49ers

Jeff Garcia: Nick Mullens continues to do what's asked of him

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NBC SPORTS BAY AREA

Jeff Garcia: Nick Mullens continues to do what's asked of him

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 a look at two impressive young guys on offense.

The 49ers turned to their young players against the Denver Broncos, and those guys stepped up.

As much as the Broncos were coming in on a three-game win streak, they had some issues with young guys taking more prominent roles on the field. The 49ers turned to their own group of youngsters, and those guys played well. It was good to see.

Rookie defensive backs D.J. Reed Jr. and Marcell Harris played really solid football. They were involved. They were all over the field, combining for 19 tackles.

Harris made two big stops on back-to-back, third- and fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter. That was a big sequence, as the 49ers were protecting their lead.

The 49ers led 20-0 at halftime. The offense did not score in the second half. They will need four good quarters to hang with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Nothing to knock with Nick

Every week we’re trying to pick apart Nick Mullens’ game and figure out his weakness that can be exposed as he moves forward. But every week, he steps up and does his job. There has not been any noticeable drop-off.

The Tampa Bay game was the worst showing for the entire team this season. But in four of his five starts, Nick has played some pretty good football. He has been very efficient and makes good decisions with the football.

Against the Broncos, the second half was nowhere near the first half. They pulled the reins back a little and tried to focus on the running game. The big mistake was the interception, but even that was not his fault. It was a pass that should have been caught, but it was deflected into the defender’s hands.

Nick continues to play good, clean football. It is hard to say anything negative about him, especially because he is not surrounded by a bunch of elite weapons. There really is no No. 1 wide receiver out there, though Dante Pettis is doing a lot of good things. It’s good to get Marquise Goodwin back out there.

[RELATED: Pettis leads 49ers receivers in snaps]

The 49ers are playing a running back, Jeff Wilson Jr., who is essentially the fifth man in line. Of course, tight end George Kittle is doing some great things. Nick is doing a great job of getting the ball into the right guy’s hands. He is making plays and moving the chains.

For being on a big stage in his first opportunity in the NFL, Nick Mullens is doing everything the 49ers are asking of him.

Kittle channeling his inner T.O.

George Kittle is fun to watch. He’s got a great attitude. You wish more guys had his attitude and his approach to the game. He is refreshing.

Of course, he has a lot of athletic ability. But what I see most from Kittle is the fight within him. He is not going to be denied. It’s his mental and physical toughness. He takes the approach into every game that he is going to be the difference-maker. He is going to battle every single play, whether he is blocking or running a route. He wants to be the best player on the field.

When he gets the ball in his hands, you see can see how he runs. It’s like when T.O. used to run those slant routes or take those quick throws and turn them into big gains. T.O. ran with purpose, with anger and with an attitude that showed, “I am going to get to the end zone.” You see that with Kittle, too.

The guy can move. When he starts getting down the field, he does not want to be stopped. You see the same approach when he blocks on the line of scrimmage. He takes pride in his work. That’s what makes him so good.

It’s too bad he did not get the ball in the second half to get the single-game yardage record for a tight end. That is a record that has stood for a long time, and it’s unfortunate he did not get that opportunity to break Shannon Sharpe’s mark.

Closest thing to the playoffs

The Niners have to be feeling good about themselves coming out of last week with a win. Denver had a lot riding on that game. They were competing for a playoff spot, and the Niners knocked them off.

Seattle comes to Levi’s Stadium playing some really good football, especially on defense. What they did Monday night against Minnesota and all their weapons across the board was very impressive.

The 49ers know what they’re up against. They know what it’s going to take to win this game. In Seattle, the offense played well in the second half. They have to match that.

They must be better on the defensive side. You know Seattle is going to come in and play smash-mouth football with their three-headed monster rotation at running back. Obviously, the defense has to contain Russell Wilson. They must keep him in the pocket, and force him to throw over defenders and not through lanes.

Seattle is one of the hotter teams in the National Football League right now. It would be a great opportunity to play with a nothing-to-lose mindset. There is nothing on the line for the 49ers in this game, outside of playing for pride and showing they can knock off a playoff team.

And if they can do that with their young players just two weeks after getting blown out in Seattle, it would serve as a great building block for the future.

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

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USATSI

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

So what happens if the Arizona Cardinals select Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 1 overall pick?

Until the Cardinals actually announce their decision – as most have believed for a while – that Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is their man, there remains a bit of intrigue. The 49ers must wait patiently at No. 2.

If Bosa goes No. 1, the 49ers would likely listen to offers to trade out of No. 2. That’s where things could get very interesting. And it opens up a lot more possibilities for the 49ers to consider with their first- and second-round draft picks.

