2019 Senior Bowl: How Reuben Foster situation affects 49ers' scouting

2019 Senior Bowl: How Reuben Foster situation affects 49ers' scouting

MOBILE, Ala., — The 49ers are using their time at the Senior Bowl wisely. More contact with players allows the staff to evaluate their character much more in depth than the 15-minute meetings allowed at the NFL Pro Scouting Combine. 

Both coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have expressed how the week of working with draft prospects at the Senior Bowl is a huge advantage for them. While they’d prefer to be in the playoffs, they are going to get everything they can out of being in close proximity to the players. 

The 49ers went through a lot of ups and downs with former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who had some questions regarding off the field issues coming out of Alabama. Shanahan said the situations with Foster don’t really change how he views players prior to the draft more than any other experience. 

“Not much,” Shanahan said. “Every player is different, every situation is different. Every situation I’ve had with every single player in the 16 years I’ve been coaching affects every decision.

“Learned a lot going through Reuben -- some good, some bad, but that’s no different than any other player.” 

One of the standouts from the three days of practice in Mobile is Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat, who was suspended for violating team rules while at Michigan State. 

No explanation was given by head coach Mark D’Antonio about the suspension at the time, and Sweat subsequently transferred to a junior college before finally landing at Mississippi State. Sweat was noticeably absent from media availability throughout the week, but the team likely has the full story. 

Lynch explained the same philosophy as Shanahan when discussing how Foster has influenced his evaluation process as they look forward to players like Sweat. 

“I think we always sit down at the end of a season,” Lynch said. “We always take every opportunity to assess what we’ve done, what we’ve done well and what we fell like we can do better. So, of course you learn from your experiences.” 

The 49ers locker room was very close in 2018 as they faced the adversity of a losing season both with and without Foster on the team. The same could be said about the locker room in 2017 where the team faced an 0-9 start before managing their first win. 

“I think one thing I’m really proud of,” Lynch said, “is the character of our team as a whole. I think we’ve got a lot go guys who kind of represent our core beliefs on how you build a winning franchise, a championship franchise. And going into year three you just want to continue to add. 

“The big thing for us is we want to have competition at darn near every position. You want to have guys that bring out the best in people. It brings out the best in a roster and it adds to the depth of your roster.“

The 49ers have a lot of choices to make in the coming months and the the staff’s week in Mobile will play a big part in the process. 

Why Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw are huge keys to 49ers' elite defense

Why Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw are huge keys to 49ers' elite defense

The 49ers' defense was a quarterback's worst nightmare last season. And that's being nice. 

San Francisco led the NFL by only allowed a measly 169.2 passing yards per game last season. Quarterbacks completed only 61.4 percent of their pass attempts against the 49ers, and were sacked 48 times, good for fifth in all of football. 

Richard Sherman locking down one side of the field certainly helps. As does Nick Bosa constantly putting pressure on QBs. But a key to the 49ers' defense also is the coverage ability of their linebackers at such young ages. 

Pro Football Focus' website also actually has Greenlaw's overall coverage grade as 72.6 last season. The fifth-round pick stepped in for an injured Kwon Alexander -- who posted a 68.6 coverage grade across 423 snaps -- and came up clutch multiple times, especially against the 49ers' biggest rivals

Warner is a tackling machine -- averaging 121 tackles per season through his first two years -- but he already is among the elite linebackers when it comes to breaking up passes. Warner had a 74.5 coverage grade across 1,166 total snaps last season. That was the fifth-best grade of any linebacker who played at least 1,000 snaps.

Through two seasons with the 49ers, Warner has three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. 

[RELATED: This stat shows how 49ers were most balanced team last year]

While Sherman rightfully grabs the spotlight by taking away top receivers, defenses have to be able to slow down tight ends and cover running backs out of the backfield. That's what makes Warner and Greenlaw so valuable. 

There aren't many defenses that have two linebackers like this.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

This stat shows how 49ers were most balanced team in NFL last season

This stat shows how 49ers were most balanced team in NFL last season

After combining for 10 wins the two previous seasons, the 49ers dominated most facets of the game last season. Balance might be the word that best describes their 2019 campaign. 

Pro Football Focus highlighted just how great they were on both sides of the ball. The 49ers were the only team to grade in the top five on offense and defense.

While PFF uses analytics for an advanced grading system, the traditional stats speak to San Francisco's balance, too. 

On offense, the 49ers ranked fourth in total offense (6,097), 13th in passing yards (3,792), second in rushing yards (2,305) and second in points per game (29.9). They also tied for the seventh-most passing touchdowns (28) and led all of football with 23 rushing TDs.

[RELATED: Defending Jimmy G: Why 49ers QB deserves more respect]

On defense, the 49ers allowed the second-fewest yards per game (281.8), the least amount of passing yards per game (169.2) and ranked 17th in rushing yards allowed per game (112.6). And they ranked eighth in points allowed per game at only 19.4. 

The 49ers beat teams by putting a barrage of points on the scoreboard and by stifling opposing offenses. They'll need the same kind of dominant, balanced attack to make it back to the Super Bowl, too.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]