49ers

Six 49ers newcomers who should make biggest impact on team in 2019

Six 49ers newcomers who should make biggest impact on team in 2019

There were plenty of reasons, in addition to a spate of injuries, for the 49ers finishing last season with just four victories and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

General manager John Lynch addressed many of the 49ers' weaknesses through free agency, the draft and one noteworthy trade.

As the 49ers near the halfway point of their offseason program, here is a look at the newcomers who should make the biggest impacts during the 2019 season:

DEs Dee Ford/Nick Bosa

The team’s lack of an outside pass rush was its fatal flaw last season. There was nobody at the edge positions to complement DeForest Buckner, who emerged as one of the league’s top inside pass-rushers.

As a result, quarterbacks had plenty of time to throw and could pick apart the 49ers’ pass defense. The 49ers managed an NFL single-season all-time worst two interceptions on the season. General manager John Lynch did something about it.

A year ago, the team’s primary outside pass-rushers were Cassius Marsh and Ronald Blair. Marsh has already been cut, and Blair now figures to be a rotational player behind Dee Ford and Nick Bosa.

Ford was acquired from Kansas City for a second-round draft pick in 2020. Ford, 28, had a career-best 13 sacks last season. The 49ers signed Ford to a five-year, $85 million contract upon completion of the trade.

Bosa, the former Ohio State star, is a technician as a pass-rusher. He has active hands and unique lower-body strength, bend and balance. The outside pass rush was the team’s major weakness last season. Now, it could be the 49eres’ strength.

WR Deebo Samuel

The 49ers were afforded the rare opportunity to spend a week around Deebo Samuel as they coached him at the Senior Bowl. They liked what they saw.

The 49ers came to the conclusion that Samuel has the speed, route-running and toughness to step into the starting lineup as a rookie. The 49ers selected him with the No. 36 overall pick.

The addition of Samuel should enable the team to move Marquise Goodwin to a more specialized role to take advantage of his rare speed. Samuel and Dante Pettis, the team’s second-round pick last season, figure to be the team’s top two wideouts this season.

Kendrick Bourne, the 49ers’ top-producing wide receiver last season, should continue to have a role as part of the team’s receiver rotation.

LB Kwon Alexander

Despite seeing Kwon Alexander’s fourth NFL season come to an early end with a torn ACL, the 49ers made him their No. 1 priority in free agency. Alexander was signed to take over the spot the 49ers had envisioned Reuben Foster playing for the foreseeable future until numerous off-field issues prompted the 49ers to cut Foster.

Assuming he returns to form after completing his rehab, Alexander is an explosive, dynamic player the 49ers lacked in the middle of their defense. His playmaking should enable the 49ers to improve dramatically in the takeaway category.

Alexander and second-year player Fred Warner should be a good pairing at the middle linebacker and weakside linebacker positions.

RB Tevin Coleman

The 49ers did not go into free agency planning on adding a starting-caliber running back, but Tevin Coleman fell in their laps after a brief courting of Le’Veon Bell went nowhere. Bell and Coleman share the same agent, and Coleman ended up being delivered to the 49ers on a two-year, $8.5 million contract.

Coleman, 26, is a speedster who gained 800 yards (4.8-yard average) and four touchdowns on the ground with 32 catches for 276 yards and five TDs in the passing game last season.

Coleman joins a 49ers stable of running backs that includes Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert. Coleman will certainly carve out a role in Shanahan’s offense after the two were together during the 2015 and ’16 seasons with the Falcons.

CB Jason Verrett

The 49ers like a lot of things about cornerback Jason Verrett, and they consider him a legitimate starting cornerback.

[RELATED: Nick Bosa knew from an early age he wanted to rush the passer]

However, Verrett, 27, has been unable to stay healthy long enough to demonstrate his vast potential. He was the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in 2014. But in five years in the NFL, Verrett has appeared in just 25 games due to shoulder, knee and Achilles’ injuries.

If he can get healthy and stay healthy, Verrett has a strong chance of winning the starting job opposite Richard Sherman.

Will 49ers look to trade backup QBs C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens?

Will 49ers look to trade backup QBs C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens?

One of the major competitions being waged on the 49ers’ practice field is for a spot the club hopes will never be asked to play a significant role this season.

The 49ers’ hopes for the season hinge in large part on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo playing at a high level for 16 games. Behind him, in a too-close-to-call competition are C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.

Once training camp opens in late-July, the competition for the backup role will heat up. Mullens outplayed Beathard last year, but all that did was create a level playing field for the competition that will ensue this summer.

This week marked the conclusion of the team’s official offseason program. Here are some questions submitted via Facebook:

What's the likelihood we trade one of our backup QBs to a team that loses a QB to injury? ( David Cummings)
The 49ers have three options:
1. Cut C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens.
2. Keep three QBs on their 53-man roster.
3. Trade Beathard or Mullens.

Of those three options, there is no question the 49ers would rather trade one of their reserve quarterbacks.

I’m of the opinion right now that they are fine with either Beathard or Mullens as the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo. If another team feels a need to add a backup, I believe the 49ers would be open to trading either one – whichever player the other team wants more and will attract the better compensation.

