49ers

Safeties Ward, Tartt appear to fit within 49ers' scheme

Safeties Ward, Tartt appear to fit within 49ers' scheme

The 49ers have spent the past four weeks evaluating the roster general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan inherited.

Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety and Hall of Fame finalist, not surprisingly has spent a lot of time looking at the players the 49ers have at the position he played.

In the new Seattle-based defensive scheme under new coordinator Robert Saleh, the 49ers will play a lot of single-high safety. They are looking for someone who can track the ball and make plays in center field.

Lynch said the 49ers will certainly consider moving Jimmie Ward back to the deep middle after he started 10 games last season at right cornerback. He missed four starts with a quad injury and was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

“Just being completely honest, we think he’s a good scheme fit for what we’re doing at the free-safety position,” Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

“But we don’t know that until you put him there. It’s projecting. We think his traits, his skills, translate very well to that, but it’s such an instinct position, I think you really have to give him – and we’re kind of excited – to give him an offseason to say, ‘Let’s give this a go.’”

Ward saw action exclusively as the 49ers’ nickel back in his first two seasons after the organization selected him with the No. 30 overall selection in the 2014 draft.

Lynch said the 49ers will strongly consider Ward to be primarily a safety, but he could also see action in other spots, too.

“That doesn’t preclude him from playing nickel in some situations, or moving around,” Lynch said. “I think he brings some great versatility. But that is something we’re exploring and we will explore this offseason.”

Ward played four seasons at Northern Illinois, where he was used in a variety of roles. He recorded four career interceptions (three as a junior, one as a sophomore) and broke up 10 passes .

“Frankly, I haven’t watched a lot of his college tape because I wasn’t doing this then,” Lynch said. “I will. Right now, we’ve been just studying him for what he’s done the last couple of years on the 49ers. We’re excited about what he brings to us as a player wherever he’s playing.”

The 49ers believe Jaquiski Tartt has a chance to fit well into the new scheme. Tartt (6 foot 1, 221 pounds) started 14 of the 30 games in which he appeared in his first two NFL seasons. Under the previous defensive coordinators, Eric Mangini and Jim O’Neil, the system asked the safeties to perform a wide array of functions. The new defense is designed to accentuate the strengths the safeties without asking them to do too much, which should enable Tartt to play to his strengths.

If the 49ers pattern their defense after Seattle's, Ward would play a style similar to Earl Thomas, while Tartt could potentially fill the role of Kam Chancellor.

Eric Reid, who is scheduled to play under the fifth-year option this season, has started all 57 games in which he appeared over the past four seasons since being the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Veteran Antoine Bethea is also currently on the 49ers’ depth chart at safety. Bethea, who turns 33 in July, is an 11-year veteran who was the 49ers’ leader with 110 tackles last season.

49ers snap count: Solomon Thomas improved with less playing time

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MATT MAIOCCO

49ers snap count: Solomon Thomas improved with less playing time

SANTA CLARA -- Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas played the fifth-most snaps of any 49ers’ defensive lineman on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. But Thomas turned in a solid performance, providing some pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“I thought he showed up a lot (Sunday),” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday. “I thought he was playing hard in pursuit, and I thought he showed up at the quarterback a couple of times.

“I thought he had a better game than he did a week before, and I expect that to continue throughout the year.”

Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft, played 37 snaps and accounted for four quarterback hurries on his 22 plays as a pass-rusher, according to Pro Football Focus. He played 47 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps after playing 35 snaps or 49 percent of the plays in the opener at Minnesota.

Again, DeForest Buckner led the way for the 49ers’ defense with one sack, one quarterback hit and three hurries. Buckner played 64 snaps, which is more than defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said last week he hopes any 49ers’ defensive lineman plays in a game this season.

The 49ers did not generate consistent pressure on Stafford, and he picked apart the San Francisco secondary with 347 passing yards and three touchdowns.

Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was hobbled with an ankle injury, and the Lions took advantage. Witherspoon allowed eight catches on 12 targets for 99 yards and two touchdowns, according to PFF. Witherspoon was taken off the field late in the game, as he played 64 of team’s 74 defensive plays.

On the other side, Detroit avoided challenging Richard Sherman. According to PFF, Sherman saw one pass thrown his way. It was incomplete. He has allowed only one reception in 99 downs in pass coverage through two games, being targeted once every 24.75 coverage snaps leads all qualifying NFL cornerbacks, according to PFF. His 0.18 yards allowed per coverage snaps ranks second behind Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.

