Seven under-the-radar second-year 49ers players


Seven under-the-radar second-year 49ers players

The 49ers saw enough promise in evaluating wide receiver Kendrick Bourne before last year’s draft to sign him as a free agent and patiently wait for him to join the team’s offseason program.

Due to rules governing when rookies are allowed to report full time to their new NFL teams, Bourne could not participate in most of the 49ers’ offseason program last spring due to the late conclusion of classes at Eastern Washington.

Once he arrived in Santa Clara on a full-time basis, the 49ers stuck with Bourne through a couple bumps in the road.

“He was late to a couple of things and I rode him pretty hard,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Florida. “I didn't think he was quite ready to make an NFL roster, but he was too talented for us to lose. We did believe in him, but he needed to grow up a little bit.”

The 49ers received more snaps last season from their rookie class than any team in the NFL. Many of those players have already established themselves as starters or front-line backups, such as Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, Ahkello Witherspoon, C.J. Beathard, George Kittle, Trent Taylor, Adrian Colbert and Matt Breida.

But there are plenty of other under-the-radar second-year players who could work themselves into significant roles with the organization. Bourne tops the list.

Former teammate and current Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp overshadowed Bourne during their time together at Eastern Washington. Kupp averaged 107 receptions, 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns per season over four years.

Bourne piled up nearly 70 catches per season for 1,000 yards and eight TDs over the final three years of his career. Despite all the time he missed in the offseason, Bourne flashed enough to open the season on San Francisco's 53-man roster.

“He took a huge step last year,” Shanahan said. “I know he wasn't totally ready at the beginning of the year, but he was a guy that we thought had too much talent to put on the practice squad. We were scared that we’d lose him.

“I think he was a little overwhelmed at first, but he kept battling through it. Even when we would ride him he didn't go into a shell. He kept working. He and our receiving coach, Mike LaFleur, put in a lot of time together in learning the stuff.”

Bourne (6-foot-1, 203 pounds) appeared in 11 games and played 282 snaps as a rookie. He caught 16 passes for 257 yards but is far from a finished product.

“He better not be relaxing right now, just sitting back and enjoying that, though,” Shanahan said. “He’s got to come and prove himself again this year.”

And the same goes for these other six under-the-radar second-year players:

There were questions about Williams' commitment coming out for the draft after he took a leave from the Utah football team during his final year of college. General manager John Lynch admits he removed Williams from the team’s draft board. But Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner fell in love with the film, and Lynch placed Williams' name back on the board just before he was selected in the fourth round.

Said Shanahan, “When he had a lane, he had the ability to score, the ability to make the one guy left miss. . . The burst, the leg strength to run through tackles and hit it and be gone.”

Despite Shanahan comparing him to Atlanta running back Tevin Coleman, Williams has a lot to prove just to make the team. He faces an uphill battle for a roster spot after a less-than-impressive offseason and training camp last year. Williams was stashed away on injured reserve with a minor foot injury for his rookie season.

“I expect him to turn up his urgency level this year,” Shanahan said. “I’ve talked to him about that. He said he has. Looking forward to seeing it.”

A sixth-round draft pick last year, Taumoepenu spent 14 games of his rookie season as one of the team’s seven inactive players on game days. He has potential as a pass-rush specialist that the club will want to see this season. The 49ers declined the option on veteran Elvis Dumervil, in part because they want to open the door for some younger players, such as Taumoepenu, who also adds value on special teams.

Although it appears unlikely he can play his way into the starting lineup, Magnuson has the versatility required for a backup job. He can play any of the interior positions, including center, as well as right tackle. That ability to fill in at any position could make him valuable as one of two backup offensive linemen to suit up for games.

The 49ers do not have much depth at cornerback, so more players will certainly be coming to the team via the draft and its immediate aftermath. Mabin bounced around as a rookie. Tampa Bay and Buffalo waived him before he landed on the 49ers’ practice squad. He ended up playing 44 snaps of defense. His size (6-2, 200) is ideal for the 49ers’ scheme. The 49ers have a high opinion of Mabin, who should pull up a chair to Richard Sherman's locker and learn as much as possible from the prototype cornerback for this scheme.

Before going down with a torn ACL, James looked the part in training camp and was in position to win a spot on the 53-man roster. The 49ers have no intention at this point of re-signing Eric Reid to a backup position. (And, for Reid, there's no reason for him to accept a one-year, low-money contract at this point in the offseason.) The 49ers could add a safety in the draft, but James will still have a solid chance to make his mark this season.

Williams showed enough to earn a spot on the practice squad before his promotion to the 53-man roster for the final eight games. The 49ers must look to the future at offensive tackle. Trent Brown enters the final year of his contract. Brown has to prove his commitment to all facets of the job before the 49ers will even consider offering a lucrative contract extension. Joe Staley enters his 12th season, so it’s uncertain how much longer he can play at a high level. Williams must take a significant step forward this year to prove he is part of the future.

