49ers

Kyle Shanahan keeps Panthers guessing: 'I don’t mean to be a d**k'

Kyle Shanahan keeps Panthers guessing: 'I don’t mean to be a d**k'

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan does not mean to be, uh, difficult.

Well, actually, yes . . . yes, he does.

The first-year coach of the 49ers goes into the season opener on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers with the advantage of the unknown. He knows all about the Panthers, based on preparing to face that veteran defense four times over the past two seasons while offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.

And while the Panthers know all about Shanahan’s style of offense from his time in the NFC South, things are bound to change with him running the 49ers' offense. After all, Matt Ryan is no longer his quarterback; Julio Jones is no longer his receiver; and he does not have running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

That is why Shanahan, who was more forthright than most coaches during training camp, is not going to divulge how the 49ers are going to feature their personnel on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

“Brian Hoyer’s starting, I promise you guys that,” Shanahan said of the 49ers’ quarterback. "(Joe) Staley’s starting. Everyone else, we’ll find out on Sunday. I don’t mean to be a d---.

“It’s the season now, if there’s any gray area we’ll figure it out on Sunday.”

Of course, the 49ers have already figured it out. It’s the rest of us – and that includes the Panthers -- who will figure out on Sunday how the 49ers will deploy their personnel.

And, yes, there are still plenty of questions:

Who starts at free safety?
Jimmie Ward does not figure to be available for Sunday’s game. After all, Ward sustained a hamstring injury during the team’s conditioning test on the eve of the team’s first practice and has not taken part in a full practice this entire summer.

Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome started the first two exhibition games in place of Ward. But Jaquiski Tartt is the likely pick to start against Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Tartt is a third-year player with 14 career starts. Jerome earned his place on the roster, but the 49ers need more experience on a snap-to-snap basis.

The 49ers will feature an eight-man front on base downs. Tartt and Eric Reid are interchangeable with each possessing the size and strength to hold up in the run game.

But this does not mean that Jerome will be a mere bystander. In passing situations, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has the option of bringing in Jerome as a sixth defensive back and replacing linebacker NaVorro Bowman. That is how the 49ers approached it during the third exhibition game, which is the closest approximation to the regular season.

Will Hyde and Breida share the load?
This is a huge season for running back Carlos Hyde. This is his contract year and his future is unsettled.

The 49ers have plenty of money to spend on extensions, and Hyde has a chance to prove the organization’s future is in better hands with his hands on the football.

To Hyde’s credit, he was magnanimous when talking about how rookie backup Matt Breida will be incorporated into the 49ers’ offense this season.

“He’s going to be used just as much as I’ll be used,” Hyde said. “So it’ll be good for us. We keep each other fresh and tear this season up.”

But it is difficult to believe Breida will be used as much as Hyde, who came to camp in tremendous physical condition and should thrive in Shanahan’s zone scheme. More than likely, the 49ers will give Breida a smaller package of plays and find a specific role for him to be used in spot duty.

Will Thomas take over as a starter?
The 49ers had Solomon Thomas rated as the No. 2 prospect in the draft behind Myles Garrett. By no means has Thomas been a disappointment. But Thomas got off to a slow start because of the restrictions on when he could join the 49ers’ offseason program.

Look for Tank Carradine to serve as the 49ers’ starter at the “big end” position. Why? Carradine has not done much in his four seasons with the club but Saleh has found something that Carradine does better than just about anyone in the league.

“With Tank, when I say ‘elite,’ I’m talking as a run-down, six-technique, someone who just can really dominate his edge and own the line of scrimmage,” said Saleh, referring to run downs when Carradine is lined up over the opposing tight end.

Thomas will see plenty of action, and he might even be on the field to start the game, depending on the personnel group the Panthers send onto the field for the first snap of the game. Thomas can be expected to play a significant role in the 49ers’ defense on third downs.

49ers sign OL Laken Tomlinson to three-year extension

49ers sign OL Laken Tomlinson to three-year extension

Guard Laken Tomlinson appears to have wrapped up a starting position on the 49ers’ offensive line, as the club signed him to a three-year extension on Thursday.

Tomlinson, who started the final 15 games of last season at left guard, is now signed through the 2021 season, the 49ers announced.

“Laken is a very talented player who has improved consistently since joining the team one week before last year’s season opener,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “This offseason, his hard work and dedication paid off as he continued to progress and performed at a high level. We were confident we could work out a contract extension with Laken and we are fired up to get that done before training camp.”

The 49ers acquired Tomlinson in a trade from the Detroit Lions for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick shortly before the start of last season. The Lions selected Tomlinson with the No. 28 overall pick from Duke in 2015.

The 49ers did not pick up the fifth-year option on Tomlinson for the 2019 season, which would have cost $9.625 million. Instead, the 49ers and Tomlinson agreed to a three-year extension worth up to $18 million with $10 million guaranteed, reports the NFL Network.

Tomlinson, 26, started 24 of 30 games in his first two seasons with Detroit. He entered the 49ers’ starting lineup in Week 2 and every game for the remainder of the season.

The 49ers appear to have four starting positions set along the offensive line, with Tomlinson and tackle Joe Staley on the left side. Veteran center Weston Richburg is slated to start at center, while rookie Mike McGlinchey is settling in at right tackle.

Joshua Garnett, Jonathan Cooper and Mike Person will compete at right guard during training camp, which opens on July 25.

Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud

fredwarner49erscampap.jpg
AP

Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud

When the 49ers selected inside linebacker Fred Warner of BYU in the third round of the draft, it was easy to see how he fit into the team's plan with the degree of uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster.

While Foster remained away from the team’s offseason program for five weeks, Warner felt a need to get up to speed quickly if he was needed to be a starter for Week 1 of the regular season. Warner said he was determined to learn as quickly as possible at whatever position he lined up.

“They want consistency over a guy who can make a play here and there,” Warner said on The 49ers insider Podcast. “Because if you’re a liability and you’re out there missing assignments, stuff like that, that’s going to get you cut. You have to be able to retain this information very quickly and be able to produce on the field and put a good product out there. That’s the biggest thing.”

The 49ers consider the middle linebacker (mike) and weakside linebacker (will) positions as nearly interchangeable. The major difference is the mike position is the player who communicates in the huddle. Malcolm Smith is lining up with the first team at mike, while Foster is at will. Warner is leading the second team at mike.

Foster joined the 49ers’ offseason for the final four weeks after a judge dismissed two felony charges of domestic violence. Warner knew all about Foster, the player, before meeting him as a teammate.

“He’s a very physical player, and something I didn’t know about him that I know now, he’s probably the smartest guy in the room,” Warner said. “This dude has the memory of an elephant. He doesn’t have to write notes down. He just retains things very quickly. And I think that’s what allowed him to play at such a high level as a rookie last year, aside from his physical talent.”

Warner has also learned a lot from Smith, who played six NFL seasons before sitting out last year with a torn pectoral.

“We’ve worked after practice on man coverage on tight ends and running backs.,” Warner said. “Even though that might not be something we touch on in practice or a meeting, he just wants to touch on that with me because he said, ‘If you can do this, you can play on any team in the NFL.’ “

One of the few critiques of the rookie during the offseason program is that Warner, who said he was a quiet kid as a youngster, has been a little too loud.

“He’s very smart and he plays like it on the field,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during the first week of OTAs. “He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a rookie out there, but he’s calling the plays maybe even too loud because I can hear him from the offensive side. But, he doesn’t mind speaking up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.”

Warner said he wanted to win the confidence of his teammates, so that might have contributed to his increased decibel level.

“I want to make sure that when I get in that huddle and I’m talking to these guys, that they know that I know what I’m doing and I’m ready to go,” Warner said. “I’m the one who’s going to set the tone in the huddle before the play even happens.”