49ers

Richard Sherman explains why players should always worry about their jobs

sherman49ersap.jpg
AP

Richard Sherman explains why players should always worry about their jobs

SANTA CLARA — 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan gave the team a message before the bye week for players to use the time off for self-evaluation. He emphasized that they should be focused on what they want to prove in the final six games, especially in regards to their future with the team. 

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman believes that playing for your future spot should really be a focus no matter what the team’s record is. He believes that’s the mark of a professional. 

“That’s how it always should be,” Sherman said, “no matter what time of the season, and no matter what the record is.”

“When you’re on a good team and things are going well, you’re still playing for your job, it’s just a little bit more secure, guys feel more secure. But either way, when it’s going good, you shouldn’t feel secure either." 

Sherman practices what he preaches and does not rest on his laurels. The last game before the bye was one of his best since coming to Santa Clara, allowing two completions on four targets for 10 yards. In his eight games as a Niner he has only allowed 11 receptions on 24 targets for 153 yards. 

“Kyle and those guys are obviously evaluating who is going to be here and who’s not,” Sherman said. “Myself included, we have to play great football, and as always do my job at a high level and help my team win.” 

Arriving at Week 12 with only two wins has been frustrating but Sherman sees growth and potential in the young secondary. 

“It’s frustrating but it’s one of those things that comes over time,” Sherman said. “I’ve been through it multiple times, especially with young guys playing substantial minutes, you’re going to have that. They learn from their mistakes and move forward.” 


[RELATED: 49ers 'definitely' want Sherman back]

“I think that’s what we have. We’ve had guys improve throughout the season.”

The goal is not to play a perfect game but to play mistake free, sound football. Sherman sees the team getting closer to it, but recognizes the mistakes that have happened in crucial moments of games. 

The secondary has had the additional challenge of players changing positions throughout the first 10 games. Jimmie Ward moved from cornerback back to safety during the offseason, and rookie D.J. Reed has played corner, slot and safety. 

Sherman believes that staying at one position helps a player master his craft, but also sees the drive in his young teammates adapting to new roles. 

“It’s tough enough in your rookie year, going through the transition of getting into the NFL," Sherman said. "It’s tough for even a veteran to do. But I think everybody has worked very hard to give it their best shot.”

49ers roster analysis: Unlike last year, there's stability in kicking game

49ers roster analysis: Unlike last year, there's stability in kicking game

This is the final installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ special teams.

Under contract (signed through)

-K Robbie Gould (2022)
-P Mitch Wishnowsky (2022)
-LS Kyle Nelson (2022)

Expiring contracts

None.

What needs to happen

A year ago when the 49ers had to uncertainty at kicker, punter and long-snapper. Now, the organization is now set for a while.

Each of the 49ers’ specialists is signed through the 2022 season. Unless something dramatic happens, the 49ers do no need to do anything with those spots for at least a couple of seasons.

Return man Richie James was solid on kickoffs and punts. He did not mishandle a punt during the regular season but muffed his first opportunity of Super Bowl LIV. Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that he wants to see Dante Pettis elevate his game and challenge James for the punt-return job.

[RELATED: 49ers roster analysis: Future secondary needs warrant action now]

Expectations

Gould got off to a rough start as the 49ers went through three long-snappers before Nelson returned after serving a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Gould missed a career-high eight field-goal attempts, including 0-for-4 from beyond 50 yards.

After getting more time with Wishnowsky and Nelson, Gould came on strong and was named NFC Special-Teams Player of the Month for December, when he kicked field goals as time expired to beat New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams.

Wishnowky had a good rookie season. He tied for 12th in the NFL with a net average of 41.6 yards per punt. He won NFC Special-Teams Player of the Week in November for a game against the Arizona Cardinals. Wishnowsky also handled the kickoff chores, but that area of his game needs a lot of improvement.

