Josh Garnett

49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'

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AP

49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'

SANTA CLARA -- Just hours before John Lynch was announced as a Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist for the sixth time, he spoke glowingly about a young, promising safety.

Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl performer during his 15-year career. In his role as 49ers general manager, he saw a lot that he liked from seventh-round draft pick Adrian Colbert two weeks ago against the New York Giants.

Colbert, making his first career start, sustained a broken thumb early in the game. He still played every snap on defense, recorded four tackles and showed his range in the deep middle to break up two passes.

“That was a really, really good football game and he displayed some things in that game that are characteristics of a starter and a big-time starter,” Lynch said during a 45-minute session with reporters on Tuesday at Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on free safety Jimmie Ward, whom they appear to view as their starter for next season. But Colbert has a chance to figure prominently in their future, too.

“If he plays like he did last week, you consider a lot of things,” Lynch said.

Here are other things you need to know from what Lynch said on Tuesday:

SOLOMON THOMAS ON TRACK
The 49ers invested the No. 3 overall pick on Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. He appeared in eight games, with six starts, before missing the past two games with an MCL sprain.

Thomas has not been spectacular, recording 26 tackles and two sacks. But Lynch said he is pleased with Thomas’ development.

“I think some people are saying, 'The No. 3 pick, maybe perhaps should be a little more dynamic.' But his play has been solid," Lynch said. "We knew it would be a process. He's a young kid that I think, physically, he's going to grow in stature."

BODY MAKEOVER FOR JOSHUA GARNETT
Guard Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, did not distinguish himself during the offseason program or early in training camp. Then, he sustained a knee injury with a lengthy timetable for recovery.

His timetable would have enabled him to play this season. But the 49ers opted to take “the long-term view” and place him on season-ending injured reserve to put him in a better position to realize his potential upon his return.

But, first, that means Garnett had to change his body composition. Lynch said he challenged Garnett and the team’s strength and conditioning staff to put in the work to make Garnett stronger, more agile and in better condition to succeed in the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme.

“We certainly hope he responds,” Lynch said.

CONTRACT TALKS ONGOING
Whether it’s Jimmy Garoppolo, Carlos Hyde, Dontae Johnson, Eric Reid, Daniel Kilgore, Aaron Lynch or others, the 49ers have been active in discussing the possibilities of contract extensions.

John Lynch declined to speak about which specific players the organization is trying to extend beyond this season – only to say there are ongoing talks.

“I will tell you there are players we’re talking to their representatives, but I’m going to get into who, when, why,” Lynch said.

BOOKEND TACKLES PART OF THE PLAN
The 49ers are allowed to enter into extension talks with Trent Brown after this season. Whether they are able to work out a long-term contract remains to be seen, but Lynch made no secret he hopes he can keep the tackles together into the future.

Left tackle Joe Staley, 33, appears to have at least a couple more season in him. He scored some big points with the organization with his willingness to return to action just two weeks after sustaining a broken eye socket.

“We love Joe Staley -- love the way he plays, think he’s a really good scheme fit for the offense we play,” Lynch said.

Lynch said he likes the idea of keeping Staley and Brown together for the foreseeable future.

“We feel there are a lot of places where we need to improve,” Lynch said. “And you’re always trying to improve, but those two guys are cornerstones for the next couple, few years.”

ARMSTEAD HAS 'BRIGHT FUTURE'
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead has not produced like a first-round draft pick. And the next time he takes the field for the 49ers, he will be entering his contract year.

Questioning Armstead’s fit for the 49ers’ defensive scheme is reasonable. But Lynch said he believes Armstead has a place with the organization.

“We’re real pleased,” Lynch said. “We think he’s a fit with what we are and who we are, going forward. We think he has a bright future with us.”

Armstead had his best game this season against Washington, a game in which he sustained a broken hand and required season-ending surgery.

“He put it all together,” Lynch said. “It was very encouraging and, at the same time, disappointing.”

ORGANIZATION STUDIES RASH OF INJURIES
The 49ers have 18 players on injured reserve with a variety of physical conditions that knocked them out of action from broken bones to torn ligaments and tendons.

“Some of those things are freak, but, yes, there has been an alarming amount,” Lynch said. “We’re going to study everything. That was part of what I was charged to do, evaluate every facet of the football part of this organization.”

