49ers assistant Joe Woods' gamble pays off as Browns' coordinator job looms

49ers assistant Joe Woods' gamble pays off as Browns' coordinator job looms

MIAMI, Fla. -- The 49ers could lose a key, behind-the-scenes piece of their top-ranked pass defense after Super Bowl LIV.

Joe Woods, 49, who serves as defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator, is reportedly the top candidate to become the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski.

The 49ers reportedly are trying to retain Woods, but it will not be easy. Woods clearly had his eye on a coordinator job in 2020 when he signed a one-year contract to replace Jeff Hafley last year.

“I just think at this point in my career, after being a coordinator in Denver, I felt as a position coach, I feel like I’ve been around the league long enough, I felt my reputation was good enough, that if I signed a one-year deal and it didn’t work out, I’d be able to find employment," Woods said Wednesday.

"I was basically betting on myself.”

Woods contract expires after the 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday.

General manager John Lynch said everyone is focused on Sunday’s game, not what the future holds for Woods or anyone else.

“Joe is an excellent football coach, so if some opportunities come his way, they come his way,” Lynch said. “But Joe is fully focused on this task.”

Woods said he has not engaged in any contract talks with any team.

“I’ve been showing up to work, doing my job and I’m just concerned with getting through the season and finishing the Super Bowl and from there, making decisions,” he said.

[RELATED: Coleman looks good, seems ready for 49ers' Super Bowl role]

Woods worked as the Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018 under coach Vance Joseph. He said this season with the 49ers has helped him grow through increasing his knowledge of the cover-3 defense that the Seattle Seahawks popularized.

Woods said he has learned a lot from safeties coach Daniel Bullocks and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Robert Saleh is an unbelievable coordinator,” Woods said. “I think without any question, he’s going to be a great head coach. It’s a shame he didn’t get one this year. But I’m telling you, I’ve been around people. He will be a great head.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

49ers could benefit from Seahawks' lack of offensive line continuity

49ers could benefit from Seahawks' lack of offensive line continuity

As we learned in 2019, as good as the 49ers are the margin for error in the NFC West is razor thin.

Despite having the more talented roster, the 49ers were pushed to the limit by Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, needing a Dre Greenlaw tackle on the 1-yard line in Week 17 to secure the division crown and No. 1 seed in the NFC. The two rivals should  be close again in 2020, but the Seahawks will be starting the season at a disadvantage due to the lack of offseason OTAs and perhaps a shortened training camp.

While some position groups can make do with Zoom meetings and individual workouts, the offensive line is a group that needs to work together to establish cohesion. The Seahawks underwent massive turnover on the offensive line in the offseason. Seattle cut center Justin Britt and guard D.J. Fluker while tackles Germain Ifedi and George Fant left in free agency. That's 60 percent of their starting offensive line and a key reserve that now are gone.

The lack of in-person time to work on chemistry due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic worries tackle Duane Brown.

“A major factor is just chemistry. And continuity,” Brown said during a videoconference with reporters, via Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune. “And we just lost a big chunk of our starting pieces this offseason. So we’ve got some new faces, some guys who have been in the system, some guys that haven’t been there. Just have to learn each other, learning the the terminology, communication, just learning how we do things here. All of that stuff is important.

“We’re doing what we can now virtually, by texts, calls, just to try to build as much chemistry as possible until we’re able to meet and physically get on the field. Once that happens we have a small window to build each other up as much as possible until the season starts.”

The Seahawks needed to upgrade or change their offensive line in free agency. Seattle had the 27th ranked offensive line last, per Pro Football Focus. Their pressure rate allowed in 2.5 seconds or less was 26.7 percent, which ranked last in the NFL.

Seattle brought in four free agents, including center B.J. Finney and tackle Brandon Shell. The unit very well could be better than last year's disaster but it will take time for them to come together.

[RELATED: Seahawks-Browns Russ trade would've left 49ers with no NFC West equal]

With the 49ers returning the majority of a loaded roster, some early stumbles by the Seahawks due to offensive line play could be all San Francisco needs to wrap up the division before their Week 17 showdown at Levi's Stadium.

In the battle for the NFC West title, any little advantage over Wilson and Pete Carroll helps, especially given Seattle's easy December schedule. Lack of offensive line continuity early on in the Pacific Northwest could be a gift to the 49ers.

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

We know 49ers running back Raheem Mostert is a supreme athlete. How supreme? Well, last season, he was the third-most explosive ball-carrier in the NFL.

NFL.com's Nick Shook has been taking some deep dives into "Next Gen Stats" throughout the last few weeks, and on Wednesday, he delved into the most explosive runners the league has to offer. In order to do so, he had to establish some criteria.

In order to qualify for the top 10 most explosive runners from last season, each player had to attempt a minimum of 100 carries, at least 20 of which went for 10-or-more yards. Then, to determine the hierarchy, the percentage of runs in which they reached 15 mph or faster was the defining factor. Once the numbers were crunched, it painted Mostert in some astonishing light.

Last season, Mostert reached 15 mph or faster on an amazing 28.5 percent of his touches, which was the third-highest rate in the league behind Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. To further that, he reached at least 20 mph on four rush attempts, a benchmark equaled by only seven other players; Mostert accomplished the feat with fewer total carries than any of them.

In fact, Mostert's average speed of 13.75 mph per touch ranked first among all running backs who had at least 100 touches last season. That's blazing fast. If that number is difficult to believe, well, just turn on the tape of the NFC Championship Game, in which Mostert accounted for four touchdowns and 226 yards from scrimmage on 31 total touches. I guarantee you the Green Bay Packers believe it.

[RELATED: 49ers' Mostert looks forward to running behind Williams]

Mostert seemed to pick up momentum as the season wore on, and projects to have a much bigger role in San Francisco's offense in 2020. His explosiveness is a tremendous fit for coach Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, and there is every reason to believe the 49ers will be even more potent on that side of the ball in the season ahead.

If he stays healthy, Mostert should blow his previous career-high for touches in a season out of the water. If that's the case, well, good luck catching up to him.

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