One area of improvement remains as Lorenzo Jerome makes bid for 49ers' roster spot


One area of improvement remains as Lorenzo Jerome makes bid for 49ers' roster spot

SANTA CLARA – Lorenzo Jerome has more in common with the man responsible for giving him his shot to play in the NFL than he knew.

Early in training camp, 49ers general manager John Lynch walked up to Jerome on the practice field to let him know he identified with the undrafted rookie from St. Francis University.

“He came by and (said), ‘You know, I played safety as well,’” Jerome said. “He talks to me and says, ‘I was a hard-hitter.’”

Jerome has another thing in common with Lynch, a finalist this year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They both entered college at quarterback before transitioning to the defensive backfield.

Jerome’s knowledge of offense helped him make a smooth transition to the other side of the ball, said St. Francis coach Chris Villarrial, who played 11 NFL seasons as an offensive guard.

“We’d talked to him and made the switch,” Villarrial said. “He understood coverages. Being a quarterback, he understood where guys were going to be. There are so many things he was ahead of the curve with when he came here.”

Jerome did a little bit of everything at St. Francis. He recorded 18 interceptions in his four-year career. He also scored four touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns. He caught a 48-yard touchdown pass as a senior, and completed two passes in his final two seasons for 86 yards.

Other times, Villarrial would turn to Jerome to supply the Red Flash with exactly what was needed at any give time.

“I’d say to him, ‘Zo, we need a turnover right now,” Villarrial said. “He looked at me and winked, ‘Don’t worry, coach. We got this.’”

And, more often than not, he delivered, including a pivotal victory over Duquesne last season that led to St. Francis earning the top spot in the Northeast Conference and a trip to the FCS Playoffs.

“As he matured, you could tell football was important to him,” Villarrial said. “His motto was, ‘Whatever I can do help the team.’ He loved being challenged. The more challenges we put in front of him, the more he rose up.”

St. Francis has not had a player in the NFL since 1952. Jerome was a strong candidate to get drafted but, while still recovering from an MCL injury in his left knee, he ran 4.70 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. It was the slowest time among all defensive backs invited to the showcase.

But Jerome's ascension up the 49ers' depth chart at the beginning of training camp was lightning fast. He started the first two exhibition games after injuries to safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. Villarrial said Jerome’s passion for the sport and his willingness to improve gave him an idea that Jerome could break through.

“He didn’t like being beat,” Villarrial said. “If he did get beat, he’d be the first one in the film room asking the coaches why this happened. He was always rallying the troops. He was a student of the game. He’d study the game. You saw so many things in him. He never got flustered that he could not respond back.”

Sometimes, Jerome’s eagnerness gets the best of him. Coach Kyle Shanahan said Jerome was out of position at times in last Saturday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

“I thought they caught him a few times out of position on a few play-action looks because he’s been so aggressive and he’s going to have to learn from those because he got out of position a couple of times but they never made him pay for it going outside,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been pleased with Lorenzo. He moves around fast, he’s really eager, the game’s not too big for him, he’s made plays wherever he’s been and he’s continued to do that for us and I hope he continues to get better.”

Villarrial laughed when Shanahan’s words were read to him.

“It’s almost a Troy Polamalu type thing,” Villarrial said. “Sometimes you have to live with it. You got to live and die with some of the moves. As an NFL guy, if you’re going to jump something, you better make sure it’s going to happen, or it’s a touchdown. It’s something he knows he’s going to have to work on and control. It’s also what makes him good. He has to figure out at this level, that these quarterbacks look off.”

As well as Jerome has played in the 49ers’ defensive backfield, he has not been as impressive in the one area that is most important for his bid to be a contributor as a rookie during the regular season.

Jerome said he knows he must sharpen his play on special teams in order to solidify his spot on the team and make it through the cuts next week from 90 to the regular-season limit of 53. He remained after practice this week for some one-on-one instruction from assistant special teams coach Stan Kwan.

“I think about it all the time,” Jerome said. “I’m stressing because I was a big disappointment to the coaches on special teams. So, right now, I just have to bust my butt on special teams.”

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists


Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former 49ers running back Roger Craig, in his final year on the modern-era ballot, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 10th consecutive year.

Craig is among 27 semifinalists announced for the Class of 2018. The list includes six first-year eligible candidates and four other players who have been eligible previously but are semifinalists for the first time.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens and safety John Lynch, currently 49ers general manager, are among the return semifinalists. Lynch was among the final 10 players last year, while Owens made it to the top 15.

The list of first-year eligible semifinalists includes wide receiver Randy Moss, defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

The four previously-eligible players who are semifinalists for the first time are safety LeRoy Butler, defensive ends Leslie O’Neal and Simeon Rice, and cornerback Everson Walls.

In January, the list of modern-era candidates will be trimmed to 15 individuals. There will be a total of 18 finalists, including contributor finalist Bobby Beathard and seniors finalists Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer. Hall of Fame rules stipulate from four to eight new members will be selected every year.

Beathard, Brazile and Kramer will be voted on separately and, like all other finalists, must receive 80-percent approval from the full selection committee at the annual selection meeting on Feb. 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Craig's teams made it to the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons, including his first eight years with the 49ers. In 1985, he became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Owens, who played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, was a first-team All-Pro performer six times. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards (15,934) and third with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Lynch, a hard-hitting safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his 15-year career. He recorded 26 interceptions, forced 16 fumbles and recovered nine in his career.

Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2005, 2010-18)
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2009-18)
Brian Dawkins, S – 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)
Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Steve Hutchinson, G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Joe Jacoby, T – 1981-1993 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2005, 2008, 2013-18)
Edgerrin James, RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Jimmy Johnson, Coach – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2014-18)
Ty Law, CB – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Ray Lewis, LB – 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2013-18)
Kevin Mawae, C/G – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Randy Moss, WR – 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Leslie O'Neal, DE – 1986, 1988-1995 San Diego Chargers, 1996-1997 St. Louis Rams, 1998-1999 Kansas City Chiefs | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Terrell Owens, WR – 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Simeon Rice, DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Brian Urlacher, LB – 2000-2012 Chicago Bears | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Everson Walls, CB – 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is one of 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'


John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'

SANTA CLARA – General manager John Lynch came close Tuesday to announcing which quarterback will start for the 49ers this week.

But the official announcement that rookie C.J. Beathard will start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks will have to come from coach Kyle Shanahan, he said.

“C.J. (Beathard) played extremely well against the Giants, and that’s likely,” Lynch told reporters at Levi’s Stadium. “But I’ll let Kyle speak to that.”

Lynch reiterated that they want to give newly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo the best chance to succeed. Garoppolo spent part of the 49ers' bye week learning the basics of the offensive system in meetings with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. Garoppolo also met one-on-one with Shanahan.

Beathard had his best game as a pro on Nov. 12, before the bye week, as he threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants. Garoppolo arrived in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Lynch said he feels Garoppolo “is going to be our guy,” so the organization does not feel any urgency to rush him onto the field. In fact, Lynch sounded as if the 49ers are not placing a high priority on spending big on the quarterback position with Garoppolo and Beathard on the team.

"You still study every position, but we feel pretty good about where our quarterback room is,” Lynch said.