49ers

49ers sign ex-Clemson star Boulware to practice squad

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USATI

49ers sign ex-Clemson star Boulware to practice squad

UPDATE (3:27pm PT on Tuesday): The 49ers announced that they have signed linebacker Ben Boulware to their practice squad.

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The 49ers are expected to have the two top college linebackers from a year ago within the organization by the end of the day on Tuesday.

Former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware is visiting the 49ers on Tuesday. If Boulware passes a physical, the expectation is he will sign to fill out the 49ers’ 10-man practice squad, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Boulware was named the winner of the 2016 Jack Lambert Award as college football’s top linebacker.

The Dick Butkus Award, which another organization gives to the top collegiate linebacker, went to former Alabama star Reuben Foster.

The 49ers selected Foster with the No. 31 overall pick in the draft, and he will be in the starting lineup, alongside NaVorro Bowman, when the 49ers open the regular season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Boulware, 23, was a member of the Panthers until Saturday, when they released him in order to make their cuts to a 53-player roster. Boulware originally signed with Carolina as an undrafted rookie.

Boulware (6 foot, 238 pounds) went undrafted, mostly likely, due to his lack of speed. He was clocked at 4.85 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. At the NFL Scouting Combine before the draft, Boulware expressed confidence in his ability to be a productive NFL player despite his measurables.

“I have all the qualities to make a great linebacker and I’m very confident in that, I’m very confident in my tape,” Boulware said. “That’s why I tell everybody, ‘Just watch the tape.’ That’s all I really have to say.”

Boulware was a two-year starter at Clemson, recording 197 tackles during that time with 19 tackles for loss, seven sacks and three interceptions. He had five interceptions in his four-year career.

He was named defensive MVP of Clemson’s 35-31 victory over Alabama in the national championship game.

Boulware's likely signing with the 49ers was first reported by TigerNet.com, which covers Clemson athletics.

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The signing of Boulware completes the 49ers’ 10-player practice squad to open the regular season:

LB Ben Boulware (Clemson)
WR DeAndre Carter (Sacramento State)
OL John Flynn (Montana State)
TE Cole Hikutini (Louisville)
CB Asa Jackson (Cal Poly SLO)
RB Jeremy McNichols (Boise State)
QB Nick Mullens (Southern Mississippi)
DL Noble Nwachukwu (West Virginia)
WR DeAndre Smelter (Georgia Tech)
OL Darrell Williams Jr. (Western Kentucky)

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.”