49ers

49ers Mailbag: Brown gets off to rocky start

49ers Mailbag: Brown gets off to rocky start

After four practices, including two days of padded, contact work, the 49ers have their first day off of training camp on Tuesday.

Coach Kyle Shanahan will begin working on more situations when the team returns to the practice field on Wednesday, he said.

“We wanted to go two days of our base offense without pads, two days of our base offense and defense with pads, not really doing specific situations,” Shanahan said. “We’ve been walking through two-minute stuff in our walk-throughs in the afternoon. We’ll get in a lot more situational stuff in our fifth practice when we come back.”

The break in the action allows us a chance to take a step back. Here is the latest edition of the 49ers Mailbag with questions submitted through our Facebook page:

Which player is not looking so good out there on the field? (Frank Sanborn)
The starting-caliber player who has struggled the most in the two padded practices was right tackle Trent Brown. On Sunday, he surrendered upward of five sacks during 11-on-11 periods.

Brown gave credit to the 49ers’ defensive linemen and the variety of different styles he has gone up against – Arik Armstead, Elvis Dumervil and Aaron Lynch, among them.

“It’s only going to make me better,” Brown said.

Shanahan said he was not concerned with Brown’s performance because he wants his players to use camp to experiment and refine their skills in order to peak at the start of the regular season.

“I like guys to come out, try techniques, try to improve and not really worry about perception, judging them day to day,” Shanahan said. “It’s a long process. You’re right, he didn’t have a great day (Sunday), but I think he did a lot better (Monday).

“It’s a long camp. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I hope he’s at his best Week 1.”

The 49ers instructed Brown to report to camp at no more than 358 pounds. He said he lost some additional weight to give himself a better chance to succeed this season.

“I took the first step of coming in at a good weight,” said Brown, who stands 6 foot 8. “I’m healthy. I’m light. I definitely feel better out there with the movements that are required of me at the position and doing things in this scheme.”

If Jimmie Ward misses time, do you see Eric Reid sliding back into the free safety role and Tartt sliding into the box as strong safety? (Max Carlson )
Jaquiski Tartt joined Ward and Reid on the injured list on Monday. Injuries to the 49ers’ top three safeties meant that Vinnie Sunseri and Lorenzo Jerome lined up with the first team.

Ward (hamstring) is expected to be activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list in mid-August. Reid (ankle) is day to day. It is unclear how long Tartt could be out with an injury to his ribs area. He sustained the injury to his left side while breaking up a Brian Hoyer pass for tight end Cole Hikutini.

The 49ers fully expect Ward and Reid to be back long before the opening of the regular season. Ward is the free safety. Reid is the strong safety. Both players seem entrenched at those spots.

When Tartt returns, he will remain as the No. 3 safety – capable of playing the position at which he is needed. With Ward is out, Tartt is the free safety. If a replacement for Reid is required, Tartt will play strong safety.

Is Carlos Hyde being challenged or does he look like the clear starter? (Josh Gale)
It was a good first week of practices for Hyde. He looks – right now – to be in good position as the team’s starting running back. Veteran Tim Hightower is also looking very good. He appears to be the team’s second-best running back.

Hyde looks to be adapting better and better to the 49ers’ run scheme. And he has also placed a lot of emphasis on catching the ball out of the backfield.

Rookie Joe Williams, a fourth-round draft pick who was seen as a serious challenger to Hyde, has gotten off to a slow start and he is still gaining familarity with the system. He also must do a better job of securing the football.

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

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USATSI

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

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AP

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.