Monday Morning Mailbag: More of the 'Wolf Pack'?

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Monday Morning Mailbag: More of the 'Wolf Pack'?

Colin Kaepernick's performance in the 49ers' first exhibition game grabbed the attention of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.After Kaepernick had a 78-yard touchdown run in the 49ers' Aug. 10 exhibition opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Ryan had this to say:"Again, some people think the Wildcat has come and gone. No, it hasn't. If anything, it's just the opposite. I saw the kid from San Francisco, Kaepernick. He runs a 4.4 or something. I was really intrigued by him when he came out (of college). (The 49ers) drafted him before we could, but I was interested in him. He went for a 70-yard touchdown run the other day. You're seeing these guys and it's hard to defend some of that stuff. When you have the ability to throw, as well as run, it makes it tough."And with that, let's go to the 49ers' Monday Morning Mailbag . . .
Will they use the Wolf Pack more? (@WarriorSports)
Ah, yes, it's not the Wildcat. When Kaepernick, the former Nevada star, runs it, it's the Wolf Pack.The 49ers had the Kaepernick package in their game plans before, but this is the first time they've used it multiple times in the same game.In the past, it was something they employed under unique circumstance. The first time they ran the zone read option was just before the half against the Green Bay Packers, and Kaepernick gained 17 yards to help the 49ers get in position for David Akers' 63-yard field goal.No doubt, the opposition will now have to spend practice time and study time preparing for Kaepernick. And it only seems reasonable that 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman will sprinkle it in from time to time.On Sunday, Kaepernick took four snaps in the first half. There was another play in which he lined up wide with Alex Smith at quarterback. The New York Jets were thoroughly unprepared for that, and they had to burn a timeout.RELATED: 49ers play time -- Kaepernick makes the most of opportunities
Why has Alex Smith been missing open WRs? It seems like they're running good routes and getting open. (@mgarc747)
Smith had his best NFL season a year ago, and he connected on 61.3 percent of his passing attempts. Through four games, Smith is completing 67.3 percent. So he is better than he's ever been in that regard.On Sunday, the 49ers attempted more lower-percentage passes than usual as they tried to get the ball down the field against the Jets' aggressive coverage.

Smith and the passing game was off. He completed just 12 of 21 attempts, and the 49ers averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt. That, simply, is not good enough.The worst part was when Smith took back-to-back sacks in the second quarter to turn a potential 46-yard field goal attempt into a 55-yarder that David Akers missed.Expect Brandon Jacobs next week? (@Turnesaurus)
He returned to limited practice last week after sustaining a left knee sprain Aug. 18 in an exhibition game against the Houston Texans. It should be close whether he'll be able to play on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.He does not play special teams, and he'll be the team's No. 3 running back behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. So the 49ers will have to figure out how he fits into the 46-player active list and who they can deactivate to suit him up.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”