49ers counting on Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner to become formidable duo

49ers counting on Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner to become formidable duo

PHOENIX — At the beginning of this decade, the 49ers' defense was anchored by the fierce duo of Justin Smith and Aldon Smith.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan believes his team might have something similar in DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford.

“You had Aldon Smith and Justin Smith. Those guys went very well together,” Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting. “I don’t know which one was more important to the other. They both played off each other well.”

The Smiths played together in San Francisco from 2011 to 2014. Over that four-season span, Justin Smith recorded 22 sacks and Aldon Smith racked up a whopping 44 -- 33.5 of which were in his first two seasons.

Shanahan explained how Ford should fit in with Buckner on the defensive line.

“When you have a guy like DeFo playing the 3-technique and you got a guy outside of him that probably has the best first step in the league of just getting off the ball, that makes the tackle have to expand a lot more, which gives more space for Buck,” Shanahan said. “And the more space you can give Buck, the better he’s going to do.”

Since the 49ers acquired Ford in a trade with Kansas City, there has been an expectation of how he will complement Buckner, who had career-bests last season of 12 sacks, 17 tackles for a loss and 20 quarterback hits.

Ford also finished 2018 with career highs in 13 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and 29 quarterback hits.

The 49ers have an abundance of defensive linemen who have played well on the inside but they have needed to get pressure from the edge. Ford could be exactly what the defense needs to bring the level of play up along the entire defensive line.

“Yeah, I think it will help Buck a lot,” Shanahan said. “I think it will help all our inside players. Buck’s been great for us. He played at an extremely high level last year and they way Buck is, just as a man, the way he takes care of himself, the way he works, he’s going to get better each year regardless. And when you add better people around him, that will always help too.”

The coaching staff has not decided if Ford will play on one side or the other. Shanahan envisions him playing in a variety of places as long as it maximizes his talents.

“I think they will play all over,” Shanahan said. “Buck plays on both sides. I don’t know exactly how we will do it with Dee Ford, whether we will put him on both sides or just leave him just left or right. But I do think he will move around.”

Shanahan explained how much more difficult it is to prepare for a defensive line that does not have set positions.

“From an offensive standpoint it’s harder for me when I don’t know where they’re going to be,” Shanahan said. “It’s harder to game plan it. But also from a defensive standpoint, sometimes guys are a lot better on one side than the other and so we got to figure that out.

“But there’s a schematic advantage to never knowing where the guys is but you don’t want to take away his top assets like that.”

[RELATED: Jimmy G should be cleared by training camp]

Shanahan said even if the numbers aren’t flashy, adding a player like Ford can change the outcome of a game.

“It puts pressure on the whole offense,” Shanahan said. “And it’s not just the pass rush. You need to add difference-makers anywhere. Even when those guys aren’t impacting the game to where a fan can see it, the entire offense feels it. The field gets smaller and there’s not as much space and that’s what you want to do.”

George Kittle returns to practice, expected to play vs. Washington

George Kittle returns to practice, expected to play vs. Washington

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers tight end George Kittle showed up on the injury report with a groin strain last Friday. Two days later, he looked completely healthy going up against the Los Angeles Rams.

Kittle was held out of practice on Wednesday, but he returned to limited work during the 49ers’ padded work on Thursday at their team facility. Kittle downplayed the team’s report of his physical condition and is expected to play Sunday against Washington.

Kittle caught eight passes for 103 yards in the 49ers’ 20-7 victory over the Rams on Sunday.

However, the 49ers had seven players who did not participate in Thursday's practice. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon remain out of action.

[RELATED: McGlinchey had tough time watching 49ers' win from home]

Running back Raheem Mostert (knee), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) and nose tackle D.J. Jones (hamstring) sustained injuries in the 49ers’ win over the Rams that have kept them from practicing thus far this week.

49ers practice report

Did not practice
DT D.J. Jones (hamstring)
FB Kyle Juszczyk (knee)
T Mike McGlinchey (knee)
RB Raheem Mostert (knee)
WR Deebo Samuel (groin)
T Joe Staley (fibula)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (foot)

DE Dee Ford (quadricep)
TE George Kittle (groin)
CB K'Waun Williams (hand)

Washington practice report

Did not practice
S Deshazor Everett (ankle)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring)
G Wes Martin (chest)  
CB Josh Norman (thigh, hand)
RB Chris Thompson (toe)

TE Vernon Davis (concussion)

Full participation
QB Case Keenum (right shoulder, foot)
RB Adrian Peterson (quadricep)

NFL trade deadline: Position-by-position look at 49ers' plan of attack


NFL trade deadline: Position-by-position look at 49ers' plan of attack

The NFL trade deadline is set for Tuesday, Oct. 29. But some teams, such as the Los Angeles Rams, did not wait until the last minute. There were a flurry of trades Tuesday – a full two weeks before the deadline.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have not made a trade since a couple of deals on the third day of the NFL draft in late-April.

Still, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan are looking forward to adding multiple starting players to their lineup in the coming weeks.

No, the 49ers are not expecting to acquire a player or two from outside the organization at any cost. Instead, they expect to shore up some areas of their team with the return of key players from injuries.

The 49ers expect to fortify their lineup with the returns of offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and slot receiver Trent Taylor.

Lynch and Shanahan said the club is always looking to improve, but they always will weigh the short-term benefit and the long-term advantage of any trade.

Here's a position-by-position look at the 49ers’ prospects for making a trade