SANTA CLARA – A year ago, Kyle Shanahan was at the controls of one of the most high-powered offenses in NFL history.
He parlayed his success as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator into his new role as the head coach of the 49ers – a team that featured one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
But Shanahan said on "The 49ers Insider Podcast" on NBCSportsBayArea.com that he believes his team could be a lot better than expected. The 49ers are coming off a 2-14 season under Chip Kelly, who was fired after just one season.
“I feel confident with our guys,” Shanahan said. “We got some guys who compete. Collectively, we have a smart group of people who can all play together. And I think we’ll be able to surprise some people. But the biggest thing that always comes into (play) is injuries.”
The 49ers targeted Brian Hoyer as the quarterback. Hoyer has performed well during training camp. And Shanahan is pleased with the improvements at running back and wide receiver.
“We didn’t want to do it by going out and investing in all top picks or tons of money to do that,” Shanahan said. “You want to build it the right way and add some competition to make your team better overall.”
The 49ers added more depth at running back behind Carlos Hyde, who enters the final year of his contract. The team signed Tim Hightower as a free agent, acquired Kapri Bibbs in a trade, drafted Joe Williams in the fourth round, and signed Matt Breida as a priority undrafted rookie.
Hyde has appeared to benefit from the competition while strengthening his hold on the starting job. Shanahan said he would never guarantee a roster spot to anyone, but he made it clear he expects Hyde to have a major role.
“I think he’s playing at a very high level right now in practice,” Shanahan said.
“He looks good out here. People who can help us, we’re not trying to get rid of. And Carlos is a very good back who I believe can help us a lot.”
Shanahan said he likes the competition that is going on at any number of positions on the team. The 49ers open the exhibition season on Friday at Kansas City, and battles will continue to take place throughout the roster.
“I feel like you’re in a good situation when you’re a week into training camp and you have no idea how the final roster is going to be like,” Shanahan said. “We’re as strong at the running back and receiver positions as any position on our team.
“I’ve been in plenty of camps where at the end of OTAs, I already knew what it’s going to be, unless there were injuries. I can’t say that here. And it’s a good problem to have.”