occasional injuries on any running back who manages to get in his way. Carlos Hyde will at last have a 1,000 yard season, and the wide receiving corps will actually score touchdowns.

And a tight end from the team will pull down some catches and hang onto them.  (Guess which one?  Hint: it’s not Vance McDonald.)

But no one will be talking about the new quarterback.  Brian Hoyer will serve his purpose, don’t get me wrong.  He just won’t be the real reason for our moderate improvement.

Hoyer will be a bit player this coming year, not because of his doggedness, but because he has been asked to do too much for most of his career.  Four years, four new teams, four new offensive schemes, and nary a conference championship in any of them.  It’s not entirely his fault; that’s more changes than you’d see at the typical fashion show.   I’m not persuaded that Hoyer (or any other quarterback, including Tom Brady) can keep up.

The numbers don’t help Hoyer’s case either.  Have a look:

  • 2011:  Hoyer saw only limited action during the 2011 season as Tom Brady’s understudy in New England, and only made 1 pass attempt

  • 2012: As a Cardinal, Hoyer replaced Ryan Lindley in Week 16 against the Bears, and threw his first interception.  A week later, he threw another one, this time as a starter.

  • 2013:  After 3 games playing in Cleveland, Hoyer tore his ACL and sat out the rest of the season.

  • 2014: Hoyer did get the Browns off to a 6–3 start, but in next 4 games threw only one touchdown while being intercepted eight times.  Enter Johnny Manziel, and we know how that ended up. That season, Hoyer threw 12 picks — more than the number of touchdowns he threw.

  • 2016: Hoyer broke his left arm during the a game against the Packers, and did it so completely that he required season-ending surgery

What it comes down to is that, for one reason (or another just like it), Hoyer has yet to start an entire 16-game NFL season.  He has injured himself out of two chances to do so, and in the seasons he has participated in, he has been inconsistent at everything but injuries and interceptions.

Brian Hoyer has been through a lot.  He has earned one more chance for NFL success, and he will have that chance with the 49ers. He will get the team where it needs to be for the rebuild/improvement/add your own noun, and then he will be phased out — maybe in favor of Kirk Cousins or some other field general.  It won’t be heroic, but he will have played a part.

Just don’t look for him to be lauded as the mastermind behind a modest season

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Centering in on the 49ers Offensive Line: Who is Best Suited to Start at Center?

By: Nicholas Peck (@nickpeck52)img_1386

Final Edit: (@Zachhernan)


For every team too be great there has too be a great offensive line. To have a great offensive line you have to have a great center. Especially in new head coach, Kyle Shanahan’s intricate outside zone scheme. Last year as the Falcons OC Shanahan brought in Pro Bowl center Alex Mack from the Cleveland Browns. Mack was credited to being the most important player on the Flacons #1 ranked offense despite the likes of several of the NFL’s brightest stars on the roster including Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonta Freeman.  This being, because in Shanahan much complex outside scheme offense has to have a center who can make all the calls up front for the line and a guy who has a substantial understanding of the game of football and it’s schemes. This is exactly what Mack brought to last years Falcons team, as they would eventually go on to the Super bowl.



With that being said, it was no surprise that once Shanahan and Lynch took over this off-season, one of their first roster moves was swapping 6th-round picks with the Ravens to get Pro Bowl-center Jeremy Zuttah. Coming off of his 10th season, which many notable NFL analysts believe was his best. Zuttah ranked 15th among all centers and even made his first Pro Bowl last season. Zuttah might have everything Shanahan will be looking for in a center for this year’s team.  He is also familiar with the outside zone after playing for then-Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in 2014. Kubiak’s offense being similar to Shanahan’s.


NFL: Preseason-Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles

Jeremy Zuttah (53) comes from a similar offensive system to Shanahan’s in Kubiak’s in Baltimore.