 

NFL Draft 2020: Five wide receivers 49ers should watch during combine

aiyukus.jpg
USATSI

NFL Draft 2020: Five wide receivers 49ers should watch during combine

The 49ers find themselves at a much different place around this time than one year ago. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan came to the NFL Scouting Combine with the No. 2 pick in the draft and plenty of glaring holes last year. 

After improving from a four-win team to having a double-digit lead in the Super Bowl one season later, the 49ers arrived at this year's combine coming off heartbreak but plenty of reasons for optimism. They're a team without many needs, though there still are question marks that need answers. 

Lynch reiterated Tuesday how much he believes in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But getting the QB more weapons on the outside must happen for this team to take another step forward and continue to be a contender. Despite having a low first-round pick at No. 31 overall, this is the perfect year for San Francisco to target a receiver in the draft. 

[RELATED: Updated NFL mock draft before combine]

This year's draft class is stacked with stud receivers. Playmakers can be picked out of a hat. With that being said, here are five receivers the 49ers should watch during the combine.

Once the 49ers make their first-round selection, they currently don't own a pick again until the fifth round. Each player below pertains to their first-round pick or if they trade back. 

Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State 

It's time to steal a dad joke. Aiyuk is the king of YAC (yards after catch), so he's now officially Brandon AiYAC. Hold your applause. 

On a more serious note, Aiyuk averaged a ridiculous 18.3 yards per reception as a senior at Arizona State. He caught 65 passes for 1,1192 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. And he can absolutely fly. 

Aiyuk measured in at just under 6-feet but has an eye-opening 80-inch wing span. That's a freaky build that can translate to a wild catch radius. While he's a former junior college player and needs some polish, Aiyuk would terrify teams in Shanahan's offense. 

Justin Jefferson, LSU

Jefferson dominated on the Tigers' historic offense as a junior. He hauled in an NCAA Division I-best 111 passes for 1,540 passes and 18 touchdowns. Jefferson also already has talked with the 49ers

On Tuesday, Jefferson said he and the 49ers had an "informal meeting." Jefferson can line up inside or outside, but he really broke out last season when LSU began using him out of the slot. 

Speaking of catch radius, Jefferson's is at the top of the class. Throw it up and he'll go get it. That's what makes him really intriguing. He can make plays in the open field out of the slot like the clip above, and he can snatch a TD at its highest point.

Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado 

Shanahan would have tons of fun with Shenault in his offense. At 6-1 and 227 pounds, the former Colorado Buffalo is a physical freak. A strong combine could really have him rise up the rankings. 

Between his sophomore and junior seasons, Shenault scored 17 touchdowns -- 10 receiving and seven rushing. He's versatile and can be used all over the field, whether on the outside, inside or even out of the backfield. 

Shenault's red flag is an injury history to his labrum, toe and groin. If he's healthy, though, the athleticism is too good to ignore.

Jalen Reagor, TCU 

Reagor also met with the 49ers on Tuesday and compared himself to Deebo Samuel. For good reason, too.

Coming in at 5-11 and 206 pounds, Reagor is built similarly to Samuel. He also has the joystick capabilities and versatility of Samuel. Reagor scored 24 total touchdowns -- 22 receiving, two rushing -- at TCU and averaged 21 yards per punt return as a junior. 

Oh, and he's fast. Really, really fast. 

Reagor could be a healthy Percy Harvin. Do his ball skills translate to his athleticism? That's the big question. 

Michael Pittman Jr., USC

Pittman is quite different than many of the previously mentioned receivers. He isn't a burner and likely won't have a great 40-yard dash time. As far as polish and football IQ go, not many are in the same boat as Pittman. 

Though the 49ers hope to get a healthy Jalen Hurd next season, the 49ers still need a big-body receiver. Pittman is 6-4, 223 and catches everything thrown his way. 

Bet on Pittman. He was highly productive at USC while dealing with multiple QBs. Pittman also was one of the biggest standouts at the Senior Bowl. Should the 49ers trade back out of the first round, this could be their guy.