Matt Breida

Size matters for 49ers at cornerback

jackson-ap.jpg
AP

Size matters for 49ers at cornerback

With the start of the free agency just a couple of weeks ago, here is one man's opinion of the 49ers' top offseason needs:

1. Cornerback
2. Guard
3. Edge rusher
4. Wide receiver
5. Inside linebacker

Here are some other questions for the latest edition of 49ers Mailbag submitted via Facebook:

What corners are the 49ers likely to be looking at in free agency/draft? (Stépheñ Bůrkę)
There are few things of which I am certain when it comes to NFL free agency and the draft, but here is one of them:

If there’s a cornerback available, the 49ers will do their homework and consider the possibility of pursuing him to add to their roster.

Ahkello Witherspoon showed during his rookie season the ability to be a starter-caliber NFL cornerback. Nobody else on their roster, including free-agent-to-be Dontae Johnson, proved capable of being a starter on a team with playoff aspirations.

The 49ers have already done their homework on free agent Vontae Davis, who visited Santa Clara this week, and Marcus Peters, whom the 49ers chose not to pursue from the Kansas City Chiefs with a trade offer.

The personnel department will looking into the entire upcoming free-agent class, including Trumaine Johnson, Aaron Colvin and Kyle Fuller.

As for who might be available in the draft, Iowa’s Josh Jackson and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward appear to be the only candidates who the club would consider with their first-round draft pick. Jackson could have the edge on the 49ers’ draft board due to his size advantage. The 49ers, like the other teams that run their Seattle-influenced defensive scheme, place emphasis on tall corners on the outside.

After their first pick, the 49ers could look to Colorado, again, with 6-foot-1 Isaiah Oliver. Kameron Kelly (6-2) of San Diego State could be a player the 49ers would consider on the second or third down with the idea of moving him back to cornerback.

It seems after the Eagles won the Super Bowl a good back up QB is important. What do you think the Niners will do at backup QB? (Philip Malan)
My first thought is that the 49ers feel pretty good about their quarterback situation. C.J. Beathard definitely has a lot of what Kyle Shanahan wants from a player at that position.

Beathard showed some good things in his time as a rookie, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Obviously, the 49ers will bring in one or two other quarterbacks. More than likely, there could be a journeyman-type and an undrafted rookie. Although I would not rule out a player from the outside beating out Beathard for the No. 2 spot, I’d be surprised if the top two QBs on the 49ers’ roster at the start of the 2018 season are not Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard.

Who do you see taking the lead role at RB if Hyde isn't signed? (Ben Gomez)
I don’t think the 49ers necessarily want a so-called “workhorse” at running back. Shanahan would likely prefer to employ multiple backs for different roles.

That said, the 49ers have certainly not given up on re-signing Carlos Hyde. If the price is right, there are plenty of scenarios in which he returns to the organization in 2018.

Joe Williams demonstrated the skillset at Utah that would easily make him the team’s premier back. But the game appeared too big for him last summer during training camp before he was shipped to injured reserve with a relatively minor injury. If Williams returns in April for the offseason program ready to play, he and Matt Breida could easily be the 49ers’ top two backs.

But, certainly, the 49ers are in no position to depend on Williams. It seems unrealistic the 49ers would spend big money on a free agent. They can be expected to add a veteran or two, but nobody who would come in as the no-questions-asked starter. (Remember, a year ago, the 49ers added Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs, and neither made the regular-season roster.)

There will certainly be plenty of low-cost, dynamic options available in the draft – as there is every year.

Instant Analysis: 49ers gut Giants, offense goes wild in first win of 2017

49ers-recap-us.jpg
USATSI

Instant Analysis: 49ers gut Giants, offense goes wild in first win of 2017

BOX SCORE

The 49ers took their first lead at Levi’s Stadium. They held their first lead of more than three points all season. And the 49ers held their first halftime lead, too.

The 49ers got huge days from several first-year players, and that all added up to another first: The first win of Kyle Shanahan’s head-coaching career.

The 49ers broke their franchise-worst winless streak to open the season and broke a franchise-long 11-game home losing streak with a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

Rookie C.J. Beathard had his best day as a pro while the presumptive quarterback of the future, Jimmy Garoppolo, remained on the sideline for at least another game.

Beathard completed 19 of 25 passes for 288 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He received much better protection, as he did not get sacked and was hit only twice.

Beathard turned out the lights on the reeling Giants with an 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to give the 49ers a 24-13 lead.

The 49ers (1-9) entered the day with the worst record in the NFL. That distinction belongs to the league’s only remaining winless team, the 0-9 Cleveland Browns. The Giants, just one season removed from a playoff appearance, fall to 1-8.

Rookie running back Matt Breida put the game out of reach with a 33-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

In addition to Beathard and Breida, the 49ers got solid showings from many of their other rookies in uniform:

--Linebacker Reuben Foster recorded 10 tackles and had a quarterback hit to force a Giants punt in the third quarter.

