49ers

49ers talking Super Bowl in offseason training

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AP

49ers talking Super Bowl in offseason training

Throughout the 49ers’ State of the Franchise event, which served this week as a pep rally, fans in attendance routinely and randomly shouted their expectations for the 2018 season.

“Super Bowl!”

As it turns out, that goal is being expressed within the 49ers’ locker room during the offseason program, too.

When asked on The 49ers Insider Podcast about what he and his teammates talk about four months before the start of the regular season, new 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon said the conversation is centered on posting a victory on the first Sunday of February.

“The Super Bowl,” McKinnon said. “That’s what the eyes are on. That’s the prize. That’s the ultimate goal.

“The whole team has talked about it. We had a thing with the Navy SEALS. They were asking us, ‘What’s the goal?’ It was equally collaborated on: 'Win the Super Bowl.'”

Early in the 49ers’ offseason program, coach Kyle Shanahan brought a NAVY SEALS program to the team’s training facility to foster camaraderie and work on team-building exercises.

Left tackle Joe Staley, the longest-tenured 49ers player, spoke enthusiastically Wednesday night in front of a crowd of approximately 1,100 fans in downtown San Jose about the upcoming season.

"I've never been more excited for a football season to get here,” Staley said. “The locker room, the energy, not only do we all get along, it's all built on respect of work. I'm really excited.”

McKinnon, whom the 49ers targeted as an upgrade over Carlos Hyde for coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, was mostly a third-down back during his four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

McKinnon came to within one win of the Super Bowl last season, as the Vikings lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. He believes it is important to set high goals with a long season ahead.

"In the season, you're going to have ups and downs," McKinnon said. "That's just part of a 17-week NFL season. But at the end of it, you've just got to keep the eye on the prize, and that's the Super Bowl. So whatever it is that happens, we have to stick together as a team to get to that common goal."

How running back Matt Breida became 49ers' best surprise in 2018

How running back Matt Breida became 49ers' best surprise in 2018

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we look at the team’s best surprise.

Running back Matt Breida came to the 49ers immediately following the 2017 draft almost as an afterthought.

The 49ers recruited him, and he signed with the club as an undrafted rookie with the enticement of a $5,000 signing bonus.

The 49ers wanted him. But at the time, they wanted a running back from Utah named Joe Williams a lot more. The 49ers invested a fourth-round draft pick in Williams.

As the 49ers take a step back during their bye week, Williams’ NFL career already appears to be over. Meanwhile, Breida has been the 49ers’ best surprise through 10 games as the team’s starting running back.

Breida is the NFL's seventh-leading rusher with 632 yards and three touchdowns. His 5.6-yard average is better than any of the other running backs ahead of him on the list.

Breida has also shown improvement as a pass-catcher with 15 receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

“He's worked on it a lot,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Breida's worked on everything.”

Breida was the 49ers’ No. 2 back last season behind Carlos Hyde. His role for this season was in question when the club signed Jerick McKinnon as a free agent.

McKinnon and Raheem Mostert were assured of being suited up on game days, with Mostert serving as the third running back and a core special-teams contributor. That would have left a question whether Breida or Alfred Morris would have been active to open the season.

After McKinnon sustained a season-ending knee injury a week before the season opener, Morris got the first start of the season. Then, Breida took over. Despite dealing with shoulder, knee and ankle injuries, Breida has made every start for the past nine games.

“He worked a lot in this offseason so he could be ready for those opportunities,” Shanahan said of Breida.

In a season that has gone nowhere near up to expectations, the 49ers can enter next season feeling good about the possibilities on offense with a healthy McKinnon and a proven player with Breida as options – on the field, together.

Shanahan was asked this week if he can envision certain offensive packages with McKinnon and Breida in the backfield to pose the threat of more speed, creating dilemmas for opposing defenses.

“I envisioned it this year, so that won't change next year,” Shanahan said.

49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan has regrets about final defensive series vs. Giants

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USATSI

49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan has regrets about final defensive series vs. Giants

The 49ers needed a stop. They needed to generate pressure on New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. And they knew there was no threat of the Giants running the ball.

So the 49ers put their best pass-rushers on the field in hopes of preserving a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, first-round draft picks in 2015 and ’17, watched the crucial series from the sideline. And coach Kyle Shanahan admitted a day later that he would have liked Armstead and Thomas to get more opportunities.

“You want certain guys to get a certain amount of rushes,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That has to do with situations and personnel groupings and what down and distance they're in. And when it was all said and done, they didn't have enough opportunities, I thought, in nickel. And I'd like to see them have more.”

The 49ers failed to hold onto their fourth-quarter lead, and Manning engineered a game-winning drive, culminating in a 3-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard, for a 27-23 victory over the 49ers on Monday night.

The 49ers deployed five different defensive linemen during the course of the most important defensive series of the game. Twice, the 49ers’ personnel grouping consisted of a three-man line.

DeForest Buckner played all 13 snaps at an inside position, while Cassius Marsh lined up for all 13 snaps at defensive end. Ronald Blair rushed the passer on 11 plays (seven at end, four at tackle). Sheldon Day played seven snaps as an inside pass-rusher, while Dekoda Watson had six snaps outside.

Shanahan said the 49ers have mostly kept Marsh and Blair as their outside rushers, while they have tried to find another inside player to pair with Buckner.

“Buck's the guy we've kept the most consistent,” Shanahan said. “Our edge rushers have been the same, but they've been rotating throughout the year. But our inside guys, we've rotated pretty much between three guys after Buck.”

Through 10 games, Armstead has three sacks, while Thomas has just one.

49ers expect three starters back

Linebacker Reuben Foster, safety Jaquiski Tartt and wide receiver Pierre Garçon are expected to return to the lineup when the 49ers play in Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Foster (hamstring) and Tartt (shoulder) sat out the past two games with injuries sustained in the 49ers’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28. Garçon missed Monday’s game with a knee injury.

“We anticipate getting them back to practice next week when we start,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers also expect wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (head) and nickel back K’Waun Williams (shoulder) to be available. Goodwin was not diagnosed with a concussion on Monday, and he checked out symptom-free the next day, Shanahan said.

This ‘n’ that

Running back Matt Breida has been a pleasant surprise. As the regular season approached, it was unclear what role Breida would have behind Jerick McKinnon. Shanahan shed some light on what he wants to see on offense next season. When asked if he envisions both Breida and McKinnon getting on the field together in 2019, Shanahan said, “I envisioned it this year, so that won't change next year.” . . .

Rookie receiver Dante Pettis saw his most extensive playing time since returning from a knee injury. He was not much of a factor, as he caught four passes for just 12 yards. He played 41 snaps of offense. He also had just one punt return for 1 yard.

“That was his first full week of healthy practice,” Shanahan said. “The week before he got two straight practices in, but it was all the walk-through stuff for the Thursday night game.

“He did a decent job. By no means was it perfect. I expect him to get a lot better as this goes. He's another guy I’m putting a lot of pressure on here in the last six weeks, and I want him to take some huge steps forward. But, at least playing some, getting out of the game healthy, I think he finally has the opportunity to do that.”