49ers Mailbag: Will playbook open for Alex Smith?

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49ers Mailbag: Will playbook open for Alex Smith?

Welcome to another edition of 49ers Mailbag on this Thursday morning, and thanks to those followers on Twitter who supplied questions . . . Do you expect the Niners to open up the playbook to Alex a little more this year? (@gobo49)
If you're asking whether I believe the 49ers are going to change their offensive philosophy to more of a "pass-first" approach, the answer is absolutely no.But there is a strong chance the 49ers will attempt a higher percentage of passes because they might not be playing with a lead this season as much as they did a year ago.The 49ers do not want to throw the ball more. But they want to throw the ball more effectively when they do throw it. They expect to be better on third downs and inside the red zone, that's for sure.But the same overall approach as last season will be in play.Alex Smith will take the occasional shot down the field, but he's going to check it down and take what's there. That's how he made it through 18 games last season (including the playoffs) with just five interceptions.Coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman want to run the ball. This is not a philosophy that's new to them since coming to the 49ers. Remember, they had Andrew Luck as a junior at Stanford. And with the future No. 1 overall pick at quarterback, they still ran the ball 58.5 percent of the time that season.Should one or more tackles go down with injury who do you see the 49ers playing at the position? (@Michael_RA)
If one tackle goes down, the 49ers might not lose a whole lot. They would move Alex Boone to that tackle spot and Leonard Davis could take over at right guard.But if left tackle Joe Staley and right tackle Anthony Davis became unavailable, then there would be a lot of anxiety. (Of course, every team in the NFL would be in a bad spot if both tackles went down.)
If that were to occur, Boone would probably play left tackle and second-year pro Mike Person would be in line to play right tackle. That is, unless the 49ers make a move after final cuts to get a proven backup. But don't expect that to happen. Proven offensive tackles generally do not lose their jobs at the final cuts.Does Demarcus Dobbs' versatility (now as edge rusher in nickel) make possible to keep 3 OLB's again in '12? (@Tre9er)
Yes. As you know, the 49ers kept three outside linebackers on their roster last season. And it looks as if that's the way they're leaning again this year.The 49ers have three proven outside linebackers with starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, and Parys Haralson, who started every game a year ago.

Journeyman Eric Bahktiari was removed in pass-rush situations in the first half against the Houston Texans on Saturday to allow Dobbs to get into the game. Dobbs is the 49ers' fourth outside pass-rusher right now behind the three outside linebackers.While Bakhtiari has stood out in two exhibition games, it should be noted that he has played well against players who aren't likely to be on 53-man roster this season.Veteran Ikaika Alama-Francis will be given an opportunity in the final two weeks to determine if he can be that fourth outside linebacker.In terms of the 53-man roster, it could come down to a fourth outside linebacker vs. nose tackle Ian Williams. Although Williams has practice-squad eligibility, he has played well enough to put himself in a position to get claimed off waivers if the 49ers let him go.Most impressive guy who WON'T make the practice squad? (@jaynovel)
The answer to that question is a wide receiver.Sorry I can't be more specific, but a year ago I never thought the 49ers would've chosen to retain Joe Hastings on the practice squad (and eventually promote him to the 53-man roster) over draft pick Ronald Johnson and impressive undrafted rookie Chris Hogan.If the 49ers keep six receivers, as I expect, on the 53-man roster, there's no need for them to hold onto more than one receiver on the practice squad. Undrafted rookies Nathan Palmer, Chris Owusu and Brian Tyms each brings a little something to the table. The 49ers face a difficult decision -- much as they did a year ago.Owusu seemingly gets the least amount of practice and play time of any of the receivers. Are they hiding him? Palmer received the biggest signing bonus (10,000) of any of the undrafted rookies. Those two are the clear front-runners for the practice squad nomination.These final two exhibition games might be mostly meaningless, but they could shape the 49ers' decision at wide receiver.

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

C.J. BEATHARD
Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.