Will Robbie be the starting kicker come the start of the regular season? (Richard Burley)
Robbie Gould has not publicly stated his intention, other than he has demanded a trade. (The 49ers said, in essence, “No, thanks. We want you to be our kicker.”)

It is difficult to imagine that Gould would forfeit more than $290,000 per game. The 49ers expect him to be on the field in Week 1 of the regular season. Jonathan Brown was the only kicker to participate in the offseason program. Right now, he’s their insurance policy.

Is there a possibility after the cutdowns start the 49ers will possibly pick up a savvy veteran guard or center considering the uncertainty and shakiness of our interior offensive line? (John Mayfield)
Based on their approach this offseason, the 49ers do not agree with your description of “uncertainty” and “shakiness” as it pertains to the interior of their offensive line.

There’s always a possibility of picking up someone for depth, but the addition of Ben Garland, who can play both guard and center, likely took care of that.

From what you've seen Matt, which WR has impressed you and the coaching staff the most? (Paul Martinez)
The 49ers’ top-two receivers during the offseason program were Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor. If Taylor remains healthy, he should benefit greatly from the tutelage of new receivers coach Wes Welker.

Considering the size of the front seven on defense are there concerns about our potential to defend against the run with the new Wide 9 scheme? (R.L. Stephens)
That is precisely why the 49ers’ defense now has three smaller, quicker stack linebackers. The Wide 9 is designed for the defensive ends to set the edge quicker to force running backs to cut inside earlier.

It also puts far more pressure on the linebackers to step up and cover more ground to prevent big plays on those plays.

Who is a name that might be a surprise cut before the 53-man roster is made? (Michael Tavares)
If I write the name here, he won’t be a surprise cut, right?

I’ll give you three players to watch. At first, I thought Marquise Goodwin might have a difficult time making the team. But he looked really good during the offseason program, and he does give the 49ers they don’t have anywhere else with his speed.

Veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith will have to earn his way. Elijah Lee and Dre Greenlaw look good, and they have special-teams value, too. Tight end Garrett Celek will be trying to come back from back surgery. I think he faces some pretty big odds at this stage of his career to remain on the team.

[RELATED: Kyle Shanahan believes 49ers can overcome injuries this season]

Who are the starting safeties at the beginning of the season? (Nick Gillo)
Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. (Insert the obligatory, “If healthy.”)

With Shanahan talking about having great depth, predict the biggest 2020 offseason needs. (Jeff Bratton)
I predict the biggest needs for next season will be determined by what happens this season.

49ers linebacker Fred Warner looks to improve after solid rookie year

49ers linebacker Fred Warner looks to improve after solid rookie year

SANTA CLARA — Linebacker Fred Warner had a lot put on his plate as a rookie. Going into his second season as a pro, he's leaning on a wild first year.

“I’m expecting [my game] to grow a lot,” Warner said. “Having that experience from Year 1, obviously playing a lot of snaps, I think all parts of my game can improve. 

“Specifically I’m looking forward to working on tracking the ball, making sure that I’m improving on tackling, just communication, having clean eyes, and being able to anticipate things a lot quicker.”  

Warner explained that while he had a lot of responsibilities, he never felt like it was too much for him to handle. He added that linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans increased his workload as his experience grew. 

“I think they knew that they could rely on me, they never gave me too much,” Warner said. “DeMeco was always checking in with me to make sure that I wasn’t too overwhelmed and whatever they told me to do, I did it.

“They gave me more and more as I got more confident throughout the season, so leading into that last game against the Rams, we had a lot of stuff going on, but that’s when I was the most confident, in the last game of the year.” 

Warner’s experience is helping him look at last season’s game film with a new set of eyes, figuratively. He already sees ways he could have improved his performance. 

“No doubt,” Warner said. “I’m watching film right now and I’m looking at different things and I’m like, ‘Dang I would have called that’ or ‘I wish I was out there so we could do this,’ but I feel our defense is doing a great job right now. 

“Guys who maybe have not gotten as many reps are stepping up during this OTAs doing an outstanding job and I’m looking forward to getting back out there with them.” 

The defense has gotten notably faster after several key additions during the offseason and Warner believes it gives the group “swagger.”

“I think every year that we get more of that chemistry together as a group, I feel like that’s where it comes out, our confidence,” Warner said. “The more we can play with that, the more we can instill fear into our opponents on game day. They should be able to turn on the film and be like 'Oh, man. We got the Niners this week.’

“I think that with coach Kocurek, they are being taught to come off the ball hard and fast so they are going to create a lot of penetration which should create a lot of edges and so it’s our job to make them right, as linebackers. We are behind the ball for a reason so we can see everything and play off of them.” 

[RELATED: Jason Verrett feeling confident about his return]

Warner, like many players sitting out of team drills during OTAs and minicamp, is itching to get back on the field. But he knows that being patient is what’s best for him in the long run. 

“A lot of that you don’t have much control over,” Warner said. “You just have to listen to what the trainers tell you, and that’s what I’ve been doing. They have a plan for me and I’m just going to follow that, but yeah, just taking one day at a time.”