Niners Win On Sloppy Field, Go 6-0…

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The Niners played on the Redskins’ Mud Bowl yesterday and came out with a 9-0 win in the shortest NFL game in 10 years, 2 hours and 36 minutes. Combined, the Redskins and Niners ran the ball 65 times out of 103 plays (63.1 % of the time). As the clock keeps on ticking after run plays, the game was short and sweet (or as some analysts wrote, short and ugly). Obviously, Fantasy players who had either team’s players were disappointed.

Under the wet, muddy and sloppy conditions that existed, both teams used the correct strategy… run the ball and stay in the game as any fumble or interception could mean the difference in the game. As for articles written about this being an ugly and boring game, a win in the NFL is pretty no matter how ugly it appeared to be.

What this win proved is that both the Niners Defense and Offense can play under any conditions and do enough to win games… the Defense in dominating style and the Offense in a controlling and “do enough” manner. The Defense is like an “all weather tire” which travels well under any conditions and will take this team very far.  An absolutely telling stat which displays how dominating this Defense has become is that the Redskins ran a grand total of 14 plays in the 2nd half. The Offense sticks to its core running game no matter the circumstances and eventually wears the opponent’s defense out. They had two time consuming drives in the 4th quarter resulting in 2 field goals with the last one icing the game with a few minutes left in the game.

The Defense held the Redskins to 50 yards passing and 104 yards running for a mere 154 yards of offense. Case Keenum had a QBR of 25.9 after the Defense held Jared Goff to a QBR of 1.1 the week before. The Niner Offense generated 146 yards passing while compiling 137 rushing yards for a total of 283 yards. Jimmy G was 12-21 in passing plays for 146 net yards and had a QBR rating of 83.4. He had only 10 yards of passing in the 1st half so what this tells you is that the Niners’ run game wore out the Redskin’s defense in the 2nd half and allowed Garoppolo to be more effective with his play-action passing game. There are a lot of Garoppolo haters out there, but there is one stat that sums up his effectiveness. As a starter, he is 14-2… Hate that, you haters !!!

While the Niners are now 6-0, the difficult part of their schedule is coming up as they’ll have to face Cam Newton, Kyler Murray twice, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson twice, and Lamar Jackson. These QB’s will really test the Niners’ all weather Defense. As Kyle Shanahan says, 6-0 is nice but the Niners have a lot of work to do to get better. They can’t get complacent with the tough part of the schedule ahead of them.

Game ball goes to Julian Taylor who had a monster 4th down stop on Adrian Peterson and also recovered a Peterson fumble. Taylor had been inactive all year but had to step in when D.J. Jones injured his hamstring last week. This simply shows how deep the Niners are on their Defensive front. Kyle Shanahan gave his game ball to his Dad (Mike) who had to endure very hard times under the Redskins’ inept owner and management.

Niners De-Horn Rams, go 5-0… R U Believers Now?

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It’s now time to give this Niners team some love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T !!!

Defense carries teams to championships and this is a defense that can now be compared to the Steel Curtain or the Monsters of the Midway or the Gold Rush. They have dominated every game this year and simply thrashed the high powered Rams Offense which made it to the Super Bowl last year.

Points allowed: 7

Total yards: 157

Passing yards: 48 (78 minus 30 yards on 4 sacks)

Goff’s QBR rating: 1.1 (lowest of his career)

Rushing yards: 109

Third down plays: 0-9

Fourth down plays: 0-4 (one of them on the Niners 1 yard line that would have given the Rams the lead before half time)

Total plays: 50  (vs 76 by the Niners)

Time of possession: 21:08 (vs 38:52 by the Niners)

After the Rams first drive netted them 65 yards and their only score of the day, the Niner D held them to 92 total yards for the remainder of the game. The Rams #1 and #2 receivers (Brandon Cooks and Cooper Kupp) had their longest play be 8 yards between them. Toward the end of the game, Goff went to Kupp on both 3rd and 4th downs with a mere 2 yards needed for a first down. Jimmie Ward shut Kupp down on both plays…. Game over. That, my friends, is called domination!

After all of the so-called professional analysts simply stated that the Niners have not played a good team through their first 4 wins, are they now believers after they dominated a Super Bowl team, or are they still Niner haters? Haters will always be haters but at least give this team some credit and respect. This team is for real !!!

No Joe Staley… No Mike McGlinchey… No Kyle Juszczyk… No Ahkello Witherspoon… No problem… Next man up and very little fall-off as this team is extremely deep at all positions. Justin Skule (rookie 6th round pick) replaced Staley, Daniel Brunskill (undrafted 3rd year player) replaced McGlinchey, nobody replaced Juszczyk because nobody can (so Shanahan had to call creative plays), and E-Man Moseley replaced Witherspoon. The two “unknown” tackles gave up 2 sacks to all-world Aaron Donald, otherwise, they played a heck of a game. E-Man has simply been outstanding and the Niners have seen zero drop off from Witherspoon’s CB position.

