49ers

49ers brace for key practices with Broncos

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USATI

49ers brace for key practices with Broncos

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers return to padded work on Wednesday with the team’s best opportunity to evaluate their own players.

The Denver Broncos will arrive in the South Bay for two days of practices with the 49ers. After a fully padded practice on Wednesday, the teams will be in shells on Thursday.

The second exhibition game for both teams will take place Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium.

“Almost throughout the preseason, I see practice as more important (than the games),” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s not just in the scrimmages. You never know what’s going to happen in a game. You never know what the coverages are going to be. You want to see someone, but someone misses a block, so you don’t see that person.

“In practice you can control it a little bit. You can put players in certain situations that allow you to evaluate them.”

Shanahan and Broncos first-year coach Vance Joseph spoke on Sunday to organize the practice schedule for Wednesday. They will likely get together after practice the first day to arrange the format for Thursday’s practice.

The teams will go through a variety of situational drills, including third downs and red zone.

QUICK SLANTS
--The 49ers held their second non-padded practice in a row on Tuesday. The practice session was a low-key affair. DeAndre Smelter had the best catch of the day with a leaping grab of a high C.J. Beathard pass over the middle. Safety Vinnie Sunseri intercepted a Matt Barkley throw intended for Victor Bolden.

--Defensive end Aaron Lynch sat out with an ankle sprain. He is listed as day to day.

--Safety Jimmie Ward, who remains on physically unable to perform with a hamstring injury, is close to returning to the active list after undergoing strenuous workouts Sunday and Monday.

“ I feel real good about Jimmie,” Shanahan said. “We were hoping to get him back this week and I feel like we could if we really wanted to. But we’re trying to play it smart with him.”

--Rookie Reuben Foster is the 49ers’ starting weakside linebacker, Shanahan said. But he also left plenty of wiggle room.

“He started last game and he’s been starting out in these practices and getting most of the reps,” Shanahan said. “He could get beaten out at any time. If (a backup) starts performing at a higher level than him, that would be the case.”

--Veteran wide receiver Louis Murphy had a good connection with Barkley going. Murphy and Barkley teamed on a 5-yard touchdown in a red-zone drill. Murphy then caught three passes within a five-plan span at the end of practice.

Stanford's Meeks dreams of learning from 49ers' Sherman

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AP

Stanford's Meeks dreams of learning from 49ers' Sherman

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers are likely to select a cornerback within the first three rounds of next week’s NFL Draft.

Stanford’s Quenton Meeks would like nothing more than to be chosen, so he can continue to learn from one of his mentors.

“Richard Sherman is a Hall of Famer, and we have similar body types.” Meeks said. “All of our combine numbers – it’s kind of scary – it’s almost identical in all of them.”

Meeks (6-foot-2, 205) has the size the 49ers want from a cornerback in this scheme. At the combine in 2011, Sherman, who also attended Stanford, measured 6-3, 195. Meeks ran the three-cone drill at 6.72, compared to Sherman’s 6.82. Meeks’ 20-yard shuttle was 4.23, while Sherman’s was 4.33.

“He even told me I remind him of himself, so that was the biggest compliment I’ve gotten,” Meeks said Wednesday at the 49ers' local pro day at Levi's Stadium. "I look up to him so much, and I try to model my game after him. He’s so smart. He’s always a step ahead.”

Meeks said he expects to selected in the second or third round, and the 49ers are among the teams that have shown the most interest during the pre-draft process.

“That would be a dream come true, honestly – just to learn from the best,” Meeks said of Sherman. “I think he’s still the best corner in the game right now. It takes someone who really knows how to study corners to see what he does really well. He always disrupts the receivers. The amount of times he gets thrown at during a game is very little, because if you throw at him, there’s a big chance it’s going to get intercepted.”

Meeks said he spoke with Sherman during the season to get some tips before a game against Arizona State. He wanted some advice on going up against 6-4 wide receiver N’Keal Harry.

Harry, who caught 82 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns on the season, was held to just three receptions for 40 yards against Stanford. None of the receptions came when Meeks was in coverage against him, he said.

"He really helped me," Meeks said. "I asked him, in particular, one game I was playing this bigger receiver, so I asked him for some tips. He gave some tips, and I locked down that game and didn't allow a single catch."

Five NFL Draft options for 49ers at No. 9

Five NFL Draft options for 49ers at No. 9

The 49ers always knew there was a chance they would be without Reuben Foster for at least a portion of the 2018 season.

But, now, after the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office last week filed two felony domestic violence charges and one felony charge of possession of an assault weapon, the 49ers must prepare as if they will never see him on the football field again.

The 49ers signed veteran inside linebackers Brock Coyle and Korey Toomer during free agency. And there figure to be plenty of options as the 49ers look to fortify the middle of their defense in next week’s draft, too.

There could be two enticing possibilities at linebacker in front of the 49ers when their turn comes up in the first round with the No. 9 overall pick. Here are five legitimate options for the 49ers if they remain in their original draft slot:

1. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
There might not be a player in the draft with more upside than Edmunds, who is big (6-5, 253), exceptionally athletic and will not turn 20 until the week after the draft.

Any team that Edmunds him will have the opportunity to mold him into their system at whichever of the many positions he has the skills to play. He can line up at any of the linebacker spots, and he also has untapped potential as a pass-rusher.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh could have a lot of fun with the options of how to deploy Edmunds in the 49ers’ scheme.

2. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The advantage Edmunds has over Smith is his size. Smith is a bit on the small side (6-1, 236). But that’s about the only knock on him.

In addition to his unique athleticism (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the NFL scouting combine), Smith also is a leader with great instincts and football smarts. While he probably could step in and play middle linebacker, he is likely a better fit for the weakside position.

3. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
The 49ers like Jimmie Ward because of his ability to play all five positions in the secondary. Fitzpatrick is much the same way -- but only bigger, better and, seemingly, more durable.

Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are entering the final seasons of their contracts, so the addition of Fitzpatrick would make sense. He can step and in immediately compete with K’Waun Williams at nickel back or linebacker in the 49ers' sub packages. He play either of the 49ers’ safety positions. In a pinch, he might also be able to play cornerback. Fitzpatrick would be an outstanding asset within the 49ers’ three-deep zone due to his ability to make game-changing plays.

4. DE Harold Landry, Boston College
The more time the 49ers spent on Landry, the more they were sure to like him. He had his breakout season as a junior, recording 16.5 sacks. But his return for his senior season did not turn out as planned.

Teams were left scratching their heads about how his production fell off so dramatically. But a lot of his decline can be traced to an ankle injury that limited his effectiveness. Landry recorded five sacks in eight games.

His stock rose with an exceptional workout at the combine. His size (6-3, 252) is not a huge concern for the 49ers, who would play him at their pass-rush end position. He has all the other attributes of an elite edge rusher with his eye-popping 20- and 60-yard shuttles and three-cone drill.

5. DE Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio
Do the 49ers really need another tall defensive lineman? They selected Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in back-to-back years, then drafted another defensive lineman, Solomon Thomas, with the No. 3 overall pick last year.

Davenport, however, is different. He is a legitimate pass-rush threat. And that’s an element the 49ers need to add to their defense. Davenport (6-6, 264) was a stand-up rusher in college. He got away with simply being the biggest and best at his level in college.

The star potential is there. He could be a home run. But there is probably a lower downside than with many of the other players the 49ers will consider with the No. 9 overall pick.