49ers

49ers' offseason programs brings clarity to number of competitions

49ers' offseason programs brings clarity to number of competitions

SANTA CLARA – Nearly a quarter of the 49ers’ 90-man roster ended up being spectators during the team’s offseason program, which officially comes to an end Thursday with a family fun day on the practice field.

The goal all along was to get to the starting line as prepared as possible when the team reconvenes in late July for the opening of training camp. Tight end Garrett Celek is not expected to be ready for the opening of training camp due to back surgery. But everyone else should be ready (or near-ready) when camp opens.

Now, the team reaches one of its most critical stages of the offseason. Everyone is on his own.

The 49ers’ coaches will not see the players during the critical 40-day period before the grind begins.

“You have to stack days up in this league,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “If you think you can just take 30 days off and stuff, you are going to be in for such a rude awakening.

“If you aren’t a pro in this offseason, and not only just train but eat the right way, sleep the right way, it will catch up with you in this league.”

Shanahan said he always gives a variation of the same speech on the final day of the offseason program. Steve Young and Jerry Rice also spoke in 2017. Last year, general manager John Lynch delivered some remarks. Thursday, new wide receivers coach Wes Welker will be the featured speaker.

The general message is to be smart and don't do anything that can have an adverse impact on your career.

The 49ers held their final on-field work Wednesday at the team’s practice facility, bringing a close to the full-squad practices. Some areas of the team came into sharper focus during the workouts:

-- Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took major strides with more than 180 snaps during the team’s 7-on-7 passing drills.

Everything was controlled, as Garoppolo faced just one pass rush during the entire offseason program. That came late in the final practice when the defensive line did not gain the full understanding of Shanahan’s command to refrain from advancing off the line of scrimmage.

[RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo ends 49ers minicamp with TD]

“It kind of caught me off guard a little bit, but I guess it was good to get started on that,” Garoppolo said. “That’s what it’s going to be in training camp.”

-- The competition for the No. 2 job is going to be close with, perhaps, C.J. Beathard gaining a slight edge over Nick Mullens based on the practices. Beathard has the better arm strength and is able to make all the throws, but he appeared a bit shell-shocked toward the end of his run last season.

Mullens has great knowledge of the system and played at a high level in eight starts. He needs to improve his throws outside the numbers.

-- Veteran wide receiver Marquise Goodwin’s spot appeared vulnerable when the offseason began. But he came through with a very strong showing, including a great start to Tuesday’s practice with receptions on deep-out patterns to the left and right sides from Beathard.

-- Trent Taylor clearly created separation against Richie James for the team’s primary slot receiver job. Taylor is healthy after missing all of last offseason’s work following back surgery. Taylor created a nice rapport with Garoppolo.

“He feels space differently than most guys,” Garoppolo said.

James, a second-year player, did not appear to take advantage of his opportunities to make catches during the practices that were open to the media.

-- Taylor, Goodwin, Dante Pettis and Jordan Matthews had the best offseasons among the team’s wide receivers.

-- Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon might have been the best player on defense during the offseason program. He routinely had tight coverage and broke up numerous passes. Witherspoon's elevation in play –- along with Jimmie Ward’s fractured collarbone – prompted the 49ers to move Tarvarius Moore to free safety.

Obviously, Richard Sherman is slated to start at left cornerback. Witherspoon, now, must hold onto his job against Jason Verrett, who is expected to be a full-go for practices at the beginning of training camp.

-- Moore broke up a Garoppolo pass on a deep crossing route for Goodwin during practice Wednesday. (It was a pass Shanahan thought Garoppolo should not have thrown.) Moore is already looking better at free safety than he did during his time at cornerback. But Moore faces an uphill climb for playing time with Ward and Adrian Colbert ahead of him on the depth chart.

-- It is difficult to read much into play on the offensive and defensive lines when the players are not wearing pads. But veteran nose tackle Sheldon Day opened some eyes with his quickness off the ball. He got into the backfield on back-to-back run plays on Wednesday to stuff running back Tevin Coleman.

-- Linebacker Eljah Lee is making a bid, along with Dre Greenlaw, to win a starting job in the 49ers’ reconfigured linebacking corps. Veteran Malcolm Smith is also in the picture to start alongside Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander. Lee looked particularly good in coverage during practice Wednesday.

Bay Area Target selling posters with 49ers as Super Bowl 54 champions

Bay Area Target selling posters with 49ers as Super Bowl 54 champions

No, the 49ers didn’t win Super Bowl LIV. But you wouldn’t know it if you shopped at a local Bay Area Target.

A Target store in Livermore was selling posters commemorating the 49ers as Super Bowl Champions as recently as Feb. 17, according to Niners Nation’s Alex Tran.

