49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan admits second-guessing Joe Williams pick


49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan admits second-guessing Joe Williams pick

After two days of the 2017 draft, running back Joe Williams was not even on the 49ers’ draft board.

But through the persistence of coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner, 49ers general manager John Lynch reconsidered. Williams’ talent was obvious. But some questions remained after Williams took a hiatus during his final season at Utah. But when Williams rejoined his college team, he was better than ever.

Wiiliams said a personal struggle of the past 10 years -- being there when his sister passed away -- led to him step away from the game to confront some of those issues. After Lynch spoke with Williams over the phone in the morning of Day 3 of the draft, he was placed on the team's draft board. The 49ers traded up to select him the No. 121 overall pick.

Williams had a rough training camp as a rookie, and the 49ers placed him on injured reserve with a minor foot injury. Shanahan did not mince words when asked on Friday if he second-guessed himself for going to bat for Williams a year ago.

“Yeah, of course,” Shanahan said. “You think that with everybody. I do believe in Joe’s ability and his talent. That’s why we wanted him here.

“You’ve got to be talented and it’s got to mean a lot to you. I think it does to Joe. But I think it’s taken him time to see the difference and the urgency that it takes to succeed at this level.”

Williams has run with more urgency during training camp this summer. And he appears more willing to sacrifice his body and take the hits required from the position.

“Joe wasn’t quite as ready last year and that does make you wonder, because you can’t succeed if you don’t have that mindset,” Shanahan said. “But I’ve seen it this year. I saw it in the way he worked and I feel that he fixed his body, got a lot more muscle and got in better shape.

“But you really never know until you put the pads on because he showed it in OTAs and we’ve had the pads on for a while now and it’s been what we were hoping to see. Hopefully it will continue over to games.”

Williams is likely to compete against special-teams ace Raheem Mostert for the job as the 49ers’ No. 3 running back behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida.

Wrapping mind around helmet rule

Those who play the safety position are likely to face the biggest challenge when it comes to avoiding penalties associated with the NFL's new helmet rule.

This week, referee Ron Torbert and his crew officiated practices in Santa Clara and met with the players to discuss rules interpretations. Topic No. 1 was the new rule that makes it illegal for any player to lower his head and initiate contact with the helmet. The players watched video examples of legal and illegal hits.

“There were a few plays, like, ‘Wow, if I’m trying to tackle a guy low and he ducks and I hit him with my facemask, what can I do then?’” 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt said. “At a point, it’s like we might as well be playing two-hand touch.

“I feel like it’s still in the gray area. We work on trying to keep the head out of the way, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

Still getting up to speed

The 49ers evaluated center Weston Richburg as a good fit for their scheme due to his smarts and athletic ability, requirements for the team’s offensive linemen.

The center must be the focal point of the offensive line because of the communication required from the position. Richburg is still learning Shanahan’s system.

“I know I have some more work to do in that aspect,” Richburg said. “I want to be able to be very consistent and very dependable with what my responsibilities are. I’m glad we have several more weeks of camp, so I can really work on those things and become a consistent person they can trust up front.”

McGlinchey’s up and downs

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 49ers’ pick with the No. 9 overall slot in the draft, has his hands full in his first training camp. Defensive end Cassius Marsh has been seemingly winning most of the battles during one-on-one drills, and outside linebacker Dekoda Watson beat McGlinchey twice during a three-play period during an 11-on-11 session on Friday.

That is all part of the learning experience, Shanahan said.

“Those guys are going against each other every day,” Shanahan said. “Guys should beat you eventually. Hopefully the quarterback gets rid of the ball. Sometimes you have a halfback in there to chip him, things like that. But, him and Marsh have been battling a lot. I think McGlinchey is getting better and I also think our D-Line is getting better. So it’s been a fun battle for all of those guys.”

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

One year ago, Josh Rosen had to think he was the Arizona Cardinals' future. General manager Steve Keim traded up to draft the quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick, but a lot can change in one year. 

Now, with the 2019 NFL Draft one week away, Rosen's future is up in the air.

“I definitely understand the situation,” Rosen said in a talk with SI TV. “I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions."

Despite having Rosen on the team, the Cardinals and new coach Kliff Kingsbury are expected to take quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Plenty can change, however, and on Tuesday, Kingsbury said Rosen has been "phenomenal" this offseason.

The 22-year-old QB already has dealt with change and uncertainty plenty of times in his young football career. Since his freshman season at UCLA through his NFL rookie season, Rosen has played under five offensive coordinators in four years.

Rosen went 3-10 as the Cardinals' starter last season (two of those wins were over the 49ers), and he threw for 2,278 yards and 11 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. While those aren't great numbers, QBs who are first-round picks typically receive many more chances to prove themselves. Rosen, however, might not have that chance in Arizona, but he said he's not sweating it.

"I think the best advice I've ever gotten in life, from so many different people, is control what you can control," Rosen said. "And whatever decisions are made, it's my duty to prove them right if they keep me and prove them wrong if they ship me off."

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If the Cardinals do ship off Rosen and draft Murray, they'd become perhaps the biggest storyline to watch in football. They'd also allow the 49ers to draft Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick, setting a rookie pass rusher versus a rookie quarterback in the NFC West for years to come.

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

When the 49ers were shopping for an edge rusher during free agency, they sought the advice of veteran offensive lineman Joe Staley, who offered valuable information regarding Dee Ford

Staley faced off against Ford in Week 3 of the 2018 season when the 49ers traveled to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. He had first-hand knowledge of Ford's much-noted first step off the line.

“That’s what I love about this franchise,” Staley said. “The guys that we have here really reach out to the players about guys that are going against them, guys who have gone against certain players and ask for feedback. 

“I don’t know how much stock they take into to that but just the fact that they reach out to the players and ask their opinions on all that stuff.”  

When Staley was asked if Ford was truly explosive, he gave a very succinct reply. 

“That’s a correct statement,” Staley said. “He’s one of the most explosive players I’ve played against. He was definitely a challenge to go against last year and every time I’ve ever played him.”

Shortly after Ford was signed by the 49ers, he gave a similarly complementary statement about Staley and his physical ability. 

“He’s athletic and he’s strong and he has functional strength,” Ford said. “Functional strength is so important. Every offensive line is strong. They’re huge, they’re big, they’re strong. That’s a given. But he has functional strength, which is rare. He’s a pure athlete with a savvy skillset. So you’re not going to beat him a lot.”

Staley recalled one instance where he thought the Ford had taken advantage of a no-call by the referees. 

“It was a challenging game,” Staley said. "He got me early on with that sack, the first step, that quickness. I was like 100-percent certain that he was offsides, he was that fast. But going back in the film he just timed it up super right on it.

“It’s that first step, get-off. You see guys like Von (Miller) have it. Even bigger guys like DeMarcus Lawrence has that explosive first step. He’s a bigger pass rusher. That really sets up everything they can do and gets the tackles and the offensive linemen playing on their heels and reacting a little bit more than they want to.”  

It was a memorable game for Ford as well, which included banter between the two of them. 

“We talked during the whole game,” Ford said. “It was fun. It was fun. It was trash talk, but we were enjoying it. I really admire his game. And that was huge for me, because he admired my game. He’s a vet. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and it’s huge to hear that from a guy like that.”

Staley remarked that he can’t wait to pick Ford’s brain and go against him in practice every day. He thinks it will make each of them better players. 

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Staley is very pleased his scouting report on Ford was influential in bringing the star edge rusher to California. So much so that he may have a future in scouting.

Well, at least according to Staley himself.