Matt Breida

Kyle Shanahan reveals 49ers didn't sustain any long-term injuries vs. Cowboys

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AP

Kyle Shanahan reveals 49ers didn't sustain any long-term injuries vs. Cowboys

The 49ers believe their rash of injuries in the first half of Thursday night's preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys will not carry over into the regular season.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Friday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters that none of the injuries were serious enough to impact the 49ers when they open the regular season Sept. 9 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida sustained separated shoulders, Shanahan said. Breida and Kittle will not participate in the final three preseason games as a precaution in order to ensure they will be available for the start of the regular season, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral, sustained a hamstring strain on the sixth play of the game. Elijah Lee replaced him at middle linebacker.

“I do not think he’ll be available this week in Houston, but I think he’ll be week-to-week, and he’ll have a chance after this week,” Shanahan said of Smith.

Linebacker Eli Harold sustained a bruised knee and should not miss a significant amount of practice time. He is listed as “day to day.”

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and offensive tackle Garry Gilliam now are in the NFL’s return-to-play protocol after being diagnosed with concussions.

Camp preview: 49ers expect McKinnon to be upgrade over Hyde; Mostert vs Williams

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USATSI

Camp preview: 49ers expect McKinnon to be upgrade over Hyde; Mostert vs Williams

Although Carlos Hyde was coming off his finest NFL season, the 49ers did not even make an attempt to re-sign him.

Instead, the organization targeted a player in free agency who provides the skills coach Kyle Shanahan covets in a running back. Jerick McKinnon was a spot player during his four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. But he will be asked to take on a much-greater role after signing a four-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers as a free agent.

Who’s Here

Fullback -- Kyle Juszczyk, Malcolm Johnson
Running back -- Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Joe Williams, Jeremy McNichols, Jeff Wilson

Best Of The Bunch

McKinnon is not big, but he has a unique blend of strength, speed, quickness and catching ability. If he remains healthy, McKinnon should be able to provide in the neighborhood of 1,500 yards from scrimmage as a runner and receiver. He is coming off his best NFL season, as he gained 570 yards rushing and caught 421 yards in passes for the Vikings. It will be Shanahan’s job to find a way to exploit matchups to get McKinnon open out of the backfield. And McKinnon should take in from there, becoming difficult for any defender to bring him down in space.

Top Camp Battle

Mostert vs. Williams. Mostert made the team last season as the 49ers’ third running back. He proved his worth with his outstanding play on special teams. The 49ers’ third running back does not figure to get many touches unless he is pressed into action due to an injury. Mostert found a way to contribute as the team’s best player on special teams. Williams still has a chance to live up to the promise the 49ers saw in him leading up to the 2017 draft. On video, he showed Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner everything they want out of a running back. He was chosen in the fourth round from Utah. He has good size and the ability to hit the hole quickly and tear off large chunks of yardage. However, Williams lacked a sense of urgency as a rookie and did not hold onto the ball in training camp. He spent the season on injured reserve with a minor foot injury. If Williams is ready to compete from the opening of training camp, he can still work his way into the mix.

Long Shot

McNichols was a fifth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year from Boise State. He was ticketed back to the team’s practice squad. But the 49ers swooped in and convinced him to sign with them. McNichols went through his first offseason program and will get a legitimate chance to compete for a roster spot.

Overview

McKinnon and Breida are teammates once again after being together at Georgia Southern five years ago. They are similar backs in size and style. That might not be ideal, but Shanahan does not seem to think it is much of an issue. He wants running backs who can put stress on opposing defenses – players who can turn one missed assignment or blown coverage into a touchdown. Breida is a solid No. 2, coming off a rookie season in which he gained 465 yards with a 4.4 average, while also catching 21 passes for 180 yards. Juszczyk, the Pro Bowl fullback, will not necessarily become the short-yardage back. His main duties remain providing assistance as a lead-blocker, as well as running past linebackers to flash his pass-catching skills to give the offense another chess piece on third downs. Juszczyk caught 33 passes on the season. But in the five starts of Jimmy Garoppolo, Juszczyk had 17 receptions for 195 yards.

Size matters for 49ers at cornerback

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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.