Early thoughts on 49ers-Lions

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Early thoughts on 49ers-Lions

After watching the Detroit Lions remain unbeaten Monday night with a 24-13 victory over the Chicago Bears, here are some of my initial thoughts about the upcoming game against the 49ers (4-1):-- Adam Snyder is going to see a lot of Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who lines up every play over the right guard.-- The 49ers' offensive line will be tested. And not just Snyder. The Bears were called for nine false starts at Ford Field. The crowd should be worked up for this game featuring teams that are a combined 9-1 this season. (By the way, these same teams were a combined 1-9 last year at this same point).-- The Lions had nine defensive linemen active for Monday's game. They are able to keep the line fresh as part of their rotation. They'll be coming at the 49ers in waves.-- The 49ers' nickel defense was on the field for just 26 snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers will have to go with five defensive backs against the Lions, who line up with three wideouts -- Calvin Johnson and rookie Titus Young, along with slot receiver Nate Burleson -- nearly every play.-- That means rookie defensive end Aldon Smith will rarely come off the field in this game. He'll be matched mostly against left tackle Jeff Backus, an 11-year pro who has started all 165 games of his career. (By the way, yes, I called Aldon Smith a "defensive end," because he has yet to play outside linebacker this season). Smith, the No. 7 overall pick, leads the 49ers with 3.5 sacks.--In the 49ers' nickel package last week, Aldon Smith, safety Reggie Smith and rookie cornerback Chris Culliver entered the game, replacing nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois, outside linebacker Parys Haralson and strong safety Donte Whitner.--Calvin Johnson is now the best wide receiver in football. He is the first player in NFL history to have nine touchdowns catches through five games. The folks at "Monday Night Football" put up a graphic that showed Johnson is 6-foot-5 with a 6-10 wingspan. His standing reach is 8-foot-8, and his vertical leap is 45 inches. His maximum reach is an amazing 12-5. All quarterback Matthew Stafford has to do is throw the ball within the size of a two-car garage, and Johnson can go get it.--The 49ers haven't yet had cornerback Carlos Rogers shadow the opposition's top receiver. Will this be the week? If it's not, the 49ers have a big decision to make with their third cornerback. Is Culliver, coming off a strong showing against Tampa Bay, ready to be matched against Johnson from time to time? Or will Shawntae Spencer, who missed last week's game with "turf toe" bump the rookie to the sideline?--Safety Dashon Goldson had some big hits the past two weeks. He'll be tested Sunday, as the Lions love to get the ball deep. Johnson is a big target for Stafford. That means he's also a big target for Goldson.--Detroit, yes, Detroit will be the center of the football world on Sunday.

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected defensive linemen with their top picks in the final two drafts under general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers fired Baalke at the conclusion of the team’s 2-14 season, and new general manager John Lynch stepped into a tear-down project.

That complete rebuild began Thursday evening with Lynch’s selection of another defensive lineman. The 49ers traded back one spot and selected Solomon Thomas of Stanford with the No. 3 overall pick.

“We see a special football player, disruptive football player, who has tremendous versatility,” Lynch said. “I think he fits in with the current group that we have because he’s a little different than the guys we have. And when I think of Solomon, I think of speed and quickness and disruption.”

The 49ers expect to play more of an aggressive, attacking style of defense under first-year coordinator Robert Saleh. Perhaps, the team’s biggest need is at the “Leo” position, the weak side end that is considered more of a pass-rusher.

Thomas appears better-suited at the other end or at a defensive tackle position, but the 49ers are keeping an open mind about using him at nearly every spot along the defensive line in the team’s new 4-3 scheme.

“There are four defensive linemen and what’s intriguing about Solomon is he has the ability to play all four of them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s what makes him so unique. That’s why I think John says he’s a little bit different than some of the guys we have, because you can move him around. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside. He has enough sides to play on the inside, so you don’t want to put him in one spot.

“We don’t think he has to be one specific role. Obviously, he is a defensive lineman, but there’s four spots he can play at and I think that’s going to depend on down and distance, whether we’re expecting run, whether we’re expecting pass and the type of personnel we’re going against.”

