49ers' guard positions to face challenge from Rams' strength


49ers' guard positions to face challenge from Rams' strength

Although the 49ers have not beaten the Seattle Seahawks since Jim Harbaugh’s penultimate season with the organization, there is clearly a new team on which for San Francisco to set its sights.

The Los Angeles Rams won the NFC West last season. And they have loaded up on big-name defensive players this offseason, including cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. This week, the Rams signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to pair with NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald along the interior of their offensive line.

“It’s going to be a challenge for both guards and our center,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.

“They’ve added some firepower this offseason. I think we have, too. I know they’re trying to get better, and they have. And, hopefully, we have, too.”

The 49ers will have at least two new starters on the offensive line this season. Weston Richburg was signed to replace center Daniel Kilgore. And right guard Brandon Fusco, a 16-game starter last season, is now with the Atlanta Falcons.

Laken Tomlinson will report to camp as the incumbent starter at left guard. Free-agent pickup Jonathan Cooper will initially line up at right guard, where he will compete with Joshua Garnett. All of the team's offensive guards will be asked to work on both sides, Shanahan said.

Garnett made good use of his time on injured reserve last season (he underwent minor knee surgery before the start of the regular season) to remake his body and put himself in position to compete for a job. Garnett was a first-round draft pick in 2016.

“Seeing him at the end of the year in December, it looked like he took advantage of his time off and got his body fat down and his weight down,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s in the best shape of his life, and he’s given himself a real chance to have an opportunity to help us this year.”

The 49ers planned to acquire their franchise quarterback this offseason. But those plans turned out to be unnecessary when the New England Patriots called on Oct. 30 to offer Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round draft pick.

And, yes, former Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins was Shanahan’s top target.

“Everybody knows that. That was the plan,” Shanahan said. “I had a good relationship with him. He was a good quarterback that I’d been with.”

But all that changed when Garoppolo arrived.

"After we made that trade, we knew we’d be in position to have a really good quarterback,” Shanahan said. “One, we just traded for a talented one. Two, we knew there’s going to be a good one available in free agency, most likely. And, three, at that time, we hadn’t had a win, yet. We were thinking we might have the first pick in the draft. We were evaluating all these things and taking them all into account.

“The neat story about it all was how well (Garoppolo) played and how big of an affect he had on our building and how well he did on the field.”

In his four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, running back Jerick McKinnon was never counted upon to be an every-down player. That will change this season with the 49ers, though Shanahan said he will not carry the load by himself.

“People talk about him being a third-down back, which, he is,” Shanahan said. “He’s a very good third-down back. We plan on using him that way. I also think he’s a good first- and second-down back, too.”

McKinnon is listed at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds. Matt Breida is 5-10, 190. But Shanahan said he is not overly concerned about the sizes of his two top running backs.

“I feel like if you’re not 230 pounds, people say you can’t handle it for the whole year,” Shanahan said. “I personally think guys who are 230 pounds have a hard time handling it for the whole year. It’s hard to do that for 16 games in the NFL, no matter who you are.”

On film, running back Joe Williams showed Shanahan everything he wants to see from a running back in his system. That is why he was selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft.

But, in person, Williams did not live up to Shanahan’s high expectations in Year 1. Williams had a shaky offseason and training camp before spending the season on injured reserve with a minor foot injury.

Williams faces a tough challenge this year to earn a spot on the roster.

“He’s got to beat guys out,” Shanahan said. “In order to beat guys out, you have to be better than them. And you got to be better than them at running the ball, better than them at protecting it. And if you’re not, you got to be better than them at special teams.”

In addition to McKinnon and Breida, the 49ers appear likely to keep Raheem Mostert on the 53-man roster due to his exceptional play on special teams. The 49ers could keep three or four running backs on their roster.

“I expect him to turn up his urgency level this year," Shanahan said of Williams. "I’ve talked to him about that. He said he has. I'm looking forward to seeing it.”

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and his speed proved to be a good match for Shanahan’s offense. Goodwin, who had a pedestrian first four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, caught 56 passes for 962 yards in his first year with the 49ers.

But it was not just his performance on the field that compelled the 49ers to sign him to a three-year contract extension worth nearly $19 million. Goodwin was named the winner of the Len Eshmont Award for inspirational and courageous play. He provided the most inspirational moment of the season when he caught a long touchdown pass in the 49ers' first victory of the season just hours after his baby died due to complications in pregnancy.

“We were really happy with how ‘Quise played last year,” Shanahan said. “And I was kind of happy just watching him grow as a person throughout the year. He went though a lot of ups and downs, a lot of things happened to him, some tragic things. I think he grew as a man. Just watching how he handled himself. The way he practiced.

“He’s the type of guy that we want around here.”

Woman in Reuben Foster case recants domestic violence claim

Woman in Reuben Foster case recants domestic violence claim

The former girlfriend of 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster on Monday said she can prove Foster did not cause her injuries from an alleged February incident in Los Gatos.

Elissa Ennis, the former girlfriend, released a statement through her attorney, Stephanie Rickard, in which she said her injuries came from a fight that did not involve Foster.

“(Foster) did not strike her, injure her or threaten her,” Rickard said in the statement provided first to NBC Sports Bay Area.

Ennis’ injuries were the result of a physical fight with another woman, and that Foster tried to end his relationship with Ennis after he learned of the fight, Rickard said.

There is a video of that fight with another woman, according to Rickard.

“She was extremely upset and told him if he broke up with her she would ‘trash his career,’ ” Rickard said.

Rickard said after Ennis realized what she had done, she went back to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office and tried to recant her previous statement.

When reached Monday by NBC Sports Bay Area, the DA's office declined to comment on the alleged victim's statement.

