49ers noticed Cowboys' mistakes on Johnson

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49ers noticed Cowboys' mistakes on Johnson

SANTA CLARA -- As far as absurd utterances, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan set the bar pretty high two weeks ago.In the days leading up to the Cowboys' game against the Detroit Lions, Ryan said his cornerbacks would be taking a step down in competition playing against wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
After all, Ryan said the Cowboys' defensive backs work against "better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant" in practice.Then, Ryan added, "They're two of probably the premier receivers in football. But this guy's right there. He's almost that good."Austin and Bryant are good, to be sure. But Johnson this season he has been in a class by himself. He is the first player in NFL history to have nine receiving touchdowns after five games.And, predictably, he tore up the Cowboys two weeks ago.Johnson caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including one in which he rose above three helpless Cowboys defenders for a 23-yard score. The Lions rallied from a 27-3 third-quarter deficit for the 34-30 victory, thanks to Johnson's 2-yard touchdown catch against single coverage on a fade route with 1:39 remaining.The 49ers believe they learned from the Cowboys' mistakes.First, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio certainly wasn't going to rip a page from Ryan's verbal playbook."Well, first off, I want to say he would be the best receiver on our team, not the third best," Fangio said of Johnson during his weekly meeting with reporteres. "So we have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's a bigger Randy Moss in some ways, in that he's a downfield threat."He's tough to cover down the field in the jump-ball situations, like Randy Moss was. But this guy's bigger. He's thicker. He's listed at 235. I think he might be more than that. He's just a rare guy. He's that big, but yet runs as fast as he does."But the Cowboys' mistake that seemed to resonate among the 49ers' defensive backs was the play in which Johnson called his shot. He motioned to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to just throw the ball up for grabs. Then, he came down with it between three Cowboys."Go up and compete with him for the football," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "When you have three guys just standing around watching him catch the football, of course, he's going to come down with it. We need three guys in the air going after the football. Either we come down with it or he doesn't."Rookie cornerback Chris Culliver said the 49ers need to attack the ball and attack the receiver to prevent such plays Sunday when they face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field."A lot of times people don't really compete with him when the ball's in the air," Culliver said. "Somebody should've blasted him. Nobody even attacked the ball. He just jumped. Do something. I wouldn't say there should be no way for him to catch the ball, but they could've put a good lick on him."Johnson is 6-foot-5, with a 6-10 wingspan and a vertical leap of 45 inches. He is the new prototype at wide receiver, and Fangio said there's no one answer for covering him."Everybody's wanted the big receivers for a long time now," Fangio said. "He's definitely one of the elite ones in that category. It becomes an issue. We're basically trying to cover power forwards with point guards."

How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

During the course of the three-day NFL draft, 49ers general manager John Lynch made six trades to finish the weekend with 10 draft picks and one veteran player.

There is a specific plan for each of those players, Lynch said.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells sent 49ers CEO Jed York a text and asked him to pass along some words of advice for the first-time general manager.

“He talked about making sure if you’re going to draft someone that everybody from personnel to coaching staff has a clear vision for what this player’s going to be for us,” Lynch said of the text from Parcells. “And we’ve tried to, with each player, challenge coaches to say, ‘How are you going to play this guy?’

“And if there’s any (vagueness) or it’s not crystal clear how they anticipate playing him, then we’ve either challenged them, ‘You better get there or I can’t feel comfortable taking him,’ and move on.”

Here is a look at the 11 players acquired and how they fit into what the 49ers are trying to build:

First round, No. 3: DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
Thomas has the versatility to play – or at least be given a chance – at every position along the 49ers’ four-man line with the exception of nose tackle. The defensive end position on the strong side is his natural position. He is also a nice fit at the defensive tackle spot next to the team’s pass-rusher position on the weak side. Thomas could also get a look at that pass-rusher position, where Arik Armstead will get a look when he gets healthy from shoulder surgery.

