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49ers' youth, athleticism impress Kelly

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49ers' youth, athleticism impress Kelly

Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco is in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his comprehensive coverage and catch his nightly updates on SportsNet Central.

INDIANAPOLIS –- Chip Kelly said he did not enter his film study of the 49ers’ roster with any preconceived thoughts about the team's level of talent.

But upon going through all 16 games of last season, he said he felt good about what he saw from some of the team’s young performers. At the end of the season, the 49ers had 27 players with two years or less of NFL experience on their 53-man roster.

“I was impressed with the overall athleticism and youth of the team,” Kelly said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “They had to quickly turn it around. Three years ago they’re in the Super Bowl with Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, (Ray) McDonald, Aldon (Smith) and you look at that defense, they had some outstanding players. And now they’re all gone.

“I think there’s some really good young talent on the team. I think the safety position is really talented. That probably jumped out at you the most on the defensive side. At a position in this league, where there’s not a lot of safeties, I think you got a lot of capable players at that position.”

[MAIOCCO: Baalke assesses 49ers' roster: 'Good, young nucleus']

Eric Reid was in his third season as a starter, while Jaquiski Tartt was forced into a starting role as a rookie after veteran Antoine Bethea sustained a season-ending injury. In addition, Jimmie Ward saw action at safety while also being the team’s nickel back.

On offense, Kelly said he was impressed from what he saw from the running backs – even after Carlos Hyde was forced out of the lineup with a stress fracture in his foot.

“When I turned the tape on, I was really impressed,” Kelly said. “Carlos was out, but some of those other guys they were impressive down the stretch, and guys they got of the street. There’s some talent at the running back spot.”

Kelly said he would like for the 49ers to re-sign scheduled free agent Shaun Draughn, whom the 49ers signed off the street after injuries to Hyde and Reggie Bush. Draughn was the 49ers’ second-leading rusher behind Hyde’s 470 yards with 263 yards on 76 attempts. Draughn also caught 25 passes for 175 yards.

DuJuan Harris was added late in the season and ended up with 140 yards rushing on 27 attempts. Kelly also mentioned his excitement to see what Jarryd Hayne is capable of doing in his second year of American football.

But, clearly, Hyde is headliner of the 49ers’ run game.

“I’m really excited to get working with Carlos” Kelly said. “He had an unbelievable pro-day workout. I was at his workout at Ohio State. I was really, really impressed with him there. And, obviously, I know (Ohio State coach) Urban (Meyer) really well. He’s a really good friend of mine. I know how highly Urban thinks of him. Big, physical back that’s a combination of size and speed. He should be fun to work with.”

[RELATED: Hyde working out with Gore in offseason]

Kelly also said he believes the 49ers’ group of tight ends is more than capable with Vance McDonald, Blake Bell and Garrett Celek, whom the 49ers signed to an extension this week.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington was not much of a factor last season in his second NFL year. He caught just 13 passes for 153 yards. He also averaged just 7.2 yards on 19 punt returns, but Kelly appears intrigued with the possibility of Ellington taking on a larger role on his team.

“When you look at just the short time that I’ve seen just film of him you’re like ‘Wow.’ That kid can do some interesting things,” Kelly said. “And it’s our job to figure out how we can use that to benefit us to help us win games.”

The 49ers have plenty of questions on the offensive line, but one player who caught his eye was 6-foot-8, 355-pound right tackle Trent Brown, who started the final two games of the season.

“He’s got great physical skills,” Kelly said. “He’s got great balance. He’s got great flexibility. You see him and you’re like ‘Oh my God. That guy’s gigantic.’ ”

Perhaps the player Kelly knows best was their first-round draft pick of a year ago. Kelly recruited defensive lineman Arik Armstead to Oregon, and he said the progress his former player made during his rookie season was noticeable.

“I think you saw him grow as the season went along, but I was really impressed with him,” Kelly said. “I obviously know Arik very well from recruiting him and coaching him. I think he’s still coming and I think he’s got a huge upside. I was really impressed just to see his progress in his first year from Week 1 to Week 17.”

Richard Sherman, 49ers defense 'light years ahead' of last season

Richard Sherman, 49ers defense 'light years ahead' of last season

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The day after Richard Sherman praised both teams for their lack of physical conflict, the re-energized 49ers defense got under the skin of the Broncos and the result was a sideline-clearing skirmish.

“If it’s clean like it was today, two teams just competing, getting after it and perfecting their craft against guys who are different, not all the fights and excess then it’s fine,” Sherman said after the first joint practice in Colorado on Friday,

Unfortunately, it got a little chippy between the 49ers' defense and the Broncos' offense during the second day of team drills.

There was pretty big hit by the 49ers defense that resulted in a tackle for a loss and tempers started to flare. The ensuing play was an incomplete pass from Drew Lock to rookie tight end Troy Fumagalli. Marcell Harris went flying across the field as a result of an apparent blind side shove and both groups tussled on the field for over 30 seconds.

Two Broncos players, receiver Brendan Langley and tight end Bug Howard were ejected from practice. Coach Kyle Shanahan said he didn’t see the melee but like anything else, he will watch the film to make sure his players were not the instigators.

“Yeah, they got into a little scuffle over there,” Shanahan said. “I actually wasn’t on the field, so I didn’t see much of it. By the time I got over there, it was pretty much broken up. I know a couple guys got sent in. I was told none of our guys threw punches, so when I see the tape, we’ll see if they were telling the truth. Hopefully, they were.”

While the 49ers' defense may not have started the fight, they decidedly are more confident this season.

“It’s light years ahead of last year,” Sherman said. “I think it’s just young guys being veterans this year. I think the experience that a lot of guys playing a lot of downs last year gave them the confidence they needed to take the next steps.

“That’s why you see our twos and threes way ahead of where they were last year and our ones light years ahead of where they were, especially with the talent. Even when you’re missing Dee Ford and [Nick] Bosa right now, we’re still making plays, we’re getting the rush, we still have the intensity."

Sherman also noted how the addition of Kwon Alexander’s high level of energy has affected second-year linebacker Fred Warner in a positive way.

“It’s huge,” Sherman said. “You see it because they are tone setters. They’re in the middle they are just about on every tackle. They can feel every pass play every run play and when they’re bringing energy I think it emulates throughout the defense. The D-line feels it, the secondary feels it. Their intensity can change the day.”

[RELATED: Why Lynch is confident Jimmy G will have successful return]

When asked who started the fight, Sherman smiled.

"Good question. We'll just say them. It was them."

NFL fines 49ers' Adrian Colbert for hit on defenseless receiver vs. Cowboys

NFL fines 49ers' Adrian Colbert for hit on defenseless receiver vs. Cowboys

The NFL on Saturday fined 49ers safety Adrian Colbert $28,075 for his hit on a defenseless receiver in the team’s preseason opener last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Colbert was ejected from the game.

Colbert was penalized for unnecessary roughness for his hit on Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. The league office watched the replay and disqualified Colbert from the game for targeting.

[RELATED: 49ers safety Adrian Colbert back up to speed after disappointing 2018]

The play occurred with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Colbert played just seven snaps of defense and six plays on special teams against the Cowboys.

"You’ve got to do everything as a defender to make sure that you’re not leading with your head and be deliberate to show the refs that you are not trying to lead with your head," 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said this week. "I don’t think Adrian was trying to lead with his head.

"From an ejection standpoint, the league office decided that. I know the intent of the man. You could see it. It’s such a bang-bang play. They’re going to call it 100-percent of the time, I just don’t know about the ejection. I’m still trying to learn that one.”