Jed York has full trust in John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan despite two losing seasons

Jed York has full trust in John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan despite two losing seasons

PHOENIX – Jed York “mutually parted ways” with Jim Harbaugh after the 2014 season to begin a string of three consecutive years in which the 49ers fired their head coach.

He canned Jim Tomsula after the 2015 season, during which the 49ers won five games.

York went back to work just 12 months later. He pulled the plug on Chip Kelly’s tenure with the 49ers after a 2-14 season as part of an organizational overhaul that included the firing of general manager Trent Baalke.

Yet, things are a lot different after two losing seasons with coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in charge.

York is actually showing some patience.

Since York signed Shanahan and Lynch to six-year contracts in 2017, the 49ers have won just 10 games. But instead of being on the hot seat after two seasons, Shanahan and Lynch have earned even more confidence from York.

“And I wanted to send the message to them and send the message to our fans, send the message to our players on the roster and potential free agents going forward that these guys,” York said of the six-year contracts.

“We’re probably not going to get it all right in the first year, first two years, but this is something we’re going to try to build and I believe we have a very good foundation. I think the future is bright for us.”

Does York feel as good about Shanahan and Lynch now as he did the day he hired them?

“I feel even better,” York said Sunday at the NFL owners meeting.

York said he has confidence that his coach and GM will continue to work in unison to build the 49ers into a contender. He said his trust in them is borne from watching them work together to formulate their plans for free agency and the draft.

After the 2016 season, York set forth to put together a team in which there was cohesion between the head coach and general manager. The previous coach-GM tandems were often at odds.

Two rough seasons later, York is not disappointed with the Lynch-Shanahan union. He said he is pleased with the chemistry that has been formed.

“I see that in spades,” he said. “It’s just awesome to watch those guys work together.”

York said he was willing to show more patience with Shanahan and Lynch because of the decimated roster they inherited and the realization that there would be a learning period as neither man had previous experience in his respective role.

“You don’t know what you don’t know when you’re in those positions,” York said. “And I think it’s been interesting to watch these guys really come together and show they’re a stronger bond today than what they were two years ago and it’s only getting stronger.”

[RELATED: 49ers were aggressive in pursuit of Odell Beckham Jr.]

York has not exactly exhibited patience during his time calling the shots with the 49ers. But he said something is different with Lynch and Shanahan.

“I have a lot of patience with these guys,” York said. “I think there are reasons we’ve had the records we’ve had the last two years. And I feel very, very good about the team those guys are putting together.”

Jimmy Garoppolo's offseason plan has included rehab, recruiting free agents

Jimmy Garoppolo's offseason plan has included rehab, recruiting free agents

PHOENIX — Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is embracing his role as the leader of the franchise as he looks toward the start of the 2019 season.

49ers CEO Jed York spoke at the NFL owners meeting about Garoppolo like a proud parent.

He has been keeping an eye on his quarterback’s rehab and reports that he sees Garoppolo developing into a true leader. He said the two of them chat regularly.

“I’m not going over film with Jimmy,” York said, “so I don’t think we have to worry about anything from that standpoint. I see Jimmy, whether it’s in the lunch room or if I’m down in the training room or if we’re working out.”

Garoppolo has been working out with 20 to 25 teammates at the club's Santa Clara facility, York said. He is not allowed to throw passes to teammates at the team's training complex, a team spokesman said. Garoppolo has future workouts with his teammates scheduled for the Los Angeles area.

“It’s great to see that,” York said. “The team is really, really jelling and watching them come together as a unit, that’s what you need. It’s not a collection of individuals. It’s a team.”

Garoppolo’s involvement doesn't stop there, though. 

He was very active during free agency, playing the role of recruiter by calling some players the 49ers were interested in.

“I know he called the guys who we were interested in on the first day or so of free agency and expressed his interest in getting guys here,” York said. “I’m fairly certain that he called Kwon (Alexander) during that negotiating window when you can start talking to people.”

York explained that this is a new aspect of Garoppolo’s role as the face of the franchise.

“Those are things that he wants to do,” York said. “That’s where it’s different when you come in and you’ve been a backup, now being the guy. It’s hard when you’re the guy, you’re the highest-paid player, but you’re not playing for (the) team.”

Obviously, York would have preferred to have Garoppolo on the field for the entire season in 2018, but he sees the positives that came from Garoppolo's season-ending knee injury.

“I think he was able to learn a lot of the cerebral things,” York said, “and a lot of the things that come with that leadership position over the last year, which really excites me for him going forward.”

[RELATED: 49ers were aggressive in pursuing Odell Beckham Jr.]

York said Garoppolo is ahead of schedule on his path back to the football field after sustaining a torn ACL in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Garoppolo looks as if he has added some muscle to his frame while going through his daily rehab, York said.

“He’s just grinding every single day to get better personally and to get better as a team and understanding how important it is to do those things as a team leader,” York said.