Here are a couple of players the 49ers could consider if they trade back from No. 2 – either with their first or second-round selection -- and a couple of highly rated players they should not be tempted to select:

Boom?

In a trade-back scenario, the 49ers could still get their edge rusher.

Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns has size, athleticism and room to get better. Just a shade below the first wave of edge rushers, Burns might end up topping them all. He played three seasons in college and finished with 10 sacks in 12 games last season before declaring for the draft.

At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds and with 4.53 speed, Burns would be used immediately as a nickel pass-rush specialist. That is fine. That is what the 49ers need, and eventually that role can expand.

Bust?

Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary should have been a dominant player in college. He was not. He has measurables off the charts, but not the production that should go along with it.

His skills and athleticism are freakish. But after three seasons of college football, he recorded a total – a total – of just 9.5 sacks. And, now, we’re supposed to believe that he is going to get 9.5 sacks a season while going up against better competition?

Gary has started his own sports agency. It seems like the best plan of attack would be to get established as a really good NFL player before devoting so much attention to marketing.

Boom?

Their new wide receivers coach was not there to work with him at the Senior Bowl, but South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel already showed what he can do in the 49ers’ offense.

Samuel has a trait that coach Kyle Shanahan likes in his wide receivers – the ability to get open. He is a very good route-runner, and he is tough. At 5-foot-11, 214 pounds, he might not have the size of some of the other receivers the 49ers might consider in the second round, but he has the ability to separate quickly.

Samuel would give the 49ers a nice tool in the red zone, where the club has struggled mightily the past two seasons.

[RELATED:  Jimmy G couldn't disappoint 49ers with eyes on him during rehab]

Bust?

The 49ers probably will not have the opportunity to pass on Ole Miss D.K. Metcalf in the second round, and that will be just fine for them.

Metcalf has otherworldly measurables. But Metcalf was far-and-away the second-best receiver on his college team. The 49ers should prefer A.J. Brown to Metcalf, who turned off more than a few people with the 49ers during their contentious meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Metcalf is 6-3, 228 pounds. He ran a 4.33 at the combine. Yet, he put up pedestrian numbers in college – approximately half the production of Brown. Some team will take him in the middle of the first round, and that team will probably end up being disappointed.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon rave over 49ers' player performance staff

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AP

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon rave over 49ers' player performance staff

The 49ers revamped their medical and training staff over the offseason, and thus far it’s getting positive reviews from both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon. 

After 17 players spent time on injured reserve in 2018 and 24 the season prior, the 49ers felt they needed to make a few changes.

The result was Ben Peterson becoming the new head of player health and performance while Dustin Keller was tapped as the head athletic trainer. 

The pressure is on coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch as they head into their third season having collected only 10 wins. Their success is linked to the return of Garoppolo and McKinnon, and the player performance staff obviously plays a key role in making sure both players get back to 100 percent.

The hope is that the two sides would work more efficiently together, ultimately becoming one department.

Garoppolo has been impressed by their efficiency thus far.

“Bringing in Dustin and Ben, I think they’ve done a good job of just, it’s a smooth process,” Garoppolo said. “No time wasted, one thing after another. Especially this time of the year. 

“We’re so condensed with time that every minute counts and those guys, they’ve really done a good job. I think guys are buying into it.”  

McKinnon was even more effusive when asked about the new staff. He indicated that what Shanahan and Lynch were trying to accomplish has already started working.  

“They’ve done a great job of just being on the same page,” McKinnon said. “And with everything, not just players getting hurt or whatever. They have a plan and I think everybody is going to be excited what they see from them.” 

Both McKinnon and Garoppolo seem to be itching to get back onto the field even though they understand they need to be careful.

McKinnon was asked if he noticed a difference in his progress with the new staff in place. He confirmed that even in the short amount of time he has been working with them, he has indeed noticed a change.

“Definitely,” McKinnon said. “I’ve been getting a lot stronger. I wish I could tell you all, but I can’t. I definitely feel comfortable, I definitely feel confident, and they got me throwing up a lot of weight so I like that too.

“It’s been about them not judging how much volume I have on my knee, what I do every day.” 

[RELATED: Jimmy G wouldn't let 49ers down with eyes on him in rehab]

McKinnon’s new controlled freedom also comes at a stage in his rehabilitation where he is noting a bit of progress. It sounds as though he has similar views on his training program as the new staff. 

“Yeah now,” McKinnon said. “Before I felt like I was on a leash. But every step along the way, you get to do new stuff and get more freedom -- be out there cutting, ladder drills and stuff like that. It’s nice to finally be able to do more.”