49ers

Why Chiefs' Frank Clark doesn't think 49ers have seen talent like his

Why Chiefs' Frank Clark doesn't think 49ers have seen talent like his

MIAMI, Fla. -- The 49ers ran over, around and through both the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers to book their trip to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The NFC champions used eight straight running plays to break the Vikings' will in the divisional round, and Raheem Mostert went hog wild in putting up a record-breaking rushing performance in the NFC Championship Game. 

All the while, tight end George Kittle was having the time of his life helping open holes against some of the NFL's best edge rushers. Kittle blocked Vikings stars Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen without much problem and then did the same to Za'Darius Smith of the Packers. 

Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark will be next up on Kittle's list of blocking targets. While Clark has been impressed with Kittle's blocking chops, he doesn't think the 49ers have seen a talent like his. 

"I feel like ... He's just worked hard," Clark said of Kittle on Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. "He decided that he wanted to further his game and become a run blocker. That's hat off to him. But I feel like his strength is where he catches the ball. That's where he has his biggest impact. That's where he's going to make his plays at this Sunday. I take pride in taking on blockers who feel like they can block. I'm looking forward to the challenge." 

"You mentioned Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen," Clark continued. "Great, great football players. But I don't put myself in the category of no other guy. I don't compare myself to no other defensive end in the league. I feel like my skill set is unique, especially, you talk about Frank Clark when I'm healthy, I don't feel like there are a lot of defensive ends who can compete with me or play football at the level I play at. I play at an extremely high and aggressive level where I don't tolerate a lot of stuff that offensive players try to do. I'm sure he's going to block and do all those good things and make catches and stuff but at the end of the day, Frank Clark is going to be on the field and they have to see me."

Clark then shut down the thought that he is excited about the matchup with Kittle. 

"Nah, not really," Clark said. "I'm looking forward to winning the football game and holding the trophy more than the matchup with George Kittle."

During the 49ers' two playoff wins, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't been asked to do much. The 49ers haven't needed him to. Running the ball with all the ferocity of a runaway avalanche has allowed coach Kyle Shanahan to take the keys from Garoppolo and stuff the ball down his opponents' throats. 

Garoppolo likely will need to make plays for the 49ers to take home the Lombardi Trophy, however. 

When asked about the 49ers' signal-caller, Clark took off his Louis Vuitton glasses and attempted to give a diplomatic answer. But he didn't sound impressed with what he's seen from Jimmy G. 

"I feel like he's still one of the highest-paid players in this league," Clark said. "He gets paid to throw the ball, and they are seeing something they like right now, and that's why they are going with it, and I feel like Jimmy at some point is going to be called upon to make a play and he's going to be forced to throw the ball and I feel like ... that's kind of my answer to that. My senses are telling me that they are not going to run the ball all game. That he's going to be forced to pass the ball on third down and some second-and-longs. So ... that's kind of my idea behind it." 

Clark did admit he thinks Garoppolo is capable of making plays and noted how dangerous rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Kittle are in the passing game. 

[RELATED: Mahomes explains what makes 49ers' defense so challenging

While the matchup with Kittle might not have piqued his interest, it's one Clark will have to win in order to end up holding the trophy Sunday night. 

Easier said than done. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

We know 49ers running back Raheem Mostert is a supreme athlete. How supreme? Well, last season, he was the third-most explosive ball-carrier in the NFL.

NFL.com's Nick Shook has been taking some deep dives into "Next Gen Stats" throughout the last few weeks, and on Wednesday, he delved into the most explosive runners the league has to offer. In order to do so, he had to establish some criteria.

In order to qualify for the top 10 most explosive runners from last season, each player had to attempt a minimum of 100 carries, at least 20 of which went for 10-or-more yards. Then, to determine the hierarchy, the percentage of runs in which they reached 15 mph or faster was the defining factor. Once the numbers were crunched, it painted Mostert in some astonishing light.

Last season, Mostert reached 15 mph or faster on an amazing 28.5 percent of his touches, which was the third-highest rate in the league behind Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. To further that, he reached at least 20 mph on four rush attempts, a benchmark equaled by only seven other players; Mostert accomplished the feat with fewer total carries than any of them.

In fact, Mostert's average speed of 13.75 mph per touch ranked first among all running backs that had at least 100 touches last season. That's blazing fast. If that number is difficult to believe, well, just turn on the tape of the NFC Championship Game, in which Mostert accounted for four touchdowns and 226 yards from scrimmage on 31 total touches. I guarantee you the Packers believe it.

Mostert seemed to pick up momentum as the season wore on, and projects to have a much bigger role in San Francisco's offense in 2020. His explosiveness is a tremendous fit for coach Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, and there is every reason to believe the 49ers will be even more potent on that side of the ball in the season ahead.

[RELATED: 49ers' Mostert looks forward to running behind Williams]

If he stays healthy, Mostert should blow his previous career-high for touches in a season out of the water. If that's the case, well, good luck catching up to him.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Charlie Woerner draws Rob Gronkowski comparison from high school coach

49ers' Charlie Woerner draws Rob Gronkowski comparison from high school coach

Charlie Woerner didn't catch the ball much at Georgia, but the rookie tight end could have a lot more passes come his way with the 49ers.

The Athletic's David Lombardi examined Woerner's potential fit within coach Kyle Shanahan's offense in a feature story Monday, noting that the 2020 sixth-round pick's athleticism could allow him to benefit from the attention opposing defenses pay to the 49ers' other weapons on offense. Woerner caught just 34 passes for 376 yards (and one touchdown) in four years at Georgia, but his high school coach said the tight end is capable of reaching much higher heights as a pro.

“Charlie is a tremendous athlete,” former Raburn County High School coach Lee Shaw told Lombardi. “He’s a diamond in the rough when it comes to developing into what I feel like can be another (Rob) Gronkowski-type player for somebody in the league, which looks like it’s gonna be the 49ers.”

Gronkowski, who came out of retirement this offseason to join former New England Patriots teammate Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a far more prolific collegiate pass-catcher than Woerner. He caught 75 passes for 1,197 yards in two seasons at Arizona, scoring 16 touchdowns during that time and earning third-team AP All-American honors in 2008.

Woerner's limited involvement in Georgia's passing game wasn't for a lack of skill, according to his quarterback. Buffalo Bills draftee Jake Fromm played with Woerner for three seasons, and he told Lombardi the Bulldogs chose to mostly rely on Woerner's blocking prowess.

“I would say Charlie, he definitely got used more as a blocker, but that wasn’t because of anything Charlie couldn’t do,” Fromm said. “That was a lot more because of scheme and the way we were approaching the games. Charlie’s definitely more than capable of going out and making plays, running routes, catching balls -- whatever you need to do, he’s more than capable.”

[RELATED: Why Warner, Greenlaw are so important to 49ers' elite defense]

George Kittle didn't have extensive pass-catching experience at Iowa, but he has become one of the NFL's best tight ends under Shanahan's tutelage. Lombardi noted that Woerner isn't as explosive as Kittle, but the 49ers can utilize the rookie's athleticism.

If Woerner's high school coach is to be believed, they could potentially rely on the rookie for more than that.