How 49ers' D.J. Jones benefited from Earl Mitchell's professionalism


How 49ers' D.J. Jones benefited from Earl Mitchell's professionalism

When veteran nose tackle Earl Mitchell was a young, up-and-coming nose tackle, he made a vow to himself that he would conduct himself better than the example he saw in front of his eyes.

Defensive lineman D.J. Jones benefited from Mitchell’s professionalism during his first two NFL seasons, including late this season when Jones supplanted Mitchell in the 49ers’ starting lineup.

“It’s a business, and I understand that,” Mitchell told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’ve been in D.J.’s position where I was a young guy and older guys didn’t treat me as well as I’d hoped when I got my opportunity.

“So I always told myself I wouldn’t be that guy. I hope he’ll pass it forward because that’s the way it should work. Eventually, younger guys are going to get opportunities, and it’s how you respond to that makes you a professional.”

Mitchell, 31, is a nine-year NFL veteran. The 49ers became his third team when he signed a four-year, $16 million contract in February of 2017.

In 2016, the 49ers had one of the worst rush defenses in NFL history, finishing last in the league. The past two seasons, the 49ers ranked sixth- and seventh-best in average yards per rushing attempt with Mitchell in the middle of the team's defensive line on run downs.

After starting the first 12 games of this season, Mitchell played just one snap of defense in the final four weeks of the year. He was inactive for the final two games, as Jones got his chance to play. Both individuals finished the season with 17 tackles.

“I thought he did well,” Mitchell said of Jones. “Obviously, he’s young. He has some way to go. He got some valuable experience, so that was beneficial. I look forward to his progression. I thought he played well, but at the same time any issue he had you just need that playing time to understand who you’re playing against and to know what this league is all about.”

Jones, a sixth-round 2017 draft pick from Ole Miss, learned a great deal from starting and playing a lot in the final four weeks of the season. He also realizes he was fortunate to have Mitchell on his side during the transition.

“He was the same person,” Jones said of Mitchell. “At first, he was a little frustrated. Anybody would be. But he was the same leader he was for me when I came in as a rookie and I was learning from him every day.

“I’m very lucky. I have friends on other teams and they’re not as fortunate to be where I am. Just being able to be around a guy like him, and find stuff out that a lot of people won’t tell you, I love him to death. I love him like a brother. He’s a big brother to me.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Mitchell was playing better this season than he did in 2017. But with nickel defenses on the field for approximately two-thirds of snaps around the NFL, there is no need to suit up more than one nose tackle for games. With the 49ers out of the playoff picture, the decision was made to give Jones a chance.

Mitchell remained healthy throughout the season, but he is scheduled to make $3.7 million each of the next two seasons. He is not certain what the future holds.

“I came to work every day and approached the game the same way I have for nine years,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t flinch, but it still wasn’t easy to sit and watch my team play without me being out there.

“Nothing is definite. I’ll just wait to see what happens in the future.”

Said Jones, “Earl is a great guy, great player. I wish he could stay longer. I wish he could finish here and play way longer than what he will.”

Kyle Shanahan is 'doppelganger' of Bill Belichick, Colin Cowherd says

Kyle Shanahan is 'doppelganger' of Bill Belichick, Colin Cowherd says

There are a litany of great head coaches in the NFL today, but few are both as universally beloved by colleagues and as overlooked by fans and media members as 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. The former Falcons offensive coordinator has fought an uphill battle since taking over prior to the 2017 season -- and has a 10-22 record to show for it. 

Colin Cowherd was recently discussing the NFL.com head coach rankings that were released yesterday, and he strongly disagreed with one particular selection.

"Shanahan, has a doppelganger in this league, it's called Belichick," Cowherd said. Bill Belichick is easily the most well-renowned head coach in the NFL and just came off of his sixth Super Bowl victory in February.

"Kyle Shanahan has an incredible career as a coordinator," the host of The Herd on FS1 explained. "Everywhere he's gone, He made Matt Schaub a pro bowler, he made Matt Ryan an MVP. Then he leaves, the teams aren't the same and the quarterbacks aren't the same. "

Cowherd pointed out some data on just how much better the 49ers have been with Jimmy Garoppolo on the field than when he's been off, but closed out his analysis with a strong take.

[RELATED: DeForest Buckner has big expectations for himself, 49ers in 2019 season]

"In two years, he will be a top-six coach."

With Shanahan and general manager John Lynch each having four years remaining on their contracts, 49ers fans can rest easy knowing they've got a very highly regarded head coach pacing the sidelines each week. The regular season opens Sept. 8 when San Francisco travels to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. 

49ers, Raiders picked to be among most improved teams by NFL analyst

49ers, Raiders picked to be among most improved teams by NFL analyst

The 2018 NFL season was one every Bay Area fan would like to forget. Both the 49ers and Raiders ended the season with 4-12 records, as they each secured a top-five pick in the NFL draft.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah shared his predictions for the most improved organizations in 2019 and both the 49ers and Raiders made the cut.

The 49ers top Jeremiah's board with the promise of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo being healthy for training camp and an offseason that saw them shore up an already strong defensive line group, signing Dee Ford to a long-term deal and drafting former Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa No. 2 overall in April's draft.

The Raiders, meanwhile, sit third in Jeremiah's rankings after making some of their own splashy moves over the NFL offseason. Oakland acquired All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown from the Steelers and also signed Vontaze Burfict, who was a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro with the Bengals in 2013.

[RELATED: 49ers' Kyle Shanahan ranked as 23rd-best veteran head coach by NFL.com]

It's hard to go anywhere but up for the Bay Area's NFL teams in 2019, but if Jeremiah's picks are accurate, there could be a lot more winning football coming to Northern California in the coming months.