49ers

49ers Mailbag: Rookie RB Williams the favorite to unseat Hyde?

49ers Mailbag: Rookie RB Williams the favorite to unseat Hyde?

The 49ers begin organized team activities next week, which will give the coaching staff an extended opportunity to evaluate players before reconvening for training camp in late-July.

Here are a couple of questions submitted via Facebook about how some notable players fit into the new schemes:

Does Joe Williams have a real shot at supplanting Carlos Hyde as the starter? (Andrew Kerr)
Respected running backs coach Bobby Turner kept in touch with Williams even when he was not on the 49ers' draft board. Coach Kyle Shanahan desperately wanted Williams and convinced general manager John Lynch to reconsider Williams’ exclusion from the team’s draft plan.

The fact Turner and Shanahan campaigned for Williams speaks volumes about their plan for him. Turner and Shanahan wanted Williams. They see something in him. They know exactly how they want to use him.

So, yes, Williams has a legitimate chance to immediately unseat Hyde as the team’s top running back. Hyde is entering the final year of his contract. His first three seasons have been marked by inconsistencies and injuries that have sidelined him for 14 games.

The better player wins the job, and Williams has the distinct advantage of being the running back Turner and Shanahan hand-picked to fit their scheme.

Is Arik Armstead's future in jeopardy because he doesn't have a real position? (Joe Ruckus Marsh)
Solomon Thomas is a good fit at the “big end” position. Veteran Earl Mitchell appears to be the logical choice at nose tackle. And DeForest Bucker is expected to line up at the other interior position along the 49ers’ defensive line.

So that leaves Armstead at the pass-rush end spot in the 49ers’ new 4-3 defense. Right now, it appears he will compete with Aaron Lynch and others for that position.

If Armstead is not capable of playing the “Leo” position up to the specifications of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, then Armstead most likely becomes a high-priced backup to Thomas and Buckner. Lynch has said he believes Armstead is capable of playing three spots along the line. It’s just a matter of finding the intersection of where he is best-suited and where he is most needed.

Armstead is in a similar position to Hyde and some other returning players. He is no longer on scholarship as a high draft pick. John Lynch and Shanahan could not care less where he was drafted. He has to show more urgency and earn his role on the team.

49ers 'have to reassess' Matt Breida's ankle after limited action vs. Rams

49ers 'have to reassess' Matt Breida's ankle after limited action vs. Rams

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers running back Matt Breida might have to get healthier before returning to the field. 

After the 49ers' close 33-30 loss to the Packers last week, Breida said he would have to be “in a wheelchair to not go.” He ended the evening in Green Bay with 14 carries for 61 yards.

It was a different story Sunday in the lopsided 39-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. On the first play, Breida aggravated his ankle injury and had to come out of the game. The team’s medical staff taped both of his ankles, and he returned. On his first carry after re-entering, Breida lost a fumble.

He finished the day with a modest five carries for 15 yards -- his lowest output of the season.

Coach Kyle Shanahan has been complementary of Breida’s toughness, but he realizes the team might have to take another look at the running back's effectiveness while he rehabs his injury. 

“That’s something we’ll have to look into hard,” Shanahan said. “It’s based off how he looks in practice. Breida’s done a very good job recovering throughout the week. He’s had very good practices making all the cuts and everything on Fridays and Saturdays. Obviously, that first play today, it went. When that happens on the first play, we want to see the film and see what happened.

"He was begging to come back in the game the second half and felt like he was good enough, too, but getting at what you’re talking about, that’s why we made that decision to keep him down. Hopefully he’ll heal up more this week. We’ll have to reassess it again.”

Breida reiterated his desire to play after the loss, but he'll do what’s best for him and the 49ers. 

“I want to go out there and play,” Breida said, “but at the same time, if I’m injured, and I can’t go on, it’s not the best thing for the team. I tried to keep on playing. I have to be smart and not hurt my team at the same time. If I can’t go out there and go 100 percent, I have to let the guys that can, do it.”