First round, No. 31: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The 49ers signed veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith to a five-year, $26.5 million contract with $11.5 million fully guaranteed on the first day of free agency. But the 49ers traded up to grab Foster at the end of the first round with the thought of playing him in the same position. Foster will immediately learn the “Will” linebacker position. “That’s where he’ll lineup, but he’s going to be sideline to sideline,” Lynch said. Eventually, Foster could replace Bowman at middle linebacker. In Foster, the 49ers envision a player who can make also contributions on special teams, in pass coverage and as a pass-rusher.

Third round, No. 66: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson lined up at the cornerback positions during the voluntary veteran minicamp last week. Witherspoon is a talented player who is relatively new to the game. He admitted his tackling needs a lot of work. If he can play with a physicality and an attitude, he could win a starting job as a rookie over some of the other unproven cornerbacks on the roster.

Third round, No. 104: QB C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Coach Kyle Shanahan hand-picked Beathard to develop for future seasons. There is no pressure. Beathard comes to the 49ers as the clear No. 3 quarterback behind starter Brian Hoyer and backup Matt Barkley. “He’s extremely intelligent,” Shanahan said. “Football means the world to him. He really works at it. He’s accurate and he can process and play the game very fast in the pocket, I think that gives you a chance to play in this league. By no means does that mean that he’s ready to do that, but I think that’s a great guy that you have a chance with.”

Trade with Denver: RB Kapri Bibbs
Lynch served as a TV analyst for the Broncos exhibition games, and he liked what he saw from Bibbs, who spent three seasons in Denver. Bibbs finally earned a role last season with 29 carries for 129 yards in 12 games. He figures to compete for action on third downs, where Shanahan can isolate him in favorable matchups to catch passes out of the backfield.

Fourth round, No. 121: RB Joe Williams, Utah
Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and he is going to have to show a lot to warrant a second contract with the organization. Williams (5 foot 11, 210 pounds) could take over as the team’s top running back. The 49ers initially removed Williams from consideration because he walked away from his college team early in the season. But Shanahan watched him on film and loved what he saw. After digging deeper into his background, the 49ers felt confident enough to invest a fourth-round pick in him.

Fifth round, No. 146: TE George Kittle, Iowa
Kittle is a good blocker who has a lot of upside as a pass-catcher. He is just 4 pounds lighter than O.J. Howard and ran an official time in the 40-yard dash at the combine that clocked just .01 seconds slower than the first tight end selected. The 49ers spent the weekend shopping veteran Vance McDonald in a trade. His time appears to be running out. It does not help him that Shanahan selected a tight end that exhibits the traits he wants from that position.

Fifth round, No. 177: WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Taylor caught 136 passes and led the nation with 1,803 receiving yards as a slot receiver. His addition places oft-injured Bruce Ellington’s future with the team on shaky ground. Taylor is more quick than fast, and that is OK for how the 49ers envision using him. “This was a guy that we were excited with in his ability to separate in the slot, which is such a key component in today’s football,” Lynch said. Jeremy Kerley begins the offseason program as the 49ers' top slot receiver.

Sixth round, No. 198: DT D.J. Jones, Mississippi
The 49ers’ run defense was horrible last year, and it all started nose tackle. The team signed veteran Earl Mitchell as the presumptive starter. The 49ers are still trying to find the best fit for Quinton Dial, who could work his way into that position, as well. Jones gives the 49ers more brute strength on the inside. Said Lynch, “He’s a stout nose, who also has three-technique versatility, but yet I think really dynamic."

Sixth round, No. 202: DE/OLB Pita Taumeopenu, Utah
The 49ers have a few players they plan to audition at the pass-rush spot known as the “Leo.” Most of those players are big-bodied and are not prototypes for that position. Taumeopenu provides the 49ers with a dynamic pass-rusher who recorded nine sacks last season. “We felt like we’ve got so many big guys, we just want a speed rusher off the edge,” Lynch said. “He gave us a guy that, again, a guy that we grew to become very fond of throughout the process.”

