Ahkello Witherspoon prepares to face two different Denver WRs


Ahkello Witherspoon prepares to face two different Denver WRs

SANTA CLARA – The Denver Broncos on Wednesday lost wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for the rest of the season due a torn Achilles sustained in practice.

The 49ers face the Broncos on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, and second-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon learned of Sanders' injury. He said he was looking forward to the challenge of facing him.

“That hurts,” Witherspoon said. “As a competitor, you want to go against the best. You see him as a person, I feel for him. I wish him the best.”

The injury, however, did not impact Witherspoon’s preparation for Sunday’s game. He said as part of his weekly routine, he does not begin studying the opposing receivers until Friday evening. It is a change in preparation he has made this season after working with veteran Richard Sherman.

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“Friday night and Saturday night, that’s when I go into the personal stuff, those third downs when you’re going to be one-on-one with the X (receiver),” Witherspoon said. “What does the X like to do? And I get really intricate and look at the release and stuff like that.

“Last year, I did more and was trying to break down all kinds of stuff. I was looking at too much information and not retaining enough. With the help of Sherm, and his ability to retain information as well, he told that less is more throughout the week.”

On a typical week, Witherspoon said on Wednesdays he concentrates on first and second downs. His focus shifts to third downs on Thursday. On Friday, the entire plan is in place for review. Then, he focuses on the nuances of the players he will be assigned to cover.

The Broncos no longer have their top two receivers from the beginning of the season. The club traded Demaryius Thomas five weeks ago to Houston. Now, Witherspoon will adjust his film study to prepare to match up mostly against rookie Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. 

Witherspoon has experienced an up-and-down second season. After struggling early in the season, he is playing much better in coverage in recent weeks.

On the season, the opposition has targeted him 62 times with 35 completions for 407 yards and five touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. On the other side, Sherman has given up 18 catches on 31 targets for 305 yards and one touchdown.

“I like where I’m progressing,” Witherspoon said. “I’m never really happy with where I am. I like the steps I’m taking throughout the course of the season, the good, the bad, the in-between. I’m just trying to keep growing, keep working and keep getting better.”

49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo slated to play entire first half vs. Chiefs

49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo slated to play entire first half vs. Chiefs

After a lackluster 11 snaps in Denver, Jimmy Garoppolo will have more of a chance to get his legs underneath him in Kansas City when coach Kyle Shanahan’s plan is for him to play the entire first half. 

“I would like them to get a whole half in,” Shanahan said. “But sometimes halves can be 20 plays and sometimes they could be 45, so it’s more about the play count. I’d like them to get a normal half in. 

“If they do, depending on how you start with the ball how many series you get, if you feel good about it we’d like to not put them back out in the third quarter. But if you don’t feel good and you don’t feel like they got the reps, it’s always an option.” 

Shanahan, like Garoppolo, would have liked the first-team offense to stay in the game longer in Denver but the risk of injury outweighed the reward of the offense getting into a rhythm. 

"It’s just really hard in the preseason when you have three bad drives like that and they want to stay in longer,” Shanahan said. “And every part of my body wants to keep them in longer but you got to make the smart decision and get them out. 

“You like to get guys going to get a quarterback in rhythm, an entire offense in rhythm and we didn’t do that. I truly believe if we stayed in there it would have been a matter of time.” 

When asked specifically about those 11 snaps facing the Broncos, Shanahan said that there was really only one that concerned him; the interception. 

“There was one play to go over,” Shanahan said. “The miscommunication on the protections that starts usually with the quarterback changing the protection. You got to make sure everyone gets it, and then when we don’t have guys blocked because of miscommunication you don’t throw it to their team. 

“Worst case scenario you just go down and take us back. Besides that, the other ones, you can talk about tipped throws and things like that.” 

Part of Garoppolo’s return will be getting over the mental hurdle of protecting his knee. While Garoppolo won’t admit it’s an issue, Shanahan says it’s only natural, especially this week when the team goes back to the venue where the injury occurred. 

“Any time you come back from an injury there’s a bunch of mental hurdles you have to get over every when you are healthy and feel good,” Shanahan said. “I’m sure there’s some stuff with it just being eerie going back to that same place but I haven’t talked to him about that specifically.” 

Shanahan believes that Garoppolo simply needs more time in a live game situation to rebuild his confidence. 

“That’s all Jimmy needs is just to play football whether he’s coming back from an injury or not,” Shanahan said. “We thought we were going to get that last year and unfortunately we didn’t. That was out of everyone’s control.” 

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While Shanahan would like Garoppolo to get a good amount of playing time in during the preseason, he won’t risk it. Tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, are not in need of extra snaps and he will not put Garoppolo on the field with a second-string offensive line facing defensive starters. 

“I want Jimmy to play as much as possible in the preseason and into the regular season but that’s a fine line too.” 

What 49ers' Mike McGlinchey learned from stars Von Miller, Dee Ford

What 49ers' Mike McGlinchey learned from stars Von Miller, Dee Ford

SANTA CLARA — It’s only Mike McGlinchey’s second offseason as a pro, but he already has an advantage over many others: He has played across from some of the best in the business. 

It’s not often that a player learns from multiple reps facing star pass rushers Dee Ford and Von Miller but that’s exactly what the 49ers second-year tackle has been able to do. He has faced Ford in practice as a teammate and has now had several reps and two games facing Miller. 

“They are as good as advertised,” McGlinchey said. “It certainly helped our football team being able to play against those guys. Especially in the pass rush for Joe and I all week, to be able to see something like that. [It helps us] not only for that week but going forward for our season .” 

McGlinchey explained that he was much less anxious going against Miller this year opposed to the end of last season as a rookie.

“A lot less anticipation than there was last season going into the game against him," McGlinchey said. “It’s practice, there’s not as much consequence for when you screw up or miss something. 

“I had the experience from last year, got to go over the film and see what I did well see what I didn’t do well and I think I made a lot of improvements from that game last year to where we’re at now.” 

Everyone knows that facing Miller is a challenge, but McGlinchey knows what it takes to win his matchup in the trenches -- even against the most intimidating opponents.

“Von will test every detail that you can figure out as an offensive lineman,” McGlinchey said. “So, it was good to see and good to stay in a process of what I do rather than focusing on how to win this week. It was good to see my technique work and the kind of stuff I did all season transfer over to blocking good pass rushers

“He tests everything about how you operate as an o-ineman. Everything he does is reactionary but it’s also with intent. He’s waiting to see what I do each rep and he’s going to use whatever he thinks against that particular set or run block or whatever it is.” 

But who is more difficult to block: Miller or Ford? McGlinchey couldn't help but side with his fellow 49ers teammate.

“I’m not going to choose against my own teammate,” McGlinchey said. “They are both extremely gifted athletes and rushers and I’m never going to pick one or the other, except for the fact that Dee is my teammate and I’m going to pick him every time. 

“They are different in their own right, both extremely good and extremely talented and they are similar in their athletic ability but what they do in terms of how they rush is different.” 

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McGlinchey knows that no two pass rushers are alike, and understands how Ford and Miller -- while dominant in their own ways -- bring two different repertoires to the table.

“Von has that elite get off, but that’s not everything he’s working off of,” McGlinchey said. “The way that Dee rushes is that he works everything off his first step, and then power or around to the edge. Von is a little more reactionary whereas Dee is more ‘take it to you.’” 

“Anytime you can get reps against the best it’s a good thing, it’s definitely huge for us.”