49ers

Kyle Shanahan explains how 49ers' running back competition will be decided

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AP

Kyle Shanahan explains how 49ers' running back competition will be decided

The 49ers head into the 2019 offseason with five running backs on the roster and a decision to make on who will get the bulk of the time in the backfield. 

Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained on the Adam Schefter podcast how the decision on which running backs will see time is not his to make. Instead, it will be up to the players. 

“Everyone keeps asking me that like I’m in charge of that or something,” Shanahan said with a laugh. “It’s up to the players. They will define their roles. That’s kind of what’s unique about this.” 

The team signed Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million. Both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch admitted that they weren’t in the market for another back but it was too good of a deal to pass up.

Coleman played in Shanahan’s system in Atlanta which should make his adaption to the 49ers seamless.  

The team expects Jerick McKinnon to be ready for the offseason program, but they won’t rush him back as he recovers from his ACL injury. Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson and special teams standout Raheem Mostert round out the group which is not at a loss for speed. 

“They all can do a bunch of different things,” Shanahan said. “The one thing that they have in common is they all run 4.40 or less so I don’t have to look back there to see if I have a slow guy or a fast guy, they are all fast.”  

Shanahan pointed out the varying qualities of the group and also recalled 2018 when injuries plagued the team. They very well could need all five ball carriers. 

“They come in different sizes, they do different types of routes,” Shanahan said. “We played with four running backs last year so I’m not going sit here and try to think about what to do with four running backs, we might need them all.” 

[RELATED: Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams reportedly "in mix" to be No. 1 pick]

The competition will be fierce for who will be the lead back in Santa Clara, and Shanahan is relishing the situation. He and his coaching staff like what they have in the group and look forward to seeing how they can take advantage of their varying attributes. 

“If they all stay healthy it will be a fun problem for us to figure out, how to utilize them as a coaching staff.” 

How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense

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USATSI

How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense

Two of the NFL’s best teams in 2019, the New England Patriots and 49ers, both faced a similar problem as the trade deadline approached.

The seemingly well-oiled machines had identified an identical issue: A lack of consistent play from the wide receivers.

While both teams attempted to rectify their passing-game issues at the deadline -- the 49ers dealt a pair of draft picks to the Denver Broncos for Emmanuel Sanders while the Patriots used a second-round pick to acquire Mohamed Sanu from Atlanta -- the results weren’t exactly analogous for the two contenders.

Sanders just completed a dominant performance in New Orleans, catching seven passes for 157 yards and a touchdown -- he threw for one, too. Meanwhile, Sanu caught just one pass for 13 yards in Week 14 as New England suffered a home loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since Oct. 22, the day both players found their new homes, Sanders is averaging 10.44 receiving yards per target. Sanu? The former Falcon is averaging just 4.66 yards per target.

The 49ers reportedly balked at the price Atlanta wanted for Sanu, but the Patriots might have been better off bringing Sanders in, according to The Athletic’s Mike Sando.

"Sanu has been a solid receiver for a long time, but not as much of a downfield threat. Over the past four seasons, Sanders holds a 67-44 edge over Sanu in passes gaining more than 15 yards, despite Sanu playing four additional games. Sanu could have been a natural fit in San Francisco given that Shanahan was previously his offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He might even be flourishing there, given San Francisco’s superior surrounding talent, including George Kittle. The fit has been questionable in New England.”

The 49ers also have an obvious advantage in fielding George Kittle, who continues to cement his status as one of the NFL’s top tight-ends week in and week out.

[RELATED: Where 49ers, Raiders stand in NFL power rankings now]

But imagine what Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady could have whipped up with Emmanuel Sanders stretching the field.

This might go down as a rare mistake in player personnel from the Patriots’ front office, and it also might just be the move that propels the 49ers into playing February football.

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

George Kittle made the most significant play of the NFL’s Week 14 slate, catching a short fourth-down pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and willing his way into field-goal range.

The herculean effort from Kittle set kicker Robbie Gould up for a game-winning 30-yard field goal to give San Francisco a crucial 48-46 victory in New Orleans that propelled the 49ers back to the top of the NFC standings.

Unsurprisingly, coach Kyle Shanahan diagrammed this play for Kittle to be the No. 1 option, and that’s exactly what happened.

“The rookie [C.J.] Gardner-Johnson is matched up 1-on-1 with Kittle,” NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said. “The beauty of this play is, a lot of times the 49ers will run an in-breaking route off of this, but here he had the option to break out and he breaks out.

“Gardner-Johnson, who’s kind of laying inside for it, now is at a disadvantage and he’s trailing behind and that becomes the completion to George Kittle.”

[RELATED: Injuries continue to pile up for 49ers after extended trip]

Kittle’s wise decision to break outside put San Francisco back into the driver’s seat for the NFC playoffs, but the 49ers will need to keep the momentum going as the final weeks of the season roll on in order to secure the home-field advantage NFL teams so desperately crave come postseason time.