Jeff Garcia: 49ers' defense must make adjustments to fit their players

Jeff Garcia: 49ers' defense must make adjustments to fit their players

Editor’s note: Former 49ers Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia, now an NBC Sports Bay Area analyst, shares his thoughts on the team each week throughout the season. This week, he takes look at some good, some bad, and the future.

The same things continue to haunt the 49ers.

There is really nothing more to say about their loss in Seattle. It’s all been said before. There were penalties and turnovers. They moved the ball at times but then shot themselves in the foot.

It is hard to read too much into what is going on because of the guys that are now playing due to all of the injuries. The fight of the team was better. You saw them compete and battle, but some of that was because Seattle called off the dogs in the second half, too.

Still, it was good to see some of the young players have success. It was nice to see the way Jeff Wilson ran. I thought he was a positive sign in the backfield. He is a guy who was a third or fourth-string player, and he showed he is capable to toting the rock and catching passes out of the backfield.

Here are three observations as the 49ers enter Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos:

Pettis part of the future

It has been a while since the 49ers have hit on a young wide receiver. Dante Pettis is showing some signs of hope for the future.

He is a football player, from the standpoint of having a really good understanding of the game. I really like what I see from him as a route runner. He has a good feel for setting up defensive backs to create separation.

Pettis appears to have good game speed, too. He obviously ran away from people on the long touchdown catch-and-run he had on the post pattern.

I don’t know if Pettis is a No. 1 receiver, but I definitely believe he has a future on this team and can be a great contributor for a long time.

Stepping outside the scheme

The 49ers’ defensive scheme has proven to be successful in the NFL. It is based on the same defense the Seahawks have used through the years. But if your players do not fit the scheme, you still need to put those players in the best possible positions to have success.

What the 49ers have tried to do with their 2017 third-round draft pick, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, has not worked. He has played three-deep coverage or man coverage most of the time. He is not getting help over the top. I think one of the things that the coaching staff could have done is adjusted some safety help to not put Witherspoon on an island all the time.

[RELATED: Russell Wilson threw Fred Warner's shoe, triggered Kyle Shanahan's outburst]

They could allow Richard Sherman to play one-on-one on his side and shut down his side with the experience he brings. They should roll coverage every now and then and help Witherspoon out. I think that’s been part of the problem with this scheme. The 49ers simply do not have the same kind of quality players in their defensive backfield that Seattle had with the Legion of Boom. Obviously, injuries have been a problem in the secondary, along with communication problems between the safeties and corners, but your scheme has to make adjustments to fit your players.

Edge rusher will make a difference

The 49ers are currently in line to have the No. 1 overall pick. The best player in next year’s draft is expected to be edge rusher Nick Bosa. This could work out perfectly for the 49ers.

The big man, DeForest Buckner, has been doing an outstanding job. The 49ers are getting some good pressure from Buckner, who leads the team with nine sacks. They have gotten some pressure sporadically from Cassius Marsh and Ronald Blair, but that hasn’t been consistent enough. And they have not gotten anything out of Solomon Thomas.

What the 49ers need more than anything is to add some strength on the edge. In order to play this type of pass coverage in the secondary, the 49ers need pressure from their front four.

If they are not getting pressure consistently from the edge, that is difficult for this defense to overcome. Eventually teams are going to find the holes in their zone and be able to attack them. That’s been a problem throughout this season.

Why Le'Veon Bell unlikely to be right fit for 49ers in NFL free agency


Why Le'Veon Bell unlikely to be right fit for 49ers in NFL free agency

The 49ers spent big money on a running back in free agency last year. But the contract Jerick McKinnon signed doesn't even compare to the kind of deal that would satisfy scheduled free agent Le’Veon Bell.

McKinnon signed a four-year, $29.75 million deal with the 49ers in 2018. Bell, meanwhile, refused to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season for $14.5 million on the team's franchise tag.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday that the organization would not place the franchise tag on Bell again this year. So, Bell is scheduled to be available to any team as an unrestricted free agent in mid-March.

Don't expect the 49ers to get seriously involved, though, said former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, an NBC Sports analyst and close friend of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

“That’s a position where Kyle, the Shanahans in general, look at and go, ‘I can get more out of that position than the normal guy; I don’t need to waste money to get a special player there to get special results,’ ” Simms said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“Their offense, their design, can get special results as long as the player doesn’t have any huge, glaring weaknesses. Yeah, I’d be shocked if Le’Veon Bell ended up on the 49ers.”

McKinnon missed all of last season after sustaining a torn ACL one week before the start of the regular season. McKinnon is on pace to be cleared for the start of training camp -- if not sooner -- according to general manager John Lynch.

[RELATED: If 49ers add running back, who falls off the depth chart?]

In McKinnon's absence, the 49ers turned to Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. Breida led the way with 814 yards with a 5.3-yard average. Breida, Morris, Mostert and Wilson combined for 1,769 yards with a 4.9 average.

Bell, 27, gained 1,291 yards (4.0 average) and nine touchdowns while catching 85 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. McKinnon, 26, gained 570 yards (3.8 average) and three touchdowns with 51 catches for 421 yards and three TDs in 2017 as a part-time player with the Minnesota Vikings.

Colin Kaepernick 'Icon' jersey offers NBA stars another way to show solidarity

Colin Kaepernick 'Icon' jersey offers NBA stars another way to show solidarity

Recently, some prominent NBA stars have come out in support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, displaying their solidarity in different manners.

The Warriors' Kevin Durant, for instance, donned a black No. 7 jersey to and from a recent game at Oracle Arena, bearing the phrase "#IMWITHKAP" on the chest.

Steph Curry, wearing the same attire, recently posed for a photo with his son Canon.

The Lakers' LeBron James wore a nearly identical jersey getting off the plane when he and Los Angeles made the trip to Oracle to face Golden State earlier this month.

James took his support of Kaepernick a step further when he was asked about Kaepernick's reported settlement with the NFL at All-Star Weekend in Charlotte.

[RELATED: NFL compensating Colin Kaepernick for not playing football]

If Durant, Curry and James -- or anyone else for that matter -- like the black-and-white look, and want to show further solidarity for Kaepernick, well, they're in luck.

On Wednesday, Nike announced the release of a limited-edition Colin Kaepernick 'Icon' jersey -- the same one James wore as a tease getting off the plane in Oakland. As Kaepernick explained in a tweet, the jersey is dedicated to "those true to themselves on and off the field. Proudly, unapologetically and against all odds."

"We believe Colin Kaepernick is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” a Nike spokesperson told The Undefeated. “The jersey marks Nike’s continued product collaboration with Colin."

The NFL logo is notably absent from the jersey, which should not come as a surprise given Kaepernick's recent litigation with the league. 20 percent of all proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will go to the Know Your Rights Camp he founded, which raises awareness for youth "on higher education, self-empowerment and instruction on how to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios."

So, if you're in the market for a new black-and-white look, or simply want to show more support for Kaepernick, there are certainly worse ways you could spend your money.