49ers

49ers offensive depth chart: Looking to add another playmaker in 2019

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AP

49ers offensive depth chart: Looking to add another playmaker in 2019

While there are few starting spots sewn up on the 49ers’ defense entering the 2019 offseason, most of the pieces are set on the offensive side of the ball.

As the 49ers approached the 2018 season, coach Kyle Shanahan built the offensive system around quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon. But McKinnon sustained a torn ACL a week before the opener, and Garoppolo was lost for the season in Week 3 with an ACL tear of his own.

The organization expects Garoppolo to be ready to take part in workouts when the 49ers get back on the practice field in May. There is some concern about McKinnon making a full recovery due to the nature of the position he plays.

Shanahan wants to add at least one more legitimate playmaker in the passing game to go along with George Kittle, who had more receiving yards this season than any tight end in NFL history.

The most continuity figures to be along the offensive line, where four of the five starters from a year ago are locked in at their positions.

Backfield

QB: Jimmy Garoppolo
RB: Jerick McKinnon/Matt Breida
FB: Kyle Juszczyk

The only quarterback competition will take place behind Garoppolo, where C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens will battle for the No. 2 job. It is not a foregone conclusion that Mullens will win the job, even after his solid play over the final eight games of the season.

If McKinnon regains anything close to the form the 49ers envisioned when they signed him in free agency a year ago, he will be relied upon to create conflicts for the defense as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. The presence of McKinnon, Juszczyk and Kittle working the middle of the field will force defenses to make some difficult decisions in coverage. The 49ers should be able to exploit the weak link with any of those options.

Breida proved that he is a fully capable runner. Despite battling injuries for most of the season, Breida rushed for 814 yards while averaging 5.3 yards per attempt. However, the 49ers lack a traditional short-yardage back.

Receivers

WR (X): Dante Pettis/Marquise Goodwin
WR (Z): Kendrick Bourne
Slot: Trent Taylor/Richie James
TE: George Kittle

One of the biggest offseason priorities on offense is to find another wide receiver who can take the load off Goodwin, whom Shanahan believes is not best-suited as an every-down player. Pettis, coming off a 27-catch rookie season in which he averaged 17.3 yards a reception, should be a starter. Bourne was the 49ers’ top-producing wideout with 42 catches for 487 yards. Bourne, like Goodwin, is probably best in a limited role.

The 49ers need to get more from the slot position in 2019. Taylor had a good rookie season, but he was not the same player in his second year. Taylor underwent back surgery in the offseason and never fully got involved in the offense. James showed some promise but was extremely raw.

Kittle was the team’s brightest star this season. The other tight ends (Garrett Celek, Ross Dwelley and Cole Wick) combined for just seven catches for 104 yards. The 49ers need better depth.

Offensive line

LT: Joe Staley
LG: Laken Tomlinson
C: Weston Richburg
RG: TBA
RT: Mike McGlinchey

Staley, the veteran, was good for McGlinchey, the rookie. And McGlinchey was good for Staley, who seemed energized by the interaction with his protégé. The tackle positions are set for another year or two. And when Staley steps aside, McGlinchey will likely move over to the left side.

Tomlinson’s offseason will be impacted by a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for three months. But he should be ready to go for the offseason program. Richburg will enter his second season with the 49ers. There are no questions there, either.

The only spot where there could be some competition for the starting job is at right guard, where Person started 16 games and proved to be a great bargain for the club. He is scheduled to be a free agent. It would seem likely he will be back. Joshua Garnett could also enter into the competition, and the 49ers might add a youngster, too.

Nick Mullens expects to get better ahead of 49ers offseason program

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USATSI

Nick Mullens expects to get better ahead of 49ers offseason program

Nick Mullens started the season on the 49ers’ practice squad and he ended up as the starter for the final eight games.

His average of 284.6 yards passing per game is the fourth-most since at least 1970 for a player in his first eight games, ranking behind only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton.

“It was a fun eight-game stretch," Mullens said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.  “Coach (Kyle) Shanahan let me throw it around a pretty good bit, which is always fun for me playing the position.”

Mullens originally signed with the 49ers after going undrafted in 2017 from Southern Mississippi. After one full season on the team’s practice squad, Mullens had a good grasp of the offense when he got his chance to replace C.J. Beathard for a Week 9 game against the Raiders.

Mullens said he fit in well with Shanahan’s offense because the offense is well-balanced and all the pieces fit well together to create conflicts for defenses.

“And when I say balanced, I’m not just talking about run and pass,” Mullens said. “I’m talking about the run game looks exactly like the play-action, which sets up the keeper game. And then you mix in your quick game and your dropbacks. It five different phases that all work really well together, and it keeps defenses on their toes. They never know what they’re going to get. It really gives the offense a great chance at success.

“Looking at our yards after the catch, (those) are small-scheme plays that enable George (Kittle) and the playmakers on offense to catch it and run. That’s scheme.”

Kittle set the record for most receiving yards (1,377) from a tight end in NFL history. He had 873 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the most for any player at any position since PFF began keeping statistics in 2006.

[RELATED: Kittle, Richie James voted to writers' All-NFC Team]

But Mullens heads into the offseason without a backup job locked up. He will compete with Beathard for the role behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo. In the meantime, Mullens is focused on getting better. He will spend time in the offseason working with former Ole Miss quarterback David Morris of QB Country before reporting back to Santa Clara for the beginning of the 49ers' offseason program.

“Like coach Shanahan said in the team meeting, ‘Always keep your mind on getting better.' Even if you’re relaxing and taking time off and getting away, you’re still thinking about getting better,” Mullens said.

“How can I get better? Whether it’s reading books or studying coverages or thinking about different plays through the year. And when your time comes to start doing field work, agility and conditioning and all that, and getting yourself ready for OTAs and stuff like that. You’re always thinking about getting better. I’m really excited about that mindset going into the offseason.”

49ers' George Kittle, Richie James voted to writers' All-NFC Team

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USATI

49ers' George Kittle, Richie James voted to writers' All-NFC Team

Two 49ers were named Tuesday to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-NFC Team.

One -- tight end George Kittle -- was no surprise.

The other was rookie kick returner Richie James, who accounted for the only kickoff return for a touchdown from any player in the NFC this season. James was a seventh-round draft pick from Middle Tennessee.

He also finished third in kick-return yards among NFC players with 580. Marvin Hall (Atlanta) led the conference with 616 yards, and Corey Coleman (New York Giants) had 598 yards.

James’ 25.2 average on 23 returns ranked behind Coleman’s 26.0 average and ahead of Hall’s 23.7 mark.

But James was one of just five players in the NFL to have a kick return for a touchdown this season. His 97-yard return was a key play in the 49ers’ 26-23 upset of the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15.

Fellow 49ers rookie D.J. Reed also had some success as a kick returner. He averaged 30.2 yards on 11 kickoff returns with a long of 90 yards.

Andre Roberts of the New York Jets was the All-NFL kick returner. He led the league with 1,174 yards on kick returns with a 29.4 average and one touchdown.

Kittle, who was named a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press earlier this month, had 1,377 receiving yards this season -- the most from a tight end in NFL history. Kittle had 88 receptions and five touchdowns.

[RELATED: 49ers staff will coach these QBs for Senior Bowl]

Travis Kelce was chosen to the All-NFL Team ahead of Kittle. Kelce helped the Kansas City Chiefs earn home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs with a 12-4 record. He caught 103 passes for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The PFWA also announced its All-Rookie Team, and 49ers offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey was selected for one of the tackle spots, along with Indianapolis' Braden Smith.