I’ve been saying all along that the front 7 of the Niner D is outstanding. There is no questioning the front 4 especially with the addition of two of the best pass rushers in the business (Dee Ford and Nick Bosa). DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead have been monsters and the 5 other rotational players are all outstanding. I can now safely say that Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander can be compared to Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. They are fast, athletic, and heat seeking missles. Now, I can also say that the 4 coverage guys (Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon/E-Man Moseley, Jaquiski Tartt, and Jimmie Ward) are as good as any coverage guys in the league. This D had arrived and are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Game ball goes to Defensive Coordinator, Robert Saleh for being persistent in believing in this defense after 2 very bad years.

When Staley, McGlinchey, and Juszczyk (Juice) return, the Niner Offense will get back to the run dominating team that they are which sets up Shanahan’s effective and innovative run-pass option plays that Garoppolo is so good at executing.

This N That:

  • DeForest Buckner likes the media disrespecting this team and likes playing as underdogs. Despite being one of the best interior lineman, he was left off of the Top 100 players of 2018. Through five games this season, Buckner has 21 tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one pass defensed and six quarterback hits.
  • Richard Sherman thinks that the Niners can keep on winning if they do the following: “We got to play to our standard,” Sherman told Deion Sanders after the win over the Rams. “You can’t worry about anything else. You can’t play down to your opponent, play up to your opponent, you just got to play to the best of your ability every week. You don’t got to do anything crazy or outstanding, just do your job. Be one of 11. If we’re a car and you are a tire, just be a tire. Don’t try to be an engine, don’t try to be a carburetor, don’t try to be a radiator. Just be a wheel. If we get four wheels, an engine, a steering wheel and everybody going at the same pace then I think we can get rolling. Our guys trust and believe that and I love playing with them.”
  • LA had a very bad week. Their Dodgers lost again sealing the team of the decade for the SF Giants… Bumgarner: 3 rings, Kershaw: 0 rings… That explains everything… In yesterday’s Ram loss, the Coliseum was a wave of Red making it seem like that Niners were the home team. In the Chargers loss to the Steelers, their entire stadium was full of yellow “terrible towel” waving fans.
  • The media’s Power Rankings are a joke. I would respect any analyst who predicts their power ranking of all teams at the beginning of the year and sticking with their initial rankings for the entire year. Instead, the media change the rankings every week depending on who won/lost. Enough said…
  • Baker Mayfield, QB for the Browns, has an NFL record of 9 wins and 12 losses, yet, he is on many media commercials. What a joke…

Niners Win Ugly Over Steelers With 5 Turnovers

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First, let’s put things in perspective… an ugly Win feels much better than a pretty Loss any day of the week.

Despite 5 turnovers (3 fumbles and 2 INT’s), the Niners somehow pulled out an improbable win against a proud and gritty Steelers team who came to play on Sunday. The 2 INT’s came early in the game on the Niner’s side of the field. Both passes should have been caught by Breida and Pettis but the ball bounced off their hands into the Steelers hands. And, both times, the stout Niner Defense held and limited the Steelers to 2 Field Goals. The 3 Fumbles were lost in the Steeler’s Red Zone, so a potential 9 to 21 points were flushed down the drain. Following are the winning percentages of teams having turnovers based on the 2017 NFL season:

0 turnovers – 73.4 % chance of winning

1 turnover – 56.7 %

2 turnovers – 40.7 %

3 turnovers – 18 %

4+ turnovers – 0 %

The Niner Defense forced 2 Steeler turnovers so statistically speaking, they had an 18 % chance of winning.

But win they did thanks largely to the Niner Defense who have clearly arrived and are playing like a playoff team. The Front 4 is nine players deep, the LB duel of Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner are playing like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, the CB’s (Ahkello Witherspoon and Richard Sherman) rivals any team’s best CB’s, and the Safeties are young but quickly learning. DeForest Buckner had 8 tackles (7 solo), Kwon Alexander had 7 tackles (6 solo), and Fred Warner had 3 tackles (3 solo). But, I give this week’s game ball to Arik Armstead. He was the disrupter who allowed DeFo, Kwon, and Warner to finish the tackles. I was not a fan of Arik but he is now playing on the Edge and it has become clear that this is his best position. Arik is now playing both the run and pass defense equally well. To give you an example of how well the Niner Defense is playing, they held the Steelers to a mere 76 total yards in the first half. The Steelers did finish with 239 total yards for the game but if you take away the only 2 big mistakes that the Defense made (76 yard TD pass to Smith-Shuster and a 39 yard TD pass to Diante Johnson), they limited the Steelers to a total of 124 yards. They held James Conner to 43 yards on 13 carries and Armstead forced the key Connor fumble late in the game. It’s time to find a good nickname for the Niner Defense… How about “Gold Busters” !!!

