How will 49ers share carries between multiple quality running backs?

How will 49ers share carries between multiple quality running backs?

The 49ers have improved depth at running back, which could lead to a difficult weekly decision for coach Kyle Shanahan.

If everyone remains healthy, there is simply not enough room in the backfield -- or the 46-man game day roster -- for all of their backs to contribute.

That question kicks off this week’s 49ers Mailbag, where readers submitted their queries via Facebook:

What’s the RB situation and what kind of depth do we have? (Rex Mcneill)
Because of the movement skills a running back must possess, Jerick McKinnon faces a more challenging rehab than Jimmy Garoppolo despite sustaining his ACL injury three weeks before Garoppolo. Still, the 49ers expect McKinnon to receive clearance near the start of training camp.

McKinnon was the player around whom Shanahan figured to structure the offense last season. But McKinnon's season-ending injury brought a quick end to that plan. McKinnon remains a bit of a question mark because of his physical condition, but the 49ers have very good depth at running back:

Jerick McKinnon
Tevin Coleman
Matt Breida
Raheem Mostert
Jeff Wilson

Wilson faces an uphill climb to win a roster spot, but he showed in limited time last season that he is capable of playing at this level, as long as he holds onto the ball. He rushed for 266 yards in six games (two starts) with a 4.0-yard average to go along with 12 receptions for 98 yards.

Coleman is the odds-on favorite to be the closest thing the 49ers have to a lead back. He has history in Shanahan’s system, and he was the only player among McKinnon, Breida and Mostert to practice this offseason.

It’s difficult to envision that the 49ers will have four running backs (in addition to fullback Kyle Juszczyk) active for games. Mostert will almost certainly be one of the three running backs in uniform because he is the 49ers’ best special-teams players.

That means one of the backs -- McKinnon, Coleman or Breida -- will not suit up for regular-season games. No decisions have to be made right now, of course. This is a situation that can play out based on injuries and how the players look in training camp and early in the season.

When do you think the coaching staff finally puts their foot down and settle on the starters at safety so there can be cohesion? (Zachary Van Dyck)
There did not appear to be much question which players would start when the offseason program began. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt were the starters, and that is more than likely still the plan for Week 1.

I do not envision Tarvarius Moore gaining so much ground in training camp that he becomes a legitate contender for a starting job to open the season. Moore, Adrian Colbert, Marcell Harris, Antone Exum and D.J. Reed give the 49ers a decent amount of depth at safety.

Who do you expect to win out the other CB spot opposite Richard Sherman assuming Verrett isn’t healthy? Have there been any surprise candidates like Alex Brown that could challenge for that spot? (Greg Threlkeld)
Ahkello Witherspoon. Definitely, Ahkello Witherspoon.

He had a very good offseason program, and appears to have a renewed vigor and more urgency going into his third NFL season. At this point, iIt’s a two-man competition with Witherspoon and Jason Verrett, who is expected to be cleared at the start of camp to compete for a starting job.

Is there a possibility of trading Armstead for a serviceable CB and if so with whom? (Ehab Elsobky)
Arik Armstead has one year remaining on his contract. He is scheduled to make $9 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. I can’t see any team giving up any kind of compensation to acquire Armstead for just one season at that price.

We've seen new players to the 49ers like Kwon, Bosa and Deebo held out via preexisting injuries. How much time will it take to get up to speed when camp begins? (Jeremy Wohlfart)
Deebo Samuel has the biggest adjustment because wide receivers have a lot more to learn than inside linebackers and defensive ends.

Samuel sat out the final couple weeks of the offseason program with a hip condition. Nick Bosa had a grade-1 hamstring strain in the first week of organized team activities. Kwon Alexander is rehabbing from a torn ACL of last season.

Each of those players should be ready at the start of training camp. Basically, the team repeats all the installations of the offseason program in the first two weeks of training camp, so they will not be introduced to any new concepts. Alexander and Bosa should be able to step in immediately without much difficulty. Samuel’s head will be spinning, though.

What's the 49ers backup TE situation look like with Celek out for a while with a back injury? (Patrick Jira)
The 49ers tried to cover themselves in the event that Garrett Celek is not able to work his way onto the 49ers’ 53-man roster this season. He remains in the concussion protocol and he faces a two-month rehabilitation after back surgery. At 31, Celek might have a difficult time continuing his career.

Behind George Kittle, the 49ers added draft pick Kaden Smith and veteran Levine Toilolo. Ross Dwelley and Tyree Mayfield are also in the picture.

[RELATED: Joe Staley one of just 10 players John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have kept around]

How are the contract status of Bosa and Deebo? (Seth Hoppens)
Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel have not signed their four-year contracts with the 49ers. That did not prevent them from attending the offseason program, but players are not allowed to attend training camp without a signed contract.

The 49ers seemed to have few worries through the draft process about their ability to sign Nick Bosa.

A source told NBC Sports Bay Area, the decision was made at the NFL Scouting Combine. Chief negotiator Paraag Marathe told Bosa’s representation in February that if Bosa did not go No. 1, the 49ers would select him at No. 2.