When asked what happened on that first play, Breida explained it wasn’t anything specific. He said he just aggravated the injury that has been nagging him for a few weeks. 

Potentially taking himself out of the game because of injury is not an easy thing for Breida to say or admit. 

“It’s extremely hard,” Breida said. “Like I said, I love this game and, you know, it’s extremely hard for me to say that to myself. But at the end of the day, I got to do what’s best for the team.” 
 
Raheem Mostert went in for the injured Breida, and finished as the 49ers' top back Sunday. He rushed for 59 yards on seven carries, and had four catches for 19 yards.

Mostert spoke highly of Breida’s toughness after the game. 

"Matt is a warrior,” Mostert said. “He fights. That’s what he does. So, I wouldn’t expect him to quit just yet, because he loves the fight, and you know, we’re all going to be behind him 110 percent, no matter what he’s going through.” 

49ers report card: Grading offense, defense in 39-10 loss to Rams

49ers report card: Grading offense, defense in 39-10 loss to Rams

SANTA CLARA -- OK, it's difficult to argue with the NFL’s decision to demote the 49ers from prime-time TV after watching this performance.

The 49ers were expected to be one of the NFL's up-and-coming teams after finishing last season on a five-game win streak. But on Sunday, the 49ers’ losing streak reached five games with a 39-10 loss to the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

The game originally was scheduled to air Sunday night on NBC. The 49ers were bumped from that time slot in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs-Cincinnati Bengals game.

It wasn't pretty, folks. It certainly wasn't an impressive performance in front of nearly 70 former 49ers who showed up for alumni weekend festivities, including the unveiling of Dwight Clark and Joe Montana statues to commemorate “The Catch.”

Here are the 49ers’ grades from the unsightly loss to the Rams:

Rushing offense

Raheem Mostert had his second impressive showing in a row, rushing for 59 yards on seven carries, but the team’s other two running backs struggled.

Matt Breida started and aggravated a left ankle injury on his first carry of the game. When he returned, he lost a fumble. Breida gained just 15 yards on five carries. Alfred Morris averaged just 2.8 yards, gaining 25 yards on nine tries.

Grade: D

Passing offense

Quarterback C.J. Beathard was sacked seven times. He also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The 49ers’ wide receivers were non-existent, managing just four receptions on nine targets.

Tight end George Kittle had a good game with five catches for 98 yards, but the 49ers were awful in every other area of their passing game. The pass protection wasn't good, and Beathard struggled accordingly.

Grade: F

Rushing defense

Rams running back Todd Gurley, who entered as the NFL’s leading rusher, scored two touchdowns, but he wasn't a huge factor in the game. He gained 63 yards on 15 carries, so the 49ers’ run defense did a commendable job.

The Rams led for most of the game and were able to stick with the run game. L.A. gained 146 yards on 35 carries.

Grade: C

Passing defense

Rams quarterback Jared Goff was very efficient, completing 18 of 24 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers didn't get much pressure on him, and they didn't take advantage of some opportunities to generate turnovers. Safety Jaquiski Tartt failed to hold onto what could have been a big interception early in the game.

The 49ers played without injured starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jimmie Ward.

Grade: D-plus

Special teams

The 49ers had a punt blocked for the first time since the 2014 season. The ball rolled out the back of the end zone for a safety. The Rams capitalized with a field goal on the ensuing free kick, making it a five-point play.

Kicker Robbie Gould made a 51-yard field goal, and Mark Nzeocha got his hands on a Rams punt late in the game.

Grade: D

Overall

Once again, it was a story of turnovers. The 49ers committed four and didn't generate any takeaways. But there was a lot more than just turnovers that led to this 29-point drubbing. The offense was disjointed after looking sharp just six days earlier against the Packers.

The 49ers now have lost five consecutive games, but this game was different. The 49ers were not in this game. The Rams, right now, are the best team in football. But this was an ugly 49ers performance.

Grade: F