On Offense, although they turned the ball over an unacceptable 5 times, they moved the ball up and down the field despite the fact that Garoppolo was pressured all day long. He was pressured 8 times but sacked only once. He finished with 277 passing yards on a very good 23-32 (71.9 %) and throwing the winning TD to Pettis with 1:20 left in the game. I believe that this was Jimmy G’s best effort as a Niner given that he was facing a very tough Steeler defense. He stayed strong in the pocket and threw some very accurate passes under pressure including the game winner. With Joe Staley out, Justin Skule had a solid game at Left Tackle as the Offense stats indicate. Hopefully, he will improve by experience and hold down the fort until Staley returns. After being in Shanahan’s Dog House all season long, Dante Pettis is now on the right track as his practice ethics have improved dramatically and it is now showing on game day. He showed his emotions after catching the game winner. The running game held their own producing 159 yards with Raheem Mostert being the leading ball carrier with 79 yards on 12 carries. Additionally, the Niners have found their badly needed Red Zone power runner in Jeff Wilson. He now has scored 4 TD’s, 2 each in the last two games. Not bad for a guy who was promoted from the Practice Squad two weeks ago when Tevin Coleman went down with a high ankle sprain. The Offensive player of the Game was Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk. He had 3 catches of which 2 were highlight reel plays. The first on a long pass where is stretched and went parallel Superman to make the catch. The second one where he caught the ball, broke a tackle and stiff armed Minkah Fitzpatrick to the ground.  The Niner sideline went wild. But, the real reason that Juice deserves the Offensive game ball is that he was a monster blocker for Garoppolo and for the RB’s. He made key blocks all day long. Not too many teams run the 22 Offense (2 RB’s and 2 TE’s) but the Niners do this on a consistent basis. There are only a limited amount of things a team can do with a 22 Offense with the run being the primary focus. So even though the opposing defense knows that a run is coming at them, the Niners consistently gain yards. As George Kittles said, “That’s our run game. We’re going to try to run through your throats and run through face, and, hey, if you can stop it, try — try your best shot.”

Richard Sherman said that this team needed this kind of ugly game as it demonstrates that the Niners have a lot of improvements to work on to get them to that next level. But, by winning when they should have lost also shows the commitment and character that this team has.

The one area of concern is that Ahkello Witherspoon went down with a foot injury in the second half. Jason Verrett came in and got burned badly on his first two plays. He was called for pass interference, then on the very next play got burned for a 39 yard TD. Depending on how much time Ahkello is expected to be out, the Niners may be back in discussions with Jacksonville for a possible trade for Jalen Ramsey. Stay tuned….

Niners Blow Out Bengals to go Two and Ohhh…

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Make no mistake… Kyle Shanahan was the MVP of yesterday’s huge Niner win over the Bengals. He called a brilliant game mixing runs, play-action passes, and innovative screen passes to completely dominate the game, 41 – 17. The Bengals, who played very well at the Seahawks last week, had no clue of what was coming at them every time Garoppolo came to the line of scrimmage. A sign of a well played game is a balanced run/pass attack. The Niners threw for 313 yards on 26 passes while piling on 259 rushing yards on 42 run plays for a total of 572 yards. This is why they are Two and Ohhh to start the season with both W’s on the road. The last time the Niners started 2-0 was in 2012 when they last reached the Super Bowl. Another great decision made by Lynch and Shanahan was to stay in the East time zone after their opening win at Tampa Bay. They stayed and practiced in Youngstown, Ohio all week so the players were well acclimated to that time zone prior to playing the Bengals. The payoff was immediate as they dominated from the very first snap of the game with a sack of Andy Dalton by Arik Armstead.

Following are noteworthy stats and information:

  • The Niners had 4 sacks and none of them were recorded by Nick Bosa or Dee Ford, although they both pressured Dalton. The sacks came from Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Ronald Blair and Solomon Thomas. This is really promising news as Andy Dalton was under constant pressure all day long. With the strong depth of the D-Line, QB’s will be under pressure all season long. Additionally, the Defense held Joe Mixon to a mere 17 yards rushing on 11 carries.
  • Kwon Alexander is exactly what the Niners were looking for. He is a high energy, high motor heat seeker who is around the ball always. He is smart and fast and can also cover on passing downs. He had a brilliant INT for the only Niner take-away of the day.
  • Akhello Witherspoon looks like the real deal after suffering through inconsistency last year.
  • Jimmy G turned in a very solid performance throwing for 313 yards on 17-25 passes and 3 TD’s for an excellent passer rating of 131.2. He did throw 1 INT into triple coverage, something that he really needs to correct. The season is still young and if he has more success, he’ll learn to eliminate these mistakes.
  • While RB’s Jerrick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman are out with injuries, the Niner running game didn’t miss a beat as Matt Breida ran for 121 yards on 12 carries while Raheem Mostert ran for 83 yards on 13 carries and Jeff Wilson was brought off the practice team to run for 34 yards on 10 carries and scoring 2 TD’s. All of these guys run fast, hard, and shifty. They fit the Shanahan offense perfectly.
  • The O-Line had a super game as they did not allow Garoppolo to be sacked while opening holes for the RB’s to the tune of 259 rushing yards.
  • Joe Staley suffered a broken fibula in his left leg. He’ll be out of action for 6-8 weeks. Justin Skule, a 6th round draft pick this year will assume Staley’s critical role at Left Tackle. Only time will tell how well Staley can teach Skule all the tricks of the trade and how well Skule can perform.
  • Deebo Samuel as a rookie is taking over the starting job from Dante Pettis. He is strong and has no fear running routes over the middle. Pettis played 35 snaps but didn’t have a catch while Samuel had 5 receptions for 87 yards and a TD.

