49ers

Justin Smith undergoes MRI, status unclear

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Justin Smith undergoes MRI, status unclear

SANTA CLARA -- All-Pro 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith underwent an MRI examination on Monday, but coach Jim Harbaugh said more will be known about Smith's availability in the coming days.

"It's really going to be how he is today, tomorrow and Wednesday before we know anything," Harbaugh said a day after the 49ers defeated the New England Patriots 41-34 in a wild game Sunday night in Foxboro, Mass.

Smith played fewer than half of the 49ers' defensive snaps after sustaining an undisclosed injury to his left arm. The 49ers reported it as an elbow injury. Team athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson wrapped Smith's left arm around the elbow, but Smith was unable to return to action.

When asked if it's feared that Smith sustained a long-term injury similar to Parys Haralson, who is out with a torn triceps, Harbaugh said, "No, it seems to be two different things."

Smith said Sunday night that he'd do everything in his power to return to the playing field as quickly as possible. In Smith's absence, the New England Patriots scored 28 consecutive points to tie the game before the NFC West-leading 49ers pulled out the victory to improve to 10-3-1 on the season.

Harbaugh said Smith's exit had an impact, but overall the 49ers did well in compensating for the loss of one of their leaders.

"I thought the guys stepped in and did some really good things," Harbaugh said "Ricky Jean (Francois) did a really nice and I thought our guys stepped up. Really, the chances we had to get off the field didn't come from that position. We made some errors elsewhere."

Jean Francois recorded a sack of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on a third-and-15 play with approximately five minutes remaining to force a punt after the 49ers had taken a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers return to action Sunday night at the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers need to win only one of their final two games to win the division title. However, the 49ers hold a half-game lead over the Green Bay Packers for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The two top seeds earn a first-round bye in the playoffs, as well as a home game in the divisional round of the playoffs.

49ers' wide receiver competition still wide open as season approaches

49ers' wide receiver competition still wide open as season approaches

The 49ers' wide receiver competition still is in full swing with the preseason halfway gone. s

While a number of receivers have flashed, coach Kyle Shanahan explained he’s still waiting to see more from the group as a whole.

“Yeah, I want to see more from all of them,” Shanahan said in a conference call Tuesday. “We’ve got a very good group and they’re all tight and so I’m trying to get those guys to take the spot from people and make it an easy decision.

“I think we’ve got a lot of candidates to start on our team, guys who have been here and the new guys. There’s two positions, depending on if we start in 12 or 21 and there’s three positions if we start in 11.”

Shanahan and the offensive coaches attempted to spread the snaps out amongst the group throughout joint practices and Monday's preseason game against the Denver Broncos, but limited rookie Jalen Hurd, who was dealing with back tightness.

“Hurd was going to play more, but he had some back tightness all week in practice and then he had a little bit in the game,” Shanahan said. “He definitely could’ve gone, but that was just the decision I made to get him out of there.”

The shortened week for the team played a factor in the decision as well.

“Didn’t want that to be worse with the fact that we have three games in 10 days, so we did that,” Shanahan said. “The other guys we planned on playing awhile, and I thought they did a good job taking advantage of that.”

With Trent Taylor out for four to six weeks due to surgery on his fractured foot, the onus is on the remaining receivers to take advantage of the additional reps they will get in games and at practice.

Rookie Deebo Samuel had the longest offensive play of the game in Denver but Shanahan still is looking for more.

“Especially with Trent being down right now, there’s a lot of opportunities for these guys," Shanahan said. "Deebo had a good play on the reverse or the round, we call it the round, but the reverse he had yesterday. But, that’s what we expect him to do.

“The D-end closed and he’s fast and we expect him to outrun people, but all these guys can keep getting better a lot. We want them to be good at blocking, be good at running the ball when it’s in their hands and they need to be able to get open. Deebo has the ability to do everything, but he’s still continuing to develop.”

Veteran receiver Jordan Matthews lined up in the slot with the first-team offense but Shanahan said that who wins that job still is very fluid.

“That’s what we’ll go over this afternoon,” Shanahan said. “We’ll have two practices to prepare for Kansas City. We kind of think all this stuff out, we give guys different opportunities certain weeks, but by no means is anything set for Week 1.

“We’ve got an idea of what some guys can do, some guys we need to see more from and some guys we already feel like we know what they can do. So, we mix it all around and I wouldn’t look into anything until you guys see our final 53.”

[RELATED: 49ers' new depth chart gives clues about position battles]

Here's the 49ers' wide receiver snap count from Monday night’s match up with the Broncos:
Kendrick Bourne 45
Richie James 32
Deebo Samuel 24
Dante Pettis 11
Marquise Goodwin 11
Jalen Hurd 8
Jordan Matthews 5
Malik Henry 3
Shawn Poindexter 1

49ers' backup QB competition likely won't be decided until final cut

49ers' backup QB competition likely won't be decided until final cut

The 49ers have not kept three quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster since coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch arrived in 2017.

And Shanahan seemed to imply the club will keep two at the beginning of this season, too. C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens are competing for the backup role behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

“I know we have two backup quarterbacks who are both capable of starting and I would be happy with either one as our backup,” Shanahan said after the team returned to the Bay Area from its 24-15 preseason victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

“One of those guys is going to win the job, and we will make that decision. I do not see myself making that decision until I absolutely have to, and that probably won’t be until the final 53.”

If the 49ers were to keep three quarterbacks on their roster, a decision on the backup would not have to be made until 90 minutes before the regular-season opener on Sunday, Sept. 8, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when seven inactive players must be announced.

Shanahan said he is in “a pretty good spot,” as far as determining the backup. But he said he has yet to determine who will follow Garoppolo in the preseason game Saturday night at Kansas City. Then, he said, the other quarterback likely will see the bulk of the playing time in the final exhibition game, Thursday, Aug. 24, against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I feel very good with both the guys,” Shanahan said. “We’ve had both of the guys here in a lot of game situations. But it’s been a fun battle to watch. I think both of them are playing better than they have the last two years.”

Based on how both quarterbacks have performed in regular-season games, Mullens is the favorite. Last season, he averaged 284.6 yards passing – fourth-most in NFL history through eight games – with 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 90.0 passer rating.

Beathard averaged 250.4 yards passing with eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 81.8. Beathard also was sacked with more frequency than Mullens.

[RELATED: Why it's obvious Jimmy G has significant hurdles to clear]

But Shanahan designs his offense around the big play, and that is where Beathard could have the advantage because of his willingness to sit in the pocket and let downfield routes develop.

“Every time C.J.’s in there you’ve got a chance for a big play,” Shanahan said. “He loves the big play.”

Beathard had two opportunities for big plays Monday night. He overthrew Richie James on a deep corner route to the right side, then Kendrick Bourne failed to hold onto a deep ball down the left side.

“I thought C.J. missed a couple plays early, but nothing too bad,” Shanahan said. “Then Nick came in and didn’t have many opportunities, but made the best (of them).”

Mullens and Bourne teamed up for a well-timed and delivered 1-yard touchdown on a fade route against tight coverage.