49ers

49ers review: Tight ends

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49ers review: Tight ends

This is the sixth installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.After seeing how Stanford offenses used its tight ends under coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, big things were expected from Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker in the 49ers' passing game. However, it did not work out that way through most of the season. Both Davis and Walker had their lowest production since 1998 2008, when then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz virtually eliminated the tight end from the offense. But things picked up late for Davis, who became the team's top receiving threat -- really, their only receiving threat -- in the playoffs. Grade: BVernon Davis -- After two seasons with more than 900 yards receiving, Davis' production took a step back in the regular season. He struggled mightily to learn the new 49ers system, and admittedly became frustrated. But late in the season, it seemed to click for him. He averaged 42 yards receiving in the 49ers' first 13 games. In his final five games, including the playoffs, Davis averaged 107 yards receiving. He has never been finer than in the two playoff games, catching 10 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Davis played more than 95 percent of the team's offensive snaps during the season, and he once again excelled as a blocker.Delanie Walker -- When Walker caught six passes for 69 yards on Nov. 13 against the New York Giants, it figured to be the start of a larger role in the passing game. But Walker finished the season without another catch in the six games before sustaining a fractured jaw that kept him out of action for a month. He returned to action and caught two passes for 36 yards in the NFC Championship Game against the Giants. Walker made major improvements as a blocker this season. He threw key blocks on Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to spring big runs in the 49ers' win. Walker finished the regular season with just 19 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games.Justin Peelle -- The 10-year veteran was added to the 53-man roster after the first game of the season as a blocking specialist. He did what he was brought in to do, and his play time saw a bump late in the season after Walker's injury. He was used almost exclusively in short-yardage situations. He caught just one pass for 19 yards during the regular season.Nate Byham -- His season ended before it began when he sustained a torn ACL in his left knee during training camp. Byham spent the entire season on injured reserve. His rehabilitation is on schedule. Although he said he believes he would be ready to participate in minicamps and organized team activities, Byham said there is no reason to rush it. He fully expects to be ready to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

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49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.

49ers GM John Lynch: 'Right now, we don't need him'

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49ers GM John Lynch: 'Right now, we don't need him'

When the 49ers acquired their presumptive franchise quarterback in a trade last month, there were two major complications that contributed to skepticism about the future.

Jimmy Garoppolo came to the 49ers with a resume that consisted of only two starts in four NFL seasons. Moreover, Garoppolo was under contract for only half a season before he would be scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

Nothing has changed since Garoppolo arrived from New England with six suitcases packed with clothes and belongings – other than the 49ers appear to feel more resolute in their belief Garoppolo is not just a rental.

General manager John Lynch, the man who must ultimately decide the team’s decision on how to handle Garoppolo’s contract status, said he does not necessarily need coach Kyle Shanahan to quickly assign Garoppolo the starting role to determine his value to the organization.

“No, I don’t think so,” Lynch said for “49ers Game Plan,” which will air Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3). “We know what we like about Jimmy Garoppolo. And that’s only been strengthened by the time that’s he’s been here. We’re just going to let these things play out. That’s in Kyle’s hands.

“People have had all these ideas about why we got Jimmy. We got Jimmy because we think he has big-time ability at the quarterback position. And we believe so much – to get where we need to get – you have to have a franchise quarterback. We think he’s got that ability. Whether that happens, when that happens, we’ll see. But we certainly like his future with the 49ers.”

The 49ers, currently on their bye week, are coming off their first victory of the season. Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard played his best game, throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-21 win over the New York Giants.

Garoppolo is spending his bye week in Santa Clara, meeting with coaches, to continue his cramming of the team’s playbook and offensive philosophy.

“The plan is to continue to get him ready,” Lynch said. “It’s a very different system he played under. A great system, but a different system he played under in New England. And Kyle’s system is complex for a quarterback. There’s a lot of verbiage in every play call. There are a lot of adjustments on every play call that the quarterback controls.

“We want to set Jimmy up for success and also the way C.J.’s playing is helping us sit back. And now we have a bye week. They’re going to work hard during this week to get him up to speed. But right now, we don’t need him. C.J. just played a great game and his teammates really believe in him. We think it’s nothing but a good situation.”