While this team is off to a great start, the Niners have a very tough schedule ahead of them. If they have a successful winning season, it’ll be due to their stout Defense which I believe has arrived as a Top 10 defense. The Offense is also much improved but they will run into some very good defenses which they will struggle with, especially with Staley out for a large portion of the season. What does this team remind me of? The 1981 team when the Niners started 3 Defensive rookies (Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson, and Eric Wright) to go along with Dwight Hicks in his 2nd year. Dwight Hicks and his Hot Licks along with a new guy named Joe Montana took the Niners to the Super Bowl that year which started the Dynasty. Well, one can only dream….

Niners Sloppily Win Game 1

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The Niners’ Supply Management team placed a large order of Rustoleum with Same-Day delivery as they played with a lot of rust showing while Jameis Winston won the game for the Niners by throwing 3 INT’s with 2 Pick 6’s.

While the Rustoleum will be used mostly by the Offense, the Defense has some rust chiseling to do also before they face a surprisingly tough Cincinnati Bengals team this Sunday.

While being critical of their performance, one can easily see that this is a much improved club and the improved talent hid many mistakes.

Let’s look at the good and the bad of the Defense as I believe that the success of the 2019-2020 Niners will depend on how this side of the ball keeps the opposition out of their End Zone.

The Good:

  • They had 3 INT’s with 2 of them directly scoring 14 points. Richard Sherman and Akhello Witherspoon both had Pick 6’s with Akhello’s being the game clincher. Last year’s Niner Defense registered a grand total of 2 INT’s the entire season!!!
  • They had 1 fumble recovery. Last year they had 5 the entire year.
  • They sacked Winston 3 times. The key additions of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa as Edge Rushers was prominently on display and hopefully will continue throughout the season.
  • They allowed the Bucs to score only once out of four times in the Red Zone.
  • When under pressure, the 49ers limited Winston to 4-12 passes for 37 yards and two INT’s for a passer rating of 3.1.
  • The much maligned Defensive Secondary broke up 6 key passes and Tarvarious Moore broke up a 4th down pass in the End Zone which very easily could have been another INT.

The Bad:

  • Although the Niner D gave up only rushing 121 yards, many of those yards came at critical times allowing the Bucs to keep their drives alive. Poor tackling is where they need to improve.
  • They gave up 194 passing yards so although the Secondary is much improved, they have much to work on to compete against more dominant teams.
  • They gave up a 1st down on a 3rd and 17 play. Salah had them line up 7 players 18 yards from the line of scrimmage. As we all know, a Prevent Defense simply prevents them from succeeding. I blame this directly on Salah, the Defensive Coordinator.

The Offense was mostly offensive but they displayed enough to hope that they can come together and generate more consistent drives resulting in more TD’s rather than Robbie Gould 3 pointers. Having said that, I’ll take “Good as Gould’s” 3’s all day long. The only other guy better at 3’s is Steph Curry….

The Bad:

  • The WR’s had only 7 catches with Deebo Samuel having 3. James, Bourne, Pettis, and Goodwin had only 1 catch each. If this doesn’t improve, then their opponents will focus only on shutting down George Kittle who had 8 catches.
  • The Run game was horrendous generating only 98 yards. The RB’s are better than average so the blame goes to the O-Line. They simply did not open holes. If this trend continues, it will be yet another long losing year.
  • Jimmy G had a decent game but made a terrible decision by staring down his receiver and threw a very bad Pick 6. He also made several other bad plays not throwing to wide open receivers.
  • They had 11 penalties for 87 yards with three of those penalties wiping out 3 TD’s. This is a Rustoleum in the brain issue.

The Good:

  • Jimmy G had decent stats with 18 completions out of 27 attempts with a Passer Rating of 80.2.
  • The O-Line allowed only 1 sack of Jimmy G.
  • Jimmy G threw a beautiful TD pass to Richie James.
  • It is clear that Jimmy G has developed chemistry with George Kittle.
  • Deebo Samuel looks like a rising star.
  • Although the running game stunk, Raheem Mostert showed much promise with 40 yards on 9 carries. With Tevin Coleman out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain, Raheem has a chance to shine.

While there are plenty of areas to improve upon, the Niners played hard in an “away” game under hot and humid conditions. An Ugly Win is better than a Pretty Loss no matter how you cut it. They have another “away” game in Cincinnati. If they clean up their mistakes and start with a 2-0 record before their first home game, this will set the direction for their entire season.

Introducing the 2019 SF 49ers Roster

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In the third year of the Lynch/Shanahan era, the 49ers are ready to make some noise, open some eyes, turn some heads, and surprise NFL analysts who are ranking this team in the lower quadrant.

Shanahan and Lynch both have been clear and consistent about saying that the cut to the 53 man roster this year will be the toughest that they have faced. They are also saying that the decisions will be hard but this is a very good problem to have as this translates to the deepest roster that they have ever had.

This year, Shanahan has the luxury of saying that they will look at all options including making decisions on who they think will be on the field more than some better players who have a history of injuries.

