49ers

More of the same for beleaguered 49ers defense

More of the same for beleaguered 49ers defense

SANTA CLARA – Coach Chip Kelly said 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil's job is safe. And there are no changes to be expected within the 49ers’ 53-man roster, either.

On Sunday, it was just more of the same for a 49ers defense that is on pace to go down as one of the worst units in franchise history.

The 49ers surrendered 571 total yards to the New Orleans Saints in a 41-23 loss at Levi’s Stadium. And the league’s worst run defense got a little worse, too.

Kelly declined to place the blame on O’Neil for the 49ers’ issues on defense.

“I think it’s everybody’s fault on the defensive side,” Kelly said. “We have to do a better job of putting our players in position to make plays. That’s all of us. That’s me. That starts with the head coach.”

The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to allow a 100-yard rusher in seven consecutive games. New Orleans’ Mark Ingram rushed for 158 yards on 15 carries. And, for good measure, Tim Hightower added 87 yards on 23 attempts.

The 49ers entered the game allowing a league-worst 185 yards rushing per game. That average jumped up to 193.0 yards after giving up 248 yards on the ground to the Saints.

“It’s a terrible feeling every week,” 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock said. “It’s kind of like the same thing. We come back saying we need to stop this, we need to do this, and it keeps happening again. It sucks.

“We’re not executing. It’s simple stuff. It’s just happening every week. It’s some of the same things every week. It’s different, but it adding up to be the same.”

Veteran safety Antoine Bethea was asked if the coaching staff, primarily O’Neil, is to blame for the 49ers’ poor showings on defense.

“No, no, definitely not,” Bethea said. “No, I mean, we have some great coaches and they put us in the right positions. As players, we have to make plays. We can’t put this on the coaches. Not at all.”

And there are few options the 49ers have to change personnel.

“We have rotated guys through our defensive line,” Kelly said. "There’s not a lot of options at the inside linebacker spot. We lost Ray-Ray (Armstrong) for the year. We lost NaVorro (Bowman) for the year.

“(Outside linebacker) Aaron Lynch wasn’t available today, so a lot of the decisions that are made, in terms of what personnel we’re playing with on defense side of the ball, is really what’s available to us right now. I think everybody that dressed played.”

Jordan Matthews may be the answer to 49ers' red zone problems

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USATSI

Jordan Matthews may be the answer to 49ers' red zone problems

Newly-signed wide receiver Jordan Matthews could be the red-zone threat that the 49ers have desperately needed.

In 2018, the 49ers were worst in the NFL in red zone efficiency in terms of scoring touchdowns. They only managed to hit pay dirt from inside the 20-yard line 41.18 percent of the time. For perspective, the Steelers topped the list, scoring a touchdown 73.47 percent of their trips in the red zone. 

The 49ers weren’t much better in 2017. They scored a touchdown 47.06 percent of the times they visited the red zone which ranked them 27th in the league. 

Matthews might just be the answer to the 49ers' problem. Of his 22 career touchdowns, 16 have been from the red zone. What is noticeable when looking all of his scoring plays is how easy he makes it look.

One argument for Matthews’ red zone production could be scheme, but he’s been productive in both Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson’s offenses. Matthews is also an equal opportunity receiver, as he has caught touchdown passes from Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, and Mark Sanchez. 

Obviously credit needs to be given the above listed quarterbacks for making the throws, but Matthews has some traits that make him effective in a shortened field. 

He gets open

When Matthews runs a route, he knows how to position himself so he stays in front of the defender. While sometimes it involves a little boxing out and contact, most of the time it’s as simple as out-maneuvering his body so he is an open target. 

Example: Week 13, 2018
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs a simple dig route along the goal line and keeps himself between the defender and the quarterback. Wentz throws a quick four-yard pass on what looks like his first read for an easy touchdown.  

He’s fast enough to beat a defender

Matthews has the ability to use his body, but also has enough speed to flat out get open. Matthews ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and being 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, it’s likely that opponents forget about his speed. 

Example: Week 4, 2017
Buffalo vs. Atlanta 

Midway through the second quarter Matthews runs a nine-yard slant from the right to the left. He gets so far in front of the defender that Taylor has an easy throw for the touchdown. 

He can grab a jump ball

Matthews is a big bodied receiver, more so than anyone else in the receivers room. His size alone will gives him an advantage in jump ball situations. 

Example: Week 3, 2014
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Just before the half ended, Matthews ran a go route to the back of the end zone. He was double covered but got up above the defenders enough to grab Foles' 11-yard pass for the touchdown.

[RELATED: Matthews a lifelong 49ers fan]

He is difficult for defensive backs to read and follow 

Example Week 2, 2015 
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs an out route on the goal line with less than three minutes left in the game. Before he changes direction in front of the defender, he makes slight contact enough to delay their motion, allowing him to get in front for the completion and touchdown. 

Matthews ability to change direction quickly might be his most impressive and valuable quality. Many of his touchdowns were when he nearly ran straight into a defender before turning in his route. It doesn’t give the defensive back time to react before the ball is thrown his way.

Matthews has quite a few tricks in his repertoire and coach Kyle Shanahan will be taking advantage of each of them on the field.

NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders

NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen will get familiar with the Bay Area during the NFL's pre-draft process.

Allen, the national defensive player of the year after recording 17 sacks as a senior, told NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday he has visits scheduled to meet with the 49ers and Raiders. He will also visit the New York Giants, New York Jets and Detroit Lions prior to the April 25 draft, he said.

Allen should not have to wait too long to hear his name called on draft day. Both the 49ers, at No. 2 overall, and the Raiders, at No. 4, are possibilities to select him. Area scout Steve Rubio represented the 49ers at Kentucky's pro day.

On Thursday, Allen had dinner with the Raiders, including general manager Mike Mayock and senior defensive assistant Jim O'Neil.

“It was good, just a casual meeting. We basically talked about life. He’s awesome, a cool person," Allen said of Mayock. "He's a football person and a business person. It was fun."

Matt Maiocco

O’Neil, who works with defensive backs, had plenty of players to scout on Friday. Kentucky has five defensive backs who might end up getting drafted.

Cornerback Lonnie Johnson and safety Mike Edwards could be Day 2 picks. Cornerback Derrick Baity Jr. and safety Darius West were also invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and could be Day 3 selections.

Another Kentucky defensive back, cornerback Chris Westry, had an impressive showing with a 40-yard dash time clocked in the 4:31-4.33 range. Westry, who stands 6 foot 4 ½, also had a vertical jump of 38 inches.

“Westry was the only DB not invited to the combine and he lights it up here today,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “That was really good for him. The other guys did a great job at the combine. He’ll have time to make that up with his measurables, how tall he is and how he runs. He’ll have plenty of time to make that ground up.”

Allen did not work out on Friday, opting to stand on the marks he recorded last month in Indianapolis. Allen was measured on Friday in the Kentucky weight room before the on-field workouts. His hand measured at 8 ¾ inches, while his arm is 32 7/8 inches with a wingspan of 81 ¾ inches.

Allen was a consensus All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He did not miss a game in his four-year college career.

[RELATED: Why Allen couldn't lie to Ronnie Lott meeting 49ers]

“Any time you’re looking at that high of a pick, people are looking at something to pick on. They’re going to see if there are any flaws,” Stoops said. “And I think you can ask anybody in this community, anybody in this organization and anybody in town that’s been around Josh, he’s the same. It's important to him.

“He’s a great player. If you like what you see on the football field, you’re going to love what you see in the locker room and what kind of person he is.”