49ers Mailbag: Early morning edition

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49ers Mailbag: Early morning edition

Programming note: Log on today at 1 p.m. when we live stream today's 49ers press conference featuring head coach Jim Harbaugh, TE Delanie Walker and safety Dashon Goldson, live from Santa Clara.

I'm up for a couple hours early this morning to watch some live Olympics basketball action. So I figured it is a perfect opportunity to do a little multi-tasking.So every 30 minutes or so before I go back to bed, I'll answer a question from the 49ers Mailbag . . . Q: I personally think @pcox16 is better then @RealTB25, do u see Cox moving up to the number 2 spot eventually? (@thirddarchie)
The best cornerback in training camp through seven practices has been Tarell Brown. Veteran Carlos Rogers has also performed well. Those two are the starters. And Chris Culliver appears to be solid as the third cornerback.So, now, we're talking about the fourth cornerback. Although Tramaine Brock is ahead of Cox on the current depth chart at cornerback, Cox is ahead of Brock at the nickel back position.Cox's versatility is his strength. He can play outside, inside and he can also return punts. Brock began last season as the third corner and he intercepted passes in the 49ers' first two games. But when Brock missed several weeks after hand surgery, Culliver took advantage of the opening to take over for the rest of the season.Rogers still has several seasons ahead of him as the starter. Brown is a solid player whose best seasons are ahead of him. Culliver figures to be a starter at some point, too.So, unless there are injuries, it's difficult to see Cox becoming a starter any time in the near future with the 49ers. UPDATED: 1:40 a.m.
Q: In your opinion, whos pulling away with the second string QB position? (@mattyb0y)
That's easy: Nobody.Colin Kaepernick entered camp as the No. 2 quarterback, and I believe he'll replace Smith at some point early in Friday's exhibition opener against the Minnesota Vikings.Up to this point, though, he is certainly not pulling away from reserves Josh Johnson or Scott Tolzien.During practices, Kaepernick has seemingly been reluctant to throw the ball. His accuracy has been inconsistent. And he has seemed much more comfortable running with the football.My feeling is that Kaepernick is one of those players who will be a lot more effective in games when he'll be able to make some big plays with his legs. He is still in position to win the backup job because neither Johnson nor Tolzien has taken control, either. UPDATED: 2:05 a.m.Q: Is TO's try out with the seahawks a sign of desperation on their part at wide receiver (@ sbpatt)
Over the weekend, the Seahawks released former 49ers player Antonio Bryant. Last week, the club signed former 49ers receiver Braylon Edwards.Their other notable receivers in camp are:Doug Baldwin
Golden Tate
Sidney Rice
Deon Butler
Kris Durham
Ben ObomanuThings certainly got a lot more interesting when the Seahawks confirmed they will bring in former 49ers receiver Terrell Owens, 38, for a workout.Like Randy Moss, he did not play last season. But, unlike Moss, who retired for a year, Owens was unable to play last season after tearing his ACL. But, unlike Moss, the last time Owens played, he was productive. He caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine TDs with the Cincinnati Bengals.Seeing Owens face the 49ers twice a year in the NFC West would be a great storyline. However, the bigger concern for the Seahawks is finding a quarterback to emerge from a three-way competition that involves Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson.
UPDATED: 2:40 a.m.Q: What position are you most interested in watching in preseason games? (@chilifritos)
This is a good question to end on because I can touch on a few hot topics.
The one player I'm most curious to watch is LaMichael James. I'm very interested to see how his style translates to the NFL. I don't expect the 49ers to disclose any specialty packages for James -- that'll have to wait until the regular season. But I want to see how his quickness looks at this level.
James will be fighting for a regular role, along with every running back behind Frank Gore. Kendall Hunter will be on the team? But will he lose all his playing time to James? I think the 49ers have to find a way to get the ball into James' hands at least a half-dozen times a game.
James has also been getting a lot of work to hone his skills catching punts. Ted Ginn still has to be the team's primary return man, but James will have a chance to show if he can be a reliable option, too.Running back as a whole has good competition. Through seven practices, Brandon Jacobs looks to be in good shape for, not only a roster spot, but a significant backup role. Anthony Dixon has not gotten much action at fullback, which is not a surprise. That's not his style. He has been keeping his pad level down when he's running, and that's a good sign. But it'll be difficult for him to make this team after being a seldom-used No. 3 back last season.
Wide receiver is another position of interest.I believe Michael Crabtree is still the team's best receiver. He has yet to practice since the opening day due to a right leg injury. It remains to be seen whether Crabtree will be on the field Friday for the first time with the 49ers in the exhibition season.Veteran Randy Moss does not figure to see much action in the exhibition season. But the rest of the receiving corps should provide some interesting viewing.I expect the 49ers to keep six receivers -- Crabtree, Moss, Mario Manningham, Ginn, Kyle Williams and A.J. Jenkins -- on the 53-man roster.Nathan Palmer has been the most impressive undrafted rookie in camp -- and one of the more impressive rookies, period. It would not surprise me if the 49ers try to hide him during the exhibition games so they can bring him back to the practice squad. Chris Owusu is in a similar position. At a crowded receiver position, the undrafted rookies appear to be battling for spots on the eight-player practice squad.
OK, former Saint Mary's basketball player Patty Mills just hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lead the Aussie Boomers to an 82-80 victory over previously unbeaten Russia. And I'm going back to bed.The 49ers return to the practice field from 10:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday.If you have more questions, I'll answer them in the comments section below a little later.

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”