Matt Maiocco

49ers training camp questions: Which defensive linemen will play together?

49ers training camp questions: Which defensive linemen will play together?

Editor's Note: This is the second installment in a five-part series on the 49ers' key competitions during training camp. Today, defensive end.

Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas are slated for similar roles this season.

Armstead, who is playing this season on the fifth-year option, and Thomas, a third-year pro, are viewed as defensive ends on base downs and interior pass-rushers in nickel situations.

There is enough playing time to go around for everyone on the 49ers' defensive line, but the priority will be set through competition beginning this week in training camp.

After all, Armstead and Thomas will also be going up against Dee Ford and rookie Nick Bosa for playing time when the 49ers deploy their base defense. Then, Armstead and Thomas will battle against each other for more snaps next to Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in passing situations.

Armstead is entering his contract season. The 49ers are paying him $9 million for his fifth year in the NFL. Armstead's strength is his run defense, but the club also believes he has potential as a pass-rusher that can be unlocked in the team's new wide-9 alignment.

Armstead is coming off his best season, appearing in all 16 games with career-highs in tackles (48) and sacks (three).

The team believes Thomas is on track for a breakout season. He made little impact in his first two years after the 49ers selected him with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2017 draft. Thomas admits his on-field performance was impacted by trying to cope with the tragedy of his older sister's death by suicide last year.

Thomas appeared refocused and determined to make a contribution during the team's offseason program. But he will have to earn his way onto the field among the most talented group of defensive linemen the 49ers have assembled in a while.

Ford was the 49ers' biggest veteran acquisition in the offseason, coming from Kansas City in a trade for a second-round draft pick. Ford registered a career-best 13 sacks last season. Kansas City placed the franchise tag on Ford before working out the deal to send him to the 49ers.

Ford will unquestionably be in the field on pass-rush downs. But listed at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds, Ford could be targeted in the run game as a defensive end on base downs.

[RELATED: Training camp questions: Backup quarterback]

Bosa, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, was universally regarded as the best edge rusher in the draft. His immense lower body strength also should enable him to set the edge in run defense. Depending on how quickly he adapts after sitting out the offseason program with a mild hamstring strain, Bosa could be used as a pass-rush specialist as a rookie.

Armstead, Thomas, Ford and Bosa will all see plenty of action through the course of the season. But the competition among this group will determine which combination -- along with Buckner -- takes the field when a game is on the line.

49ers training camp questions: Who will win backup quarterback job?

49ers training camp questions: Who will win backup quarterback job?

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will face a lot of questions, and much will be written and said about one competition in particular during training camp.

But if things go as the 49ers hope, the result of this training camp battle will have no impact on the season as the winner will not step on the field for a meaningful snap after the exhibition season.

Nick Mullens was more impressive than C.J. Beathard last season, but they will open training camp this week with an equal chance at winning the backup quarterback role.

The competition for the 49ers' backup quarterback job probably will not be settled until the final cuts before the start of the regular season. The organization must also determine whether the loser of the battle will remain on the team's 53-man roster or end up on the waiver wire.

Mullens had a historically impressive eight-start opening to his NFL career last season. But he opens camp on equal footing with Beathard for the right to serve as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

“I know both of them so well because we’ve been here two years with them and we’ve gotten a chance now to see both of them in practice and both of them in games,” Shanahan said.

Mullens piled up big passing yards after taking over for Beathard at the midseason point, averaging 284.6 yards passing per game. In fact, Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are the only players to throw for more yards in their first eight starts. The Southern Mississippi product compiled a respectable 90.9 passer rating while putting up big numbers after taking over for Beathard prior to the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Raiders.

And Shanahan seems to be pleased with both players, based on what he witnessed during the nine-week offseason program.

They arrived at this point through different modes of transportation.

Beathard was a third-round draft pick in 2017. The 49ers signed Mullens immediately following that same draft as an undrafted rookie. Mullens was among the final cuts before the beginning of the ’17 and ’18 seasons. After he cleared waivers both years, Mullens was immediately signed back to the 49ers’ practice squad.

Beathard has made 10 NFL starts over his first two seasons in the league. He's proven his toughness, but he has to do a much better job of getting the ball out quicker and avoiding hits. Beathard took one sack for every 10.4 dropbacks. At the time Mullens replaced him in the Week 9 game against the Raiders, Beathard needed a break mentally and physically. In two seasons, Beathard has thrown 12 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Mullens might not have all the physical attributes, but he knows the system as well as anyone and does not back down from a challenge. Statistically, Mullens was better last season. He averaged 8.3 yards per attempt while completing 64.2 percent of his pass attempts. Beathard averaged 7.4 yards per attempt and completed slightly above 60 percent of his passes.

[RELATED: New D-line coach Kocurek's craziness resonating with 49ers]

The big question about Mullens is his ability to connect on the deep ball, which is a major component of Shanahan's offensive blueprint.

49ers sign kicker Robbie Gould to four-year contract as holdout ends

49ers sign kicker Robbie Gould to four-year contract as holdout ends

After months of acrimony, a deadline brought the 49ers and kicker Robbie Gould together,

The two sides agreed to terms Monday morning on a contract extension, a league source confirmed. The 49ers announced the agreement later Monday afternoon.

“Over the years, Robbie has established himself as one of the best at his position in the NFL, which is precisely why we were so committed to working out a new contract with him,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this deal come to fruition. We are very happy to start off the year on the right foot with this agreement in place so that Robbie can get back with his teammates and focus on making the most out of the upcoming season.”

The 49ers and Gould agreed to a fully guaranteed contract worth $10.5 million over two years but with an option clause, it could become a four-year, $19 million deal with $15 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who first reported the agreement.

The two sides have seemingly been at odds since the 49ers restricted Gould’s ability to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason with the application of the franchise tag -- a deal that was set to pay him $4.971 million for one year. Gould requested a trade, but coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch both declared that the 49ers would not trade him because of his importance to the team.

[RELATED: Biggest questions facing NFC West teams]

Gould, a 14-year NFL veteran made 72 of 75 field-goal attempts in his first two seasons with the 49ers after signing a two-year, $4 million contract on the first day of free agency in 2017. Gould ranks No. 2 all-time in the NFL in field-goal accuracy at 87.7 percent behind only Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.

With Gould now set to report to training camp in Santa Clara on July 26, the only players under 49ers control who remain unsigned are defensive end Nick Bosa and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the team’s top two draft picks.