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49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk finishes first in Pro Bowl fan voting

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USATSI

49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk finishes first in Pro Bowl fan voting

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was first in the final fan voting for the Pro Bowl at his position, the NFL announced on Saturday.

Juszczyk and DeForest Buckner were the only 49ers players to rank among the top-10 in the positional fan voting. Buckner garnered the ninth-most votes among NFL defensive tackles. Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams led all defensive tackles.

Juszczyk, in his first season with the 49ers, is seeking his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection. He was named to the All-Star team last season while a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Juszczyk received 361,196 votes. Jacksonville Jaguars fullback Tommy Bohanon was second with 139,297 votes.

Neither Joe Staley nor Trent Brown placed within the top 10 of offensive tackles. Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys was the leading vote-getter among tackles. Staley has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his 11-year career.

The 88 players selected for the game are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches – with each group’s votes counting one-third toward selection. The 2018 Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Tuesday.

Tank Carradine finally in 49ers system that fits his style

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AP

Tank Carradine finally in 49ers system that fits his style

SANTA CLARA -- In dire need of a pass-rush specialist, the 49ers selected Tank Carradine in the second round of the 2013 draft after he recorded 11 sacks in his final season at Florida State.

Five years later and scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March, Carradine has found his niche as a run-down specialist while lining up at “big end” in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

“At first, they didn’t think I could play the run like that,” Carradine said. “But I think once I got into a scheme that fits me, I showed that I’m capable of stopping the run in this defense.”

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh described Carradine as an “elite” defensive end playing on base downs lined up against the tight end. However, Carradine’s season was derailed in Week 3 when he sustained two torn ligaments in his right ankle against the Los Angeles Rams.

Carradine missed eight weeks and came back rusty against Seattle in Week 12. After sitting out one game, he showed his power in the run game last week with a strong defensive effort in a 26-16 win over the Houston Texans.

“It’s not all healed, but it’s healed enough,” Carradine said. “I know I got the power back. I’m not 100 percent. I’m good enough to play and finish off the season. I want to play. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s what I’ll do.”

Carradine has not played a snap on third down in the five games in which he has appeared this season. He believes he still has a lot to offer as an inside pass rusher, but his presence has been felt for a much-improved run defense.

Last season, the 49ers were the worst run defense in the NFL, yielding an average of 4.8 yards per rush attempt. This season, the 49ers are vastly improved. At 3.9 yards allowed per attempt, the 49ers’ run defense is No. 7 in the league.

It all makes sense, according to Carradine, because Saleh has installed a system that fits the players in the team's front seven.

“Because you had guys in a scheme that didn’t fit them,” Carradine said of last season’s problems. “Moving to a 4-3, we have guys who fit the scheme and can just attack, get up the field. Last year with the 3-4, it was reading and playing your keys. When we moved to a 4-3, we had more guys with 4-3 potential.”

Carradine’s weight hovered around 300 pounds to take on the demands of being a 3-4 defensive lineman. Now, he is down to 270 pounds, which is closer to his ideal playing weight. Carradine does not have a contract for next season, but he made it clear he wants to return and make a mark under the direction of a coaching staff that has finally figured out how to utilize his style of play.

“I want to be here. I love it here,” Carradine said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve only played five games this year and I didn’t get to show a whole lot.

“But, hopefully, I can finish strong these last couple of games and come back next year and play because I love this scheme. I’d love to come back next year and play for the 49ers. If not, I have to move on and try to go to a team with a scheme that fits me.”

Injury-riddled 49ers ready to 'bring on the challenge' as playoff spoilers

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AP

Injury-riddled 49ers ready to 'bring on the challenge' as playoff spoilers

With Trent Brown being shut down for the remainder of the season, the 49ers have now used the injured reserve list 21 times this season. Kyle Shanahan has seen how the rash of injuries has affected his team’s development.

“You get better when the same guys play week-in and week-out. When a group of guys struggle together, if that same group is out there the next week, they have a chance to improve,” Shanahan said from the podium at his Friday media session. “I think we went through a span where it seemed each week there was a different guy here and there. I think that kind of put us on hold for a little bit. But I feel this last month or so the continuity has been a lot better. I feel that’s why we’ve gotten a little better each week. The more you can keep those same people playing next to each other, the more it helps.”

With Brown out, Zane Beadles will start for the second straight game. He’s taken snaps at all of the positions on the offensive line throughout practices this season. But he’s picking up the nuances of right tackle working in the same position for most of the last two weeks.

“The biggest thing is in pass protection you have to get depth. On the inside everything happens on the line of scrimmage. Those guys are responsible for the depth of the pocket,” Beadles explained. “At tackle, you gotta get off the ball. Those guys are flying up the field. You have a lot more space to cover. It’s a little different mentality, a little bit different physical demands, so it’s just working on those things through out the week and getting comfortable with it.”

Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney gave Beadles plenty of attention last week, and Beadles expects more of the same from the Titans.

“Bring on the challenge. That’s the way this league is,” Beadles said. “You’re going to get challenged until you prove you can get the job done.”

That also applies to whatever player is pulled up from practice squad. Cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (knee) and Greg Mabin (calf) are questionable for Sunday’s game, and Shanahan is likely to make a move by Saturday’s 1 p.m. deadline.

The 49ers last three games are against teams still in the postseason picture, and they expect a playoff atmosphere for each of them starting on Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo is making his first start at Levi’s against a Titans team battling for the lead in the AFC South. Whatever setbacks the team has experienced through injuries this season, Shanahan sees these final three games as the biggest opportunity for its growth.

“They are going to feel an intensity from these teams, especially Tennessee on Sunday, that’s probably a little more intense than what they’ve felt from other teams throughout this year. I expect us to be the exact same way and learn from that,” Shanahan said.

“Our goal, and what we expect, is to be in that situation next year. I’d like that not to be our first time in that situation. I don’t see why our team can’t treat these three games like we’re playing for our playoff lives, too.”