49ers Mailbag: What happens to Jeff Wilson when Tevin Coleman returns

49ers Mailbag: What happens to Jeff Wilson when Tevin Coleman returns

It’s the slowest weekend of the season for the 49ers, who will return to work Monday to begin preparations for their Week 5 game against the Cleveland Browns.

The 49ers entered their bye week with a 3-0 record for the first time since 1998, but there remain a lot of unanswered questions, such as these that were submitted via Facebook.

What’s Jeff Wilson’s future look like once Coleman comes back? 53-man roster? And, if so, does he still see action on game day? (Fabio Sanchez Jr.)

Jeff Wilson has proven to be an NFL running back. He has four rushing touchdowns in his two games. But when Tevin Coleman is healthy from his high-ankle sprain, Coleman will be back in the lineup.

My guess is the 49ers will keep the 53-man roster as it is, with Wilson retaining his spot. If the 49ers waive Wilson, I’d fully expect another team to claim him. But as long as Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert are healthy, there’s probably not a spot for Wilson among the team’s active 46 players on game days.Coleman likely would resume his role as the starter and short-yardage back.

This is what 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week when asked about Wilson:

“I think he’s been more of our down, north and south, downhill runner. I think Tevin’s very similar to that, also, and I think at times Raheem and Breida can do that. We’re willing to use all of them, but what we’ve asked Jeff to do in these two weeks he’s done very well.”

What is the likelihood the organization sticks with McKinnon after this season? Will releasing him clear up space to bring in new talent or extended other contacts? (Allen Nieves)

Jerick McKinnon will not play a down for the 49ers in his first two seasons with the club. He is scheduled to make $6.5 million in salary for next year. There is no way the 49ers can pay him that money.

The 49ers really like McKinnon as a player, teammate and person. My guess is they will try to work out a one-year deal in which he remains with the club at a greatly reduced price to minimize their financial risk. If he declines, he will not be back.

Do you see Moseley or Verrett starting opposite Sherman after the bye? (Matthew J Azar)

Second-year pro Emmanuel Moseley is the favorite to take over for Ahkello Witherspoon, who is expected miss a month with a foot sprain, as the starting cornerback. Shanahan said it himself.

“E-Man would be the lead guy right now with how he finished that game and came in and what he’s done for us this whole year,” Shanahan said. “But we’ll give all the other guys a chance too with these practices we’ll have before Cleveland.”

Jason Verrett is returning from a torn Achilles that wiped out his entire 2018 season. He played in just one game in 2017. When he got into the game Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he did not look ready.

Shanahan made it known that Moseley is in the lead because he wanted to send the message to Verrett that the onus is on him to outwork and outperform the youngster in practices in order to earn his way back onto the field.

Do you expect Jalen Hurd to see significant action upon his return after the bye week? (Andrew Jackson)

Rookie wide receiver Jalen Hurd had an impressive preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 10. He has not been on the field since, as he has been out with a stress reaction in his back. I would expect the 49ers to ease Hurd back into the work flow.

When Hurd is ready to go, the 49ers must make a decision about what to do at the position. It is not a given the 49ers automatically would give Hurd a uniform on game days and sit Kendrick Bourne.

Obviously the defensive line is our deepest position with lots of solid players. Would the 49ers consider in trading any of them for picks next year? Or are the 49ers buyers this year? (Kaylum Rise)

They are not going to trade DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa or Dee Ford. Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair and Sheldon Day are in the final years of their contracts, so they would not have much trade value. I don’t envision the 49ers getting much in return for Solomon Thomas or Jullian Taylor, either. D.J. Jones is a starter at a bargain rate, so there’s no reason to deal him.

Although I would never rule out the possibility of a trade, I don’t see where there are reasonable trade options to acquire 2020 draft picks.

With Staley taking up a roster spot while injured (now Spoon also) and all the need at QB around the league, could you see the team really pushing to move Beathard before week six, even if they don't get the max trade of what they want? (Jason Batch)

I think they’ve already pushed, and there is no interest around the NFL in acquiring C.J. Beathard for the price the 49ers want in return.

The bigger question becomes how far will the 49ers go to hold onto Beathard if there are more injuries, such as those to Joe Staley and Ahkello Witherspoon, where additional roster spots are needed? At what point would the 49ers release Beathard to add a player at a position of need?

Two years ago, we drafted the most prolific punt returner in college football history onto our team, yet he’s not returning punts for us. What’s up with that? (Mark Waite)

Nobody has returned more punts for touchdowns in major college football history than Dante Pettis. But in his 15-game NFL career, Pettis has returned just nine punts for 27 yards.

The 49ers wanted Pettis to concentrate on playing wide receiver. But in watching Pettis, I’m just not sure that his method for returning punts translates to the NFL.

Good college athletes can get away with dancing to slip away from defenders. In the NFL, the athletes are too good. You have to secure the catch and get up the field in a hurry. Richie James is doing a good job on punt returns, so the 49ers have not felt compelled to consider a switch.

How does this locker room feel to other winning locker rooms of the past? Do we have our swagger back? (Kyle Schram)

It’s a good locker room. The 49ers appear to be grounded while going 3-0. They are excited about the first three games of the season. The players say the vibe is completely different than the past two years.

But everyone knows they have a lot of room for improvement, and if the loss column will start filling up if they don't improve.

After 3 games, where have we improved the most and what area do we need to improve? (Kito Songvilay)

The biggest improvement with the team has been the pass rush and team speed on defense. The pass rush has benefitted every level of the defense, especially the pass coverage. Also, the addition of linebacker Kwon Alexander has been huge, and he has really helped Fred Warner.

The area where the 49ers must improve is cutting down on the correctable mistakes -- penalties and turnovers, specifically.

