49ers

49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon out at least a month with foot sprain

49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon out at least a month with foot sprain

SANTA CLARA – Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is expected to miss at least a month with a right foot sprain, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday.

Emmanuel Moseley is in the lead over veteran Jason Verrett to replace Witherspoon, Shanahan said.

“It’ll be all about practice,” Shanahan said. “We have a number of guys who are candidates for it.”

The 49ers will practice Tuesday and get the rest of the week off before returning next week to begin preparations to face the Cleveland Browns on Monday, Oct. 7, at Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers are optimistic about getting two offensive players back after the bye week, Shanahan said.

Running back Tevin Coleman is making good progress after sustaining an ankle sprain in Week 1 against Tampa Bay. And rookie wide receiver Jalen Hurd has missed more than a month with a stress reaction in his back.

The loss of Witherspoon is a big blow to the 49ers.

Witherspoon exited the game Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter. He underwent an MRI examination on Monday and is expected to get a second opinion from a foot specialist.

“I felt real bad for him because he’s been playing at a high level,” Shanahan said. “He’s been covering very well. He was playing very physical, too. I thought yesterday was probably the most physical game I’ve seen him have. He was making tackles and he was throwing his body around.

“It’s unfortunate for him, but setbacks do happen. It’s a part of football. He’ll work to get back, and when he comes back, I expect him to be right where he was when he left off.”

In Witherspoon’s absence, Verrett was on the field for three snaps at right cornerback. He was called for pass interference against James Washington – a 32-yard infraction. On the next play, Diontae Johnson beat Verrett for a 39-yard touchdown pass from Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.

The 49ers benched Verrett and inserted Moseley, who played the final two possessions as the 49ers came back to take the lead and secure the 24-20 victory.

[RELATED: Watch Bosa dominate Steelers tackle]

Shanahan said the 49ers will look at all available options to strengthen their roster, including the trade market. Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey last week requested a trade, but the 49ers have not been interested in making that deal due to the level of compensation they would have to send to Jacksonville, as well as the contract it would take to lock up Ramsey to a multi-year extension.

“We always look at the trade market, but it’s got to make sense,” Shanahan said. “How much does it help the team right now? And how much does it help the organization going forward? You always think about right now, but you also have to think about years in advance, too. How it affects the salary cap and draft picks, things like that.”

49ers' pass rush returns to 'fun' style of play vs. Drew Brees, Saints

49ers' pass rush returns to 'fun' style of play vs. Drew Brees, Saints

NEW ORLEANS – The 49ers’ pass rush can once again be a factor this week.

The 49ers went into their Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens knowing they had to make some dramatic changes with their style of getting after the quarterback.

After all, they could not be so aggressive, as 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek teaches, because of the running ability of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

On Sunday, they can get back to normal against the passing attack of the New Orleans Saints with quarterback Drew Brees.

“Those guys want to get after the quarterback,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “I know the D-line. I know their coach. It was a tough week for them. But they rose to the challenge and played those techniques very well. I thought they did a very good job against Baltimore and stopping the run.

“And now this week, you still got to stop the run. It always starts with that, but you can play a little more of those techniques you’re used to, which I know they have a lot more fun playing and I know we have a lot more fun coaching it, too.”

It certainly will not be easy for the 49ers’ pass rush to get to Brees, who has been sacked just nine times on 249 drop-backs this season. Brees gets the ball out quickly, in order to neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush of Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford.

A week ago, the 49ers played a different style in an attempt to prevent big plays from Baltimore’s quarterback-driven run game. Buckner registered the team’s only sack, and that came for zero yards.

The 49ers gave up some rushing yards, but made adjustments in the second half to limit Baltimore to just three points in the final 30 minutes.

[RELATED: How will 49ers deploy running backs?]

“When you do that, you definitely have to change-up your fronts and play run-first at all times,” Shanahan said. “You got to almost play in a four-point stance and just control people instead of teeing off on guys and trying to go through them. I know last week was a frustrating week.”

The 49ers own the league's top-ranked passing defense, allowing just 134.2 yards passing per game. The 49ers rank second in the NFL with 45 sacks.

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

NEW ORLEANS – It’s a good problem for the 49ers to figure out who among their running backs they are going to feature.

Leading rusher Matt Breida is scheduled to return to action on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints after missing three games with an ankle sprain. Raheem Mostert is coming off a 146-yard day, the best game from a 49ers running back in three years. But what kind of role will he play on Sunday?

That question leads off this edition of the 49ers Mailbag:

Coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff put a lot of discussion into how they are going to use their backs. Shanahan talks to his entire offensive staff, as well as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, about which plays are best fits for which players.

Then, Shanahan’s in-game decisions are also influenced by which running back is having the most success.

“None of them are bad at anything, so whatever we end up going with, all of them have a chance, whatever play it is,” Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan, which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area and 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We definitely try to decide which one we prefer during the week. We go into the game with a plan, but then we always stick with what’s hot.”

Tevin Coleman has been getting the starting assignments. It remains to be seen if that will continue, but Breida and Mostert should get their opportunities, too. 

I don’t know about using Daniel Brunskill for any trick plays, but it might not be a bad idea to mix him in for a series here and there to ease Joe Staley back into the action.

Staley has missed nine games this season, and Brunskill has shown to be a very effective player. It could be something along the lines of how the 49ers got Ahkello Witherspoon back into his starting role. At first, they had Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley sharing the playing time before Witherspoon was all the way back.

Richard Sherman will play despite hobbled last week with a knee injury. He appeared to be moving well during 49ers practices this week in Florida.

The only 49ers starter who will not play on Sunday is strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, who may miss multiple games with fractured ribs. Marcell Harris will start at strong safety. But everybody else is good to go, including Breida, Staley and Dee Ford.

My hunch is that if the 49ers do not place the franchise tag on Arik Armstead, he will end up signing a lucrative multi-year contract with another team as an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers' top priorities to sign to multi-year extensions are defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle.

[RELATED: Kittle on pace for best PFF season]

Neither Jalen Hurd nor Trent Taylor will play this season. Hurd will miss his entire rookie season due to a stress reaction in his back, while Taylor is out for the season from complications after undergoing surgery on a Jones fracture in his right foot.

The 49ers elevated defensive lineman Kentavius Street to practice this week. The 49ers might use their final injured reserve/designated to return spot on cornerback Jason Verrett, who has been out with a knee injury. He could return to practice as early as Wednesday.

The odds are very slim that Marquise Goodwin will be back on the team next season. He is scheduled to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2020, and that is not a price the 49ers are going to pay for what he gives them.

The 49ers are not giving up on Dante Pettis, though. They want him to put in the work during the offseason to have a big bounce-back season.

Pettis experienced the same kind of second season as Ahkello Witherspoon. Both players experienced success to ends their rookie seasons and thought they had it figured out.

[RELATED: How to watch 49ers-Saints]

Witherspoon struggled in Year 2, and realized what he had to do in order to perform at a high level. He came back focused for a strong third season.

The 49ers hope Pettis will make the same kinds of adjustments to his work ethic and mindset to become a reliable receiver in 2020.