49ers' youth, athleticism impress Kelly

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49ers' youth, athleticism impress Kelly

Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco is in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his comprehensive coverage and catch his nightly updates on SportsNet Central.

INDIANAPOLIS –- Chip Kelly said he did not enter his film study of the 49ers’ roster with any preconceived thoughts about the team's level of talent.

But upon going through all 16 games of last season, he said he felt good about what he saw from some of the team’s young performers. At the end of the season, the 49ers had 27 players with two years or less of NFL experience on their 53-man roster.

“I was impressed with the overall athleticism and youth of the team,” Kelly said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “They had to quickly turn it around. Three years ago they’re in the Super Bowl with Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, (Ray) McDonald, Aldon (Smith) and you look at that defense, they had some outstanding players. And now they’re all gone.

“I think there’s some really good young talent on the team. I think the safety position is really talented. That probably jumped out at you the most on the defensive side. At a position in this league, where there’s not a lot of safeties, I think you got a lot of capable players at that position.”

[MAIOCCO: Baalke assesses 49ers' roster: 'Good, young nucleus']

Eric Reid was in his third season as a starter, while Jaquiski Tartt was forced into a starting role as a rookie after veteran Antoine Bethea sustained a season-ending injury. In addition, Jimmie Ward saw action at safety while also being the team’s nickel back.

On offense, Kelly said he was impressed from what he saw from the running backs – even after Carlos Hyde was forced out of the lineup with a stress fracture in his foot.

“When I turned the tape on, I was really impressed,” Kelly said. “Carlos was out, but some of those other guys they were impressive down the stretch, and guys they got of the street. There’s some talent at the running back spot.”

Kelly said he would like for the 49ers to re-sign scheduled free agent Shaun Draughn, whom the 49ers signed off the street after injuries to Hyde and Reggie Bush. Draughn was the 49ers’ second-leading rusher behind Hyde’s 470 yards with 263 yards on 76 attempts. Draughn also caught 25 passes for 175 yards.

DuJuan Harris was added late in the season and ended up with 140 yards rushing on 27 attempts. Kelly also mentioned his excitement to see what Jarryd Hayne is capable of doing in his second year of American football.

But, clearly, Hyde is headliner of the 49ers’ run game.

“I’m really excited to get working with Carlos” Kelly said. “He had an unbelievable pro-day workout. I was at his workout at Ohio State. I was really, really impressed with him there. And, obviously, I know (Ohio State coach) Urban (Meyer) really well. He’s a really good friend of mine. I know how highly Urban thinks of him. Big, physical back that’s a combination of size and speed. He should be fun to work with.”

[RELATED: Hyde working out with Gore in offseason]

Kelly also said he believes the 49ers’ group of tight ends is more than capable with Vance McDonald, Blake Bell and Garrett Celek, whom the 49ers signed to an extension this week.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington was not much of a factor last season in his second NFL year. He caught just 13 passes for 153 yards. He also averaged just 7.2 yards on 19 punt returns, but Kelly appears intrigued with the possibility of Ellington taking on a larger role on his team.

“When you look at just the short time that I’ve seen just film of him you’re like ‘Wow.’ That kid can do some interesting things,” Kelly said. “And it’s our job to figure out how we can use that to benefit us to help us win games.”

The 49ers have plenty of questions on the offensive line, but one player who caught his eye was 6-foot-8, 355-pound right tackle Trent Brown, who started the final two games of the season.

“He’s got great physical skills,” Kelly said. “He’s got great balance. He’s got great flexibility. You see him and you’re like ‘Oh my God. That guy’s gigantic.’ ”

Perhaps the player Kelly knows best was their first-round draft pick of a year ago. Kelly recruited defensive lineman Arik Armstead to Oregon, and he said the progress his former player made during his rookie season was noticeable.

“I think you saw him grow as the season went along, but I was really impressed with him,” Kelly said. “I obviously know Arik very well from recruiting him and coaching him. I think he’s still coming and I think he’s got a huge upside. I was really impressed just to see his progress in his first year from Week 1 to Week 17.”

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

It was Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach of the 49ers.

The 4-1 49ers were in Detroit and scored 10 points in the final 5:29 to beat the Lions 25-19.

An excited Harbaugh got a little too agressive during his postgame handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz. The two had words for each other and had to be separated.

Six years later, Harbaugh took the blame for what happened and said that he and Schwartz have patched things up.

"I went in too hard on that, too aggressive on the handshake. I've since changed that. Not doing that anymore. Can't blame him. I went in too hard. And you respect him for taking exception. We've talked, and we're good. We're back to friends. There is a protocol in a postgame handshake. I've been there as the winner. I've been there as loser. You just, 'Hey, nice game,' then go celebrate. Premature celebration there, in the wrong," Harbaugh said Tuesday on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast.

Harbaugh sounds like he's learned his lesson from that incident with Schwartz.

"The postgame handshake isn't the place for anything. If you're bitter, than change the I to an E. Don't get bitter, get better. Nothing's really changing at the postgame handshake. Just professionally shake hands and go on your way," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh moved on from the 49ers to coach the Michigan Wolverines. Schwartz coached the Lions through the 2013 season and currently serves as the defensive coordinator for the Eagles.

 

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

SANTA CLARA -- General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan sat down with 49ers pass-rusher Aaron Lynch shortly after assuming their new roles to give him an outline of what was expected.

Aaron Lynch entered the NFL in 2014 as a fifth-round draft pick despite having the talent worthy of a much-earlier selection. There were concerns about his commitment and character.

Lynch showed plenty of promise in his first two seasons. He tied for the club lead both seasons with six and 6.5 sacks, respectively. Last year, Lynch reported to the offseason program 30 pounds overweight. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy of substances of abuse. Then, he missed considerable time with an ankle injury. In seven games, Lynch recorded just 1.5 sacks.

John Lynch and Shanahan told Aaron Lynch his past transgressions would not be held against him, but he had to work hard and prove himself. As Lynch enters the final year of his original four-year contract, his spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster is anything but a certainty.

“Basically, everybody on this team, no matter what has happened before you came into the league or when you’ve been in the league, they’re not holding that against you and it’s a new clean slate,” Lynch said. “So I need to do everything I can to make sure I have a clean slate with them.”

Lynch is currently working with the second unit at the “Leo” position on the 49ers’ defensive line, behind Arik Armstead.

“’Leo’ is a lot of damn fun, so, yeah, I like it a lot,” Lynch said. “You get to set the edge and go get the quarterback.”

Lynch said he is in better physical condition than he was a year ago at this time. He said his target playing weight is in the 260-270 range. He said he is currently in the 280s.

“I came in heavy, but I’ve been working my (butt) off to get down to where my coach wants me to get down to, and where I feel I would be best to give everything I can for my team and do what I can for my team,” Lynch said.

While the 49ers did not witness any improvement in Lynch's commitment at the beginning of the offseason, things seem to be turning around. Shanahan said Lynch has missed only one day of the team's voluntary offseason program -- an excused absence to deal with a situation concerning his wife.

“There’s no doubt Aaron’s going in the right direction for us," Shanahan said. "He came in in the offseason, we challenged him hard with just the way we worked and stuff. He hasn’t shied away from any of it. He’s jumped in on all of our stuff.

"So he’s gotten better each day. He’s gotten more in shape each day and I’m seeing it on the field each day.”