49ers Mailbag: What Crabtree can learn from Edwards


49ers Mailbag: What Crabtree can learn from Edwards

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
From the day Braylon Edwards stepped foot in Santa Clara to sign a one-year, 2.1 million contract with the 49ers, he understood how important it was to foster a relationship with quarterback Alex Smith.Both Edwards and Smith are on one-year contracts. How they perform this season will determine the paths their careers take from here.Edwards and Smith knew each other a little from their interaction leading up to the 2005 NFL draft. The 49ers publicly considered both for the No. 1 overall pick. Now, they're together, forming a symbiotic relationship."We're trying to make up for lost time," Smith told the media Wednesday at the 49ers' practice facility about the extra work they're putting in together.
"But, really, (we) just kind of do something every day. Try to take a step every day. It may not be something huge, but just little things every day. Stay on top of it whether it's in the film room or out on the field or just communicating. Those are the things I think that eventually add up."
On a typical day, after most of their teammates have gone inside after practice or are lifting weights, Smith and Edwards remain on the practice field. They might talk about one or two routes. Edwards lines up, runs a pattern against a certain imaginary defense, and Smith throws to him. Again and again.They've practiced their timing on slant patterns. They've worked on back-shoulder throws. And Smith is comfortable enough, it would seem, to give Edwards a chance to make plays against tight man coverage.Smith did that Saturday against the Raiders, throwing him a pass down the sideline when Edwards wasn't able to gain much separation from Raiders cornerback Walter McFadden. Edwards made a phenomenal one-handed catch for 32 yards while McFadden's back was turned to the ball."It's not necessarily his size," Smith said. "There's a lot of other big guys who play his position. Obviously, he has the capability to make plays on the ball in the air, Braylon's got that. There's times when you get one-on-ones, it's kind of those educated risks you take, yeah, absolutely."If he's got one-on-one then you're potentially going to take that shot, because you feel good that his ability's going to protect the throw. It's going to be him or no one. You're going to give him a chance to make the play." Is no news good news? When the 49ers signed Edwards they did so fully aware that he might be suspended for a game or two for guilty plea in July for driving while intoxicated, resolving a case that stemmed from an incident in a September. Neither Edwards nor coach Jim Harbaugh has spoken with the League office about any potential suspension, both said this week.
And that leads us to our first 49ers Mailbag question . . . Q: Any indication that Crabtree is learning anything from Edwards? Seems like Braylon's setting a good example so far. (@jrl1224)
My answer: Yes, Edwards is setting an example that it's never a bad thing for a receiver and quarterback to foster a strong working relationship.Michael Crabtree is difficult to read, but I've never heard anyone criticize his work habits or preparation. However, I think it's fair to say that he did not go out of his way to spend extra time with Smith in their first two seasons together.But, perhaps, it can also be said that Smith never pressed the issue and built the kind of rapport and trust with Crabtree that could have helped both of them.For their first two seasons together, the lockers of Smith and Crabtree were on other sides of the room. Is it any coincidence that under the new locker room configuration that Smith and Crabtree are separated by just one locker (cornerback Tramaine Brock) and Edwards is two lockers down from Crabtree?Q: What's your take on Adams? Do you see him making the team? Doesn't look good right now. (@RedZoneMoss559)
My answer:Phillip Adams helped himself with a 32-yard punt return, running as if the ankle injury that ended his 2010 season was the last thing on his mind. Adams is on the bubble, but he heads into the final two weeks with a good chance to make the team as a reserve cornerback.
Carlos Rogers is the only cornerback you can pencil into the lineup as a starter. He's been bothered by a mild Achilles strain, but he should be OK for the regular season. Rookie Chris Culliver is going to make the team, though he might not be one of the active 46 players on game days.Brock and Tarell Brown look to be in very good shape for roster spots. There's some mystery with Shawntae Spencer, the veteran who has 32 consecutive starts. Coach Jim Harbaugh seems to be lukewarm on Spencer, who has not taken part in a full practice because of a hamstring strain in the month of August.There is a lot of competition, and not much separation at the 49ers' cornerback spots. Adams is still in the mix.Q: Do you HONESTLY believe Tramaine Brock can become a good 1 or 2 CB? (@CBitz15)
My answer: I'm not sure he can become a "good No. 1." But based on what I saw this summer from him, I don't doubt he's capable of becoming a starting cornerback in the NFL.He was barely on my radar when camp opened, though he made the 49ers' 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent from Bellhaven. And Brock put together a very impressive camp. I think Brock's career is wide open at this point. Can he become a good NFL cornerback? I don't see why not.Brock reminds me of Joselio Hanson, whom the 49ers signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003. Hanson made it onto the active roster the next year, and he has played six NFL seasons as a spot starter and valuable member of the Philadelphia secondary.Brock (5-10, 200) is bigger than Hanson (5-9, 185), and has more potential. So, yes, I HONESTLY believe Brock is fully capable of putting together a solid NFL career.Q: Will Mcleod Bethel-Thompson play any snaps during the pre-season, and do you see him as a possibility as the 3rd string QB? (@Danchez114)
My answer: I'd be very surprised if he plays Saturday night against the Texans. Alex Smith is likely to start and play into the third quarter. Then, Colin Kaepernick might finish it out.Also, at some point the 49ers want veteran Josh McCown to get onto the field for some extended playing time before making the final decision whether McCown will be the 49ers' No. 3 QB. That could come in the exhibition finale.If Bethel-Thompson is going to see action, it would be in the final exhibition game. But the 49ers must cut their roster to 80 players by Tuesday, and there's no guarantee he will even be on the roster for the final exhibition game.Bethel-Thompson will certainly not be on the 49ers' final 53-man roster. But in practices, he showed a lot of good qualities. There's a chance the 49ers could keep him around on the practice squad to see if he's capable of some good things down the road.

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.”