Seventh round, No. 229: DB Adrian Colbert, Miami
Colbert is a hard-hitter who could make the team as a rookie based entirely off his play on special teams. The 49ers will place him at cornerback during the rookie minicamp. Depending on how he looks playing that position in Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, the 49ers could move him to free safety to get work behind Jimmie Ward.

49ers 2017 UDFA tracker: Southern Miss QB agrees to terms

49ers 2017 UDFA tracker: Southern Miss QB agrees to terms

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers are reportedly adding a fourth quarterback to their 90-man roster.

Nick Mullens a four-year starter at Southern Mississippi, agreed to terms with the 49ers after the conclusion of the Saturday’s NFL draft.

The 49ers reached agreements on the mandatory three-year, non-guaranteed contracts with 15 undrafted rookies, NBC Sports Bay Area confirmed. The club is expected this week to release some players currently on the offseason roster to make room for the rookies on the 90-man roster.

Mullens posted a drawing on Twitter from his childhood of "Joe Montana, Football Star." He wrote, "I've known about the @49ers since 2nd grade & now I can't wait to be apart of the organization! Ready to get to work in San Fran."

Draft picks, players who sign as undrafted rookies and other rookies invited for tryouts are scheduled to report Thursday for the 49ers' rookie minicamp. Practices will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As a senior, Mullens (6 foot 1, 196 pounds) completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,272 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Mullens joins a quarterback group that includes starter Brian Hoyer, backup Matt Barkley and third-round draft pick C.J. Beathard.

The other confirmed 49ers free-agent agreements are:

--TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville: He began his career with one-season stints at Sacramento State and City College of San Francisco before transferring to Louisville. Hikutini (6-4, 247) caught 50 passes for 668 yards and eight TDs in his final college season. Hikutini missed the Cardinals’ bowl game, the Senior Bowl and combine workouts due to a knee injury. He returned from the non-surgical injury to run at his pro day. Hikutini announced his signing with the 49ers via Twitter.

--DB Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis (PA): Jerome, a Senior Bowl invite, was named first-team FCS All-American. He intercepted six passes in 2016 with 59 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 11 pass break-ups. He added a touchdown on a kickoff return. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranked Jerome as the top undrafted player. Saint Francis announced the contract agreement.

--RB Matt Breida, Georgia Southern: In three seasons at Georgia Southern, Breida rushed for 3,740 yards and 37 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards a carry. Georgia Southern announced Breida's decision to sign with the 49ers.

--OL Erik Magnuson, Michigan: Magnuson (6-6, 305) was a first-team All-Big Ten performer who started every game at right tackle. He announced on Twitter that he has agreed to terms with the 49ers.

--WR Kendrick Bourne, Eastern Washington: He caught 211 passes for 3,130 yards and 27 touchdowns in his four-year career. Bourne (6-1, 203) had his best season as a senior, with 79 receptions for 1,201 yards and seven touchdowns. Eastern Washington announced Bourne’s three-year contract.

--OT Darrell Williams Jr., Western Kentucky: Williams (6-5, 315) started 41 games. He played his final two seasons at right tackle after moving from right guard. Western Kentucky announced the contract agreement with the 49ers.

--WR KD Cannon, Baylor: Cannon caught 195 passes for 3,113 and 27 touchdowns in his three-year career. He turned pro after a junior season in which he caught 87 passes for 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns. He announced his contract agreement with the 49ers via Twitter.

--WR Victor Bolden, Oregon State: Bolden played four seasons at Oregon State, catching a total of 170 passes for 1,863 yards and seven touchdowns. Bolden (5-8 ¾, 178) ran 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine. (Bolden via Twitter)

--LB Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado (Colorado Football)

--OL J.P. Flynn, Montana (Flynn via Twitter)

--DE Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia (@WVUSports247)

--LB Donavin Newsom, Missouri (Columbia Daily Tribune)

--OL Bret Treadway (Treadway via Twitter)

--FB Tyler McCloskey, Houston (Houston Chronicle)