49ers

With no extension for Cousins, a look at 49ers' QB options for 2018

cousins-demarcus-teeth-throw.jpg
USATI

With no extension for Cousins, a look at 49ers' QB options for 2018

The 49ers, under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, are attempting to build for the future.

Rather than aggressively pursue a veteran quarterback via trade, the organization opted this offseason to keep their coveted draft picks and build out as much of the roster as possible.

It made no sense for the 49ers to be willing to pay the steep price that would only begin the conversations with the teams – Washington and New England – who had intriguing quarterbacks set to become unrestricted free agents a year from now.

The 49ers are in no position to compete for the playoffs this season. So the 49ers could afford to take it slow at the quarterback position while trying to add as many accessory pieces as possible.

Why not wait to get the quarterback of the future until the price is right and the quarterback has a better chance to succeed with better players around him – on both sides of the ball?

The team added their man target, Brian Hoyer, at the opening of free agency. Once Matt Schaub opted to remain in Atlanta, the 49ers secured Matt Barkley as the backup.

Lynch took a very public approach to his evaluations of the top quarterbacks available in the draft. He gushed over Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and others. Of course, he never mentioned C.J. Beathard, whom the 49ers traded up to select in the back end of the third round.

The 49ers carried out the strategy in the first round of the draft by, in essence, turning their picks in the first and second rounds into defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, linebacker Reuben Foster and a third-round pick next year. Along the way, the 49ers also picked up an additional second-round pick for next year.

The 49ers already have a long-term plan in the place. It would be inconceivable that the organization did not look three years in advance when charting the plan for this offseason. But, as always, that plan remains flexible.

A lot can happen in a year, but there are moving parts the organization will monitor before the plan is enacted.

HOYER AND THE IN-HOUSE CANDIDATES
Hoyer enters training camp as the starting quarterback. His performance this season will not be open to any kind of interpretation and projection. He gets the first chance to prove he should be the long-term starter.

Hoyer signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the 49ers. The onus is on him to take the starting job and hold onto it – give the organization no reason to look to upgrade.

Hoyer, who turns 32 in October, has shown to be a solid quarterback. But he also has not proven to be a dependable presence. After all, he has started 10 games or more only once in his career.

It is difficult to envision the 49ers would come out of this season convinced either Barkley or Beathard is the quarterback of the future. So short of a Pro Bowl-type season from Hoyer, the 49ers would likely be determined to add a long-term answer during the 2018 offseason.

COUSINS AND THE VETERAN MARKET
Of course, this is the Topic du jour because of Washington’s failure to reach a multi-year extension on Monday with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

It is simple to connect the dots. Cousins broke into the NFL in 2012 under Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator under his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins is the kind of quarterback who fits what Shanahan wants.

Only Tom Brady has posted a better passer rating in both seasons since Cousins took over as the full-time starter. Shanahan likely believes Cousins could be even more productive in his system with his play-calling.

Cousins turns 29 in August, but that still leaves him at least a six-season window – if healthy – that he can remain in his prime.

Washington could place the franchise tag on Cousins again, of course. But Washington was unwilling to pay Cousins an average of the $23.94 million he is set to receive on this year’s franchise tag, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported.

Next year, the one-year franchise tag would jump to $34.47 million. The 49ers currently have $66.8 million in cap room and will carry over all unused space this year into 2018. The 49ers can essentially go as high as they feel is necessary to get the quarterback they target.

Cousins is not the only veteran option for next year. Shanahan said he had a high draft grade on Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014. He enters the final year of his contract with New England. The Patriots will have a difficult decision next offseason. Can they retain both Tom Brady and Garoppolo?

Of course, Garoppolo remains mostly an unknown. He performed well in two starts last season during Brady’s suspension before sustaining a shoulder injury. Garoppolo turns 26 in November, and should have a lot of football ahead of him.

THE 2018 DRAFT CLASS
This is the last option -- coming nearly two months after the open of free agency. It is also the one option that is always the biggest unknown. After all, a year ago at this time Mitchell Trubisky was not even considered a draftable player – let alone the No. 2 overall pick.

Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Allen (Wyoming) and Josh Rosen (UCLA) project as three of the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft. But whom will Shanahan envision as the best fit for his scheme?

Then, will the 49ers be in a position to draft the quarterback Shanahan might target? Unless the 49ers lose every game this season, they may not be able to fully control which player to choose in the draft.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

taylorusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

HOUSTON -- Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night in Week 2 of the exhibition season...

Interior D-line has Depth

The 49ers still don’t really know from where their outside pass rush is going to come, but the interior of the defensive line looks to be in good shape. Veteran Earl Mitchell is a solid presence at nose tackle. And DeForest Buckner could become one of the league’s better defensive tackles.

Behind Mitchell and Buckner are a couple of young players who have put together strong training camps. Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones continued their impressive play on Saturday with strong showings against the Texans.

Day recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, while Jones came up with three tackles and a forced fumble, too. Day is in his first summer with the 49ers after the club claimed him off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Jones, meanwhile, has made tremendous strides since his rookie season. He said he lost 20 pounds from the end of last season when he regularly found himself on the inactive list for games.

“I feel like it’s been a big turnaround, the way I changed my body in the offseason,” Jones said. “Toward the end of the season when I wasn’t playing, the way I practiced, it got me prepared for this season.”