Lynch is fielding calls from other NFL teams about the depth of their Defensive Line. They will be cutting D-Line players who could be potential starters on other teams.

Richard Sherman has stated that this year’s Defense compared to last year is like night and day.

During the off season, the Niners addressed their weaknesses in a very big way. Their lack of a pass rush was their achilles heel and the lack of impact wide receivers was also evident.

Trading for Dee Ford and drafting Nick Bosa as pass rushers along with an already strong D-Line will have a huge positive impact in this and future years. I wrote an article during the off season about “Wouldn’t it be nice to see Dee Ford in a Niner Uniform?” They didn’t stop there… They also added Kwon Alexander as our weak side LB and Jason Verrett as a potential starting CB. Alexander was the heart and soul of the Buccaneers defense. Verrett has had a history of injuries but when healthy, he was an All-Pro. The Niners drafted a LB out of Arkansas, Dre Greenlaw, who is an absolute heat seeker. He has shown very well in training camp and in the pre-season games. Kentavious Street (DL), whom the Niners drafted in 2018 but didn’t play last year due to an ACL, looks healthy and proving that the Niners made a good investment in him last year.

The Niners also improved their WR position by drafting Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd this year. Both look strong and versatile. Samuel is fast, strong and can play any of the WR positions and also can be used on special teams as a Punt or Kick-off returner. Hurd was a big running back who punished defenders and converted to a WR in his final year of college. So, Shanahan can use him in any number of ways. He, along with Kittle will create nightmare miss-matches for the opposing defense.

Shanahan loves players who are versatile as they give him weapons that the opposing team has a difficult time matching up with. Another impact player that he added to the team is Tevin Coleman at RB. Coleman played for Shanahan at Atlanta and had career numbers when Shanahan ran their Offense. He is fast, runs over defenders, and has soft hands so is a receiving weapon out of the backfield.

And, most importantly, Jimmy Garoppolo is back at QB after recovering from an ACL. He looked rusty in his first pre-season outing but looked like the old Jimmy G that we know in his last outing vs the KC Chiefs.

Below is the Niner depth chart as of August 20.  There are a few oddities about the chart and I’ll comment on my take on who may or may not make the team.

QB’s: Shanahan stated that he will keep 3 QB’s but his statement came after the shocking Andrew Luck retirement announcement. The Colts will be in the market for a QB so by keeping all three, the Niners have some trading leverage instead of releasing one and the Colts picking up that player for free. My belief is that they will start the season with two with the backup being Nick Mullens.

RB’s: It is odd that Jerrick McKinnon isn’t even listed so his return from last year’s ACL has not progressed well enough. The Niners made a very wise decision to bring in Tevin Coleman. Additionally, Jeff Wilson has looked remarkably strong as he added 15 pounds of muscle. Along with Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, the Niners have the fastest set of RB’s in the league.

WR’s: Trent Taylor may start the year on IR but he will join the team when he gets healthy. Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are locks but the other choices are very interesting. Kendrick Bourne can make spectacular catches but drop the easy ones. Many are saying that Marquise Goodwin is a lock but one can’t overlook Richie James making the team as he is more versatile than Goodwin in that he can return punts and kick-offs. Shanahan is giving Dante Pettis plenty of tough love as Pettis is not playing to his potential. He was a high second round draft pick last year and the Niners gave up a third round pick to move up to draft him so it will be highly unlikely that Shanahan will give up on him. But, Pettis is playing like he is a bubble player.

TE’s: George Kittle will have a monster year with Garoppolo throwing to him and Shanahan calling plays. Look for Ross Dwelley and Kaden Smith to make the team. They are have solid camps.

OL: With the loss of Shon Coleman for the entire 2019 season due to a badly fractured ankle, the Niners depth at Offense Tackle got significantly weaker. Daniel Brunskill, Sam Young and Justin Skule will have to step up and prove themselves to be worthy backups to Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. The guy on the bubble is Joshua Garnett, a former first round pick. Garnett has been injury prone and is one of those players that Shanahan was referring to when he made the comment that he may select a player who he trusts can be on the field more than others who have a history of injuries.

DL’s: Lynch said that he is fielding calls from other teams about his D-line personnel. My take is that Lynch should do whatever he can to deal Arik Armstead and/or Soloman Thomas. Armstead has never lived up to his first round pick potential. Although Soloman Thomas has been living a very difficult life since his sister committed suicide, the fact is that he has also played like a bubble player.

LB’s: I like this group very much. Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander may bring back memories of Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. The others that are playing really well are Dre Greenlaw, David Mayo and Azeez Al-Shaair. It may be time to move on from Malcolm Smith who also has a long history with injuries.

CB’s and NB’s: Richard Sherman is another year removed from his achilles injury and says he feels stronger than ever. At the other CB position, Ahkello Witherspoon, is a much improved player from last year. However, if Jason Verrett is healthy, look to see him as the other starting CB. At Nickel Back, K’Wuan Willimans will be the starter. There will be a battle for the backup with D.J. Reed and Emmanuel Moseley.