Of course, San Francisco collapsed in the fourth quarter, giving up 21 unanswered points to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs 31-20 back on Feb. 2.

But according to these alternate-reality posters, that collapse never happened.

Perhaps in this world, Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher was called for holding 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa on that infamous third-and-15 completion that jumpstarted Kansas City’s comeback.

Perhaps Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones didn’t get his hand up in time to bat down what looked to be an easy pitch-and-catch completion from Jimmy Garoppolo to George Kittle to extend a key 49ers’ drive.

Perhaps Garoppolo put a little less air under his overthrown deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders with less than two minutes left, all but ending the 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes.

[RELATED: Why 49ers' offensive line is in good shape for future]

Alas, weeks later, 49ers fans are still thinking in these “what ifs” while the Chiefs bask in their glorious Super Bowl hangover.

If only those Target posters were representative of real life.

49ers roster analysis: Offensive line in good shape for immediate future

49ers roster analysis: Offensive line in good shape for immediate future

This is the fifth installment of a 10-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ offensive line.

Under contract (signed through)

-Joe Staley (2021)
-Mike McGlinchey (2021)
-Weston Richburg (2022)
-Laken Tomlinson (2021)
-Mike Person (2021)
-Justin Skule (2022)
-Ross Reynolds (2021)
-Kofi Amichia (2021)
-Jaryd Jones-Smith (2021)
-Jake Brendel (2020)
-Leonard Wester (2020)

Staley signed a two-year extension with the 49ers in June to push his contract through the 2021 season. He is at the stage of his career – and his life – that he must evaluate after every season whether he wants to continue to play football. He missed nine regular-season games due to injuries, but Staley played at a high level at the end of the regular season and throughout the postseason.

Richburg, who finished the season on injured reserve with a torn patellar tendon, restructured his contract late in the season to save the 49ers approximately $4.5 million in cap space for 2020.

Expiring contracts

-Ben Garland (UFA)
-Shon Coleman (UFA)
-Daniel Brunskill (EFA)
-Andrew Lauderdale (EFA)

Garland should be a low-cost option to return to the team as an insurance policy behind Richburg. He held his own for the final month of the regular season and into the playoffs as the starting center.

Coleman, acquired from the Cleveland Browns in an August 2018 trade, entered training camp as the swing tackle. He sustained a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle in the first preseason game and went on season-ending injured reserve. He could be back on a minimum-level contract.

Brunskill, who has no outside negotiating rights as an exclusive-rights free agent, will certainly be back on the team in 2020.

What needs to happen

If everything remains the same, the 49ers are in good shape with the offensive line and can look to devote resources in other directions. All of their starters -- and seven of their top eight -- remain under club control for the upcoming season.

Staley continues to be the most important piece of the line. He is signed for two more seasons, and the 49ers would love for him to continue to play at a high level through the completion of his contract. But the 49ers have to keep an eye toward the future and prepare for the time when Staley is no longer on the team.

Richburg is returning from a severe knee injury. He again will miss the offseason program but expects to be ready for training camp, which opens in late-July.

It never is a bad idea to bring in young players who have a chance to compete for spots or, at least, develop for the future. But the offensive line did an outstanding job in run-blocking and pass protection for an offense that ranked second in the NFL at 29.9 points per game and fourth at 381.1 yards per game.

[RELATED: Signing George Kittle to new contract top focus]

Expectations

The expectation: Staley and McGlinchey at the tackle positions; Richburg at center; Tomlinson and Person at the guard spots.

The wild card is Brunskill. Wherever the 49ers put him, he stepped in and did a fine job. He saw significant time at right tackle, left tackle and right guard while starting seven games. He started the final two games of the regular season at right guard when Person was out with a neck condition. Offensive line coach John Benton half-jokingly referred to Brunskill as the team MVP.

Brunskill has put himself in position to compete for a starting job with Person. If he is not a starter, Brunskill could take on a role as the sixth man on the offensive line. (He even saw some work in practices at center after Richburg’s injury.)

Skule, who replaced Staley for six snaps in the Super Bowl, proved he can be a competent backup. Garland and Coleman could also return to compete for backup roles.

The 49ers do not have many draft picks, and they do not appear to be inclined to use a valued pick on an offensive lineman. Shanahan believes the club does not need to do anything dramatic with the personnel on the line to cope with such dominant defensive tackles as Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald and Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs. Shanahan intimated a lot falls on the structure of the offense to scheme around such players.

“I don't care what guard you have in this league, when you have a guard one-on-one with a player like that,” Shanahan said. “It's about five at the most in this league that are like that. Those guys are real tough to handle. That's why you’ve got to be balanced and mix stuff up.”