49ers

49ers Mailbag: Must-win game vs Cardinals?

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USATSI

49ers Mailbag: Must-win game vs Cardinals?

The 49ers are still looking for their first win of the Kyle Shanahan era as they head to Arizona to face the Cardinals on Sunday.

We solicited some questions via Facebook for this edition of the 49ers Mailbag. Here’s the result. . .

Is this a "must win" for purposes of morale, energy, confidence? (Max Ferrero)
The 49ers are not in a position to compete for the NFC West title, even though the division appears to be heading southward.

The nucleus of the 49ers’ roster is developing and not ready to do the heavy lifting required for the team reach the playoffs. And some of the veterans are not playing as well as expected.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are well aware they do not have the horses to produce a winning record this season. But the plans in place offensively and defensively should enable this team to improve throughout the season – unlike the past few seasons.

Therefore, I don’t see morale and energy being issues. Every player knows the coach and GM are going to be around for a while. The players who do not bring it on a weekly basis will not be back next season. So there is constant motivation for the players to produce and not give up on the season at any point.

There is no illusions about this team. The organization is building for the future, so each player must prove that he is part of the solution and not part of the problem.

If Hyde can't play, how do you anticipate the 49ers will split carries? Is Breida ready to be a featured back? (Josh Gale)
First off, I think Carlos Hyde will play on Sunday. He went through limited practice all week and is listed as questionable for the game. I’d be surprised if he does not play against the Cardinals.

But in the event that the 49ers do not have Hyde’s services – either for this game or down the road – I don’t believe the 49ers would rely on just one back. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert would share the load. And if Hyde – for whatever reason – were unavailable for an extended period, the team would promote Jeremy McNichols from the practice squad or re-sign veteran Tim Hightower.

How big of a leash does Hoyer have before Beathard is given a chance? (Omar Rodriguez)
Brian Hoyer is the best quarterback on the team. This is no knock on C.J. Beathard, but I can’t think of anything he does better than Hoyer at this stage of their careers.

That stated, Hoyer appeared to be in danger of letting this thing get away from him last week when he threw a horrendous interception on his first attempt against the L.A. Rams after coming off the worst back-to-back starts of his NFL career.

Hoyer has been productive in this offense. He knows the system well. He gives the 49ers the best chance of winning.

Beathard might eventually get there, but it’s way too much – and too early -- to ask of him to come to the rescue of a struggling team.

49ers, Sharks games not expected before November, health official says

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AP

49ers, Sharks games not expected before November, health official says

A South Bay health official suggested this week that an optimistic goal might be for the return of sporting events in mid-November.

Santa Clara County executive officer Dr. Jeffrey Smith told the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that games -- presumably high school, college and professional -- might not return to the South Bay for at least another seven months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Smith said he did not expect there would be “any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we’d be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving. This is not something that’s going to be easy to do."

His comments were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The project would mean no games in Santa Clara County for the 49ers, San Jose Sharks, Stanford University and San Jose State University.

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The 49ers will follow the lead of the NFL, as well as local and national health officials, a team official told NBC Sports Bay Area. The 49ers stance is consistent with a statement the club released on March 12.

“Our organization continues to collaborate with federal, state, and local health organizations, as well as our League office, to monitor the evolving developments regarding COVID-19,” the organization said. “Our intent is to make the most informed decisions regarding the health and wellness of all San Francisco 49ers and Levi's Stadium employees, patrons, and the community at large.”

Last week, NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said the league is proceeding as if there will be a full 16-game schedule this season.

"All of our discussion, all of our focus, has been on a normal traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums, and going through a full 16-game regular season and full set of playoffs," Pash said. "That's our focus."

The NFL has proceeded with the free-agent signing period and the upcoming 2020 draft despite travel restrictions and shelter-in-place guidelines for all league personnel. The NFL is also expected to release its full regular-season schedule around May 9.

[RELATED: Oklahoma WR Lamb could be 49ers' Sanders replacement]

But the Santa Clara County official told the Board of Supervisors he believes the risk of exposure to the coronavirus is not going away any time soon.

“There will definitely be individuals who will get sick,” Dr. Smith said. “And because there are individuals who get sick, there will be individuals who die after the order is released, unless we come up with a foolproof immunization, which is highly unlikely.”

Why Bobby Wagner is wrong Seahawks, not 49ers, are NFC West team to beat

Why Bobby Wagner is wrong Seahawks, not 49ers, are NFC West team to beat

The 49ers are reigning champions of their conference and division. They held a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV. Though the Kansas City Chiefs ultimately came back to win, that was only San Francisco's fourth loss of the season, including the playoffs. In those four defeats, the 49ers lost by a combined total of only 24 points -- nearly half of which resulted from the Super Bowl.

So, naturally, San Francisco would be the team to beat -- if not in the NFC, surely in the NFC West -- next season, right?

Not according to Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

During an appearance on ESPN's "First Take" on Wednesday, Wagner expressed significant confidence in his team, and made the case that the Seahawks should be the favorites in the NFC West.

"I feel really confident," Wagner said. "Obviously, Russell [Wilson] is an amazing quarterback; the things that he does on the field are just amazing. Like you said, he's one of the greatest quarterbacks in our game. We're confident on that side. I feel like from the defensive standpoint, there's a lot of room for improvement. We have to play a little bit better. I feel like if we make those changes and make those improvements, I still feel like we'll be the team to beat."

Still? Hmmm ...

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He's absolutely right about Wilson. The guy is a magician in the pocket -- and that's where you hope to contain him. Wilson has been a thorn in San Francisco's side ever since he entered the NFL, and there's arguably no more terrifying opposing QB to 49er fans. With Wilson having two deep targets in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, as well as a strong running game, there's ample reason for Wagner to be confident about Seattle's offense.

The defense, on the other hand? Well, he's correct that there's room for improvement. Plenty of it.

Last season, the Seahawks ranked 26th overall in total defense, and tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL. That was with standout defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney in tow, but all signs point toward him signing elsewhere this offseason in free agency. They re-signed defensive tackle Jarran Reed, traded for cornerback Quentin Dunbar and signed pass-rushers Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin, but other than that, Seattle hasn't really addressed the defensive side of the ball this offseason. Granted, the 2020 NFL Draft is right around the corner, but there's no guarantee they'll find any immediate contributors there.

Wagner is phenomenal, and fellow linebacker K.J. Wright is very solid, as well. But they both lived up to those reputations last season, and look how that worked out. Yes, the 49ers won the division by a matter of inches in Week 17, but Seattle also required overtime to beat a shorthanded San Francisco squad in Week 10, which was without star tight end George Kittle.

Though the 49ers have retained most of their own free agents, they did see wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders sign with the New Orleans Saints, and made the tough decision to trade defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, San Francisco didn't lose Buckner for nothing -- like Seattle might with Clowney. The 49ers got the No. 13 overall pick in the upcoming draft in exchange, which should help them replace Buckner or Sanders, or address another position.

[RELATED: Oklahoma WR Lamb could be 49ers' Sanders replacement]

The Seahawks currently have five picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft, but they gave up a third-rounder to acquire Clowney last offseason, and their earliest selection doesn't come until No. 27 overall.

In addition to the No. 13 overall pick, the 49ers also possess No. 31.

Any team with Wilson behind center should feel confident. But last I checked, he doesn't play defense, and that, among other reasons, is why the 49ers -- and not the Seahawks -- are the team to beat in the NFC West.