Zuttah being an upgrade from struggling center Daniel Kilgore. While Kilgore, a 2011 5th round draft pick, started 13 games at center in 2016, he was unable to finish the year with a season ending knee injury. Unfortunately, this is not the 7th year center’s first run in with season-ending injuries. While Kilgore is the younger of the two, he has experienced significantly more injuries than Zuttah. Which is why I see Kilgore at more of a reserve role this year, being the handy man backup either to play guard or center. Thus, giving Zuttah the starting job at center. Zuttah deserves the jobs for two particular reasons: he has experience in Shanahan’s style of offense and he is coming off one of a career year.


NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills

Daniel Kilgore (67) was already entering a make-it-or-break-it type of year and with the additions of Jeremy Zuttah and Tim Barnes, he should be feeling the pressure more than ever.



New general manager when asked about the trade saying, “Kyle (Shanahan) and I are firm believers that competition brings out the best in everyone. We also believe that you can never have enough good offensive linemen, and Jeremy has certainly proven to be a very talented player having earned a Pro Bowl selection last season.” (NFL NETWORK).


john lynch

49ers GM John Lynch and HC Kyle Shanahan are committed to improving the roster by any means necessary.


So whether Zuttah or Kilgore turns out being Shanahan’s next Alex Mack or not, whoever will be snapping the ball come August should be an upside to our rebuilding 49ers this year. The offense as a whole will be vastly improved, but in the end, it all starts in the middle.


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Running With 49ers Rookie Running Back Joe Williams

By: Chris Sanchez (@Chucky__Sanchez)img_1386
Final Edit: @Zachhernan

The 49ers used their 4th-round pick on Utah RB Joe Williams.

Much has been made about Kyle Shanahan and the notorious offense that comes with him.  Big, explosive plays in both the running and passing game.  The stat sheet is filled with eye-popping statistics from the starters all the way to the little-known role players.  I can just picture it in my mind: the quarterback running a play-action bootleg while the speedy slot receiver sprinting down the seam for a long reception and subsequent touchdown.  That is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring play-calls in all of football if you ask me.  A lot of factors have to go right for that precise play to work properly.  Suffice it to say that for that play to be successful (and several others for that matter), Shanahan’s bread and butter has to be clicking.  I am referring to the outside-zone running game, more specifically what are referred to as “stretch” running plays.  The main concept within stretch running plays is to get the defense moving in one direction.  This “stretching” of the defense ideally allows the offensive line for the easier and more natural creation of lanes for the running backs.


Most recently, ATL running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were massively successful as ball carriers when reaping the benefits of the outside-zone running game.  However as we all know, Kyle Shnahan isn’t in Atlanta anymore.  It was up to him and running backs coach Bobby Turner to find backs that are tailored to fit this offense.  Carlos Hyde will certainly get the lion’s share of the opportunities to be the starter.  However after him, the 49ers had cloudy depth at the position, at best.  John Lynch and Shanahan went out and signed veteran Tim Hightower to add a leader presence and depth to the running backs group.  But, they weren’t done.  They also selected standout running back Joe Williams out of Utah with the 121st overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Williams is a superb athlete with all the physical traits a team looks for in a premiere running back.  Further, when John Lynch removed Williams from the 49ers Big Board due to character concerns, Shanahan lobbied for Lynch to put Williams back on the board and select him.  That tells me everything I need to know about how Shanahan feels about Williams and his chances of being an instant -and long-term- contributor.

With that in mind, let’s go over a quick overview of Williams.





  • Excellent all-around athlete.
  • Possesses breakaway speed (4.41 40-yard dash).
  • Equally adept at running between the tackles or to the outside (see “stretch” plays).
  • Great lateral movement.  Can put together moves to elude defenders in tight spaces.
  • Able to finish runs by lowering his pads and punishing defenders.





Oregon v Utah

  • Needs to work on his patience.  Sometimes reluctant to wait for blocks to develop, causing him to run into traffic.
  • Has to focus on ball security.  Six fumbles on 289 carries at Utah.
  • Pass-catching skills need to improve for him to be a receiving threat out of the backfield.
  •  Off-the field concerns are a factor.  Needs to put those doubts to rest through work-ethic and professionalism, on and off the field.






