49ers review: Specialists


49ers review: Specialists

This is the fifth installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.There's no need to look outside the Bay Area for the best group of specialists in the NFL. The kickers, punters and long-snappers of the 49ers and Raiders earned trips to the Pro Bowl. The 49ers opened the regular season with two returns for touchdown from Ted Ginn in the final minutes to help them get the Jim Harbaugh era off to a good start against the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers then got NFL-record performances from kicker David Akers, as well as punter Andy Lee and the coverage unit. However, the season ended on a sour note with two costly turnovers in the return game. Grade: A-
David Akers -- The 49ers' offense stalled too many times, giving Akers ample chances to kick field goals instead of extra points. Akers made an NFL record 44 field goals on the season, including 7 of 9 from 50 yards or longer. His percentage of made kicks was in the middle of the pack in the NFL, but in a season in which the 49ers won six games by 7 points or fewer, Akers was big. He made all four FG attempts in the playoffs, too. His kickoffs were outstanding, as the 49ers were third-best in the league with an opponents' average starting point of the 20.6-yard line.Andy Lee -- He set the team record with a 50.9 gross average, and Lee broke the NFL record with a 44.0 net average. Lee regularly had distance, height and accuracy on his punts. By angling most of his punts toward the sideline, he gave the coverage unit a better opportunity to avoid big returns. The longest return against the 49ers all season went for 24 yards. In the two playoff games, Lee had seven punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line and just one touchback. His net average was a 41.5 yards in the postseason.
Brian Jennings -- The 12-year veteran earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl, as Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy added him to the NFC roster as a "need player." It was another season of near-perfection for Jennings while handling all the long-snapping duties on punts and kicks.Ted Ginn -- It was an interesting start to the season, as Ginn accepted a pay cut of approximately 1.2 million to remain with the 49ers after the final cuts. The 49ers should've given him back the money when he returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns within a 59-second span late in the fourth quarter to enable the 49ers to pull away against the Seahawks. Ginn ranked third in the NFL with a kick-return average of 27.6. He was fourth with a punt-return average of 12.3. Ginn was also sure-handed, as he was not responsible for any turnovers in the return game.Kyle Williams -- During the regular season, he returned just two punts -- both against the Seahawks late in the season for 41 yards. He also handled four fair catches. Pressed into service in the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants, however, his miscues accounted for two key turnovers. Those plays led to 10 points, including the game-winning field goal in overtime against the Giants. Williams' decision-making was not good. He unnecessarily made a diving catch of one punt. And then he failed to get away from a bouncing ball in the fourth quarter that glanced off his knee and was recovered by the Giants. On the fumble that led to the Giants' winning points in OT, he made the catch but failed to secure the ball in traffic and fumbled.

Comings and goings: 49ers coaching staff

Comings and goings: 49ers coaching staff

First-year coach Kyle Shanahan is close to completing his 49ers coaching staff.

Shanahan will handle the duties of the offensive coordinator, the position he held with Houston, Washington and Atlanta over the past nine NFL seasons.

Robert Saleh is the 49ers' new defensive coordinator, while Richard Hightower has been hired as the special-teams coordiator.

Here's a look at the 49ers' coaching staffs under Shanahan and last season under Chip Kelly:

Position: Coach (2016 job)
Head coach: Kyle Shanahan (Falcons, offensive coordinator)
Defensive coordinator: Robert Saleh (Jaguars, linebackers coach)
Special teams coordinator: Richard Hightower (Bears, assistant special teams)
Assistant head coach/tight ends: Jon Embree (Buccaneers, tight ends)
Run game specialist: Mike McDaniel (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Quarterbacks: Rich Scangarello (Wagner, offensive coordinator)
Running backs: Bobby Turner (Falcons, running backs)
Wide receivers: Mike LaFleur (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Offensive line: Vacant
Offensive assistant: T.C. McCartney (LSU, offensive assistant)
Senior defensive assistant: Jason Tarver (49ers, outside linebackers)
Defensive line: Jeff Zgonina (N.Y. Giants, assistant defensive line)
Linebackers: Johnny Holland (Browns, inside linebackers)
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Offensive quality control: Taylor Embree (Chiefs, defensive assistant)
Defensive quality control: Bobby Slowik
Head strength and conditioning: Ray Wright

* * *

Position: Coach (current status)
Head coach: Chip Kelly
Offensive coordinator: Curtis Modkins (Bears, running backs)
Defensive coordinator: Jim O’Neil
Special teams coordinator: Derius Swinton
Quarterbacks: Ryan Day (Ohio State, quarterbacks)
Running backs: Tom Rathman
Wide receivers: Bob Bicknell
Tight ends: Jeff Nixon (Baylor, co-offensive coordinator/running backs)
Offensive line: Pat Flaherty (Jaguars, offensive line)
Assistant offensive line: Eric Wolford (South Carolina, offensive line)
Defensive line: Jerry Azzinaro (Cal, defensive line)
Assistant defensive line: Vince Oghobaase
Outside linebackers: Jason Tarver (49ers, senior defensive assistant)
Inside linebacker: Joe Bowden
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Assistant defensive backs: Roy Anderson (Bears, assistant secondary)
Assistant special teams: Michael Clay
Offensive quality control: Mick Lombardi (Jets, offensive assistant/assistant QBs coach)
Defensive quality control: Tem Lukabu
Senior analyst: Dana Bible
Director of human performance: Mark Uyeyama

Report: 49ers receive permission from Broncos to interview O-line coach

Report: 49ers receive permission from Broncos to interview O-line coach

John Benton, who coached on the same staff during Kyle Shanahan’s four seasons with the Houston Texans, has reportedly received permission from the Denver Broncos to interview with the 49ers.

The Broncos hired Benton on Jan. 15 to work as the team’s assistant offensive line coach under line coach Jeff Davidson.

But Denver coach Vance Joseph and general manager John Elway provided Benton permission to interview with the 49ers, Denver’s 9News reported. The Sacramento Bee was first to report the 49ers were looking at Benton.

The offensive line coach is the last major position that remains vacant on Shanahan’s staff.

Benton worked last season as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).

Shanahan’s first NFL coaching job was with Houston in 2006, when he coached wide receivers. Shanahan became the quarterbacks coach with the Texans in 2007 before spending the next two seasons as offensive coordinator under then-coach Gary Kubiak.

The 49ers announced nine additions to the coaching staff on Friday.

Also, the 49ers are expected to hire Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, according to The Sporting News. 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.