49ers 'ecstatic' with first-day haul in the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers 'ecstatic' with first-day haul in the 2017 NFL Draft

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers began Thursday with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

When his first day as 49ers general manager reached its conclusion, John Lynch had selected two of the three top players on his draft board and picked up additional third-round picks for this year and next year.

After Myles Garrett, the 49ers’ top-rated prospect, was the Cleveland Browns’ selection at No. 1 overall, the 49ers traded back one spot with the Chicago Bears. The 49ers still got their No. 2-rated prospect, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

The 49ers started making calls to teams with selections in the teens, according to coach Kyle Shanahan, to inquire about trading up for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. The 49ers finally worked out a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to move up three spots to No. 31.

The 49ers selected Foster one spot ahead of the New Orleans Saints, who were apparently ready to select Foster with the No. 32 pick.

Said Lynch, "Reuben thought that because we were at 34, we made a trade at the end with Seattle and when I was talking to him, he said, ‘Coach, New Orleans is taking me.' And I said, ‘No, we’re taking you.’ It was hard because it happened late in the process and so, he was really excited when he found out that we had pulled off that trade and we were certainly very excited.”

And all the 49ers gave up to make the necessary move was a fourth-round pick acquired from the Bears earlier in the day.

The 49ers got everything the could have ever wanted from Day 1 of the draft.

“In terms of how we rated them, we got two of our top three players,” Lynch said. “We’re thrilled. We’re ecstatic. I think these guys have traits that encompass what we want to be about as a football organization.”

Lynch said he began speaking with Bears general manager Ryan Pace more than a week ago. Because the 49ers had picks scheduled next to the Bears in every round, Pace suggested to Lynch that the two teams should be willing to work with each other throughout the draft.

The 49ers had other offers for the No. 2 pick, Lynch said. A source told NBC Sports Bay Area just prior to the start of the draft that the 49ers had fielded three solid offers.

The team’s chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe worked out the details to finalize the trade with the Bears.

The 49ers did not know which player the Bears were targeting at No. 2, but Shanahan voiced his opinion while the trade was going down.

“This guy is a pretty bright,” Lynch said of Shanahan. “He said, ‘That’s not for a defensive lineman. That’s for a quarterback.’ And he was right.”

The Bears made the trade to select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick. In order for the Bears to trade up one spot, they delivered the 49ers a third-round pick (No. 67), a fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a third-round pick next year.

Jacksonville executive Tom Coughlin, whose team held the No. 4 pick, watched and admired the 49ers' move from afar. 

"To get what you had in mind right off the bat and pick up those extra picks? Pretty nice deal," Coughlin told Jacksonville reporters. "I’ve never seen one of those. . . Oh, my gosh. Nothing like that has ever come my way.”

When asked if the 49ers would have selected Foster if the Bears selected Thomas, Lynch said, “Perhaps. It was very likely.”

Instead, the 49ers waited and waited and waited before finding a trade partner in an unlikely place. The 49ers made a deal with Seattle, giving up the 111th pick obtained from Chicago, to select Foster before the Saints had a chance.

“He’s my kind of player,” Lynch said of Foster. “He plays sideline to sideline, and he’ll hit anything that moves. I think that’s contagious for teammates.”

Foster is recovering from shoulder surgery and his stock was negatively affected by character concerns. He was sent home from the NFL scouting combine after an argument with a hospital worker during his medical check. He also had a positive drug test due to a diluted urine sample.

Lynch spent a lot of time with Foster during his visit to Santa Clara, as well as a meeting him at the combine. Both Lynch and Shanahan spoke regularly with Foster on the phone and on FaceTime in the past few weeks.

The 49ers also dispatched vice president of football affairs Keena Turner and team chaplain Earl Smith to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to meet with Foster for two days. The team will have a plan in place to help guide Foster as he transitions to professional football, Lynch said.

“I would tell you that his character is what drew us to him,” Lynch said. “When you start talking football with this young man, he lights up a room. He’s a good kid. I believe in the kid. I think he’ll be a great player for this organization for a long time.”