SS’s and FS’s: Jaquiski Tartt will start at SS and Jimmy Ward, who isn’t even listed below, will start at FS. Ward is returning from a broken collar bone. He is another good player with a history of injuries but he is a lock to make the team as he is versatile enough to play CB and NB as well as FS. Look to Tarvarious Moore and Marcell Harris to also make the team.

I am predicting that at the end of the year, the Niners will be in the Top 10 on both Offense and Defense. That is a loud cry from where they ended up the last three years.

2019 SF 49ers – Niners’ Monster Free Agency Catches

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At the end of the 2018 season, I wrote a blog asking, “Wouldn’t Dee Ford look good in a Niner Uni?” After their free agency signings and before the NFL draft, I am now asking, “Wouldn’t an NFC Western Division title look good on the Levi Stadium wall?”

My optimism for this “worst-to-first” scenario is attributed to the following:

  • Dee Ford in a Niner Uni has become a reality. The Niners now have a legitimate Edge Rusher. One will never know, but his bonehead play in the AFC Championship game where he lined up off-sides with the Chiefs in the lead with less than a minute left in the game may have played a part in the Chiefs agreeing to trade Ford for a 2020 2nd round pick.
  • Kwon Alexander, the heart and soul of the Buccaneer’s defense, became a Niner and is simply a heat seeking beast that the Niners haven’t had since Patrick Willis. Paired with Fred Warner, the Niners just may have the fastest LB’s in the league. He did tear his ACL last season after achieving All Pro status, but his rehab is reportedly going great. Additionally, the Niner medical team performed a thorough exam on Kwon to make sure that he’ll recover fully.
  • Tevin Coleman is another speedy Running Back who Shanahan knows well as he coached him at Atlanta during their Super Bowl year. Tevin has great hands which is a Shanahan requirement along with his tough and speedy running skills. The Niners now have four RB’s (Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman) who have all run the 40 in 4.1 seconds or faster.
  • Jordan Matthews is the big and strong Red Zone WR that the Niners haven’t had in recent memory. Wouldn’t it be great if he could be nearly as good as John Taylor? It turns out that Jordan is Jerry Rice’s cousin and has been a lifetime Niner fan. He is 6’ 3” and 215 lbs. and has caught most of his passes in the Red Zone, a glaring weakness in the Niner offense for years. Niner fans wanted Lynch and Shanahan to trade for either Antonio Brown or O’Dell Beckham. Rightfully so, they never showed interest in Brown due to his character, age and high salary demands. The Niners did come close to trading for Beckham but were unwilling to give up their #2 draft pick in this year’s draft. I am in total agreement with Lynch and Shanahan. The Niners still have many holes to fill and their 3-5 year plan is to get younger and build mostly from within. Additionally, they are not a team built to throw the ball deep on a regular basis. They are a run-first team with a passing game designed to create miss-matches with TE’s (George Kittle) and the speedy RB’s that I’ve already mentioned above.
  • Jason Verrett is a CB that Richard Sherman thinks highly of. He was a 1st round pick in 2014 but has had multiple injuries including to his shoulder, ACL and Achilles. In his only healthy year (2015), he earned All Pro status. He passed the Niners physical prior to signing and very well could be the starting CB opposite Sherman. Ahkello Witherspoon had a poor 2nd year and must come into this training camp with plenty to improve upon. Tarvarious Moore, on the other hand, came on strong at the end of last year and may be the Niners future at CB.

The Niners did look at available free agent safeties and pursued Earl Thomas. With his age, injury and salary, the Niners made the wise decision to stick with Jimmie Ward and play him at Free Safety. The Strong Safety position will be either Jaquiski Tartt or Marcell Harris who also came on strong at the end of last year.

Heading into this year’s NFL draft, the Niners have already made positive noise in Free Agency. This gives Lynch and Shanahan some options.

There are potentially 2 impact pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Tennessee). The Niners are drafting 2nd overall so will be guaranteed a shot at one of these two edge rushers. Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals may very well use their #1 pick on QB Kyler Murray. If they do, then the Niners in essence will have their #1 pick at their fingertips.

If they stay at #2 and if Arizona does pick Murray, they can pick either Nick Bosa, the consensus #1 Edge Rusher or Quinnen Williams, the consensus #1 defensive end in this year’s draft.

Since they already signed Dee Ford, another option is to trade down with potentially the Raiders (#4), the Buccaneers (#5), or the Jaguars (#7) to gain an additional draft pick in either round 1 or 2.

If they do trade down, a player that I like very much is Devin White, LB from LSU. He is another heat seeking LB. Or, they can possibly get Montez Sweat or Rashan Gary as their Edge Rusher. After all, there isn’t too much separating Bosa, Allen, Sweat and Gary. With their additional pick, they can draft a highly rated WR (N’Keal Harry, Kelvin Harmon, Deebo Samuel, Parris Campbell, Hakeem Butler, or Riley Ridley) and use their own #2 pick on a highly rated OL (Cody Ford, Garret Bradbury, Dalton Risner, Elgton Jenkins, Erik McCoy, or Kaleb McGary).

The first two rounds of this year’s draft seem to be filled with talent so whatever decisions Lynch and Shanahan make, I am firmly on board.

