Kyle Shanahan believes 49ers still can win games despite key injuries

Kyle Shanahan believes 49ers still can win games despite key injuries

SANTA CLARA -- After the final preseason game and with the regular season just a week away, optimism was at a high for the 49ers.

The 49ers were considered a trendy pick to challenge the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West and contend for a playoff spot.

But five games into the season, the more realistic outcome is a record that will produce one of the top draft picks. The 49ers have lost three consecutive games and sit at 1-4 with a Monday date against the Green Bay Packers on the horizon.

“I totally understand the frustration and I understand the question with our record,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You go into last year and a lot of people were expecting it more last year, so we didn’t get it quite as much. The way we finished, I totally expect people to be more frustrated because I think people did have higher expectations going into this year. So did we.”

Much of the optimism was based on the late-season play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who took over after the 49ers opened 1-10, and the addition of running back Jerick McKinnon. Shanahan hand-picked McKinnon from the free-agent class for his ability to run and catch passes out of the backfield. Shanahan envisioned an offense predicated on creating matchup dilemmas in the middle of the field with McKinnon, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle.

But on the day teams were required to reduce their regular-season rosters to 53 players, McKinnon went down with a torn ACL, which required season-ending surgery.

Then, In the third game, Garoppolo sustained a torn ACL, bringing his season to an abrupt end.

“I think it was a tough blow early in the year, as everyone knows, losing McKinnon and then losing our starting quarterback,” Shanahan said. “So I do think that takes a toll and I think everyone understands that. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t win games.”

The 49ers been in every game this season – whether Garoppolo or C.J. Beathard was playing quarterback.

The 49ers struggled in the red zone in Week 1 in a 24-16 loss at Minnesota. After defeating Detroit in the home opener, the 49ers rallied to get within striking range in a 38-27 loss at Kansas City. They blew a two-touchdown lead in a 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. And, then, the 49ers committed five turnovers and lost to previously winless Arizona, 28-18, in Week 5.

“We’ve played in two games now without Jimmy, and I think we have been more than capable of winning both of those games and we haven’t gotten it done,” Shanahan said. “So you try to look at that and you just try to say to the players, ‘Why did we lose those games? What did we do good and what did we do bad?’

“I think we have the players. I think we have strong enough people who can deal with it and man up and find a way to win. It’s never easy. It definitely gets harder when you do have injures and things like that. But we have people in here who can win games.”

2019 Senior Bowl: Can 49ers find tight end to pair with George Kittle?


2019 Senior Bowl: Can 49ers find tight end to pair with George Kittle?

No tight end in the history of the NFL had more single-season receiving yards than the 49ers’ George Kittle did in 2018.

Kittle has played just two NFL seasons and has a bright future ahead of him. But that does not mean the 49ers have no need for depth or another tight end to create mismatch problems.

After all, the other 49ers tight ends – Garrett Celek and Ross Dwelley -- combined for seven receptions for 104 yards while Kittle set the NFL tight ends record 1,377 receiving yards.

[RELATED: How George Kittle wants to get even better after record-breaking season]

The 49ers probably would not look for a tight end during the first two days of the draft, but there might be some intriguing options available later in the draft.

And at least two potential targets have been assigned to the 49ers-coached South team during the week of the Senior Bowl:

Dax Raymond, Utah State, 6-5, 250
Raymond did not have overwhelming college stats. His junior season was marred by a broken hand after 27 catches for 345 yards in 10 games. He turned pro because of his age. He served a two-year mission to Russia.

Jim Nagy compares Raymond to Kittle, saying he expects him to test very well with his athleticism.
Projected: Mid rounds

Josh Oliver, San Jose State, 6-5, 250
Oliver is on the rise. He caught 56 passes as a senior for 709 yards and four touchdowns. He is not afraid to catch the ball in traffic over the middle.
Projected: Mid rounds

North tight end

Donald Parham, Stetson, 6-8, 240
Parham will have a chance to make a huge leap this week after playing small-college football at Stetson. He’s tall. Nagy said he has 35-inch arms and a 36-inch vertical jump.

He is a natural pass-catcher who shows some toughness, too. He was rarely asked to block in college, so how he shows up there could determine how he fits into the NFL picture.
Projected: Late rounds

Quinnen Williams reveals what he'll buy with first NFL paycheck


Quinnen Williams reveals what he'll buy with first NFL paycheck

Quinnen Williams is about to get paid. 

The former Alabama star defensive lineman declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, and is expected to be selected early. It would be a shock to many if he lasted past the Raiders at No. 4, and he could be the 49ers' pick at No. 2 overall. 

With the money of a top draft pick coming his way, what will Williams make his first big purchase? 

"I really don't know. I think I'm gonna buy my grandma a car," Williams told TMZ

Williams recently turned 21 years old and admitted he's not a big spender, putting him in unfamiliar territory come April when the draft will be held. 

"I'm a real tight guy and I don't really spend money," Williams said. "I'm gonna still be wearing the same Nike suits and stuff like that. I ain't gonna be splurgin'."

His pockets are about to get heavier, but Williams will keep his wallet tight off the field.

On the field, NFL teams are salivating at the potential the redshirt sophomore has. And off of it, he seems to have it figured out pretty well, too.