I believe Williams is now in the perfect situation for his career to blossom.  He has the one of the best play-callers in the NFL as both his head coach and offensive coordinator, and the best running back coach in the game as his position coach.  If Williams is willing to put in the work and learn from those individuals and stay out of trouble, the sky’s the limit for him.  I can see him as the perfect compliment to Carlos Hyde in this offense, and a mainstay of this new era of 49ers football. The running back position battle will be one of the more interesting areas of competition to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the off-season and into the preseason.


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Close, But No Cigar: 9 Players Who Will Almost Do Well Enough to Make the Team

By: Mike Messner (@teachermike72)img_1386

Final Edit: @Zachhernan

One of the most painful parts of life, in and out of sports, is the near miss.  Everyone goes through it at some point. You put in the hours, you memorize the lines, you study for the test for hours, you get in top shape.  You do everything right, and you go to the audition, the test, or the tryout, and you put in the performance of a lifetime. Then after all of that, you still don’t get the part, or the grade you want, or in this case, the spot on the roster.

This is going to be the fate of at least 37 men who currently bear the title of “49er.”  Even if Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch wanted to keep all of the guys who just left OTAs, they can’t.  They have to build this new team with the best material available, and that means tough decisions — no more tough on the players than the coaches, perhaps.

For some of the athletes who are told “thanks but no thanks,” it means they will be picked up by another organization.  For a few, they will be sticking around Santa Clara for a stint on the Niners practice squad — not a glamorous gig, being a tackling dummy, but at least it’s an NFL job.  Unfortunately for others, it will likely mean the end of a career path.

Here are nine players whom I expect will give a pretty good training camp performance, but who, for better or worse, will probably be given their walking papers.

Kapri Bibbs |RB| 


  This may be one of the more painful cuts the team will make.  The team traded a 4th round pick in 2018 to nab Bibbs from the Broncos this offseason, and in so doing they got a Super Bowl winner from Denver’s last appearance there (at Levi’s Stadium, of all places).  However, they also got a player who was not drafted, and who didn’t do much other than occupy practice squad places until 2015 — when he was active for a single game against the Niners.  Plus, he was rated an unimpressive 63.3 by PFF (below average).

So why is this so painful?  Two reasons: Bibbs suffered a high ankle sprain late last season and is coming off some time on IR — and he didn’t finish his degree at Colorado State before turning pro.  Granted, he can go back to school, but to be out of a job after such a big gamble has got to hurt.

Raheem Mostert |RB| 


Mostert has bounced around a lot since being signed as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles in 2015; he has hung his hat in Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York (Jets) and Chicago before joining the 49ers’ practice squad in November 2016.  When he finally did get promoted to the active roster, he carried the ball exactly once from scrimmage.

However, I can see Mostert being a close call, because the guy can return kicks.  Okay, plenty of people can do the same job, but Mostert averaged 32 yards per return last preseason.  You don’t get those kinds of numbers without having stamina and a certain amount of ability to evade tackles; his talent belies the 65.0 PFF rating he got.  Sadly, I think he will return to the practice squad circuit for as long as the NFL rules will allow him.  After that, all bets are off.

DeAndre Smelter |WR|


I can only imagine how disappointed he will be, because he has had a run of hard luck.  Smelter spent his rookie season on the NFI list as a member of Trent Baalke’s ACL All-Stars, and then injured a hamstring, which kept him out of the preseason a year ago.  Plus, his shoulder has been a sensitive spot, which means his body catches have been less than ideal and his drops have been more frequent as time has gone on.

Smelter has good size, knows how to stiff-arm defenders after the catch, and has some natural athleticism.  It’s just that the team has already cut him once (after that hamstring injury), and his return didn’t really impact the team in a meaningful way.  As much as the 49ers need a skillful wide receiver, I haven’t seen anything to merit him staying around. I’m thinking the Kansas City Chiefs might take some interest when he is cut, though.

