Jimmy Garoppolo should flourish on improved 49ers, John Lynch believes

Jimmy Garoppolo should flourish on improved 49ers, John Lynch believes

SANTA CLARA – Sixteen months removed from signing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a contract befitting of a franchise quarterback, 49ers general manager John Lynch said he still is firmly committed to that investment.

Between the time of the five-year, $137.5 million contract agreement and now, Garoppolo has two offseasons of work with coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff, but just four regular-season starts and one lengthy rehab from a torn ACL. Garoppolo receives his entire $51.4 million of fully guaranteed money in his first two years, making it possible for the 49ers to move on without a significant hit on the salary cap next season.

“Jimmy’s a guy who’s extremely talented,” Lynch said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “We were hopeful, and Kyle was hopeful, that he could work through some trials and tribulations that you go through at that position through the course of last season. We didn’t get that, so you make the best of what the situation is.

“He’s the same guy. We liked, obviously, what that package is all about. Now, we’re excited to see him play. We feel like we’ve improved our team around him and that should certainly help Jimmy, and should help our whole team.”

Lynch and Shanahan signed six-year contracts with the 49ers, so the third season does not necessarily rate as a make-or-break season. But there is a sense of urgency as the 49ers open training camp that has not appeared to be present for a while with an organization that has gone five seasons without a playoff appearance.

“We’ve won 10 games in our first two years, and believe me when we took this over, we knew it was a monumental task,” Lynch said. “The roster wasn’t very good. But having the ability to almost have a clean slate, and having an owner that committed to allowing us the time to make sound decisions, I think that was attractive to both of us.

“We knew we’d have to endure some pain along the way. We did feel that growth curve was accelerated by a big amount when we were able to get Jimmy and see how Jimmy could play for us.”

Lynch said he believes the 49ers were able to add such game-changing players as Dee Ford and Nick Bosa to greatly improve the pass rush. Offensively, big-play threats were acquired with running back Tevin Coleman and rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Lynch also pointed out key pieces on special teams, with the re-signing of kicker Robbie Gould and the draft selection of punter Mitch Wishnowsky.

“We have to continue to grow,” Lynch said. “There are areas I probably won’t share with everyone, where I think we should be better. That’s this whole league. I’m sure the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, has places on his roster where he believes he could be better. That’s fun. That’s knowing that the work is never done.

"But I do like our group, and I like the talent, and I like the way they go about their jobs.”

One key area where the 49ers cannot help but improve is forcing big plays on defense. The 49ers were the worst team in the history of the NFL last season at generating interceptions. However, the decision was made to focus more on the pass rush and less on help in the secondary even after coming up with just two interceptions in 16 games a year ago.

“Those were some of the common thoughts about success in today’s football that Kyle and I shared,” Lynch said. “We each arrived at those from different experiences: Him from probably playing against tremendous defensive lines, and me from having the benefit of playing with a tremendous D-line and, then on certain occasions, not playing with (a good line) and seeing the difference.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo starting to look like his old self]

The only notable moves the 49ers made in the defensive backfield were the re-signing of free safety Jimmie Ward and the addition of cornerback Jason Verrett. Both Ward and Verrett have been plagued by injuries in their careers. The 49ers also believe cornerback Richard Sherman will be healthier and more productive another year removed from Achilles surgery.

“We’re confident that will work itself out,” Lynch said. “It would be great go to get a bunch of guys who’ve had 10 interceptions in a year in the NFL. They aren’t out there. So we got to develop them and we can help them by making our pass rush a force to be reckoned with on a week-in, week-out basis.”

49ers UDFAs Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty making most of odd offseason

49ers UDFAs Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty making most of odd offseason

Salvon Ahmed and JaMycal Hasty were always going to face an uphill battle to make the 49ers' roster, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made the hill a little steeper.

Under normal circumstances, the 49ers' undrafted free agents would have a chance to make a good first impression on the field at rookie minicamp. That's how Matt Breida won his roster spot in 2017. But instead, Hasty and Ahmed spend four hours on Zoom meetings with their position group and coaches, trying to learn everything about the 49ers' offense. The first two hours are spent with the entire group, while the final two hours are just Ahmed, Hasty and undrafted fullback Josh Hokit with assistant coach Bobby Turner.