On April 12, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed formal criminal charges against Foster stemming from a Feb. 11 incident involving his live-in girlfriend in Los Gatos. He faces two charges of domestic violence and one felony charge of possession of an assault weapon.

The DA’s office charged him with domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily harm. The DA’s office said Foster bruised the alleged victim and ruptured her eardrum. She told investigators at the scene that Foster hit her eight to 10 times in the head.

He is also charged with a felony of attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime.

The criminal charges against Foster are based on lies, Ennis now says, according to Rickard.

According to Rickard, “Ennis apologizes to everyone that may have been harmed in this case, especially Mr. Foster."

The 49ers declined to comment Monday because it is an ongoing legal matter, a team spokesman said. 

On Monday, 49ers general manager John Lynch said the club would release Foster if the allegation that he struck the alleged victim proved to be true. Foster remains a member of the team but is not participating in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“We do feel like patience is the right approach right now, that we are going to learn things through this legal process,” Lynch said. “But I do want to be very clear, abundantly clear, that if these charges are proven true, that if Reuben did indeed hit this young lady, he won't be part of our organization going forward.”

Foster’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, 9 a.m.

49ers Insider Matt Maiocco's first-round NFL mock draft

49ers Insider Matt Maiocco's first-round NFL mock draft

1, Cleveland: QB Sam Darnold, USC
New Browns GM John Dorsey has done a nice job of creating some intrigue, but all the names you've heard within the past week are probably only smokescreens.

2, N.Y. Giants: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Eli Manning is 37, and the strong-armed Allen will spend a year as his understudy.

3, N.Y. Jets: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater can step aside for the new guy to take over sooner than later.

4, Cleveland: DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
Chubb teams up with Myles Garrett on the other side to provide a lethal pass rush.

5, Denver: RB Saquan Barkley, Penn State
If Barkley is not here, they will gladly go with Denzel Ward to shore up the secondary.

6, Indianapolis: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The Colts finally supply Andrew Luck with a bodyguard . . . assuming he ever gets healthy enough to benefit from the presence of the draft’s best O-lineman.

7, Tampa Bay: DB Derwin James, Florida State
The Bucs add a defensive back who also gives their poor run defense a lift with his play close to the line of scrimmage.

8, Chicago: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Bears have a lot of options for providing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with some help, but settle on the best cover man.

9, 49ERS: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Versatile. High character. Great leader. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are both entering the final year of their contracts. He fits an immediate need, too. What’s not to like about this pick? With Reuben Foster’s status being uncertain, either Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds would make a lot of sense, too.

10, RAIDERS: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Raiders have a hole in the middle of their defense as NaVorro Bowman remains a free agent. The Raiders finally address what has been a need for several seasons.

11, Miami: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Coach Adam Gase has no issues taking a QB who is strong-willed enough to ask a lot of questions and flash some attitude from time to time.

12, Buffalo: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
If the Bills do not move up to get a quarterback, they can remain right here and get a player who is easily a top-10 defensive talent.

13, Washington: DT Vita Vea, Washington
Oh, Jim Tomsula is going to love working with this huge, athletic presence in the middle of the line.

14, Green Bay: DE Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio
He's a unique personality with unique size and athleticism. But he’s going to have to develop more than just a bull rush to get to QBs in the NFL.

15, Arizona: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Cardinals might have a need at quarterback, but the Jackson they select is the guy who led the nation in interceptions last season.

16, Baltimore: WR D.J. Moore, Maryland
This is a tough call, but the Ravens remain local instead of selecting the pass-catcher from Alabama.

17, L.A. Chargers: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
His versatility to play both interior positions and rush the passer should fit well in Gus Bradley’s scheme.

18, Seattle: DE Harold Landry, Boston College
He might be undersized, but he fits in the scheme as the Seahawks try to replenish their pass rush.

19, Dallas: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
This is a tough call, but the Cowboys remain local instead of selecting the pass-catcher from Alabama.

20, Detroit: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Hey, the guy played eight-man football in high school, so he knows how to cover some ground to make plays.

21, Cincinnati: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Don’t be surprised if McGlinchey, the best offensive tackle available, goes much earlier than this – like within the top 12 picks.

22, Buffalo: G/C James Daniels, Iowa
After the retirements of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito, Daniels represents the intersection of need and best-player available.

23, New England: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Bill Belichick needs a linebacker and his old buddy, Nick Saban, has just the man for him.

24, Carolina: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
The Panthers agreed to a deal with free-agent Bashaud Breeland but he failed the physical. Alexander steps in to fill a hole.

25, Tennessee: DT Taven Bryan, Florida
Bryan takes the spot the Titans tried to fill with Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the L.A. Rams, instead.

26, Atlanta: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Hurst and Dallas Goedert are first-round talents at TE, but Hurst gets his name called here.

27, New Orleans: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The Saints stop the fall of the guy whom many considered to be the top receiver in the draft.

28, Pittsburgh: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
The Steelers traded for Vance McDonald last year and, obviously, they remain in the market for a playmaker in this spot.

29, Jacksonville: G Will Hernandez, UTEP
The Jags broke the bank to land Andrew Norwell in free agency, and they bring in another powerful presence to open holes for Leonard Fournette.

30, Minnesota: T Kolton Miller, UCLA
If they’re going to guarantee Kirk Cousins all that money, they better bring along someone to protect their investment.

31, New England: QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
There are still a lot of questions why Belichick gave away Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for just a second-round pick. In Lauletta, they’re getting the closest thing in this draft to Garoppolo. Just to bring it full circle, they could just wait until No. 43 – the pick acquired from the 49ers for Garoppolo – to make this selection.

32, Philadelphia: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Kirk is a perfect fit for this offense and gives Carson Wentz a nice welcome-back gift upon his return to the playing field.