49ers

Kyle Shanahan keeps Panthers guessing: 'I don’t mean to be a d**k'

Kyle Shanahan keeps Panthers guessing: 'I don’t mean to be a d**k'

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan does not mean to be, uh, difficult.

Well, actually, yes . . . yes, he does.

The first-year coach of the 49ers goes into the season opener on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers with the advantage of the unknown. He knows all about the Panthers, based on preparing to face that veteran defense four times over the past two seasons while offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.

And while the Panthers know all about Shanahan’s style of offense from his time in the NFC South, things are bound to change with him running the 49ers' offense. After all, Matt Ryan is no longer his quarterback; Julio Jones is no longer his receiver; and he does not have running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

That is why Shanahan, who was more forthright than most coaches during training camp, is not going to divulge how the 49ers are going to feature their personnel on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

“Brian Hoyer’s starting, I promise you guys that,” Shanahan said of the 49ers’ quarterback. "(Joe) Staley’s starting. Everyone else, we’ll find out on Sunday. I don’t mean to be a d---.

“It’s the season now, if there’s any gray area we’ll figure it out on Sunday.”

Of course, the 49ers have already figured it out. It’s the rest of us – and that includes the Panthers -- who will figure out on Sunday how the 49ers will deploy their personnel.

And, yes, there are still plenty of questions:

Who starts at free safety?
Jimmie Ward does not figure to be available for Sunday’s game. After all, Ward sustained a hamstring injury during the team’s conditioning test on the eve of the team’s first practice and has not taken part in a full practice this entire summer.

Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome started the first two exhibition games in place of Ward. But Jaquiski Tartt is the likely pick to start against Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Tartt is a third-year player with 14 career starts. Jerome earned his place on the roster, but the 49ers need more experience on a snap-to-snap basis.

The 49ers will feature an eight-man front on base downs. Tartt and Eric Reid are interchangeable with each possessing the size and strength to hold up in the run game.

But this does not mean that Jerome will be a mere bystander. In passing situations, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has the option of bringing in Jerome as a sixth defensive back and replacing linebacker NaVorro Bowman. That is how the 49ers approached it during the third exhibition game, which is the closest approximation to the regular season.

Will Hyde and Breida share the load?
This is a huge season for running back Carlos Hyde. This is his contract year and his future is unsettled.

The 49ers have plenty of money to spend on extensions, and Hyde has a chance to prove the organization’s future is in better hands with his hands on the football.

To Hyde’s credit, he was magnanimous when talking about how rookie backup Matt Breida will be incorporated into the 49ers’ offense this season.

“He’s going to be used just as much as I’ll be used,” Hyde said. “So it’ll be good for us. We keep each other fresh and tear this season up.”

But it is difficult to believe Breida will be used as much as Hyde, who came to camp in tremendous physical condition and should thrive in Shanahan’s zone scheme. More than likely, the 49ers will give Breida a smaller package of plays and find a specific role for him to be used in spot duty.

Will Thomas take over as a starter?
The 49ers had Solomon Thomas rated as the No. 2 prospect in the draft behind Myles Garrett. By no means has Thomas been a disappointment. But Thomas got off to a slow start because of the restrictions on when he could join the 49ers’ offseason program.

Look for Tank Carradine to serve as the 49ers’ starter at the “big end” position. Why? Carradine has not done much in his four seasons with the club but Saleh has found something that Carradine does better than just about anyone in the league.

“With Tank, when I say ‘elite,’ I’m talking as a run-down, six-technique, someone who just can really dominate his edge and own the line of scrimmage,” said Saleh, referring to run downs when Carradine is lined up over the opposing tight end.

Thomas will see plenty of action, and he might even be on the field to start the game, depending on the personnel group the Panthers send onto the field for the first snap of the game. Thomas can be expected to play a significant role in the 49ers’ defense on third downs.

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

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AP

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
 
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
 
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
 
Talent.
 
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
 
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J.  Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.

Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.

But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
 
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
 
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
 
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
 
In the meantime, there is beer.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys

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AP

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:

1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.

There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.

Was there anything positive to take from this game?

“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.

2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.

Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.

Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.

3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.

The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.

More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.

Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.

“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.