49ers

49ers turn to veteran guards with Garnett out a month or more

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AP

49ers turn to veteran guards with Garnett out a month or more

SANTA CLARA – Guard Joshua Garnett’s season does not appear to be in jeopardy, but it appears unlikely he will be able to compete for a starting job to open the season.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Saturday that Garnett, who sat out practice with a knee injury, could undergo a procedure that is expected to keep him sidelined for a month or more. The knee condition does not involve his ACL.

"I know there’s some stuff in his knee we’re probably going to have to clean up," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I don’t think it’s anything long-term, but it’s going to be a little bit of time."

When the 49ers took the field for an open practice at Levi’s Stadium in front of more than 25,000 fans, the first-team offensive line might be the same until that opens the regular season on Sept. 10 against the Carolina Panthers.

With Garnett expected approximately four to six weeks, the 49ers’ offensive line appears to be coming into sharper focus. Brandon Fusco has been working with the starters at right guard since the opening of training camp. After a slow start with the 49ers’ new offensive scheme, Zane Beadles appears to be proving his way into the role at left guard.

“The game is not too big for them,” Shanahan said of Fusco and Beadles. “You want to see how they do, and they’re both doing a new scheme, and being asked to do some techniques they haven’t done before. It’s always neat with veterans who have had success in this league when they’re willing to do that.

“They’re OK being uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. (We’ve) gotten them out of their shell a little bit. When you do that, it starts off bad, but they’re both mentally strong, confident people. You can see it coming around and they’re getting better each day.”

Joe Staley and Trent Brown are the starters at the left- and right-tackle positions. And center Daniel Kilgore has seemed to tighten his hold on the starting job ahead of veteran Jeremy Zuttah.

Here are other notes from 49ers practice:

--Cornerback Rashard Robinson and running back Kapri Bibbs left practice with injuries. Robinson experienced some mild tightness in his hamstring, Shanahan said. Bibbs took the full brunt of a Tank Carradine hit on his right shoulder and did not return.

--Quarterback Brian Hoyer had another strong showing. He completed six passes to Pierre Garçon, including a 32-yard completion over the coverage of Foster. In move-the-chain periods, Hoyer threw touchdown passes to Aldrick Robinson, Logan Paulsen and Marquise Goodwin.

--Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard, who are competing for the No. 2 job, did not fare as well. Barkley could not get much going with the second-team offense. He threw the only interception of the day – though it was a Hail Mary that Eric Reid picked off on fourth down of a two-minute drill. Beathard threw up an ill-advised wobbly pass into coverage deep down the field that fell incomplete.

--Foster, who appears to be in line to take over as the starter with Malcolm Smith’s season in question, had a sack. K’Waun Williams blitzed from the slot for a sack. Dekoda Watson also had a sack.

--Prior to practice, the 49ers re-signed linebacker Jayson DiManche to a one-year deal. DiManche originally signed with the 49ers on April 7 and was released less than a month later. He takes the roster spot that opened with the club waived wide receiver Bruce Ellington. The New York Jets claimed Ellington off waivers on Friday.

--The 49ers distributed just less than 30,000 tickets for the open practice. The team announced 25,319 fans attended the practice. There were 40,000 free hot dogs that were pre-prepared for the fans. The event raised $125,000 for the 49ers Foundation, the charitable arm of the organization.

Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: 49ers set to pick LSU's Grant Delpit

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USATSI

Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: 49ers set to pick LSU's Grant Delpit

A year after selecting No. 2 overall in the NFL draft, the Super Bowl LIV-bound 49ers will pick much later this year in Las Vegas. 

They're slated to step up to the podium with the No. 31 or No. 32 overall pick, depending upon the results of the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco general manager John Lynch stopped by the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. earlier this week for draft preparation, a year after the 49ers staff coached up some of the 2019 draft's top prospects. Though the 49ers will square off with the Chiefs, Lynch made it clear that he doesn't want San Francisco's success to be a one-off. 

"That's why you're in Mobile the week before the Super Bowl," Lynch told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler earlier this week. "It's a big decision, do you leave back home? Because there are a lot of details to get wrapped up. But you've got to constantly be better and trying to better your organization. This is a valuable opportunity to do that."

The 49ers' first-round pick, as of now, is there only one in the first four rounds of this year's draft. That makes nailing the selection much more important, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who projects the 49ers will select LSU safety Grant Delpit. 

"This feels like a good pairing, with San Francisco potentially losing Jimmie Ward in free agency," Kiper wrote. "Delpit has a ton of talent, but I want to see how he tests at the combine in a few weeks."