In the Right Slot

Second-year player Trent Taylor missed most of the offseason program after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his lower back. He has slowly been working back into form during training camp.

Taylor clearly made a lot of progress during this week in Houston. He was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target during the two days of practices against the Texans. And Garoppolo looked for Taylor again on Saturday with a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap the 49ers’ first drive of the game.

“I’m starting to get stronger and get my legs back under me,” Taylor said. “It’s always good to feel improvement as you work. I still have a little ways to go, but it definitely felt great being out there tonight and getting my first catch as a TD.”

Taylor, the team’s primary slot receiver, had only two catches for 7 yards. But his other reception was a 5-yard catch to extend the 49ers' second drive on a third-and-4 play.

Penalties Galore

The 49ers certainly have a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to avoiding flags. Kyle Shanahan’s team was called for 15 penalties, totaling 140 yards.

What always gets to Shanahan most are the pre-snap penalties. Joe Staley (false start), Kendrick Bourne (illegal formation), Darrell Williams (false start) and Cedric Thornton (neutral zone infraction) were called for those kinds of infractions.

The worst sequence of penalties, however, went to veteran center Weston Richburg. He was guilty of a rare double-penalty on the first play of the second quarter when he was flagged for holding, then another 15 yards for his ensuing dialogue with the official.

Two of the penalties might have been excusable, though. Raheem Mostert and Jeremiah Attaochu were called for strict interpretations of the NFL’s new rule on lowering the helmet to initiate contact.

49ers' reserve running back picture remains muddled after loss to Texans

williamsap.jpg
AP

49ers' reserve running back picture remains muddled after loss to Texans

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON – The 49ers’ top two running backs appear set.

And the competition for the 49ers’ No. 3 running back appears to remain unresolved after the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans in the second exhibition game of the summer for both teams on Saturday night.

Third-string quarterback Nick Mullens looked as if he pulled off his second fourth-quarter rally in two weeks, as he moved the 49ers into position for Robbie Gould’s 41-yard go-ahead field goal with 1:41 remaining in regulation.

But the 49ers' third-string defense allowed the Texans to drive 75 yards for the winning points, which came on Joe Webb's 41-yard touchdown pass to Vyncint Smith in the closing seconds.

A lot of the focus entering Saturday’s game was on the running backs, and for good reason.

Jeremy McNichols started and played most of the first half and into the second half. He did not find much room to run against a Texans defense that did not feature either J.J. Watt or Jadeveon Clowney.

McNichols, who spent last season on the 49ers’ practice squad, finished with just 28 yards on 10 rushing attempts. He caught three balls for 19 yards and also dropped a pass.

Joe Williams, a fourth-round draft pick in 2017, was the only other 49ers running back who saw action in the first half. He did not have much success, either. Williams gained 18 yards on eight carries. He caught two passes for 14 yards. But Williams also failed to hang onto a short pass from Nick Mullens, resulting in an interception.

Veteran Alfred Morris did not play. The 49ers signed Morris this week after Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder) were ruled out for the remainder of the preseason with injuries.

Raheem Mostert was the No. 3 running back last season, and he appears to remain in that position due to his contributions on special teams. Mostert appeared on the 49ers’ No. 1 kickoff and kickoff return teams.

He also lined up as a gunner on punt coverage with Aaron Burbridge on the other side. Burbridge and Mostert are likely the 49ers’ top two special-teams players.

Mostert demonstrated his prowess on special teams with a bone-jarring tackle of Houston return man Tyler Ervin for no gain on a punt return. However, Mostert was hit with a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty for lowering his head and initiating contact.

Here are some other notes from the game...

--Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played the 49ers’ first 21 offensive plays, spanning two possessions, and completed 10 of 12 pass attempts for 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Garoppolo hit Marquise Goodwin on three completions for 61 yards, and tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Trent Taylor. His night ended when his high throw intended for Dante Pettis was deflected into the hands of Texans cornerback Johnson Bademosi.

--Defensive lineman Jeremiah Attaochu was also penalized 15 yards for lowering his head to initiate contact. Attaochu was flagged for making contact against an offensive tackle as a pass rusher.

--Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson fell hard after attempting to defend a deep pass to Goodwin. After receiving several minutes of medical attention, Johnson got to his feet and walked under his own power to the locker room. Johnson was diagnosed with a concussion.

--Mike Person started at right guard and played the first series for the 49ers. Joshua Garnett entered and played the remainder of the first half.

--Linebacker Reuben Foster and right cornerback Jimmie Ward played the entire first half. Foster had a team-leading four tackles and broke up a pass. Ward had three tackles.

--Reserve guard/center Erik Magnuson sustained a hamstring injury near the end of the third quarter and did not return. Magnuson had a difficult time walking from the sideline to the 49ers’ locker room.

--Emmanuel Moseley intercepted a pass that was deflected by fellow rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore.

--Cornerback Richard Sherman, who returned to practice last week after mssing time with a hamstring strain, did not suit up for the game. He went through warmups but was held out of action. He did not practice against the Texans on Wednesday and Thursday, either.

--In addition to Sherman, the following 49ers were held out of the game due to injuries: running backs Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder), wide receiver Max McCaffrey (foot), tight end George Kittle (shoulder), offensive lineman Garry Gilliam (concussion), defensive linemen Solomon Thomas (concussion) and Arik Armstead (hamstring), linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring), cornerback K’Waun Williams (ankle), and safety Marcell Harris (hamstring).