49ers

Shanahan goes full Del Rio in 49ers debut, but without the talented roster

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AP

Shanahan goes full Del Rio in 49ers debut, but without the talented roster

It did not take Kyle Shanahan long to figure out what kind of coach he will need to be in San Francisco – at least not in the short term.
 
Faced with the conundrum of the Carolina Panthers’ defense, which has broken far better teams than the San Francisco 49ers, Shanahan used his debut as head coach to try to hit a few gutshot straights and make fourth down a non-traditional event.
 
Four times in the first half of a game the 49ers lost in uninspired fashion, 23-3, Shanahan was confronted with fourth downs, and after two punts which gave them boring old field position, he decided, first down 7-0 and then 10-0, that the players, and the half-filled stadium, needed a reason to reinvest themselves in the chase.
 
So he went full Jack Del Rio, only without the Raider coach’s roster inventory. The first time, he wagered field position on a fourth-and-four at the Panthers’ 44 with seven minutes left the second quarter. The second time, with only 44 seconds left in the half, he went again from the Carolina 45.
 
Both times failed. Both times the Panthers got routine field goals out of the gambles to provide a cushion the locals never threatened.
 
And, even though the small sample size might suggest otherwise, he should continue to do so. He is building a team from the storm cellar up, and punts are far less educational (and exciting) than playing riverboat poker.
 
“Both,” he said when asked if he was trying to be aggressive or because he was playing for field position. “The two times in the second half, we didn’t really have a choice, but the first one, were down one, just out of field goal range, and you have a choice between punting it and pinning them back or going for it, and I thought we had a chance to get it.”
 
As it was, quarterback Brian Hoyer got sacked by Thomas Davis, killed the drive and propelled a drive that led to Graham Gano’s first of three field goals.
 
On the second, fullback Kyle Juszczyk was stacked by tackle Star Lotulelei and end Wes Horton, prompting a last-minute march by the Panthers to a second Gano field goal and a 13-0 halftime lead.
 
That is 13-0, as in insurmountable. That is to say that the game was in most ways a disappointment for him, his players and a crowd generously counted at 70,718. The offense gained only 217 yards in a mere 54 plays, a passable average of 4.0 per play but threatened to score only once, late in the game (and that drive died on a fourth-and-one from the Carolina 1, when as Shanahan said, “We didn’t really have a choice.”)
 
Running back Carlos Hyde looked tolerable but not dynamic, and neither quarterback Brian Hoyer nor his receivers caused much panic in the Carolina secondary. Of the three units, the defense was by far the most inspiring.
 
Or, as Shanahan put it, “We played a very good team, and we weren’t at our best. I definitely expected us to be further along.”
 
But he knows just as well that Rome wasn’t built in two hours and 55 minutes (at least they read the league directive on playing faster games; last year they averaged 3:09, with similarly turgid results).
 
They also committed two turnovers which led to Carolina touchdowns, and 10 penalties, including three false starts, three illegal formations and one defensive offside. In short, between an offense that would need a tuneup to sputter, inattention to detail and Shanahan’s gambler’s instincts, the 49ers looked like exactly what they are – a team with seven wins in the past two years starting from scratch. 
 
Which is not Shanahan’s sin, or general manager John Lynch’s, either. They are what we thought they were, to quote the bard Dennis Green, and making them not be what we thought is going to take a long time, and a hard climb.
 
But you knew that going in. They knew it going in. It doesn’t make it any tastier, but everybody’s got to eat.
 
“Yeah, it was disappointing,” Shanahan said when asked if this was any way to make a first impression. “But whether it’s the first time, last time or any other time I have the rest of my career, it was disappointing. Any tyime you lose and lose that way, it's frustrating and disappointing. I’ll feel that all day today and all night, and our players will too, and then we've got to watch the tape tomorrow and figure out a way to get better.”
 
That would be starting Sunday in Seattle against a Seahawk team which lost 17-9 in Green Bay with an equally inert offense. The Seahawks are a much different seabird at home, and have much more of a resume of bounceback games under Pete Carroll than Shanahan could possibly have, but Seattle is not San Francisco’s worry. San Francisco is.
 
The 49ers are playing against themselves for the time being, trying to figure out who and what they are and the best way to get to who, what and where they want to go. Sunday, they showed predictably little except for a little more swashbucklery in do-or-die situations.
 
And until further notice, that’s exactly what this team needs – practice in those situations, because though they might not come along often, they need to be played when they do. Kyle Shanahan has many metrics upon which he will be measured, but the number of times he asks his team to show its mettle on fourth down should be near the front – at least until they become good enough collectively to be a little more careful.

Lynch: If charges are proven true, Reuben Foster 'won't be part of our organization'

Lynch: If charges are proven true, Reuben Foster 'won't be part of our organization'

Despite facing two felony charges for domestic violence and one felony for possession of an assault weapon, linebacker Reuben Foster is still a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

While Foster won't participate in the team's offseason program, he hasn't been cut.

