49ers

Daniel Brunskill's breakout shines spotlight on 49ers' practice squad

Daniel Brunskill's breakout shines spotlight on 49ers' practice squad

San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill spent the past two seasons on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons.

Brunskill, 25, knows what that's like. It is generally a thankless job. You’re in the NFL, but not really. That’s why Brunskill is officially known as a first-year player, even though he has been in an NFL building non-stop since May of 2017, when he signed with the Falcons as an undrafted rookie.

Players on the practice squad earn $8,000 for every week in that role during the regular season. The rookie minimum salary for players on the 53-man roster is $29,000 a week.

“Those guys work just as hard,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They do just as much. Sometimes they have to do more, except on Sunday. They don’t make nearly the amount of money, but they are expected to do all the same stuff.”

Brunskill made his first NFL start on Sunday, lining up every snap for the 49ers at right tackle in place of Mike McGlinchey, who is expected to miss four to six games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his knee.

Brunskill’s first start was a success. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just one quarterback hurry in his 36 snaps as a pass blocker.

In the tunnel outside the 49ers’ locker room at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Brunskill called the experience “pretty surreal.”

Then, he remembered from whence he came and devoted much of his time in the spotlight to bring attention to those on the 49ers’ 10-player practice squad, especially the guy who wore No. 99 and practiced as if he were Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

“I want to give a shout-out to all the P-squad guys because they stepped up big this week,” Brunskill said. “Kevin Givens and Jeremiah Valoaga really stepped up on the scout team defense to give us that D-line look.'

“Givens was No. 99. So he was getting after us and he did a great job of it. That was pretty awesome just to get us ready for that type of look. He did a tremendous job, no doubt.”

In addition to Givens and Valoaga, the two defensive linemen on the 49ers’ practice squad, Brunskill went on to name each of the other members of the unit: linebackers Elijah Lee and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, cornerback Teez Tabor, wide receiver Malik Henry, tight end Daniel Helm, offensive linemen Ross Reynolds, Will Holden and Jaryd Jones-Smith.

“This team is amazing and one of the best things about it is it’s a family,” Brunskill said. “Every guy is supportive. Every guy is there for you. Every guy has your back.”

Brunskill attended San Diego State as a walk-on tight end. He finally earned a scholarship after moving to offensive tackle before his redshirt junior season. On Sunday, he found himself lining up on occasion across from Donald, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time first-team All-Pro.

“It was pretty awesome to say I’d be able to go against one of the guys who’s going to be coveted as one of the best players to ever play this game,” Brunskill said. “That’s pretty awesome to say that I blocked that guy before and to go against him. And he is a tremendous player, no doubt.”

[RELATED: 49ers' improved pass defense evident throughout 5-0 start]

Donald registered two sacks against the 49ers, but neither came during his head-to-head matchups against Brunskill.

Seahawks linebacker shares how they decoded Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers offense

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Seahawks linebacker shares how they decoded Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers offense

The 49ers attempted to spin their overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks as an opportunity to learn, make adjustments and, ultimately, become a better team.

The 49ers may have gotten an assist after the game from one of the Seahawks’ top defensive players.

“At the end of the day, it’s a good learning lesson for us,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said following his team's 27-24 overtime loss to the Seahawks, his former team, at Levi's Stadium.

While the defense generally played well, the 49ers have plenty of room for improvement on offense. And their own self-scout might have received help from some observations coming from the other sideline.

Linebacker Bobby Wagner told Jim Trotter of NFL Media that he and veteran teammate K.J. Wright that they were able to decode Jimmy Garoppolo’s checks at the line of scrimmage.

“They’re a team that runs so many different things that it’s hard to get a tendency, but I felt like the last couple of times that we played them we were able to figure out what they were doing,” Wagner told Trotter.

Wagner said, “Because they run so many different things, it’s a game where you have to be disciplined and you just have to read your keys. It becomes kind of like simple football: Read your keys and it will take you to the football.”

Wagner said he and Wright were able to diagnose plays before they even developed.

“Once we started reading keys, me and K.J. started hearing the calls and picked up on the checks he was making, and it allowed us to break faster,” Wagner said.

With the knowledge Wagner shared after the Seahawks’ victory, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff should be able to make all the necessary adjustments for the next meeting between the teams in Week 17 to close out the regular season.

The 49ers (8-1) own a half-game lead on the Seahawks (8-2) in the NFC West standings.

Why 49ers fans should be optimistic after Week 10 loss to Seahawks

Why 49ers fans should be optimistic after Week 10 loss to Seahawks

Raise your hand if you predicted the 49ers to have eight wins after their first nine games this season. You in the back, put your hand down. 

Entering coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch's third season at the helm in Santa Clara, the 49ers were expected to make a leap. But not this kind of leap.

It was reasonable to expect wild-card contention while competing in the NFC West this season, just months after owning the No. 2 pick in the draft. The 49ers, however, defied expectations to start the season and reeled off eight straight wins. After losing to a "real contender" in the Seahawks, 27-24 on Monday night, though, The Faithful has to take a deep breath. 

Analyst Peter Schrager said it best Tuesday morning on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

"The offensive line couldn't protect anything, the Seahawks were just crashing in on Garoppolo, they couldn't catch a ball and yet, a minute left in this game, they were in position to win," Schrager said. "They went to overtime, they were in position to win. I wouldn't feel so bad if I'm a Niners fan this morning.

"That was as bad of an offensive performance they've had all season long, and yet they were still in striking distance to win."

The 49ers took an early 10-0 lead on Seattle and looked to be in driver's seat of what might have been the biggest game in the history of Levi's Stadium. And then, life came at them fast in the worst ways possible. 

San Francisco already was dealing with the injury bug going into the game as they were without George Kittle -- perhaps the best tight end in the NFL -- veteran kicker Robbie Gould and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. Once wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders exited early with a rib injury, the 49ers' offense sputtered. 

The inconsistency of the 49ers' wide receivers was on full display Monday night. Pro Football Focus marked the 49ers down for five dropped passes but it felt more like seven to nine. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's lone interception came right off the hands of receiver Kendrick Bourne. The INT was returned 44 yards and the Seahawks scored three plays later to take a 14-10 lead. 

Garoppolo was without his top-two options the majority of the game and constantly was under duress. 

Jimmy G also lost two fumbles and the Seahawks dropped at least two easy interceptions thrown by the 49ers QB. While the narrative turned to Garoppolo against Seattle QB Russell Wilson, San Francisco's signal-caller was shorthanded and the 49ers defense deserves credit for how they handled the MVP frontrunner. 

Robert Saleh's 49ers defense sacked Wilson five times and broke up five passes. Wilson threw just his second interception this season and had his lowest PFF grade of the year. The 49ers faced a superstar quarterback who has dominated them for years -- to say the least -- and actually held him in check.

[RELATED: Should 49ers have gone for tie late in overtime?]

Along with Sanders, center Weston Richburg, as well as defensive linemen Ronald Blair and D.J. Jones, exited early in the loss, and running back Matt Breida aggravated his sprained ankle. The extent of their injuries aren't yet known, though Breida is expected to get a second opinion and might miss time.

For the cards the 49ers were dealt, and having to lean on an undrafted rookie kicker who had a chance to win the game in overtime, San Francisco has plenty of reasons to be optimistic after its first loss. Now the focus turns to health and consistency with a tough remaining schedule.