Listed at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back in 2019, following in the footsteps of Tigers alumni Patrick Peterson (2010) and Morris Claiborne (2011). The Associated Press voted the junior safety second-team All-American in 2019, and SEC coaches voted Delpit first-team all-conference in 2018 and 2019. Delpit finished 2019 with 65 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and seven passes defensed this season en route to a National Championship with LSU. 

Despite the accolades, Kiper said that 2019 represented a disappointing season for Delpit. 

"Delpit was getting top-10 buzz early in the season, but he didn't have a great year, fighting through an ankle injury and missing too many tackles," Kiper wrote.

[RELATED: How Shanahan, Lynch make 49ers CEO Jed York's job easier]

Ward, 28, is set to become an unrestricted free agent after carrying a salary-cap number of $3,843,750 this season. The 49ers value Ward's versatility, but also have defensive lineman Arik Armstead and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders set to hit free agency this offseason, Tight end George Kittle and D-lineman DeForest Buckner are also eligible for contract extensions, meaning the 49ers likely won't be able to keep all of Ward, Armstead and Sanders under the salary cap with Kittle and Buckner due to be among the highest-paid players at their position. 

Atlanta Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary and New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry -- the No. 31 and No. 32 picks in 2019, respectively -- each made under $1.9 million last season. If the 49ers opt to let Ward walk in free agency, drafting Delpit could be a less expensive alternative. 

But with free agency just under two months away and the draft even further away, the 49ers' approach to reloading their roster isn't set in stone. 

Why DeForest Buckner-Arik Armstead partnership vital to 49ers' defense

Why DeForest Buckner-Arik Armstead partnership vital to 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA -- DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead have known each other for a long time now. They were roommates at the University of Oregon and leaders of a dominant Ducks defensive front, with a working partnership extended by the 49ers.

Armstead and Buckner were first-round picks in 2015 and '16 respectively, creating great potential along the 49ers' defensive line finally realized this season.

While flashy newcomers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford get a lion’s share of attention for 2019’s defensive dominance, let’s not forget that Buckner was a second-team All-Pro and Armstead led the team in sacks in a breakout year.

These two revel in each other’s success and are excited to play Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs together, especially after going through some hard times.

“It has been awesome,” Buckner said Friday. “Coming in as a rookie already having one of my good friends and college roommates on the team already, who's been in a similar position as me, getting drafted in the first round and being the team's first pick the year before, and really helping me transition into the locker room and having a guy to really bounce ideas off of throughout the year.

“It has been really beneficial for me, and it's been fun, especially this year. We had a lot of good times at Oregon and then we went through a rough patch here the past couple of years. To finally have this year, everything happening the right way and getting here to the “big dance,” it has been one hell of a ride.”

This ride isn’t over yet. There’s one more game to play on Feb. 2 against the Chiefs, where the Oregon alums will be vital to victory.

The 49ers rotate eight defensive linemen, but they make the most hay when Bosa, Buckner, Armstead and Ford line up together. Armstead generally plays end in the base package, frequently sliding inside next to Buckner on obvious passing downs.

That’s when these longtime friends can create havoc.

“It’s great to play next to him,” Armstead said. “Teams often give him a lot of attention, which makes my job easier. Or, sometimes the focus comes my way and he has a favorable matchup. He and I working together puts pressure on the offense.”

Interior pressure is always important. It prevents opposing quarterbacks from stepping up in the pocket, often flushing signal callers out of their comfort zone. The 49ers have talked all week about executing a coordinated, disciplined pass rush that shuts down escape routes for Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP. 

He’s both a threat to run outright and sidestep pressure long enough to make plays down the field.

“As a defensive line, you need to go and attack all day and once you put out the run and you start pass-rushing," Buckner said, " you want to consistently put pressure in his face, whether it's just pressure up the middle, off the edge, getting hit and also getting sacks. So, you just want to make him uncomfortable. You don't want to have him back there because a quarterback like him, when he has time to throw, he'll make you pay. We just need to do a really good job rushing as a unit.”

[RELATED: How Shanahan, Lynch make 49ers CEO York's job easier]

It’s hard, if not impossible, to find a more talented pass-rushing unit in the NFL. The 49ers work hard to stop the run, take teams off schedule and then release the hounds on third-and-long situations.

“It’s super important to get there in four,” Armstead said. “We want the most guys possible back in coverage while still generating pressure. We take pride in that.

“It has been great to play with those guys and work hard for one another. We have a lot of fun making plays in this defense. Big plays are contagious. When somebody makes one, the others want to join the party.”