49ers Mailbag: What Walker's absence means to offense


49ers Mailbag: What Walker's absence means to offense

The 49ers will have their first official practice of the week on Tuesday, so we'll get a glimpse at the team's injury situation.Obviously, don't look for tight end Delanie Walker to return any time soon from a jaw that was fractured in two places on Dec. 24. Walker did not sound on Friday like a player who thought he'd be able to play."It's emotional," Walker said in his first comments since the injury. "First time in the playoffs and I get hurt, and not being able to play. Kind of hurts. But our team is doing well, and I'm recovering the way I want to recover, so who knows?"Defensive lineman Ray McDonald is nursing a right hamstring strain. He said it's not as bad as the left hamstrings strain that kept him out for a game in November. McDonald said he expects to play on Saturday against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional round at Candlestick Park.The 49ers return to full strength at wide receiver, as Ted Ginn (ankle) and Kyle Williams (concussion) have been cleared to play after missing time late in the season. Every day this week, we'll be answering some questions from the 49ers Mailbag. Let's see what we have today . . . How does Walker's injury impact what the Niners want to do on offense? Will Gore have a harder time running the football in his absence? (Jeremy Sawvel)
Walker greatly improved his blocking this season. In fact, he became such a good blocker that he became a forgotten man in the passing attack.Walker's value was his versatility. He was still a threat as a receiver, though he went six games without a reception before sustaining his injury. Backup tight end Justin Peelle is considered more a blocker, so nothing has to change with the 49ers' run game. But it does mean that the Saints can play the run more when Peelle is on the field. The 49ers could counteract that with more passes in that personnel grouping.It should be noted that the 49ers have decided to keep Walker on the 53-man roster. Coach Jim Harbaugh said they're leaving the spot only for Walker on the chance that he might be able to return to action at some point in the postseason.Also, there's no reason for the team to fill the roster spot because nobody they add to the 53-man roster would be among the 46 active players on game days, anyway.Does the 49ers offense feel more prepared for the blitz happy defense that the Saints like to run because of their prior preseason meeting? (Andrew Schmidt)
The 49ers do not feel more prepared because the Saints did not unveil any great secrets in the exhibition opener. However, the 49ers feel infinitely better-equipped to handle what New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams throws their way because the offensive line has been working together now for 24 weeks -- as opposed to two weeks together when the met for that first exhibition game. Also, the 49ers' pass protection should have the advantage of being able to communicate their pre-snap adjustments without the complication of dealing with excessive crowd noise.Which LB will be charged with covering Jimmy Graham? (Joel Ellis)
Graham is the best pass-catching tight end in the NFC. The 49ers will mix up their coverages, but look for Patrick Willis to be a busy man. He is generally the player called upon to cover top-flight tight ends. But there will also be instances when safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson are responsible, too. Graham was the Saints' leading receiver during the season with 99 receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

Kyle Shanahan put together some of the final pieces of his coaching staff on Tuesday.

The 49ers announced the hirings of seven coaches, including confirmation of John Benton as offensive line coach.

The team hired former NFL standout linebacker DeMeco Ryans as defensive quality control coach. He was a second-round selection of the Houston Texans in 2006 and spent 10 seasons in the league. He finished his career playing four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers also hired Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, Stan Kwan as assistant special teams, Vince Oghobaase as assistant defensive line, Adam Stenavich as assistant offensive line, and Michael Clay as strength and conditioning assistant.

Benton, 53, was hired away from the Broncos after being on the job for approximately a month. Benton served as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach last season. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).

Benton and Shanahan worked together for four seasons with the Houston Texans.

Bullocks worked in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Jaguars' linebackers coach last season, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' new defensive coodinator. Bullocks appeared in 31 games in three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and '08.

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

The only promises new 49ers general manager John Lynch made quarterback Colin Kaepernick for this offseason are open communication and honesty.

Kaepernick has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the 49ers after being a second-round draft pick in 2011. He has started 58 of the 49ers’ past 71 regular-season games.

Kaepernick has the contractual ability to opt out of his contract in March. If he does not, it seems likely the 49ers would release him – even if they want him back – to avoid being on the hook for his scheduled $14.9 million pay for the 2017 season.

“The one thing we will do very well with Kap is we’ll communicate,” Lynch said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And I think that’s very important for both sides. Like everything else, that process is well in the works. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll be very up-front with him, in terms of what we’re thinking and we’ll want to know what he’s thinking, as well.”

Lynch said he developed trust and a good rapport with Kaepernick during the time when the 49ers were among the top teams in the NFL. Lynch was a broadcaster for FOX-TV and had occasion to meet with Kaepernick multiple times during production meetings.

“Every time we talk about Kap, I think of the guy who was in the Super Bowl not too (long ago),” Lynch said. “Things happen in guys’ careers. Injuries happen. Different things happen.”

Kaepernick began last season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert. After regaining his starting role in Week 6, Kaepernick put together his best season since 2013 – his first full season as a starter.

Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 90.7, and he added 468 yards rushing.

Lynch said he and coach Kyle Shanahan have been evaluating the players on the 49ers’ roster. The other three quarterbacks on the roster – Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis – are not under contract for next season.

“Like we said we would – and like we told Kap we would – we’re assessing everything,” Lynch said. “Both Kyle and I believe wholeheartedly that position is the most-important position in football.

“From every side of this thing, we’re evaluating. And we’re continuing to watch the film. We’ll continue to work toward that until we have made a decision.”