49ers

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

SANTA CLARA – The eldest non-kicker on the 49ers’ roster is learning a new position this offseason.

But Ahmad Brooks has plenty of experience adapting to new positions during his 12-year NFL career. He has played inside linebacker, outside linebacker in a 3-4 and defensive end in pass-rush situations.

Now, Brooks has moved to the strong side linebacker position -- the “Sam” -- in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“He’s getting them (first-team repetitions) because he deserves them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “Watching how he played last year and then going into this offseason, you never know when a guy who has been around a bunch, if they’re going to feel that they need the offseason like other people do. And Ahmad’s been here every day and he’s needed it just like everyone has anytime you’re learning a new scheme.

“But anytime you have a veteran like that, you worry that, hey, maybe they won’t think that they do need it. But Ahmad has and he’s been here. He’s worked at everything. He’s in good shape. He’s done what we’ve asked in the weight room with Ray and he’s done everything with the position coaches and coordinator on defense. So, I think he’s learning it and he should because he’s putting the work in.”

Brooks, 33, has entered the past three offseasons with his place on the 49ers seemingly in jeopardy. But the 49ers have not been able to find a younger, better player to replace him. Brooks has tied for the team-lead in sacks in each of the past four seasons with 27 sacks over that span.

Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson and undrafted rookie Jimmie Gilbert were the other players who lined up at the Sam position during the first week of 49ers organized team activities.

Brooks and Aaron Lynch, starters at outside linebacker for the 49ers in the previous systems, have the steepest learning curves in the transition to a new defense. Lynch has moved to the team’s pass-rush defensive end position, known as the “Leo.”

“I think techniques are totally different,” Shanahan said. “How you want to take on blocks, how you want to play the run. Ahmad has been around a little longer than Aaron. So he’s probably had a little bit more crossover, some similar schemes.”

49ers' wide receiver competition still wide open as season approaches

49ers' wide receiver competition still wide open as season approaches

The 49ers' wide receiver competition still is in full swing with the preseason halfway gone. s

While a number of receivers have flashed, coach Kyle Shanahan explained he’s still waiting to see more from the group as a whole.

“Yeah, I want to see more from all of them,” Shanahan said in a conference call Tuesday. “We’ve got a very good group and they’re all tight and so I’m trying to get those guys to take the spot from people and make it an easy decision.

“I think we’ve got a lot of candidates to start on our team, guys who have been here and the new guys. There’s two positions, depending on if we start in 12 or 21 and there’s three positions if we start in 11.”

Shanahan and the offensive coaches attempted to spread the snaps out amongst the group throughout joint practices and Monday's preseason game against the Denver Broncos, but limited rookie Jalen Hurd, who was dealing with back tightness.

“Hurd was going to play more, but he had some back tightness all week in practice and then he had a little bit in the game,” Shanahan said. “He definitely could’ve gone, but that was just the decision I made to get him out of there.”

The shortened week for the team played a factor in the decision as well.

“Didn’t want that to be worse with the fact that we have three games in 10 days, so we did that,” Shanahan said. “The other guys we planned on playing awhile, and I thought they did a good job taking advantage of that.”

With Trent Taylor out for four to six weeks due to surgery on his fractured foot, the onus is on the remaining receivers to take advantage of the additional reps they will get in games and at practice.

Rookie Deebo Samuel had the longest offensive play of the game in Denver but Shanahan still is looking for more.

“Especially with Trent being down right now, there’s a lot of opportunities for these guys," Shanahan said. "Deebo had a good play on the reverse or the round, we call it the round, but the reverse he had yesterday. But, that’s what we expect him to do.

“The D-end closed and he’s fast and we expect him to outrun people, but all these guys can keep getting better a lot. We want them to be good at blocking, be good at running the ball when it’s in their hands and they need to be able to get open. Deebo has the ability to do everything, but he’s still continuing to develop.”

Veteran receiver Jordan Matthews lined up in the slot with the first-team offense but Shanahan said that who wins that job still is very fluid.

“That’s what we’ll go over this afternoon,” Shanahan said. “We’ll have two practices to prepare for Kansas City. We kind of think all this stuff out, we give guys different opportunities certain weeks, but by no means is anything set for Week 1.

“We’ve got an idea of what some guys can do, some guys we need to see more from and some guys we already feel like we know what they can do. So, we mix it all around and I wouldn’t look into anything until you guys see our final 53.”

[RELATED: 49ers' new depth chart gives clues about position battles]

Here's the 49ers' wide receiver snap count from Monday night’s match up with the Broncos:
Kendrick Bourne 45
Richie James 32
Deebo Samuel 24
Dante Pettis 11
Marquise Goodwin 11
Jalen Hurd 8
Jordan Matthews 5
Malik Henry 3
Shawn Poindexter 1

49ers' backup QB competition likely won't be decided until final cut

49ers' backup QB competition likely won't be decided until final cut

The 49ers have not kept three quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster since coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch arrived in 2017.

And Shanahan seemed to imply the club will keep two at the beginning of this season, too. C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens are competing for the backup role behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

“I know we have two backup quarterbacks who are both capable of starting and I would be happy with either one as our backup,” Shanahan said after the team returned to the Bay Area from its 24-15 preseason victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

“One of those guys is going to win the job, and we will make that decision. I do not see myself making that decision until I absolutely have to, and that probably won’t be until the final 53.”

If the 49ers were to keep three quarterbacks on their roster, a decision on the backup would not have to be made until 90 minutes before the regular-season opener on Sunday, Sept. 8, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when seven inactive players must be announced.

Shanahan said he is in “a pretty good spot,” as far as determining the backup. But he said he has yet to determine who will follow Garoppolo in the preseason game Saturday night at Kansas City. Then, he said, the other quarterback likely will see the bulk of the playing time in the final exhibition game, Thursday, Aug. 24, against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I feel very good with both the guys,” Shanahan said. “We’ve had both of the guys here in a lot of game situations. But it’s been a fun battle to watch. I think both of them are playing better than they have the last two years.”

Based on how both quarterbacks have performed in regular-season games, Mullens is the favorite. Last season, he averaged 284.6 yards passing – fourth-most in NFL history through eight games – with 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 90.0 passer rating.

Beathard averaged 250.4 yards passing with eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 81.8. Beathard also was sacked with more frequency than Mullens.

[RELATED: Why it's obvious Jimmy G has significant hurdles to clear]

But Shanahan designs his offense around the big play, and that is where Beathard could have the advantage because of his willingness to sit in the pocket and let downfield routes develop.

“Every time C.J.’s in there you’ve got a chance for a big play,” Shanahan said. “He loves the big play.”

Beathard had two opportunities for big plays Monday night. He overthrew Richie James on a deep corner route to the right side, then Kendrick Bourne failed to hold onto a deep ball down the left side.

“I thought C.J. missed a couple plays early, but nothing too bad,” Shanahan said. “Then Nick came in and didn’t have many opportunities, but made the best (of them).”

Mullens and Bourne teamed up for a well-timed and delivered 1-yard touchdown on a fade route against tight coverage.