[RELATED: What 49ers' Bosa needs to work on despite impressive start]

What do you honestly think the 49ers record will be at end of year? (Ryan Cosgrove Sr.)

I predicted the 49ers would finish with a 9-7 record and fall just short of the NFC playoffs. Officially, I’ll stick with that prediction for a while, but let’s take a look at the remainder of the schedule and try to forecast how things look:

@ L.A. Rams
@ Washington
@ Arizona
Green Bay
@ Baltimore
@ New Orleans
L.A. Rams
@ Seattle

The 49ers have a chance to win three of their next four games. The Cardinals have given them fits in recent years, but they should sweep them. Seattle (twice), Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans, Atlanta and the rematch with the Rams are not easy.

Ten victories are very possible, if not expected, at this point. The 49ers definitely should enter December very much in the playoff hunt.

If they can win seven of their final 13 games, the 49ers should end their playoff drought.

49ers' pass rush returns to 'fun' style of play vs. Drew Brees, Saints

49ers' pass rush returns to 'fun' style of play vs. Drew Brees, Saints

NEW ORLEANS – The 49ers’ pass rush can once again be a factor this week.

The 49ers went into their Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens knowing they had to make some dramatic changes with their style of getting after the quarterback.

After all, they could not be so aggressive, as 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek teaches, because of the running ability of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

On Sunday, they can get back to normal against the passing attack of the New Orleans Saints with quarterback Drew Brees.

“Those guys want to get after the quarterback,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “I know the D-line. I know their coach. It was a tough week for them. But they rose to the challenge and played those techniques very well. I thought they did a very good job against Baltimore and stopping the run.

“And now this week, you still got to stop the run. It always starts with that, but you can play a little more of those techniques you’re used to, which I know they have a lot more fun playing and I know we have a lot more fun coaching it, too.”

It certainly will not be easy for the 49ers’ pass rush to get to Brees, who has been sacked just nine times on 249 drop-backs this season. Brees gets the ball out quickly, in order to neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush of Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford.

A week ago, the 49ers played a different style in an attempt to prevent big plays from Baltimore’s quarterback-driven run game. Buckner registered the team’s only sack, and that came for zero yards.

The 49ers gave up some rushing yards, but made adjustments in the second half to limit Baltimore to just three points in the final 30 minutes.

[RELATED: How will 49ers deploy running backs?]

“When you do that, you definitely have to change-up your fronts and play run-first at all times,” Shanahan said. “You got to almost play in a four-point stance and just control people instead of teeing off on guys and trying to go through them. I know last week was a frustrating week.”

The 49ers own the league's top-ranked passing defense, allowing just 134.2 yards passing per game. The 49ers rank second in the NFL with 45 sacks.

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

NEW ORLEANS – It’s a good problem for the 49ers to figure out who among their running backs they are going to feature.

Leading rusher Matt Breida is scheduled to return to action on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints after missing three games with an ankle sprain. Raheem Mostert is coming off a 146-yard day, the best game from a 49ers running back in three years. But what kind of role will he play on Sunday?

That question leads off this edition of the 49ers Mailbag:

Coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff put a lot of discussion into how they are going to use their backs. Shanahan talks to his entire offensive staff, as well as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, about which plays are best fits for which players.

Then, Shanahan’s in-game decisions are also influenced by which running back is having the most success.

“None of them are bad at anything, so whatever we end up going with, all of them have a chance, whatever play it is,” Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan, which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area and 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We definitely try to decide which one we prefer during the week. We go into the game with a plan, but then we always stick with what’s hot.”

Tevin Coleman has been getting the starting assignments. It remains to be seen if that will continue, but Breida and Mostert should get their opportunities, too. 

I don’t know about using Daniel Brunskill for any trick plays, but it might not be a bad idea to mix him in for a series here and there to ease Joe Staley back into the action.

Staley has missed nine games this season, and Brunskill has shown to be a very effective player. It could be something along the lines of how the 49ers got Ahkello Witherspoon back into his starting role. At first, they had Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley sharing the playing time before Witherspoon was all the way back.

Richard Sherman will play despite hobbled last week with a knee injury. He appeared to be moving well during 49ers practices this week in Florida.

The only 49ers starter who will not play on Sunday is strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, who may miss multiple games with fractured ribs. Marcell Harris will start at strong safety. But everybody else is good to go, including Breida, Staley and Dee Ford.

My hunch is that if the 49ers do not place the franchise tag on Arik Armstead, he will end up signing a lucrative multi-year contract with another team as an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers' top priorities to sign to multi-year extensions are defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle.

[RELATED: Kittle on pace for best PFF season]

Neither Jalen Hurd nor Trent Taylor will play this season. Hurd will miss his entire rookie season due to a stress reaction in his back, while Taylor is out for the season from complications after undergoing surgery on a Jones fracture in his right foot.

The 49ers elevated defensive lineman Kentavius Street to practice this week. The 49ers might use their final injured reserve/designated to return spot on cornerback Jason Verrett, who has been out with a knee injury. He could return to practice as early as Wednesday.

The odds are very slim that Marquise Goodwin will be back on the team next season. He is scheduled to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2020, and that is not a price the 49ers are going to pay for what he gives them.

The 49ers are not giving up on Dante Pettis, though. They want him to put in the work during the offseason to have a big bounce-back season.

Pettis experienced the same kind of second season as Ahkello Witherspoon. Both players experienced success to ends their rookie seasons and thought they had it figured out.

[RELATED: How to watch 49ers-Saints]

Witherspoon struggled in Year 2, and realized what he had to do in order to perform at a high level. He came back focused for a strong third season.

The 49ers hope Pettis will make the same kinds of adjustments to his work ethic and mindset to become a reliable receiver in 2020.