SANTA CLARA -- While Michael Crabtree is all alone on the 49ers' depth chart at one wide receiver spot, there's been an eitheror scenario on the other side.All the attention this training camp has been on additions Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. Quietly, Ted Ginn is listed first among the three receivers that coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers consider "starters."And that's exactly the way Ginn views himself, too.Ginn will earn a 49ers roster spot based primarily on his irreplaceable skills fielding punts and returning kickoffs. But he said he considers himself a wide receiver, first and foremost.After sitting out the offseason program with the same knee injury that kept him out of the NFC Championship, Ginn said he believes he has been given a fair chance during training camp to contribute as a wideout."Yeah, especially coming off the injury and not being able to be in OTAs and the different little spotlights that you'd be able to showcase yourself," Ginn said. "And come in as an older guy in camp, and everybody has been able to show what they have, and still be considered as a starter or in that elite group is a blessing."Ginn figures to be no worse than the 49ers' fourth wide receiver this season because he is virtually assured of suiting up for games because of his return contributions. The 49ers will probably suit up four receivers for games.Ginn, the ninth overall pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 draft, had his best season as a wide receiver in 2008 when he caught 56 passes for 790 yards. But since the 49ers acquired him in 2010 for a fifth-round pick, Ginn has seen a dramatic reduction in his receiving numbers.He caught 12 passes for 163 yards in 2010. He played in 14 games last season with three starts and managed only 19 receptions for 220 yards.Now with a stronger corps of receivers, Ginn is in an even bigger fight to get on the field."You got three or four first-round draft picks all on one squad," Ginn said. "They're great guys. We go out and compete and however it turns out, it'll turn out."As you get older, you start to mature and get wiser. The game is coming to you more and more. Just go out and keep competing and being in a system you have another with, I've been in systems where every year it changes. Just the understanding of it, makes you be who you can be."
Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.
But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.
Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?
Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.
“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.
“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”
And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”
In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.
Before starting six games as a rookie, Rashard Robinson had not played football since the 2014 season at LSU.
Yet, Robinson is the closest thing to a sure bet to win a starting job among 49ers cornerbacks.
Tramaine Brock was projected as the starting cornerback on the other side until his arrest on suspicion of a troubling domestic incident prompted the 49ers to release him more than three months ago.
The 49ers open training camp next week, and here are the top competitions for starting jobs on defense:
Keith Reaser has yet to make an NFL start while appearing in 28 games the past two seasons. The 49ers rotated cornerbacks with the first-team defense during the offseason program, and Reaser put himself in position to enter camp as the slight favorite to replace Brock.
Veterans Dontae Johnson and Will Davis will try to work their way into the picture. And the 49ers are hopeful talented rookie Ahkello Witherspoon will develop a willingness to play with more physicality. The 49ers selected Witherspoon in the third round. He has the size and all the tools to win the starting job, but there were times in college he showed an alarming lack of aggression as a tackler.
K'Waun Williams is healthy after missing last season due to an ankle injury and falling out of favor with the Cleveland Browns. Defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, one of the few holdovers from Chip Kelly’s staff, thinks highly of Williams after coaching him with the Browns. Hafley said he believes Williams can become one of the top covermen in the slot in the entire league.
Williams lined up with the first-team defense throughout the offseason program. His biggest competition could come from Will Redmond, whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the 2016 draft but did not play as a rookie due to a knee injury. Redmond has some rust to knock off, but he did not appear to show signs of the injury during the offseason program.
RIGHT DEFENSIVE END
Arik Armstead is not the prototypical player at the “Leo” position. At 6 foot 7, Armstead does not have the low center of gravity that is typically associated with that position. But Armstead is certainly not lacking for athleticism.
The 49ers need a more consistent pass rush to assist their unproven cornerbacks, and this spot will be counted upon to provide more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Veteran Elvis Dumervil, who believes he has regained his explosion off the edge after being hampered with Achilles injury, was added last month to do what he does best. Dumervil, 33, enters the season with 99 career sacks.
Aaron Lynch is on notice as he enters his fourth NFL season. He moves from outside linebacker to defensive end in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme. Multiple competitions will be ongoing at this position, as the 49ers will look to determine the best fits for base downs, as well as passing situations.
The signing of free-agent Malcolm Smith raised a few eyebrows. It was just the offseason program, but Smith was as impressive as any player on the team during the non-padded practices. He is clearly comfortable in Robert Saleh’s scheme, which is based on the Seattle Seahawks’ defense.
The 49ers had Reuben Foster rated as their No. 3 prospect in the entire draft. They traded with the Seahawks to move up to select him at No. 31 overall. The 49ers seem thoroughly unconcerned with Foster’s shoulder. The club believes he will be medically cleared for the opening of training camp.
The 49ers might want to bring Foster along slowly, but it is clear they do not expect him to be a backup for very long.