--Safety Adrian Colbert got his first NFL start due to injuries to Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward. Colbert, a seventh-round draft pick from Miami, had four tackles and broke up two passes.

--Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon had his best showing in coverage for a secondary that put the clamps on veteran quarterback Eli Manning for much of the game. He had three tackles and broke up a pass.

--Undrafted wide receiver Kendrick Bourne recorded three catches for 42 yards.

The 49ers led three different times in the first half. After being tied at halftime in three of their first nine games, the 49ers enjoyed an advantage after 30 minutes for the first time this season.

Beathard hit tight end Garrett Celek on a 47-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds remaining in the first half for a 17-13 lead.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin ran past Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins to haul in C.J. Beathard’s well-thrown deep pass for an 83-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

The play was the 49ers’ longest touchdown pass since Tim Rattay hit Brandon Lloyd for an 89-yard touchdown in September 2005 against the Dallas Cowboys at Candletick Park.

But it did not take long for the 49ers’ 10-6 lead to disappear, as rookie tight end Evan Engram caught a 9-yard scoring pass from Manning against the coverage of 49ers safety Eric Reid.

Carlos Hyde had a 28-yard run – and 15 yards were added at the end due to Giants safety Darian Thompson’s personal foul at the end of the run.

Hyde finished with 98 yards on 17 rushing attempts.

THIS ‘N’ THAT

--Defensive lineman Ronald Blair, in just his second game this season, recorded two sacks, including a strip-sack. Eric Reid recovered Manning’s fumble.

--Shanahan will give the 49ers the entire week off. The club returns to action Nov. 26 agains the Seattle Seahawks.

--Left tackle Joe Staley made his return to the starting lineup after missing just one game with a broken eye socket. Staley wore a visor to prevent any fingers to get between the bars in his facemask.

--Bradley Pinon, who averages nearly six punts a game, did not punt until there were 5:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.

--Goodwin set a career-high with his 83-yard touchdown catch, pushing him to 500 yards receiving on the season. His previous career-best came in 2016 with the Buffalo Bills, when he accounted for 431 yards receiving.

--Beathard completed 13 of 16 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. His passer rating was a near-perfect 157.8.

--Beathard made a big mistake after the 49ers drove 64 yards at the start of the third quarter. Beathard did not get enough air under his lob pass intended for Matt Breida, which enabled Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon to make the interception at the New York 25-yard line.

Shanahan: 'Not much of a difference between' Hyde, Breida

breida-matt-49ers-black-rams.jpg
USATI

Shanahan: 'Not much of a difference between' Hyde, Breida

SANTA CLARA – Carlos Hyde might be the No. 7-ranked rusher in the league, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan considers him an equal to rookie backup Matt Breida.

Hyde was the featured back for the 49ers’ first four games of the season, but Breida made his mark last week against the Indianapolis Colts. Breida played more snaps and had more rushing attempts than Hyde.

“We’re still going to keep them fresh because there’s not much of a difference between the two, for me,” Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.

“I know they have different styles. But similar to Atlanta, whether it’s Devonta Freeman for Tevin Coleman, it didn’t matter much. There are some things that one does better than the other, and vice versa. But when you have two guys, it’s a good problem to have. You go with the hot hand but you also try to play both of them and keep them fresh.”

Breida was the hot hand against the Colts. While Hyde was struggling to find room to run, gaining just 11 yards on eight attempts, Breida appeared to be on the brink of busting a long one. He gained 49 yards on 10 rushing attempts.

“Getting that experience, as a rookie being able to play that much, it was an awesome experience,” Breida said. “And I’m just happy they had the confidence in me to go out there and do that.

“As a game went on, I felt the game slowed down for me and I was able to recognize things a lot more and get more in control of the game.”

Hyde had been in control in the 49ers' backfield up to that point. On the season, Hyde has rushed for 332 yards and two touchdowns on 73 attempts. Breida has 120 yards rushing on 30 carries.

Shanahan said he takes a lot into account when determining which back will get the bulk of the playing time. It starts during that week of practice to see which player is meshing better with the game plan. Then, he observes how the game is unfolding.

Against Indianapolis, Breida’s speed to get to the outside and hit the holes quickly was a better counter to the Colts’ large defensive line. On Sunday, the 49ers will go up against a Washington defense that is stout in the front seven.

Former 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has designed a defense that ranks 10th in the NFL against the run. One of his top assistants is defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, who served in that capacity for many seasons with the 49ers before replacing Jim Harbaugh as head coach.

“Those are two coaches I have a lot of respect for,” Shanahan said. “I’ve played against them a bunch. And you can see them putting their imprint on the defense. Their front is tough to go against. They play a hard 3-4. They got a bunch of big guys up front.

“They’re pretty talented up front. They set the edge. Those guys inside don’t move much, and they keep everything condensed. They make you work for everything. You got to grind it out against them.”