On Monday, 49ers GM John Lynch addressed Foster's future with the team while talking to the media in Santa Clara. Lynch said he was speaking for CEO Jed York, the York ownership family and coach Kyle Shanahan.

"As you all know and as our release indicated, we take the gravity of these charges . . . has not been lost on us. We take it extremely seriously. We do feel like patience is the right approach right now, that we are going to learn things through this legal process. 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. That's the standard we want on our team, that's the standard we are going to operate under," Lynch said.

In a statement to announce criminal charges on April 12, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office stated the alleged victim told responding officers that Foster hit her eight to 10 times in the head during the Feb. 11 incident in Los Gatos. The DA's office said the woman was bruised and sustained a ruptured ear drum.

Lynch said the 49ers were surprised by the seriousness of the allegations made by the DA’s office. But he said he does not believe the 49ers have enough information to make an informed decision on Foster, who is not taking part in the club’s offseason program.

“We just feel right now that we don’t have all the information,” Lynch said. “Everyone looks at that and says, ‘The DA’s has levied charges, how is that not enough information?’ I would tell you that each one of these cases is unique, and in this case we don’t feel like we have that information, so we’re going to wait and let this play out.”

Lynch said the 49ers are preparing for the possibility that Foster might not play again for the 49ers. He said the club has been in contract with the league office, while also trying to facilitate structure for him outside the organization while his teammates are attending the offseason program.

Four important questions about 49ers' first-round pick

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AP

Four important questions about 49ers' first-round pick

The 49ers do not control their own draft destiny.

With the No. 9 overall pick, the 49ers’ selection will, in part, be based on what happens in the first eight draft slots. Of course, they could move up or back. But that would involve finding a trade partner.

The answers to these questions will shape the 49ers’ actions on Thursday in the first round of the NFL draft:

Will a linebacker be best on the board?
Reuben Foster’s time with the 49ers might not be over, but it is unclear how much time he is going to miss or how much the 49ers can rely on him to be a long-term member of the organization.

Roquan Smith (Georgia) and Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) are considered the top two options at linebacker, and either one of them could be the best available player on the board when the 49ers select.

Smith is a high-character, instinctive, athletic player who can step in and immediately become the team’s leading tackler. Edmunds is big, young and raw. Smith is close to a sure thing. Edmunds’ upside is unlimited.

Could Chubb or Nelson be around?
The 49ers have struggled to find a pass rush since Aldon Smith’s departure. Bradley Chubb (North Carolina State) is the best edge rusher in the draft, and would be a nice fit for the 49ers’ scheme. But the 49ers should not hold their breath. Chubb and running back Saquon Barkley (Penn State) are expected be the first non-quarterbacks selected.

Although unlikely, it is possible guard Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame) could still be on the board when the 49ers select. The 49ers believe they have strengthened their guard positions – or at least strengthened the competition – with the signing of Jonathan Cooper. Laken Tomlinson and Joshua Garnett are slated to compete, along with Cooper, for the starting jobs.

Nelson is big and powerful. He is also athletic enough to fit into Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, which places a lot more responsibility on the shoulders of the guards that most systems. Nelson could be chosen at any of the three spots (Indianapolis, Tampa Bay or Chicago) before the 49ers are scheduled to go on the clock. If he remains there at No. 9, the guess is the 49ers would gladly call his name.

Who is the best fit in the secondary?
There are some very good defensive backs who will be drafted within the first dozen picks. But which of those players gives the 49ers what they need or want?

Cornerback Denzel Ward (Ohio State), and safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) and Derwin James (Florida State) are the consensus top defensive backs available in this draft.

Ward’s speed and coverage skills are outstanding. But his size (5-11, 183) and non-physical style do not match what the 49ers want from their cornerbacks.

Fitzpatrick can play just about anywhere in the secondary. James is tough and aggressive. Strong safety is his best fit.

Fitzpatrick is good in the slot, where the 49ers already have K’Waun Williams at nickel back. At cornerback, the 49ers have presumptive starters Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. Safety Jimmie Ward will play on the outside in the offseason program.

At safety, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are scheduled for unrestricted free agency next offseason, so the 49ers could look ahead to what might be a need a year from now. Adrian Colbert looks to be a keeper.

Will a surprise really be a surprise?
So who is the second-best pass rusher? Who is the second-best offensive lineman? And would the 49ers consider either of those players worthy of a top-10 selection?

The 49ers must look to address their looming issues at offensive tackle, and Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) could be considered. Joe Staley might have a couple of good seasons left in him. But right tackle Trent Brown couild be gone after this season.

And how about the need for an edge rusher? It would not be much of a stretch for the 49ers to consider Marcus Davenport (Texas-San Antonio) or Harold Landry (Boston College).

Cornerback is also a position the 49ers could consider. Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) and Josh Jackson (Iowa) are the best fits for the 49ers’ scheme.

The 49ers were not willing to spend money for a wide receiver in free agency, so they can be expected to add someone in the draft. But a top-10 pick would seem too high to go target any of the top guys: Calvin Ridley (Alabama), D.J. Moore (Maryland) or Courtland Sutton (SMU).