There do not appear to be any obvious answers. Many teams around the league are also experiencing a rash of injuries to star players. On defense, the 49ers lost Armstread (broken hand), linebacker Malcolm Smith (torn pectoral tendon), and safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt (broken forearms) for the season.

“Some of it, broken forearms from two safeties and a broken thumb from a safety, I don’t know what the answer is there,” Lynch said.

“We’re going to take a deep dive – we already are – into why and if there are any common threads. We’re studying it hard.”

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

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USATSI

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.

Instant Analysis: Beathard does his best Steve Young in win over LA

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AP

Instant Analysis: Beathard does his best Steve Young in win over LA

BOX SCORE

SANTA CLARA – Very few of the players who will represent the 49ers during the regular season saw action in the exhibition finale on Thursday night.

One player who will definitely be on the regular-season roster is rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, who did his best Steve Young impersonation against the Los Angeles Chargers.

No, Beathard did not put on an aerial display, by any stretch. Beathard went the unconventional route with a zig-zagging 62-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Another rookie generated a big play that’s a little more in his character in the 49ers’ 23-13 victory over the Chargers in front of a sparse, friends-and-family gathering at Levi’s Stadium.

Wide receiver Victor Bolden had a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was Bolden’s second return for a score in three games. On Aug. 19, Boldin scored on a 104-yard kickoff return.

Bolden is making a strong bid to join a group of wide receivers on the 49ers’ roster that figures to include Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick and Trent Taylor.

Bolden is in contention for the final spot among the wide receivers, along with Jeremy Kerley, Aaron Burbridge and Kendrick Bourne.

Beathard appears to be in line for the 49ers’ No. 2 job at quarterback behind starter Brian Hoyer. Beathard completed five of nine pass attempts on Thursday for 31 yards.

Veteran Matt Barkley did not play. Instead, undrafted rookie Nick Mullens replaced Beathard and played the entire second half. It was the first action of the exhibition season for Mullens, who could return to the 49ers’ practice squad.

Because of a first-year role that eliminated the mandated cut to a 75-player roster for the final exhibition game, the 49ers had 88 players from which to choose for the game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

None of the 49ers offensive starters suited up for the game. Eli Harold, who is projected to start at outside linebacker, was the only regular on defense to play. The 49ers wanted to get a little more playing time for Harold, whose emergence led to the 49ers’ decision last week to release Ahmad Brooks.

The goal, as is always the case in the exhibition finale, was to simply get through the game healthy.

Veteran cornerback Asa Jackson made a case to win a roster spot with two interceptions. He appears to be competing against Keith Reaser for a possible fifth cornerback spot.

49ERS WHO DID NOT PLAY
Offense (18): QB Brian Hoyer, QB Matt Barkley, RB Carlos Hyde, FB Kyle Juszczyk, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Pierre Garçon, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Aldrick Robinson, WR Louis Murphy, WR Aaron Burbridge (hamstring), TE George Kittle, TE Garrett Celek, LT Joe Staley, LG Zane Beadles, C Daniel Kilgore, RG Brandon Fusco, RT Trent Brown, G Joshua Garnett (knee).

Defense (16): DL Tank Carradone, DL Solomon Thomas, DL Earl Mitchell, DL DeForest Buckner, DL Arik Armstead, DL Ronald Blair (thumb), DL Elvis Dumervil, LB NaVorro Bowman, LB Reuben Foster, CB Rashard Robinson, CB Dontae Johnson, CB K’Waun Williams, CB Will Redmond (ankle), FS Jimmie Ward, SS Eric Reid, DB Jaquiski Tartt.

DECISION ON GARNETT LOOMS
General manager John Lynch said prior to the game he would convene a summit involving the 49ers’ athletic trainers, medical staff and Joshua Garnett to plot the team’s next move.

[RELATED: 49ers have decision to make with Garnett, expected to miss time early in the season]

Garnett underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his knee early in training camp. Lynch said the 49ers could place him on season-ending injured reserve or retain him past the mandatory cuts to 53 players, then place him on injured reserve, which would make him eligible to return later in the season.

The 49ers on Thursday acquired offensive guard Laken Tomlinson, a 2015 first-round, from the Detroit Lions for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick.