Kyle Shanahan shows offensive mastery by land and by air

Kyle Shanahan shows offensive mastery by land and by air

HOUSTON – Kyle Shanahan will not be able to bring his Atlanta Falcons players -- or many of them, anyway -- with him to his next job as coach of the 49ers.

But he will bring a unique artistry of offense that should enable him to quickly adapt to the roster he will build along with 49ers general manager John Lynch.

As the Falcons continue preparations to face the New England Patriots on Sunday in Super Bowl 51, an assistant coach who was with Shanahan at previous stops in Houston and Washington marvels at Shanahan’s well-rounded ability to scheme during the week and push the right buttons on game days.

“I’ve never been around a guy who’s as impressive in the run game as the pass game,” Falcons quarterback coach Matt LaFleur told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday.

“Usually, you have your specialty. You’re a passing guy or a run-game guy. He is off the charts in both areas, and I think that’s what makes him so special. It really helps him as he calls a game. He knows how things tie together.”

Under Shanahan, the Falcons led the league in total offense with 457.5 yards per game during the regular season. Quarterback Matt Ryan’s game soared. The favorite to win league MVP threw 38 touchdowns, seven interceptions and led the league with an astronomical passer rating of 117.1.

The Falcons also were fifth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 100 yards per game.

Running backs coach Bobby Turner spent 15 seasons on Mike Shanahan’s staff with the Denver Broncos. During that time, Shanahan’s run game produced eight of the top 11 single-season rushers in Broncos history. During that time, five different running backs rushed for more than 1,100 yards.

Kyle Shanahan’s design for the run game run game is rooted in what his father did with the Broncos’ zone scheme.

“It’s similar, but every coach and every person has his own stamp,” Turner said. “The bottom line, everyone says it’s the zone principle. But what is the zone? There’s outside zone, inside zone. There’s a stretch. You can have different coaches who work together have different philosophies. Overall, yeah, it’s the same, but Kyle has his own stamp.”

Turner said Kyle Shanahan will use the run game to set up big plays down the field – a goal that’s obviously easier to accomplish with a wide receiver such as Julio Jones lining up outside.

“At times, you can’t run it if they put eight or nine in the box,” Turner said. “It’s tough to run the ball. We might only get a yard on that play. But by doing that, being consistent and continually trying to run the ball, you exploit them through the air with the play-action game.

“Yes, it’s the same philosophy but when it comes down to it, we have players and his ability to put our players in position to make the big plays, he is awesome at doing that.”

One league source described how Shanahan is a master at studying the opposition to find the weak link in a defense. The Falcons set an NFL record with 13 different pass-catchers scoring touchdowns. Shanahan will use formations and motion to isolate the defender in a favorable matchup for his offense. Shanahan seems to thrive on third downs, in particular.

When the Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl with a 44-21 rout of the Green Bay Packers, Shanahan exploited the Packers’ coverage scheme for a remarkable 10-of-13 success rate on third downs.

“He’s got an uncanny ability and a great vision of how to maximize the potential of his players and put them in a position to be successful,” LaFleur said.

“We’re always trying to manipulate leverage or try to isolate some matchups and the best way to do that is to move guys in position, whether it’s motion or whatever, to really have success.”

Shanahan might have met his match against the Patriots. In addition to Bill Belichick’s well-documented defensive acumen, New England has added brain power in defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who chose a career in coaching over aeronautical engineering.

In other words, Shanahan will be playing chess against an actual rocket scientist.

“The tempo of their offense, the speed of what they do, all that stuff, it’s a huge challenge for us to get used to,” Patricia said. “When you see an offense that’s as good as this is and you haven’t seen them live, then it’s a whole different ball game when you step into that arena and you’re actually seeing the speed, the quickness and the tempo that they play with.”

2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. changes picks for 49ers, Raiders


2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. changes picks for 49ers, Raiders

Mel Kiper Jr. is officially on the Kyler Murray train.

The ESPN analyst projected that the Arizona Cardinals would select the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback No. 1 overall in his latest mock draft. That created an immediate domino effect for the 49ers and Raiders, as Kiper Jr. now has both teams taking different players than his last mock draft. 

Fans of either Bay Area team will be pretty happy with the results, though. Both franchises would have a decent claim to saying they drafted the best defensive player available, while the Silver and Black was able to shore up positions of need on both sides of the ball.

Without further adieu, here's how how Kiper Jr. thinks the first round will shake out for the 49ers and Raiders. 

49ers, No.2: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

What Kiper's saying: "The 49ers could be the big winners if Murray goes No. 1 because it means the top pass-rusher -- and my top-ranked prospect -- is still on the board here."

Analysis: The 49ers are set to meet with Bosa at their Santa Clara facility, and NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco noted Monday that it stands to reason Bosa will end up atop their draft board. If Murray goes to their NFC West rivals in the desert, San Francisco seemingly wouldn't mind playing him twice a year for the foreseeable future if Bosa leads a revamped pass rush that will try to take him down. 

Raiders, No. 4: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

What Kiper's saying: "Jon Gruden & Co. are the other big winners if Murray goes with the first pick. Instead of the top three defensive players coming off the board, at least one of them would be available at No. 4 in this scenario." 

Analysis: If the Cardinals take Murray, they'll most likely miss out on Bosa and Kentucky defensive end Josh Allen. It would sting to not be able to select one of the two best edge rushers, but the 2019 draft is rich with defensive talent and Quinnen Williams is far from a consolation prize. Williams' rise has been rapid, but the Alabama product's all-around ability was evident in his breakout season. The Raiders need building blocks all over the defense, and Williams fits the bill. 

Raiders, No. 24: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

What Kiper's saying: "Could the best running back in the draft fall to them here? It's possible. Jacobs has limited tread on his tires -- just 300 career touches for the Crimson Tide -- and is a receiving threat out of the backfield."

Analysis: Mike Mayock's trip to the National Championship at Levi's Stadium could pay big dividends if Kiper's mock plays out. He would have gotten an in-person glimpse at his first two first-round picks, including the Raiders' running back of the future who can also fill an immediate need. As Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner noted, a whopping 41 percent of Jacobs' carries went for a first down or a touchdown in 2018. Meanwhile, the Raiders gianed the seventh-fewest first downs on rushing plays (86) last year. 

[RELATED: Mark Davis thrilled Coliseum lease approved for 2019]

Raiders, No. 27: Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

What Kiper's saying: "I really liked what I saw on tape from Ya-Sin in his lone season at Temple, when he broke up 12 passes and had two interceptions. He's an easy mover with outstanding athletic traits."

Analysis: Ya-Sin, who played for Temple as a graduate transfer in 2018, did not feature in either of Kiper's previous mock drafts. After being Kiper's seventh-ranked corner on Feb. 6, Ya-Sin is now the second corner off the board in his latest mock draft. That doesn't necessarily mean the Raiders are reaching, though, as Ya-Sin thrived in his only season with the Owls. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the American Athletic Conference's best corner, and he was first-team All-AAC. If he can make a similar jump to the pros, the Raiders might have a steal on their hands.

Jimmy Garoppolo should be cleared for training camp, Kyle Shanahan says


Jimmy Garoppolo should be cleared for training camp, Kyle Shanahan says

PHOENIX -- Jimmy Garoppolo is on schedule with his ACL rehabilitation and should be cleared for full participation at the start of training camp, according to 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

The 49ers QB has been on the practice field working out with the training staff and looks to be ready for the offseason program. Shanahan is able to watch his quarterback’s throwing sessions from his office window in Santa Clara.

“It’s very controlled movements and stuff,” Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting. “When he does all that it does look very good, which means he’s getting closer. And that’s why hopefully it will be full-go for training camp and I think we will get a lot of work with him in OTAs also.”

Garoppolo is expected to be limited to participation in 7-on-7 drills during OTAs to reduce the risk of injury. He is on schedule to be on the field for 11-on-11s during training camp, which opens in late-July.

49ers CEO Jed York is understandably excited after watching Garoppolo on the practice field. He also indicated that his quarterback had added a little weight to his frame since he had seen him last.

Shanahan said a little bulking up is a natural phenomenon during the offseason, especially for players who have injuries that prevent them from running.

“I’ve always been good with Jimmy’s size,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s always been thicker than people realize. To me, it’s all about just how can you take a hit. It’s not like lifting weights and doing that stuff makes you throw farther, it actually can be the opposite.

“Quarterbacks, you want them to be a size where they can take the hits, and after that you want them to be as athletic as possible.”

Shanahan’s expectations for Garoppolo are realistic, but he admits that it’s difficult to not get a little excited after watching him throw with the training staff.

“It’s a tease for us because we look out our windows and he’s doing drops and throwing great to the equipment managers and trainers,” Shanahan said. “So I’m sure Jed’s up there thinking he can play, and I do too at times, but no one is running at him trying to tackle him and stuff.”

Players are not allowed to engage in football activity with each other at the team facility before the start of the offseason program on April 15. However, Garoppolo is allowed to rehab and work out with the team's newly-revamped player health and performance staff.

[RELATED: Jed York says he punched a wall after Garoppolo tore his ACL]

While Shanahan is ready to start working with Garoppolo, he knows that patience is key. He said it will be a process for Garoppolo to shake off the rust and get into a rhythm after sitting out nearly the entire season. Having Garoppolo get all the reps possible during OTAs and training camp will be extremely valuable to the 49ers' success heading into 2019.

So Shanahan -- and 49ers fans alike -- remain patient but optimistic.