49ers

49ers confident in C.J. Beathard as starting QB with Jimmy Garoppolo injured

49ers confident in C.J. Beathard as starting QB with Jimmy Garoppolo injured

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It might be a cliché that C.J. Beathard continued to prepare since the end of last season as if he were the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

Beathard stood no chance of getting on the field for any meaningful playing time this season as long as Jimmy Garoppolo remained healthy. But after one devastating turn for the 49ers in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, Beathard will have as many as 13 games to show the results of his work in the offseason.

“I got a lot of confidence in him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Beathard. “He led us to our first win last year. He came in today and made a hell of a throw on that fourth down. No hesitation.

"C.J.’s a gamer. Everyone in here has a ton of respect for C.J.”

Beathard will make his first start of the season next Sunday when the 49ers travel to Carson to face the Los Angeles Chargers. And Beathard will be expected to play at a high level and give the 49ers a chance to win, according to his coaches and teammates.

“Coach Shanahan has the highest standards for every single person on this team, especially C.J. That’s why they took him in the third round,” 49ers tight end George Kittle said. “They thought so highly of him. He did his job last year, and he’s going to step up no matter what happens.”

In the immediate aftermath of Garoppolo sustaining a knee injury that was diagnosed as a torn ACL in his left knee (an MRI will be performed Monday to confirm the team’s fears), Beathard entered Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

Beathard threw what appeared to be a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kittle on a fourth-and-goal play. But fullback Kyle Juszczyk was called for offensive pass interference, and the 49ers settled for a field goal with five minutes remaining in the loss.

Now, the 49ers’ hopes for the season rest with Beathard, a second-year pro who started five games last season after coming to the team as a third-round pick from Iowa.

“We have a great deal of confidence in C.J., man,” 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin said. “He started for us a few games last year and did his thing, helped get our first win of the season last year against the Giants. And there’s no doubt he’ll come in and assume his role and study up and do exactly what he needs to do to help us win.”

Beathard completed 123 of 224 passes (54.9 percent) for 1,430 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions as a rookie. He was sacked 19 times.

“It’s huge having already played last year in six games,” Beathard said. “I feel like it will really help me going forward having had the experience. It’s not my first time in a live NFL game in the regular season. It is my second time around. I think it will be a little easier this time.”

“C.J. played a lot of games for us last year,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “We have a lot of confidence that he’ll be able to come in. He knows the offense. It’s just one of those things, we just have to step up. If C.J.’s rolling out there, we’ll be ready to go.”

The 49ers already have dealt with crushing blows on offense this season. In the team’s first practice after the end of the preseason, running back Jerick (Jet) McKinnon sustained a torn ACL and was lost for the season.

“You can relate it to us losing Jet in the week before we started the season,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “We had a lot of things schemed around him, same as we do with Jimmy. You just have to adapt, and I think Kyle [Shanahan] is the best in the business at that kind of stuff.”

Beathard said part of his duty for as long as he is the 49ers' starting quarterback is to be a leader and keep the team together through adversity.

“There is going to be every opportunity in the world for guys to be mad or down about certain things,” Beathard said. “But we have to keep the morale and stay positive and move onto the next week and get the [win] next week.”

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49ers roster analysis: Ascending linebackers should make group better in 2020

49ers roster analysis: Ascending linebackers should make group better in 2020

This is the seventh installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020 and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ linebackers.

Under contract (signed through)

-Kwon Alexander (2022)
-Fred Warner (2021)
-Dre Greenlaw (2022)
-Mark Nzeocha (2021)
-Azeez Al-Shaair (2021)
-Joey Alfieri (2021)
-Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (2021)

The 49ers and Alexander agreed to a contract restructure in November that saves the team more than $8 million in cap space for the 2020 season. His salary is set to leap to $12.55 million in 2021. Three voidable years were added to his contract. He is still scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the 2022 season.

Expiring contracts

-Elijah Lee (RFA)

Lee was among the 49ers’ final cuts and was signed to the practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster for the final eight games of the regular season after Alexander went on injured reserve. Lee saw action in each of the 49ers’ three postseason games as a core special-teams contributor.

