49ers

Tevin Coleman brings more speed to 49ers' fleet running backs group

Tevin Coleman brings more speed to 49ers' fleet running backs group

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have compiled the makings of a pretty good team in their backfield.

Sure, it's a deep group of running backs, but they also can form a nice track team.

Tevin Coleman was at the 49ers' facility on Thursday to sign a two-year, $8.5 million contract. He is a speedster who played two seasons in Kyle Shanahan’s offense with the Atlanta Falcons.

He joins a group of running backs that already includes Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert.

Has Coleman ever been teammates with such an explosive group of running backs?

“No, I have not. It’s going to be a 4x1 back there,” Coleman said, referring to a 4x100-meter track relay team. “So there’s a lot speed in the backfield. I’m real excited to play with those guys.”

Coleman was timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash before he came out in the 2015 draft. One year earlier, Jerick McKinnon clocked a 4.41 at the combine. Two years ago, Matt Breida ran a 4.39 at his pro day.

Mostert, who signed a three-year extension on Friday, won Big Ten titles at Purdue in the 60 meters and 200 meters during the indoor season, and was the conference champion in the 100 and 200 during the outdoor season. He entered the NFL in 2015.

Shanahan said he has never been with an NFL team that suited up four running backs on game days during the regular season due to the league’s 46-player limit. Because of the team’s increased depth, he could be tempted to re-think some things, he said.

“I think we're in a situation right now, just looking at our roster, that I think it could make a lot of sense this year,” Shanahan said.

It remains unlikely the 49ers will suit up four running backs. But, they can be expected to keep each player on the roster this season. The 49ers know how quickly depth can disappear at running back, so it would be foolish for them to not hold onto all four players.

Last year, McKinnon sustained a season-ending knee injury before the start of the regular season. Breida battled ankle issues; Mostert sustained a fractured forearm; and Jeff Wilson sustained a shoulder injury in the season finale.

Veteran Alfred Morris gained a season-high 111 yards in the final game of the year with Wilson sidelined. Morris, 30, an eight-year pro, remains available on the free-agent market.

If the four running backs remain healthy, the 49ers will be forced to deactivate a proven player for games. Coleman said he is looking forward to bonding with his new running partners as they fight among themselves for playing time.

“Those are my brothers now,” Coleman said. “We’ll go out there and have fun together and play ball and compete together.”

[RELATED: Grading 49ers' free-agency signing, trades to fill roster]

Coleman was a dynamic multi-dimensional player during his four years with the Falcons. He rushed for a career-best 800 yards with a 4.8 average last season. In his first season with Shanahan, he caught 31 passes for career highs with 421 yards and a 13.6 average.

That’s the kind of playmaking Shanahan likes to see from his running backs -- making defenses play a big price for breakdowns in coverage.

“It’s real big because it’s hard to do good in this league with a lot of big guys, a lot of great guys,” Coleman said of the importance of speed. “To get me in space, that’s what my strength is.”

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

49ers general manager John Lynch acknowledged that he signed Kwon Alexander to fill the void left by former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who was released last season. 

In an interview with 49ers.com, Lynch spoke about how he and his staff brought back several familiar faces to the linebackers room. He was also very frank about what the team lost in Foster as a player. 

“Let’s be honest,” Lynch said. “We had a void that we thought we had filled with Reuben Foster. Things transpired there. We had a void there and that stinks but you can’t just sit there and pout, you gotta say ‘OK, let’s do something.'

“We needed a dynamic football player at that position. It’s a very critical position in our scheme and this became the guy. Kwon became the guy that we wanted to be that guy.” 

Alexander has many of the same on-field characteristics as Foster. He’s known as a hard hitter who flies around the field, making players think twice about going across the middle. He may make some mistakes in the game, but his passion and heart are recognized by his teammates. 

“I think what stood out to us with Kwon,” Lynch said, “he’s a dynamic football player. He’s a tone setter. You need tone-setters on your defense. 

“I think he’s a guy that when you watch him, when you talk to people who played against him, people who played with him, he’s exactly that. His type of play running all over the field, hitting people, getting the ball, it’s contagious. We need that.” 

The 49ers' admiration for Alexander grew as they did more research on him. They understand it may take some time before he returns to 100 percent health.

[RELATED: Kwon Alexander overcame tragedy, adversity]

“The more we watched him the more we liked,” Lynch said. “We knew he was coming off an ACL injury but we got comfortable with the medical part and also got comfortable with 'Hey, we are going to wait as long as it takes.' This is a long-term investment. He’s doing very well in his rehab.” 

The staff ideally would like to see Alexander lined up next to Fred Warner, who had a stand-out rookie season. They also brought back Elijah Lee, special teams contributor Mark Nzeocha, and signed ex-Panther David Mayo to a two-year contract to fill out the linebackers room.

Top NFL draft prospect Josh Allen thinks he's best player available

Top NFL draft prospect Josh Allen thinks he's best player available

Josh Allen does not lack confidence.

The edge rusher out of Kentucky, who is linked to both the 49ers with the No. 2 pick and Raiders at No. 4 in next month's NFL draft, spoke highly of his abilities during his pro day Friday.

"You can just watch the film, watch the games," Allen told ESPN on Friday. "If you're talking about stats, I mean, I finished second in the nation in sacks, playing in the SEC, which doesn't throw the ball as much as other conferences.

"I'm physical. I played the whole season. I played every game. I'm healthy. I just think I'm the best edge rusher, the best pass rusher, the best overall player in this draft."

OK then.

Allen put up tremendous numbers in his senior season at Kentucky, totaling 17 sacks and 88 tackles, including 56 solo. The 49ers and Raiders both desperately need someone who can rush the quarterback, so Allen fits the mold for both teams.

Allen told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that he has scheduled pre-draft meetings with both the 49ers and the Raiders.

The latest speculation is that the 49ers will draft Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick, as the Cardinals -- who own the No. 1 pick -- have been heavily linked to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. If both Bosa and Allen are available to the 49ers, GM John Lynch will have his pick of the two edge rushers.

[RELATED: Draft prospect Quinnen Williams dined with 49ers at IHOP]

The Raiders, meanwhile, have to wait until No. 4 to see if Allen is still available. If both the Cardinals and 49ers pass on the Kentucky standout, only the Jets at No. 3 would stand in their way of getting -- as Allen puts it -- "the best overall player in the draft."

Time will tell whether Allen lives up to his bold proclamation. But it seems as if the 49ers or Raiders would be lucky to find out.