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.

Will 49ers look to trade backup QBs C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens?

Will 49ers look to trade backup QBs C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens?

One of the major competitions being waged on the 49ers’ practice field is for a spot the club hopes will never be asked to play a significant role this season.

The 49ers’ hopes for the season hinge in large part on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo playing at a high level for 16 games. Behind him, in a too-close-to-call competition are C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.

Once training camp opens in late-July, the competition for the backup role will heat up. Mullens outplayed Beathard last year, but all that did was create a level playing field for the competition that will ensue this summer.

This week marked the conclusion of the team’s official offseason program. Here are some questions submitted via Facebook:

What's the likelihood we trade one of our backup QBs to a team that loses a QB to injury? ( David Cummings)
The 49ers have three options:
1. Cut C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens.
2. Keep three QBs on their 53-man roster.
3. Trade Beathard or Mullens.

Of those three options, there is no question the 49ers would rather trade one of their reserve quarterbacks.

I’m of the opinion right now that they are fine with either Beathard or Mullens as the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo. If another team feels a need to add a backup, I believe the 49ers would be open to trading either one – whichever player the other team wants more and will attract the better compensation.

Will Robbie be the starting kicker come the start of the regular season? (Richard Burley)
Robbie Gould has not publicly stated his intention, other than he has demanded a trade. (The 49ers said, in essence, “No, thanks. We want you to be our kicker.”)

It is difficult to imagine that Gould would forfeit more than $290,000 per game. The 49ers expect him to be on the field in Week 1 of the regular season. Jonathan Brown was the only kicker to participate in the offseason program. Right now, he’s their insurance policy.

Is there a possibility after the cutdowns start the 49ers will possibly pick up a savvy veteran guard or center considering the uncertainty and shakiness of our interior offensive line? (John Mayfield)
Based on their approach this offseason, the 49ers do not agree with your description of “uncertainty” and “shakiness” as it pertains to the interior of their offensive line.

There’s always a possibility of picking up someone for depth, but the addition of Ben Garland, who can play both guard and center, likely took care of that.

From what you've seen Matt, which WR has impressed you and the coaching staff the most? (Paul Martinez)
The 49ers’ top-two receivers during the offseason program were Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor. If Taylor remains healthy, he should benefit greatly from the tutelage of new receivers coach Wes Welker.

Considering the size of the front seven on defense are there concerns about our potential to defend against the run with the new Wide 9 scheme? (R.L. Stephens)
That is precisely why the 49ers’ defense now has three smaller, quicker stack linebackers. The Wide 9 is designed for the defensive ends to set the edge quicker to force running backs to cut inside earlier.

It also puts far more pressure on the linebackers to step up and cover more ground to prevent big plays on those plays.

Who is a name that might be a surprise cut before the 53-man roster is made? (Michael Tavares)
If I write the name here, he won’t be a surprise cut, right?

I’ll give you three players to watch. At first, I thought Marquise Goodwin might have a difficult time making the team. But he looked really good during the offseason program, and he does give the 49ers they don’t have anywhere else with his speed.

Veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith will have to earn his way. Elijah Lee and Dre Greenlaw look good, and they have special-teams value, too. Tight end Garrett Celek will be trying to come back from back surgery. I think he faces some pretty big odds at this stage of his career to remain on the team.

[RELATED: Kyle Shanahan believes 49ers can overcome injuries this season]

Who are the starting safeties at the beginning of the season? (Nick Gillo)
Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. (Insert the obligatory, “If healthy.”)

With Shanahan talking about having great depth, predict the biggest 2020 offseason needs. (Jeff Bratton)
I predict the biggest needs for next season will be determined by what happens this season.

49ers linebacker Fred Warner looks to improve after solid rookie year

49ers linebacker Fred Warner looks to improve after solid rookie year

SANTA CLARA — Linebacker Fred Warner had a lot put on his plate as a rookie. Going into his second season as a pro, he's leaning on a wild first year.

“I’m expecting [my game] to grow a lot,” Warner said. “Having that experience from Year 1, obviously playing a lot of snaps, I think all parts of my game can improve. 

“Specifically I’m looking forward to working on tracking the ball, making sure that I’m improving on tackling, just communication, having clean eyes, and being able to anticipate things a lot quicker.”  

Warner explained that while he had a lot of responsibilities, he never felt like it was too much for him to handle. He added that linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans increased his workload as his experience grew. 

“I think they knew that they could rely on me, they never gave me too much,” Warner said. “DeMeco was always checking in with me to make sure that I wasn’t too overwhelmed and whatever they told me to do, I did it.

“They gave me more and more as I got more confident throughout the season, so leading into that last game against the Rams, we had a lot of stuff going on, but that’s when I was the most confident, in the last game of the year.” 

Warner’s experience is helping him look at last season’s game film with a new set of eyes, figuratively. He already sees ways he could have improved his performance. 

“No doubt,” Warner said. “I’m watching film right now and I’m looking at different things and I’m like, ‘Dang I would have called that’ or ‘I wish I was out there so we could do this,’ but I feel our defense is doing a great job right now. 

“Guys who maybe have not gotten as many reps are stepping up during this OTAs doing an outstanding job and I’m looking forward to getting back out there with them.” 

The defense has gotten notably faster after several key additions during the offseason and Warner believes it gives the group “swagger.”

“I think every year that we get more of that chemistry together as a group, I feel like that’s where it comes out, our confidence,” Warner said. “The more we can play with that, the more we can instill fear into our opponents on game day. They should be able to turn on the film and be like 'Oh, man. We got the Niners this week.’

“I think that with coach Kocurek, they are being taught to come off the ball hard and fast so they are going to create a lot of penetration which should create a lot of edges and so it’s our job to make them right, as linebackers. We are behind the ball for a reason so we can see everything and play off of them.” 

[RELATED: Jason Verrett feeling confident about his return]

Warner, like many players sitting out of team drills during OTAs and minicamp, is itching to get back on the field. But he knows that being patient is what’s best for him in the long run. 

“A lot of that you don’t have much control over,” Warner said. “You just have to listen to what the trainers tell you, and that’s what I’ve been doing. They have a plan for me and I’m just going to follow that, but yeah, just taking one day at a time.”