49ers

49ers practice squad RB a major storyline on 'Hard Knocks' with Bucs

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USATSI

49ers practice squad RB a major storyline on 'Hard Knocks' with Bucs

Running back Jeremy McNichols became one of the major storylines for the summer’s final episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers" when he decided to sign with the 49ers' practice squad.

McNichols was the Buccaneers’ fifth-round draft pick from Boise State. Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter, who was shown throughout the series chewing out McNichols, spoke with the rookie in his office on Saturday to tell he was waived. Koetter also made it clear he wanted McNichols back on the Bucs’ practice squad the following day.

The following scenes took place on "Hard Knocks," which aired Tuesday night.

Koetter to McNichols: “Jeremy, this is the one I’ve been looking forward to the least. OK? Because I didn’t see this coming. All along, I had you penciled in as making it. You’re good enough to play in the NFL, but, you know, something is just not clicking right now. What do you think it is?”

McNichols: “Uh, I think it’s just actually grasping the playbook. . . knowing NFL defenses. Once I get that down like the back of my hand, like in college, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”

Koetter: “No, because I know you can do it. We want to keep working with you ‘cause I know what’s in there. We want you here, playing on the practice squad. If you don’t get claimed, do you want to come back here? Or are you saying, ‘I can’t wait to get the hell out of here?’

McNichols: “No, I want to come back. I think this is a good spot for me. I like culture. I like you guys, the coaches.

Koetter: “We like you, too. Don’t think just because I scream at you sometimes that it doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It means I want you to get better. When I stop screaming at you, that’s means I gave up. OK, I’ll talk to you. Good luck. I want you still here."

The following day, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht was informed that McNichols decided to instead sign with the 49ers’ practice squad after he was not claimed on waivers.

Licht, on the phone with Koetter: “McNichols got his feelings hurt. If he’s going to mope and complain about being taken out of the game when he just made one mistake, we don’t want that kind of (expletive) anyway.”

A short time later, Licht received comfimation from Bucs' director of player personnel John Spytek that McNichols was gone.

Spytek: “He bailed.”

Licht: “He did? All right. (Expletive!)”

In the parking lot on his way out of the Buccaneers’ practice facility, McNichols stopped to explain his decision on camera before driving away.

McNichols: “I decided to go to the Niners. Just think it’ll be a new start. Got a chip on my shoulder, so the only way to go is up.”

Inactives: 49ers third-round pick yet to make his debut

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USATSI

Inactives: 49ers third-round pick yet to make his debut

As the 49ers take on the Rams on Thursday Night Football, the team will be without five defenders and two from offense. 

Ahkello Witherspoon, who the team drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, will have to wait to make his debut another week. 

Below is the full list of inactives from Insider Matt Maiocco. 

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

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AP

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

SANTA CLARA – After spending the past three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, inside linebacker Brock Coyle knows how it is supposed to look.

And he believes the 49ers have gotten off to a good start under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who has installed a scheme based on the Seahawks’ blueprint.

“What’s really cool about this defense is if you look at Seattle, Jacksonville and Atlanta, they all have their different traits, their different personalties and their characteristics,” Coyle said. “And we’re building our own identity on defense.

“You see guys flying around and growing. And this was just our second regular-season game together in this defense.”

Saleh uses such terms as “all gas no brakes” and “extreme violence” to describe the kind of style he wants to see from his defense. In the 49ers’ 12-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers seemed to compete physically with the Seahawks for the first time in a long time.

On the first possession of the game, 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt set the tone when he separated Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham from the ball with a big hit. Graham was never a factor in the game, catching just one pass for 1 yard.

“If you’re looking from a progress standpoint, I don’t look at so much production as much as what it looks like on tape and the violence, the speed, attacking the ball, that’s what I’m excited about,” Saleh said.

The 49ers will have another chance on a quick turnaround to establish that identity on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster will miss his second game in a row with a high-ankle sprain. Ray-Ray Armstrong started against Seattle, alongside NaVorro Bowman, but Saleh said Coyle also fits into his plan.

Coyle entered the game at Seattle in the first half in place of Armstrong, and Saleh hinted he could use both players more interchangeably until Foster returns.

“He deserves it,” Saleh said of Coyle. “He works his tail off and he works hard and we wanted to make sure that we got him some more reps. And to be honest with you, I feel he should probably get a little bit more.

“He’s a great communicator and knows everybody’s job on the football field. He’s very, very strong at the point of attack and he is pretty athletic and fast.”

The 49ers' physicality is showing up on the early downs, as the defense leads the league in allowing just 2.7 yards per play on first downs. But the 49ers have to get a lot better on the down that matters most. The 49ers rank 23rd on third downs, allowing the opposition through two games to convert 46.9 percent of their opportunities.

“Third down is a major emphasis -- every week it is," Saleh said. "We faced 12 more plays than we needed to that first drive just because a lack of execution on that first third-down and 9. We were in great position to get off the field.

"We’ve got to tackle and that takes all 11 running to the ball because a lot of times that first guy does miss, but we can help ourselves a lot by being better on third down for sure.”