What needs to happen

The 49ers’ only real decision is with Lee, who is a restricted free agent. The lowest tender of $2.144 million is probably too much, but the 49ers can look to re-sign him to a minimum level contract.

But even with some uncertainty surrounding Lee, the 49ers appear set with their starters and backups. The 49ers certainly do not need to spend free-agent money to add a player. And they do not need to use one of their top draft picks to bring in a linebacker, either.

[RELATED: 49ers roster analysis: Work needed to keep up defensive line dominance]

Expectations

This position group is comprised of players who are all ascending. The unit was good in 2019. It should be better in 2020.

Warner was one of the breakout stars for the 49ers as a second-year player. He had an interception of Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl that looked, at the time, to be one of the big plays in that game. Warner believes he can make improvements in all areas, including the production of more game-changing types of plays.

Alexander sustained a torn pectoral in the middle of the season. Then, worked hard to get back for the playoffs. Although he settled back into the 49ers’ defense as a part-time player, Alexander still served an important role on the team due to his leadership and energy.

Greenlaw became an every-down player after Alexander’s injury and made one of the most memorable plays of the season when he stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line to preserve the 49ers’ Week 17 win to clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs. It will be difficult to keep Greenlaw off the field.

Al-Shaair, who defied the odds to win his roster spot last season as an undrafted rookie, and Nzeocha are solid backups and core special-teams players, too.

NFL free agency: A.J. Green would fit 49ers, but health risks are real

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NFL free agency: A.J. Green would fit 49ers, but health risks are real

A.J. Green last played in an NFL game on Dec. 2, 2018. He injured his toe in that game, and underwent season-ending surgery shortly after.

Green then missed all of last season, as the Cincinnati Bengals' star receiver dealt with an ankle injury. And yet, he's one of the biggest names set to hit free agency next month.

So, should the 49ers take a run at signing the seven-time Pro Bowl pick? Talent-wise, yes. But it's not that simple.

Green, who turns 32 years old on July 31, has played in just nine games in the last two seasons. He has missed 29 games since 2016 and isn't getting any younger. But he's also one of the most talented receivers in the league when healthy.

The former No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft started his career with five straight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards. He was well on pace to extending that streak in 2016 when he had 964 receiving yards in 10 games and then had 1,078 in 2017.

San Francisco simply doesn't have any receivers with Green's kind of pedigree. Deebo Samuel opened eyes as a rookie, and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The 49ers have to add talent around the young South Carolina product, though.

Green also is the kind of large target that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan hopes to give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Samuel is listed at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds. Green, however, is 6-4 and 210 pounds.

One NFL executive believes Green hopes to move on from the Bengals this offseason, too. 

"I think he wants out of Cincinnati," the exec told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. 

That, however, isn't in Bengals coach Zac Taylor's plans

"He's a guy that we're excited about to have part of this team, first and foremost. That’s what matters right now," Taylor said Thursday in his interview on the '"Bengals Beat Podcast." "As we go through the offseason, we'll figure out how it best fits. But right now, we expect him to be a part of the team. We want him to be a part of the team.

"He's certainly been a valuable member for the last couple years and done some great things. I'm excited to coach him, really for the first time this next season."

Green signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Bengals in 2015. He will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time this offseason, and the veteran still could sign another hefty contract. The same executive told ESPN that "even 'B' receivers are getting $14 million to $15 million."

The 49ers currently have just under $17.9 million available in cap space this offseason, according to Spotrac. San Francisco also has its own contracts to take care of in free agent Arik Armstead, as well as extensions for George Kittle and DeForest Buckner. 

[RELATED: Why 49ers could add Gabriel to receiver mix this offseason]

One way or another, the 49ers should look to give Jimmy G more weapons this offseason. This year's NFL draft class is loaded with receivers, and the front office could make that their priority with their first pick. There's no doubt Green could be a great option in free agency, but it all comes down to health.

"As long as the foot checks out, he's still elite," an NFC personnel evaluator said to ESPN.

That's a big if, though. Green is one talented question mark.