49ers

49ers' Robert Saleh details what makes Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes elite

49ers' Robert Saleh details what makes Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes elite

SANTA CLARA – It’s easy to see Patrick Mahomes has elite talent. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is shifty and quick. He can throw it a country mile and drop it on a dime.

The 49ers are aware he doesn’t get by on raw talent alone. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh knows that all too well. He has faced Mahomes before and spent most of this week watching him on film and can pinpoint exactly what makes him a troubling matchup when the 49ers and Chiefs clash in Super Bowl LIV.

“His mobility is unique. His arm strength is ridiculous. He’s really, really accurate. What I don’t think people give him credit for is that he actually plays quarterback,” Saleh said Wednesday. “There are a lot of quarterbacks where, if they say no to the first read, it becomes streetball. Mahomes gets rid of the ball on time. He gets it where it needs to be. He hits a lot of throws in rhythm, and when he needs to take his shot, he knows how to bide time and do it.”

Elite talent and expert quarterbacking all wrapped into one. All that comes just three years into his career NFL tenure and just in his second as starter. The 49ers have faced some excellent quarterbacks this season. They beat Russell Wilson for the NFC West title and Aaron Rodger for the conference championship.

The reigning NFL MVP might be the toughest challenge yet. The 49ers are so good defensively they just might be up for it

“He’s a superstar in every way you can possibly imagine,” Saleh said. “He’s going to be tough to deal with.”

[RELATED: How Mostert's life has changed since 49ers' NFC title win]

The 49ers believe facing Wilson, in particular, can help prep for Mahomes. The key in these games, against these quarterbacks, is a consistent and disciplined rush.

“It’ll be a pretty big factor,” edge rusher Nick Bosa said. “They’re very similar with mobility and an ability to turn seemingly broken plays into long touchdowns. You watch Tennessee’s second half and they didn't get much of a rush. You saw what he did there [consistently beating the Titans with deep shots]. That’s obviously a big focus.”

Mahomes' mobility is a difference-maker, especially when it’s a threat in addition to great passing talent. He proved that against the Tennessee Titans, scrambling for a 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Chiefs' AFC Championship Game win.

The 49ers have the NFL’s best defensive line, with massive humans on the interior and quick, yet powerful players coming off the edge. They’ve done well against Wilson and Arizona Cardinals rookie phenom Kyle Murray and understand the importance of containing a quick quarterback.

“Whether you’re playing Mahomes or a statue, you have to have respect for where he is in the pocket,” Saleh said. “The pass rush has to tie in together so you’re not carelessly rush the passer where any quarterback can buy time, escape the pocket and create an explosive play while off schedule.”

Watch 49ers' Robbie Gould use kids as goal posts in kicking session

Watch 49ers' Robbie Gould use kids as goal posts in kicking session

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

With the global coronavirus pandemic forcing athletes to stay home, they are finding unique ways to train and stay in shape.

For 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, that means he can't practice his craft at the team's facility or any other football complex.

So, on Sunday, Gould got creative.

Yep. Gould lined his kids up as makeshift goalposts and picked footballs over them.

As Gould noted in his tweet, he did make sure his kids were wearing protective gear.

It's definitely an interesting way for Gould to bond with his kids, but again, the choices are limited while everyone is staying home in an effort to flatten the coronavirus curve.

Last year, Gould asked the 49ers to trade him, a request they did not fulfill. Instead, the two sides agreed to a new four-year contract.

By Gould's standards, he's coming off the worst season of his 15-year career. He made 23 of his 31 field goal attempts, a 74.2 percentage. The 37-year-old did make 41 of his 42 extra-point attempts in 2019.

[RELATED: Could Gore or Walker return?]

If Gould bounces back in 2020, you can give some of the credit to his kids.

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks is not shy about reaching out to his former NFL team to provide tips on college prospects he knows well.

Hanks, who played eight seasons with the 49ers (1991-98) and won a Super Bowl, is the Senior Associate Commissioner of Conference USA, which consists of 14 football-playing universities.

“We want to make sure and give our young men every opportunity to be viewed by NFL clubs,” Hanks said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “So I tend to call my peer group around the NFL to make sure they’re paying attention to our players.

“Oh, I bug everybody, (including) the 49ers with John Lynch and Martin Mayhew, that whole staff. They do a great job of sourcing talent from Division III all the way up to the (power five). They go to where the good players are, and we have some good players in the conference.”

The 49ers have six players from Conference USA on their roster, including such draft picks as safety Tarvarius Moore (Southern Mississippi), and receivers Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech) and Richie James (Middle Tennessee State).

The 49ers signed quarterback Nick Mullens (Southern Mississippi) as an undrafted rookie in 2017, and he started eight games for the club in 2018.

One of the top prospects from Conference USA this year is Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant, who undoubtedly is on the 49ers’ radar.

The 49ers will be looking to add a tight end in the draft to pair with George Kittle. Bryant was the 2019 Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football.

“He reminds me of Brent Jones,” Hanks said, “a good pass-catching tight end and a willing blocker.”

Hanks also mentioned defensive back Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech. Hanks envisions Robertson overcoming his less-than-ideal size (5-foot-8, 187 pounds) to carve out a 10-year NFL career with a playing style that reminds some of Tyrann Mathieu.

With the restrictions on private workouts and pro days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanks said he believes the college athletes from Conference USA or from any college program who were not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine are at an inherent disadvantage this year.

“Those players are in a bit of a tough spot, in the sense that teams won’t be able to circle back and get on campus and really take a look at them,” Hanks said.

[RELATED49ers Mailbag: Could Frank Gore or Delanie Walker return to franchise?]

One Conference USA prospect who might not suffer from not being invited to the combine is Middle Tennessee defensive end Tyshun Render.

New England coach Bill Belichick went to campus in late-February to pace Render through a workout while most of his NFL peers were in Indianapolis for the combine.

“Conference USA has been fortunate,” Hanks said. “We’re a football-playing conference in every sense. We put a lot of resources toward football and NFL clubs understand that they can come get good players.”

49ERS FROM CONFERENCE USA
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee State
S Tarvarius Moore, Southern Mississippi
QB Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
RB Jeff Wilson Jr., North Texas