'Coach Sherman' stands out in first week of 49ers OTAs

'Coach Sherman' stands out in first week of 49ers OTAs

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was zipping passes to a variety of receivers at all different levels of the defense.

Running back Jerick McKinnon lined up at a number of spots in the 49ers’ offensive formation and caught passes with ease, showing the skills that prompted Kyle Shanahan to target him for his offense.

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner looked as if he is ready to take the next step to become one of the NFL’s top defensive players.

But the star of the first week of 49ers organized team activities was a veteran player who has yet to be cleared for takeoff.

When the 49ers signed Richard Sherman shortly after the Seattle Seahawks released him, he said he envisions his contributions to his new team to be split equally between on and off the field.  And, sure enough, nobody appeared to be as engaged in the practices in Week 1 of OTAs than Sherman.

“It’s always nice when you have someone who has a lot of experience in a very similar system,” Shanahan said. “The foundation of it all came from the same spot, and when you’ve got a guy that has played in it that long and really started in that system and has kind of excelled in it as good as anyone, it’s nice to have.”

"Coach Sherman," as he's already being called, is embracing his role as a leader on the defense, as he mentors cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward and all of the newcomers. In his seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Sherman was named to the Pro Bowl four times. The 49ers' defensive scheme is based on the Seattle defense.

During a period of practice this week when special teams took over, Sherman was also seen engaging in an animated conversation with Shanahan on the sideline going over some of the topics discussed in a team meeting.

“We both have a lot of history playing against each other’s teams so there’s lots of stuff that when we talk X’s and O’s, it brings up a couple plays from year’s prior,” Shanahan said. “We could sit there and hang out and talk all day about.”

Kyle Shanahan envisions Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida as lethal tandem in 2019


Kyle Shanahan envisions Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida as lethal tandem in 2019

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, what the 49ers have done right since the beginning of the season. 

While the 49ers have managed just two wins, there have been a few things that have gone right. The emergence of Matt Breida as a lead back is one of them. 

The undrafted second-year running back has shown his toughness. He's battled through an ankle injury though several weeks while still being productive. He has also solidified a future on the offense. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan said that had anticipated both Jerick McKinnon and Breida as a tandem since before the offseason and that will remain the plan for 2019.

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

Breida's run for 632 yards on 113 carries -- giving him 5.6 yards-per-carry thus far. While his 8.4 yards-per-carry led the league in yards-per-carry through Week 2, he is currently ranked ninth in the league.

[MAIOCCO: Breida's road to starting RB]

The 23-year-old was not known as a much of a receiver at Georgia Southern where he caught 11 passes for 156 yards in three seasons. Since becoming a Niner, he has worked on his receiving ability and Shanahan's found interesting and productive ways to utilize him. 

Breida has 15 receptions for 124 yards through Week 10 and 36 catches for 304 yards as a 49er. Shanahan spoke about how he has worked to become more of a receiving back. 

“He's worked on it a lot,” Shanahan said. “Breida's worked on everything. Breida, I just told our team the other day, and we have lots of guys that work hard, I think all of our guys work hard. But, in terms of taking it to a whole 'nother level, Breida and [George] Kittle showed that the first day of OTAs.”

It’s really no surprise that both Breida and Kittle have excelled this season with their “extra credit” work. 
“They were just pretty obsessive in everything they were doing,” Shanahan said. “Every little detail of their game, and it's improved in a lot of areas. And Breida in the pass game, he wasn't our number one target last year. And with Jet going down this year, it's given Breida more opportunities. He worked a lot in this offseason so he could be ready for those opportunities.”

NFL Rumors: Washington won't work out Colin Kaepernick after Alex Smith injury


NFL Rumors: Washington won't work out Colin Kaepernick after Alex Smith injury

With Alex Smith down to an injury, Washington reportedly won't turn to a man who already replaced him in similar circumstances.

Colin Kaepernick, who won the 49ers' starting quarterback job while Smith was hurt during the 2012 season, was not among the QBs Washington will work out in the wake of the season-ending injury Smith suffered Sunday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rappoport. 

[RELATED: Patriots owner Robert Kraft addresses previous Colin Kaepernick rumor]

Kaepernick's completion percentage (59.8 percent) and touchdown percentage (4.3 percent) is higher than each of the quarterbacks in question, and his interception percentage (1.8 percent), is lower, too. He has an identical postseason record to Sanchez (4-2), yet doesn't have the butt-fumble to his name. 

But the former 49ers QB has not been on an NFL roster since opting out of his contract following the 2016 season, the first in which he kneeled during the National Anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. A year ago, Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against all 32 NFL owners. In August, a mediator ruled his case can proceed to trial.

Washington is still first place in the NFC East, despite losing Sunday to the Carolina Panthers. 32-year-old Colt McCoy will start in Smith's absence. He is 7-18 in his career, but has not started a regular-season game since 2014. 

Kaepernick, who Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien said "[hadn't] played football in a while" when the team decided not to sign the QB last season, last played in a regular-season game on Jan. 1, 2017 -- a 25-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.