Here are the total numbers of snaps of every 49ers player who saw action on Sunday in the team’s 30-27 win over the Lions:

Offense

Total offensive snaps: 64
Quarterback – Jimmy Garoppolo 64
Running back – Kyle Juszczyk 40, Alfred Morris 31, Matt Breida 26
Wide receiver – Dante Pettis 56, Pierre Garçon 48, Trent Taylor 16, Kendrick Bourne 10, Richie James 7
Tight end – George Kittle 50, Garrett Celek 30, Cole Wick 6
Offensive line – Joe Staley 64, Mike McGlinchey 64, Laken Tomlinson 64, Weston Richburg 64, Mike Person 64

Defense

Total defensive snaps: 77
Defensive line – DeForest Buckner 64, Cassius Marsh 54, Arik Armstead 54, Ronald Blair 40, Solomon Thomas 37, Earl Mitchell 25, Sheldon Day 20, D.J. Jones 13
Linebacker – Fred Warner 77, Elijah Lee 72, Mark Nzeocha 16
Defensive back – Adrian Colbert 77, Richard Sherman 77, Jaquiski Tartt 71, Ahkello Witherspoon 64, K’Waun Williams 61, Jimmie Ward 19, Antone Exum 6

Special teams

Total special teams plays: 34
Tarvarius Moore 25, Nzeocha 25, Raheem Mostert 20, Exum 20, Bradley Pinion 18, D.J. Reed 16, Celek 16, Greg Mabin 15, Terence Garvin 15, Wick 15, Marsh 15, Ward 15, Warner 14, Buckner 14, Lee 13, Witherspoon 12, Kyle Nelson 11, Tartt 9, Jones 8, Robbie Gould 6, Garry Gilliam 6, Staley 6, Richburg 6, Tomlinson 6, McGlinchey 6, Mitchell 6, Breida 5, Juszczyk 5, Colbert 5, Thomas 5, Sherman 4, Taylor 4, Armstead 3, Williams 3, Pettis 2

Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3

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AP

Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3

Week 3 is the last week of the fantasy football season, aside from the playoffs, where every team in the league is in action. Starting in Week 4, at least two NFL teams will have the week off over the ensuing two months. 

As a result, it's not too early to start thinking about the players you'll want on your bench during that time, as well as who can give you a boost beforehand. With that in mind, here are four players to target on waivers this week in your fantasy football league, each of whom is owned in fewer than 45 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.

We start with, perhaps, the hottest player in football...

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB (Owned in 23 percent of Yahoo leagues, 31.4 percent of ESPN leagues)

It's time to hop aboard the Fitzmagic Carpet if you haven't already. A week after the Harvard product lit up a top-half fantasy defense against quarterbacks from a year ago, Fitzpatrick torched the defending Super Bowl champions to the tune of 402 passing yards and four touchdowns. 

Fitzpatrick wasn't perfect, as he threw a first-quarter interception and was not as involved in the running game. Those are minor quibbles, though, as Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in passing yards and is second only to Patrick Mahomes in passing touchdowns. Even if Fitzpatrick doesn't keep the job beyond the end of Jameis Winston's three-game suspension, he's worthy of a claim ahead of going against the Steelers defense that's been on the receiving end of top-six fantasy QB performances in each of the season's first two weeks.

Austen Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers RB (44 percent of Yahoo leagues, 42.9 percent of ESPN)

Lead back Melvin Gordon left Sunday's win against the Bills early, and Gordon owners should already have Ekeler has a cuff.  There's plenty of upside whether or not you need insurance for the Chargers running back, however.

Ekeler's posted back-to-back, double-digit fantasy weeks in PPR formats, and nearly hit it in standard formats, too, after accumulating 98 total yards against the Bills in Week 2. The Rams will offer up a stout rushing defense in Week 3, but the Raiders and Cardinals don't exactly boast dynamic rushing attacks. Don't be deterred by the matchup, or by Gordon's potential return to health, if you're hurting for flex options on your bench.

John Brown, Baltimore Ravens WR (25 percent of Yahoo leagues, 24 percent of ESPN) 

Brown surely benefitted from the Ravens' early struggles, as quarterback Joe Flacco tried to pass Baltimore out of a three-touchdown deficit. Still, he hauled in four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown on Thursday, including a 45-yard reception.

The receiver is tied for second on the Ravens in targets through two weeks of the season, and has four catches of 15-plus yards. Brown's emerging as a deep threat for Joe Flacco, and has a favorable matchup against a Broncos defense that's allowed the 12th-most passing yards this season. 

Antonio Callaway, Cleveland Browns WR (7 percent of Yahoo leagues, 3.7 percent of ESPN)

Callaway stepped up in Cleveland's first game without wide receiver Josh Gordon. He caught three passes (on four targets) for 81 yards and a touchdown, including a 47-yard reception. 

The rookie still finished behind fellow receivers Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins, as well as tight end David N'joku, in terms of targets. Gordon's departure is going to create opportunities in the Browns offense, though, and Callaway's big-play ability puts him in position to reap the rewards.