Blake Bell |TE| 




Blake Bell, TE:  Damn, damn!  How I wish that had worked out.  Bell looked like a great developmental prospect when he was drafted in 2015 — he had been a quarterback before switching to tight end, and he had some size and blocking ability.  I actually had Bell on my fantasy team during the very brief experiment I did with that pastime. What’s not to like, right?

Well, the competition was, and is, just too much for the guy.  Bell will get lost in the crowd of players who want the starting position…read ‘em and weep: Celek, Paulsen, Kittle, Hikutini, and maybe Juszczyk.  His versatility notwithstanding, Bell will be given his walking papers, or asked to stay on the practice squad.

Vance McDonald |TE| 



Vance McDonald, TE: The ultimate blasphemy, I know.  Haven’t we been down this road before with McDonald?  And why would you cut a player with a 71.6 PFF rating, who also just happens to be the highest ranked 49ers tight end? Besides, we just re-signed the guy!

The 49ers will give McDonald his walking papers because the guy is consistently inconsistent.  No matter what quarterback he was working with, McDonald kept dropping passes last year.  I can count on one hand the number of times he made any sort of superstar moves, and in a time where the team is completely rebranding its offense — there will be much more running than passing, mark my words — he isn’t a good fit.  The team will eat the guaranteed money and move on, either via release or trade.

Tim Barnes |C| 



This seemed like a good move when the 49ers signed Barnes away from the Rams back in May.  Barnes was indefatigable when he played in St. Louis; he won the starting center position after time on their practice squad and as a backup, and started all 16 regular season games in 2015 and 2016.  Kudos for his work ethic.

Except…he rated as one of the worst centers in the NFL during those two years.  He hasn’t played any position except center, and he has competition that has much more ability to switch out on the offensive line.  No one called him a camp body when he came to San Francisco, but my sense is that title applies to him this year.  I predict he will be sent packing and end up with the Saints, if he is active at all this next season.

Ray-Ray Armstrong |OLB |

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos

On paper, Armstrong seems like he was a solid performer. Before coming to the 49ers, he had played 20 games for the Rams and 21 for the Raiders, and had put up respectable numbers on both special teams and defense.  Since coming to San Francisco, though, his productivity has been halved, he missed a number of coverage assignments, and has generally shown a lack of discipline  on the field.

Armstrong’s PFF rating isn’t bad (80.4), but between his low performance last season and the presence of the more seasoned (if not more talented) Malcolm Smith, the Niners aren’t going to be enthusiastic about him.  The two year contract extension they offered him is a small price to pay if they let him go.  My sense is he returns to the Rams.

Will Davis |CB|



This is one that makes sense to me.  Davis was signed to a one-year contract at the league minimum by the 49ers after 2 years in Miami and 2 more in Baltimore.  The latter two seasons, he appeared in less than 16% of the Ravens’ games and registered a grand total of five tackles, two passes defensed and one interception. Within the space of 11 months, he tore his ACL not once but twice (Trent Baalke would have loved this guy).

There isn’t much tape on Davis, and although there is a huge amount of change going on in the Niners secondary this year, I don’t see the team being so pressed for talent that they settle for Davis.  They could just easily (and probably will) keep Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser, Ahkello Witherspoon, Dontae Johnson, and K’Waun Williams. A ticket to Cleveland is likely in Davis’  future.

Will Redmond |CB| 




This one may be the most unfair.  Redmond was drafted last year in the 3rd round with idea of strengthening the 49ers nickel package, but he immediately was placed on IR and was never activated.  As a result, he’s spent most of his time as a 49er either rehabbing or waiting for the season to roll around again; he hasn’t played a snap in a regular season game yet.

I truly feel that Redmond ought to be given a chance and that the team should honor the contract he signed.  Alas, that contract was under the Kelly/Baalke regime, and Shanahan/Lynch may not feel especially indebted to Redmond.  The presence of those other competitors will make it tough for him, too. I would be thrilled if he made the 53, but his window may have closed in San Francisco.

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