Worst to First is the Niner theme for 2019 !!!

2018 SF 49ers – Wouldn’t Dee Ford (KC Chiefs) Look Good in a Niner Uni in 2019 ?

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Dee Ford is an unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 and had a monster year in his contract year. He is the Edge Rusher that the Niners have been needing ever since Charles Haley left the Niners in 1991. Yes, it has been 27 long years since the Niners had an impact pass rusher.

How good was Ford’s 2018 season?

  • He had a league leading 11 QB pressures that directly resulted in turnovers. Putting it another way, the entire Niners defense totaled 7 turnovers and Dee had 11 by himself.
  • Ford’s strip sack of Andrew Luck in the 3rd quarter of yesterday’s playoff game took just 2.54 seconds, the fastest yet of this year’s playoff games.
  • When the Niners played the Chiefs this year, Ford had 7 QB pressures that resulted in 2 sacks and 5 hurries.
  • Dee finished the year with 13 sacks and 46 hurries along with his 11 forced turnovers.

That, my friends, is what is called a monster year in his contract year and he will be commanding a huge payday.

There is this thing called the “franchise tag” which the Chiefs will most likely use to prevent Ford from signing with any other team. So, although Dee Ford would look so good in a Niner uniform next year, the likelihood of this happening is slim to none.

There are other pass rushers who will become free agents this year:

  • Frank Clark (Seahawks)
  • Jadeveon Clowney (Texans)
  • Trey Flowers (Patriots)
  • DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys)

These players are all great options for the Niners as well. But, they are also “franchise tag” candidates along with Dee Ford. But, a lot can happen between now and the NFL draft so if any of these great edge rushers are not ‘tagged”, the Niners should pounce on the opportunity to get one of these players.

There are potentially 2 impact pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Tennessee). The Niners are drafting 2nd overall so will be guaranteed a shot at one of these two edge rushers. Again, a lot can happen between now and the NFL draft in late April. If the Niners are able to sign one of the five premium pass rushers mentioned above who have already proven themselves, Lynch/Shanahan may opt for the “best available” player in the NFL draft instead of focusing solely on Bosa/Allen.

This leads me to what I feel would be the dream scenario for the Niners in 2019.

  • Sign one the of five established edge rushers who will be free agents this year with Dee Ford at the top of my list.
  • Instead of drafting Nick Bosa or Josh Allen, draft Quinnen Williams (DT from Alabama). He may be the next Aaron Donald (LA Rams). With Williams, Buckner, Armstead, Thomas and one of the five edge rushing free agents, the Niners may just become one of the best defenses in the league. Teams won’t be able to double team any one of these players so the QB pressures will increase dramatically. The other added benefit is to the Niners defensive backfield. With QB pressures, their coverage time will be reduced and the chance for turnovers will increase.

Other free agents that the Niners should strongly consider are Earl Thomas (Safety from the Seahawks), Landon Collins (Safety from the Giants), Tyrann Mathieu (Safety from the Texans), C.J. Mosely (LB from the Ravens), Anthony Barr (LB from the Vikings), and Chris Conley (WR from the Chiefs).

After picking Quinnen Williams in the first round, their next priority is to pick the best available Corner Back in the second round.  The 2019 draft class is deep at the CB position:

  • Greedy Williams (LSU)
  • Deandre Baker (Georgia)
  • Byron Murphy (Washington)
  • Amani Oruwariye (Penn St)
  • Julian Love (Notre Dame)
  • Kris Boyd (Texas)
  • Trayvon Mullen (Clemson) (Defensive MVP in CFP Championship game)
  • Travon Diggs (Alabama)

As for Wide Receivers, every year, an impact WR emerges who was picked in the middle-to-late rounds in the draft. Lynch/Shanahan have to find that diamond in the rough. I do not recommend that the Niners trade for either Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham as the asking prices will be too high.

Although their record doesn’t show it, the team roster has improved dramatically since they took over. I expect that this trend will continue and the W’s will follow.

SF 49ers – Week 16 Loss – On a Down Year, Shanahan looks Up to 2019

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The Niners closed a disappointing 2018 season at 4-12 with a 48-32 loss to the LA Rams. In spite of an injury ridden year, the Niners saw the emergence of many young players with some even becoming impact players. I view George Kittle (TE), DeForest Buckner (DE), Richard Sherman (CB) and Fred Warner (LB) as having a tremendous impact year. The players who made great strides going into next year are Matt Breida (RB), Raheem Mostert (RB), Nick Mullens (QB), Dante Pettis (WR), Kendrick Bourne (WR), Elijah Lee (LB), and Mike McGlinchy (OT). And of course, the old reliable Joe Staley (OT), had his usual outstanding year. The young defensive backs who were pressed into action due to injuries who may be difference makers next year are D.J. Reed, Marcell Harris, and Tarvarious Moore. Lastly, the Niners will have a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) and Jerrick McKinnon (RB), who missed the entire season with torn ACL’s, back in action next year.

George Kittle set an NFL record with 88 catches for 1,377 yards beating Travis Kelce who had set the record a few hours earlier with 1,336 and Rob Gronkowski with 1,327 in 2011.

