49ers OC Modkins: Little settled on O-line; Kelly will call plays


49ers OC Modkins: Little settled on O-line; Kelly will call plays

SANTA CLARA – Veteran Erik Pears has been lining up with the 49ers’ first-team offense during the team’s offseason program, while Trent Brown is running with the second unit.

Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said on Thursday that not a whole lot should be read into the depth chart at this point in the offseason. After all, he said other than Joe Staley, there is little settled along the 49ers’ offensive line.

“You got to put them in some order,” Modkins said.

Modkins met with the media Thursday morning before the 49ers had their final practice of their third week of organized team activities. Next week, the 49ers wrap up their official offseason program with a mandatory three-day minicamp.

One of the competitions expected to take place during training camp is at right tackle between Pears and Brown – and perhaps another player that enters the picture.

“Both are competing,” Modkins said. “It’s not unlike any of the other spots that we have. They’re competing. I think both are doing a good job. I think when we have a chance to get into training camp, we’ll have a better idea.”

Modkins coached Pears for three seasons while both were with the Buffalo Bills. When asked what he has seen from Pears this offseason, Modkins answered, “Same thing I saw when I had him in Buffalo.”

Modkins added, “He’s smart. He’s a veteran. He understands where he has to be. He’s a good communicator. So, he hasn’t changed much since my last time around him.”

Pears and Staley were the only 49ers offensive linemen to start every game last season. Staley was a fixture at left tackle, while Pears started the first 14 games at right tackle before shifting to right guard for the final two games.

Pears was rated No. 42 of 57 tackles who played 60-percent or more last season in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Pears surrendered four sacks and 32 quarterback hurries, according to PFF.

Pears, a 10-year veteran who turns 33 this month, started every game the past three seasons. He spent the previous five seasons with the Bills.

Oher topics Modkins addressed on Thursday:

--Modkins confirmed that coach Chip Kelly will call the plays. Modkins said he will likely be stationed in the coaches’ booth during games. He said he can see the field better from that vantage point to help him communicate better with Kelly during the course of games.

“Chip is very receptive to everybody brining ideas,” Modkins said. “A good idea has no rank. He’s open to new thoughts.”

--Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has impressed Modkins with his athleticism, he said. Modkins was part of a Buffalo staff that visited with Gabbert before the 2011 draft.

“I didn’t remember him being that fast,” Modkins said.

Gabbert has done everything the 49ers’ coaching staff has asked of him, Modkins said.

Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick has yet to be cleared for on-field work after surgeries on his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee.

“I think what’s important he gets cleared when he’s healthy,” Modkins said of Kaepernick. “There’s no timetable.”

--Fullback-turned-tight end Bruce Miller has impressed Modkins with his versatility.

“He’s a very unique football player,” Modkins said, citing his ability to learn new concepts quickly.

“I think Bruce has done a really good job of adjusting to what we’ve asked him to do. I think some versatility in any offense, particularly this one, helps you. It can do nothing but help you. So we look forward to seeing what position we can put Bruce in and help us.”

49ers' wide receiver competition still wide open as season approaches

49ers' wide receiver competition still wide open as season approaches

The 49ers' wide receiver competition still is in full swing with the preseason halfway gone. s

While a number of receivers have flashed, coach Kyle Shanahan explained he’s still waiting to see more from the group as a whole.

“Yeah, I want to see more from all of them,” Shanahan said in a conference call Tuesday. “We’ve got a very good group and they’re all tight and so I’m trying to get those guys to take the spot from people and make it an easy decision.

“I think we’ve got a lot of candidates to start on our team, guys who have been here and the new guys. There’s two positions, depending on if we start in 12 or 21 and there’s three positions if we start in 11.”

Shanahan and the offensive coaches attempted to spread the snaps out amongst the group throughout joint practices and Monday's preseason game against the Denver Broncos, but limited rookie Jalen Hurd, who was dealing with back tightness.

“Hurd was going to play more, but he had some back tightness all week in practice and then he had a little bit in the game,” Shanahan said. “He definitely could’ve gone, but that was just the decision I made to get him out of there.”

The shortened week for the team played a factor in the decision as well.

