49ers

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.

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted Friday that the league was wrong for "not listening to NFL players earlier" and that they "encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," but his 81-second video didn't mention former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick first sat, then kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before games in the 2016 season to protest police brutality and institutional racism. The QB's protest has recently received renewed attention, as demonstrations against the same issues spring up around the globe following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, in Minneapolis police custody last Monday.

"We, the [NFL], believe black lives matter," Goodell said Friday. "I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no [NFL] and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.

"We are listening. I am listening. And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and move forward for a better, more united NFL family."

The commissioner's comments came shortly after the league shared a video of players asking for the NFL to "listen" and admit they were "wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting." Multiple players, including star New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, first shared the video Thursday.

"We will not be silenced," the players said. "We assert our right to peacefully protest."

Protests have taken place nationwide in each of the 10 nights following Floyd's death prior to this story's publication. Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe as Derek Chauvin, a since-fired officer who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. The 46-year-old's death occurred within months of Breonna Taylor, 26, and Ahmaud Arbery, 25, dying, all as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disproportionately affect African Americans. Louisville police fatally shot Taylor in her home while reportedly performing a "no-knock" warrant, and two white men allegedly shot and murdered Arbery as he jogged around his Georgia neighborhood.

Demonstrators have taken the streets to protest the same issues Kaepernick highlighted, nearly four years after he first began protesting. Kaepernick, who agreed to kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner" after consulting with former Seattle Seahawks long-snapper and Green Beret Nate Boyer, faced criticism for disrespecting the American flag and the country's veterans. Goodell said he didn't "necessarily agree with what [Kaepernick was] doing" in his first public comments after Kaepernick's protest.

“We have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great,” Goodell told The Associated Press on Sept. 7, 2016. “I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement; and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.”

Goodell said in 2017 players had a "responsibility" of demonstrating "at the right time and in the right way." The NFL owners approved a national-anthem policy in May 2018 that would've required players to stand on the sideline as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, but the league and the NFL Players Association announced in July there would be no new policy.

[RELATED: 49ers' Shanahan wants NFL to fix coaching diversity issue]

Kaepernick argued his protest cost him his career in a collusion lawsuit he settled with the league last February. The quarterback opted out of his contract ahead of the 2017 season, when the 49ers told him he'd otherwise be released, and has not been signed since. The NFL organized a workout for Kaepernick at the Atlanta Falcons' facility last November, but Kaepernick pulled out of the workout after the league barred media access and his lawyers deemed a liability waiver "unusual."

"I've been ready for three years, and I've been denied for three years," Kaepernick told reporters after moving the workout to a high school outside of Atlanta. "We all know why I came out here and showed it today in front of everybody -- we have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people."

Goodell said in December that the NFL had "moved on" from Kaepernick after he "chose not to take" the opportunity the NFL gave him by moving the workout.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

George Kittle has never kept his love for run-blocking a secret. Any opportunity to drive a defender into the turf is embraced by the 49ers tight end the same way kids greet the arrival of Christmas morning.

During a recent appearance on the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast with fellow NFL players Will Compton and Taylor Lewan, Kittle revealed two blocking assignments he doesn’t exactly live for.

“Khalil Mack’s tough,” Kittle said. “He’s pretty good. (Jadeveon) Clowney is pretty good too.”

Kittle and Mack faced off late in the 2018 season, during a low-scoring dogfight at Levi’s Stadium between the 49ers and Chicago Bears. Mack got three hits in on quarterback Nick Mullens, but didn’t end up with a sack among his five tackles.

[RELATED: Ranking top 49ers plays in franchise's storied history: No. 5-1]

Clowney was a difficult assignment for the Niners in both matchups last season, although Kittle was inactive for the Seattle Seahawks’ win on "Monday Night Football" in Week 10.

The current free agent had six tackles and five QB hits over those two games against San Francisco, not to mention scoring one of his two touchdowns on the season after scooping up a fumble.

Mack and Kittle could face off when the 49ers and Bears meet during the 2020 preseason on Aug. 29, but it remains to be seen where Clowney will wind up signing in free agency. 

Some have even postulated he could be a fit for the 49ers, if no team is willing to meet a reportedly exorbitant asking price.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]