49ers

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

49ers general manager John Lynch acknowledged that he signed Kwon Alexander to fill the void left by former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who was released last season. 

In an interview with 49ers.com, Lynch spoke about how he and his staff brought back several familiar faces to the linebackers room. He was also very frank about what the team lost in Foster as a player. 

“Let’s be honest,” Lynch said. “We had a void that we thought we had filled with Reuben Foster. Things transpired there. We had a void there and that stinks but you can’t just sit there and pout, you gotta say ‘OK, let’s do something.'

“We needed a dynamic football player at that position. It’s a very critical position in our scheme and this became the guy. Kwon became the guy that we wanted to be that guy.” 

Alexander has many of the same on-field characteristics as Foster. He’s known as a hard hitter who flies around the field, making players think twice about going across the middle. He may make some mistakes in the game, but his passion and heart are recognized by his teammates. 

“I think what stood out to us with Kwon,” Lynch said, “he’s a dynamic football player. He’s a tone setter. You need tone-setters on your defense. 

“I think he’s a guy that when you watch him, when you talk to people who played against him, people who played with him, he’s exactly that. His type of play running all over the field, hitting people, getting the ball, it’s contagious. We need that.” 

The 49ers' admiration for Alexander grew as they did more research on him. They understand it may take some time before he returns to 100 percent health.

[RELATED: Kwon Alexander overcame tragedy, adversity]

“The more we watched him the more we liked,” Lynch said. “We knew he was coming off an ACL injury but we got comfortable with the medical part and also got comfortable with 'Hey, we are going to wait as long as it takes.' This is a long-term investment. He’s doing very well in his rehab.” 

The staff ideally would like to see Alexander lined up next to Fred Warner, who had a stand-out rookie season. They also brought back Elijah Lee, special teams contributor Mark Nzeocha, and signed ex-Panther David Mayo to a two-year contract to fill out the linebackers room.

D.J. Jones could not be happier with marriage of football and personal life

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USATSI

D.J. Jones could not be happier with marriage of football and personal life

SANTA CLARA -- The town of Scooba, Mississippi, with a population 700 is a long way from -- and, at the same time, tantalizingly close to -- college football’s premier conference.

D.J. Jones found himself in the small town, home to East Mississippi Community College, after his grades in high school prevented him from going somewhere in the SEC or any other four-year school.

Jones said on The 49ers Insider Podcast that he was 110 percent disappointed in himself that he ended up at the junior college that would later become the setting for the Netflix series “Last Chance U.”

However, while at East Mississippi, the school won the national championship and sent many star athletes into the NCAA Division I ranks.

But it certainly was not by choice that Jones ended up at a junior college.

“I felt like I let my entire city down,” Jones said of Greenville, South Carolina. “I felt like I let my parents down. And most of all, I let myself down. But as time went by, all the accolades started coming.”

Jones turned the negative into a positive, becoming one of the top prospects in the country and earning a scholarship to Ole Miss.

“It’s make or break,” Jones said. “Either you decide to step up and get on your academics, which was my issue, or you continue to do what you did and you go to the streets or end up in jail or you don’t amount to anything.

“I feel like junior college was the perfect place for me coming out of high school. It got me to where I am.”

The 49ers selected Jones in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Jones worked his way into the starting lineup late last season, and he has been a key component in the 49ers’ base defense this season as the starting nose tackle.

The 24-year-old was in the middle of two tackles at the goal line during the 49ers’ first-half defensive stand against the Los Angeles Rams in San Francisco's 20-7 win on Sunday. But, mostly, his job is to take care of business on the early downs and watch his teammates get after the quarterback in passing situations.

Jones said he believes the new attacking approach of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has paid dividends for all of the team’s defensive linemen.

“It’s a show on third down, to be honest,” Jones said. “Dee Ford, (Nick) Bosa, Buck (DeForest Buckner) and (Arik) Armstead, they’re freaks of nature. Those four guys are scary coming at you, coming at the quarterback, collapsing the pocket the way they do.

“But I couldn’t be happier with the guys that we got and what we do on first down to get to third down.”

Jones also could not be happier with the meshing of football and his personal life.

Just hours before the 49ers’ game last week on "Monday Night Football," he proposed marriage to his girlfriend Kayla Fannin on the 49ers’ sideline in front of his family and her family. Jones said the idea to propose at Levi’s Stadium was a result of discussions with Austin Moss -- the 49ers’ director of player engagement -- and teammate Solomon Thomas.

“I’ve loved the football field from a young age,” Jones said. “I fell in love with the field. And I fell in love with her. So I felt like I had to do it right then and there.”

[RELATED: Shanahan not allowing 49ers to feel like they've arrived]

Jones said he could not drop a knee and propose before an ordinary Sunday game. Kayla's father is a pastor who has never missed a church service.

While the members of both families traveled to the Bay Area on the Saturday before the game, Jones’ future father-in-law flew in on Monday.

“We understood that he didn’t want to miss church,” Jones said. “I needed him to be here. I asked him for her hand a couple months ago. He said, ‘Yes,’ so I knew he had to be here. And he wanted to be here, so I’m glad he made it. I’m glad everybody kept it a secret.”

Kyle Shanahan wants to wear Jimmie Ward's jersey after 49ers' big win

Kyle Shanahan wants to wear Jimmie Ward's jersey after 49ers' big win

Kyle Shanahan is one of the few high-profile members of the 49ers who doesn't wear a uniform on Sundays, but if he had it his way, he'd be just like everyone else.

Well, actually, just someone else.

"We love Jimmie [Ward]," Shanahan said at his Monday press conference. "I'd wear his jersey on the sideline if I could."

Shanahan has long been a fan of the versatile defensive back, but he had extra reason to praise Ward after he was heavily involved in stifling the Rams' offense in a decisive 49ers win Sunday. He was credited with six solo tackles -- only linebacker Kwon Alexander had more -- and two crucial fourth-quarter pass deflections.

"I love his mentality, I love watching him play," Shanahan continued. "He's had some unfortunate things with just not being able to stay healthy, but when he is healthy, he is one of the better players. You guys see what he does. He plays extremely physical out there. He's not scared of anything, he's not scared to fail. He challenges guys in coverage and it's been fun having him out there these two weeks."

For all of the grief Ward has received throughout his career, it was never for a lack of talent.

They say the most important ability is availability, and that's the one area where Ward has significantly struggled, though often due to no fault of his own. He appeared in just 16 of 32 games over the last two seasons combined, and sat out the first four weeks of the current campaign recovering from a broken finger.

Ward was absent from the injury report for the first time all season heading into the matchup with the Rams, so perhaps it's no surprise he came through with his best performance in years, according to Pro Football Focus.

In the two games that Ward has appeared, San Francisco has allowed 10 total points and limited Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff to a combined 21-of-46 passing for 178 yards and zero touchdowns while intercepting two passes. Certainly, that can't all be attributed to Ward's presence, as the defensive line continues to wreak havoc, but his impact can't be discounted altogether.

[RELATED: 49ers bigger Week 7 favorites than any road game in years]

The 49ers have long maintained that Ward is a key defensive building block -- if he can just stay healthy.

He's healthy now, and clearly, San Francisco is better for it.