While it's been unusual, the rookies think it's been a productive start to their NFL careers.

“You don’t have to worry about practices, you don’t have to worry about anything but that one, four-hour window to meet,” Hasty told The Athletic's Matt Barrows. “So there are a lot of things you can cover. There’s a ton of information to learn and pick up on. I mean, the rookies help each other out, the vets bring us along. It’s been a great experience, man.”

The 49ers have built a strong culture and that plays a big role in helping new blood catch up to the rest of the group.

“I think it’s showing what it’d be like even if we were there,” Ahmed told The Athletic. “And I think the culture is strong enough to show through our Zoom meetings. I think how we’re acting now is definitely how everyone would act if we were at the facility.”

The 49ers are likely to carry five running backs in total between the active roster and practice squad. Pencil in Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman for two of those spots. Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, Ahmed and Hasty will have to battle for the final three spots, with McKinnon and Wilson likely having a leg up.

The final roster spot likely will come down to a position battle between Ahmed and Hasty.

Ahmed, 5-foot-11, 197-pounds, never became the game-breaking back he was projected to be when he committed to Washington out of high school. He has quick feet and can be explosive, but he needs to work on his vision and decisiveness to stick in the NFL.

As for Hasty, the Baylor product was misused during his time in Waco, Texas. He's an elite athlete who profiles as a third-down back who can uncover out of the backfield and make plays in the passing game. He's a tough, hard-nosed back who has the explosiveness to fit well in the 49ers' zone-rushing scheme. He's an electric, change-of-pace back who has the potential to morph into a dynamic weapon for coach Kyle Shanahan.

[RELATED: Nine 49ers facing make-or-break season in 2020]

The 49ers might be able to hold a full-squad minicamp in June if Governor Gavin Newsom allows it. That will be the first time Ahmed and Hasty will take the field as 49ers. They must make the most of every opportunity in order to make the roster.

They've already been doing that in the Zoom classroom. The field world comes next.

NFL Network's Adam Rank goes all-in on 49ers after bad 2019 prediction

NFL Network's Adam Rank goes all-in on 49ers after bad 2019 prediction

Not many would have expected the success the 49ers gave us last season. Well, one guy in particular really didn't expect it.

NFL Network analyst Adam Rank might be the main person to eat his words following his preseason prediction that the 49ers would go 3-13 went viral. But he has redeemed himself. 

Kyle Shanahan's team obviously was more successful than that, going 13-3 in the regular season and leading by 10 points in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV before collapsing against the Kansas City Chiefs. Rank heard it all from 49ers fans, even admitting he was an idiot for saying such a thing

Rank wrote Tuesday on NFL.com that not only are the 49ers becoming one of the league’s “model organizations,” but also that walking away from Miami without a ring didn’t mean they were out of the fight -- not even a little bit.

The 49ers have everything going for them in 2020 for another deep run. They'll bring back tight end George Kittle, who looks to be the highest-paid at the position in NFL history. Jimmy Garoppolo has a Super Bowl appearance as a starter under his belt. Nick Bosa looks to have another successful season and we get to see the freakishly athletic ability of rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

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

That’s just what’s happening on the field.

Rank praised the front office, led by general manager John Lynch, for part of that success as well. 

Rank knows that any team could face a post-championship hangover that not even the strongest of Gatorade could cure. Their expectations are high, but this team is the real deal -- and naturally, they’ll have a target on their backs. But Rank is done doubting -- but said he understands if people don’t believe him.

[RELATED: Richard Sherman wants 49ers detractors to keep doubting them]

“I know me praising the 49ers will make the fans uneasy,” Rank told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday. “Like whenever Ric Flair would cozy up to Sting. And as much as you'd like me to discredit them again, we don't have to resort to such tricks because this is a very good team. Though I don't blame you if you don't trust me.”

He said it, he’s a believer. Now, let’s give the guy a break.