“Didn’t want that to be worse with the fact that we have three games in 10 days, so we did that,” Shanahan said. “The other guys we planned on playing awhile, and I thought they did a good job taking advantage of that.”

With Trent Taylor out for four to six weeks due to surgery on his fractured foot, the onus is on the remaining receivers to take advantage of the additional reps they will get in games and at practice.

Rookie Deebo Samuel had the longest offensive play of the game in Denver but Shanahan still is looking for more.

“Especially with Trent being down right now, there’s a lot of opportunities for these guys," Shanahan said. "Deebo had a good play on the reverse or the round, we call it the round, but the reverse he had yesterday. But, that’s what we expect him to do.

“The D-end closed and he’s fast and we expect him to outrun people, but all these guys can keep getting better a lot. We want them to be good at blocking, be good at running the ball when it’s in their hands and they need to be able to get open. Deebo has the ability to do everything, but he’s still continuing to develop.”

Veteran receiver Jordan Matthews lined up in the slot with the first-team offense but Shanahan said that who wins that job still is very fluid.

“That’s what we’ll go over this afternoon,” Shanahan said. “We’ll have two practices to prepare for Kansas City. We kind of think all this stuff out, we give guys different opportunities certain weeks, but by no means is anything set for Week 1.

“We’ve got an idea of what some guys can do, some guys we need to see more from and some guys we already feel like we know what they can do. So, we mix it all around and I wouldn’t look into anything until you guys see our final 53.”

[RELATED: 49ers' new depth chart gives clues about position battles]

Here's the 49ers' wide receiver snap count from Monday night’s match up with the Broncos:
Kendrick Bourne 45
Richie James 32
Deebo Samuel 24
Dante Pettis 11
Marquise Goodwin 11
Jalen Hurd 8
Jordan Matthews 5
Malik Henry 3
Shawn Poindexter 1

49ers' backup QB competition likely won't be decided until final cut

49ers' backup QB competition likely won't be decided until final cut

The 49ers have not kept three quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster since coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch arrived in 2017.

And Shanahan seemed to imply the club will keep two at the beginning of this season, too. C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens are competing for the backup role behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

“I know we have two backup quarterbacks who are both capable of starting and I would be happy with either one as our backup,” Shanahan said after the team returned to the Bay Area from its 24-15 preseason victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

“One of those guys is going to win the job, and we will make that decision. I do not see myself making that decision until I absolutely have to, and that probably won’t be until the final 53.”

If the 49ers were to keep three quarterbacks on their roster, a decision on the backup would not have to be made until 90 minutes before the regular-season opener on Sunday, Sept. 8, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when seven inactive players must be announced.

Shanahan said he is in “a pretty good spot,” as far as determining the backup. But he said he has yet to determine who will follow Garoppolo in the preseason game Saturday night at Kansas City. Then, he said, the other quarterback likely will see the bulk of the playing time in the final exhibition game, Thursday, Aug. 24, against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I feel very good with both the guys,” Shanahan said. “We’ve had both of the guys here in a lot of game situations. But it’s been a fun battle to watch. I think both of them are playing better than they have the last two years.”

Based on how both quarterbacks have performed in regular-season games, Mullens is the favorite. Last season, he averaged 284.6 yards passing – fourth-most in NFL history through eight games – with 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 90.0 passer rating.

Beathard averaged 250.4 yards passing with eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 81.8. Beathard also was sacked with more frequency than Mullens.

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But Shanahan designs his offense around the big play, and that is where Beathard could have the advantage because of his willingness to sit in the pocket and let downfield routes develop.

“Every time C.J.’s in there you’ve got a chance for a big play,” Shanahan said. “He loves the big play.”

Beathard had two opportunities for big plays Monday night. He overthrew Richie James on a deep corner route to the right side, then Kendrick Bourne failed to hold onto a deep ball down the left side.

“I thought C.J. missed a couple plays early, but nothing too bad,” Shanahan said. “Then Nick came in and didn’t have many opportunities, but made the best (of them).”

Mullens and Bourne teamed up for a well-timed and delivered 1-yard touchdown on a fade route against tight coverage.