The terms of Bosa’s four-year contract will be $33.55 million guaranteed. The only points of negotiation are offsets and the schedule for how the money is paid out. Nick Bosa has the same representation as his older brother, Joey, and Joey signed his initial contract in late-August of 2016 to end a lengthy stalemate with the Chargers. (The contract situation did not hurt Joey Bosa, who was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.)

Samuel is the only other 49ers draft pick who remains unsigned. A year ago, second-round pick Dante Pettis was the last 49ers draft pick to sign. His deal was not completed until the eve of training camp.

NFL rumors: Browns targeting 49ers assistants for coordinator jobs

NFL rumors: Browns targeting 49ers assistants for coordinator jobs

The 49ers have at least one game left this postseason, and the end of their playoff run reportedly could mean the end of some assistants' time in Santa Clara.

That is, if the Cleveland Browns get their way. 

The Browns are interested in hiring "either" 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur or run game coordinator Mike McDaniel as their offensive coordinator, and 49ers passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Joe Woods "is considered a top candidate for Cleveland's defensive coordinator job," NFL Media's Ian Rapaport reported Sunday morning. 

Cleveland hired former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as head coach last week, and Rapoport wrote that Stefanski's "prowess on offense" might preclude the Browns from hiring their own offensive coordinator. Additionally, Rapaport noted that they might not even request interviews with LaFleur and McDaniel because both are still under contract with the 49ers and "unlikely to be allowed out to go to Cleveland."

Last year, the 49ers didn't allow LaFleur to interview for the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator position. Though he would've worked with his brother, Matt, Mike LaFleur would have been a non-play-calling coordinator. Since neither he nor McDaniel currently have play-calling duties under 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, it seems unlikely either coach would be in line for a promotion if Stefanski assumes play-calling duties. 

[RELATED: How Shanahan handled 49ers' 0-9 start in '17 led them here]

NFL Media's Jim Trotter reported last week that Woods was a finalist for the Browns' vacancy at defensive coordinator. Before coming to the 49ers this season, the 49-year-old Woods served as the Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator from 2017 through '18. In his first season coaching the 49ers' defensive backs, San Francisco ranked 10th in passes defensed (74) after finishing 32nd (39) last year.

The Browns also interviewed current 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for their head-coaching position before ultimately hiring Stefanski


Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

How Kyle Shanahan, 49ers handled 2017's 0-9 start later led to success

How Kyle Shanahan, 49ers handled 2017's 0-9 start later led to success

SANTA CLARA -- He was young, brash and – some would say – arrogant.

That was the reputation of coach Kyle Shanahan when the 49ers hired him in 2017. In fact, the 49ers’ future general manager just weeks before they officially joined up for the massive rebuild said the exact same thing during a national TV broadcast.

“I want an arrogant coach," then-FOX analyst John Lynch said on an Atlanta Falcons playoff broadcast. "I want a confident coach. I’d be hiring that guy in a second.”

Shanahan went from being the Falcons’ offensive coordinator to the 49ers’ head coach a short time later. He brought Lynch with him to serve as general manager.

Then, they got off to one of the worst imaginable starts with the 49ers. Shanahan, not known for his patience, was tested when the club lost its first nine games in 2017.

“I learned that it was just another thing that I hadn’t gone through,” Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area on The 49ers Insider Podcast this week. “When it was over, I learned I could deal with it. It won’t kill you.

“If you’d told me that my first head coaching job was going to start out 0-9, I would’ve asked you, ‘Am I alive still?’ What have I done? I’m sure I’d be freaking out. I didn’t. I handled it.”

The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at 3:40 p.m. in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium. The winner punches a ticket to Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 2, against the winner of the AFC Championship game featuring the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.

And, now, it is easy to see how the 49ers’ rough beginnings in 2017 played a vital role in the club getting to this spot -- just one victory away from the franchise’s seventh Super Bowl appearance.

“That was cool because you found out a lot about people, going 0-9,” Shanahan said. “It helped me and John make a lot of decisions leading into the next season on certain guys.”

Included in that nine-game losing streak were a record five consecutive losses by three points or fewer. Also, the best any team that started 0-9 had ever finished before that season was 3-13. The 49ers won six games in 2017, including five in a row to finish the season with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.

“It was miserable, but it was necessary,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers had not been to the playoffs since 2013 in Jim Harbaugh’s next-to-last season as coach. But the 49ers did not seem out of place at all on the big stage last week in a 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.

[RELATEDDante Pettis awaits next chance to make difference for 49ers]

Shanahan said he believes that all the experiences, beginning in 2017 and continuing with all of the close games the 49ers played this season, have prepared the 49ers for pressure-packed football games.

“We hadn’t been to the playoffs until last week, but I still feel like we’ve been through so much stuff,” Shanahan said. “Losing nine in a row to start [2017], the way our games have gone this year. I feel like every game’s come down to the last play.

“There have been a ton of situations our team has gone through, some good ones and some bad ones, that does kind of harden you and make you a little battle-tested which are very pressure-filled situations and our team has performed in them a lot. That’s what the playoffs are about."

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.