The Offensive Line had a solid year. Joe Staley (LT), Laken Tomlinson (LG), Weston Richburg (C), Mike Person (RG), and Mike McGlinchey (RT) have become a stable group. Tomlinson may have suffered a torn ACL in yesterday’s game. This will be a blow to this group. Richburg played almost the entire year with a bad knee. With a year to strengthen his knee, he should come back strong next year.

The Defensive Line has also come together and the Niners now have a solid base. Arik Armstead (DE), Ronald Blair (DE), Earl Mitchell (NT), DeForest Buckner (DE), Soloman Thomas (DT), Sheldon Day (DT), D.J. Jones (DT), and Julian Taylor (DT) give the Niners a solid rotational group. Soloman Thomas, who was miss-used as a DE, started to shine when moved to his position of strength (DT). He is much more effective on the inside due to his quickness and ability to get into the backfield to disrupt runs or passes.

The greatest need for improvement for next year are to find a pass rusher and a true #1 wide receiver. I trust that Lynch and Shanahan will fill these holes either through the draft or via free agency. Their reputation as being player’s coaches/executives have grown. Thus, impact players at these positions may be attracted to joining the Niners.

In addition to player improvements, Shanahan and his coaches must focus on improving these two glaring minuses….

  • They were 0-8 on the road.
  • They created the fewest take-away turnovers in NFL history (7 on 2 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries). They lost the ball 32 times on 20 interceptions and 12 fumbles for a differential of minus 25. This is by far, the worst in the NFL.

The Niners coaching staff will coach the players in the Senior Bowl. Traditionally, the coaching staff with the worst NFL record are assigned to coach in the Senior Bowl. Arizona had the worst record, but, with the firing of coach Steve Wilkes, Kyle Shanahan is next in line. The last time the Niners coached in the Senior Bowl, coach Mike Singletary found a guy named Patrick Willis.

This-n-That:

  • At the conclusion of the season, there are 8 head coach vacancies. Green Bay, Cincinnati, NY Jets, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Miami, Denver, and Cleveland.
  • In the playoffs, watch out for the Indy Colts in the AFC. With Andrew Luck and perhaps the best Offensive Line in the NFL with the addition of Quentin Nelson, they are dominating and opening gaping holes for their RB’s. In the NFC, the Seahawks with the 4th quarter magician, Russell Wilson, will be a tough out.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers remained on the field after their narrow victory rooting for their arch enemy Cleveland Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens. This was their only hope for making the playoffs. Their balloon was burst when the Ravens intercepted Baker Mayfield to end the Steeler’s season. No tears were shed by this writer….

SF 49ers – Week 15 Loss – The Young Defense Holds Potent Bears to 14 Points

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I heaped praise on the young Niner defensive players in last week’s blog and they didn’t do anything to dispel my view of their play. They played great against a very good Chicago Bears team by holding them to 14 points. Yes, they got beat but only on great back-shoulder passes by Mitchell Trubisky. Not even the best corner backs in the leagues could have prevented those catches.

The offense was held in check only because they faced a Vic Fangio defense… one of the best in the NFL. Not only does Fangio have the best personnel in the league, he knows how to scheme his personnel. He has re-made the Monsters of the Midway with his crew. And, since Vic was not given the chance to coach the Niners by Baalke and York, he had a bit more incentive to unleash his Monsters.

The Niners finally won the turnover battle 2 to 1 and had a chance to drive down the field at the end of the game after they forced a fumble. But, on 4th and 4 near mid-field, Nick Mullens rolled out to the right and had clear sailings to pick up the first down, but he got caught up in the moment and flung a long desperation pass down the field which fell way out of bounds. These are the mistakes that he and the Niners will learn from as they head into the last game of the year vs the high powered LA Rams.

This-n-That:

  • Chuckie Gruden traded the best linebacker in football, Khalil Mack, and a young impact wide receiver, Amari Cooper, and got GM Reggie McKenzie fired. The Raiders are now being sued by the city of Oakland for leaving Oakland for Vegas. Mark Davis’ Dad forced the City of Oakland to spend millions building Mt. Davis, a monstrosity upper deck which was never used by neither the Raiders nor the A’s. Al Davis made the building of Mt. Davis a condition for the Raiders to return to Oakland from LA. Mark Davis wasn’t satisfied with Mt. Davis so he demanded a brand new stadium. Vegas was stupid enough to fall for his trap so he is leaving Oakland once again strapping them with unpaid bills and lost revenue. As a topper to the Oakland saga, this week, Gruden signed QB Nathan Peterman who was released by the Buffalo Bills. He was released because in 8 games, he threw for 3 touchdowns but 12 interceptions (5 int’s in one half of one game) with a QB rating of 32.5. He had a perfect QB rating for the opposing team. Fits perfectly with Gruden’s offense.
  • The Washington Redskins released All Pro safety D.J. Swearinger after he bashed his coaching staff in public, something he has done before. But, this is the same Redskin staff who hired Reuben Foster one day after he was arrested for domestic violence (third arrest) and cut by the Niners. It’s this kind of management decisions that keep on getting in the way of the Redskins being able to win.