Play-time issues for Moss, Jacobs and top draft picks

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Play-time issues for Moss, Jacobs and top draft picks

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have enough talent and depth at running back and wide receiver that rookies they selected in the first two rounds at those positions haven't been able to get on the field.Play time has been at a premium for veteran wide receiver Randy Moss through the first four games, too. And, now that running back Brandon Jacobs is healthy, there's no guarantee how much action he will see.If you're 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, all of this is not a nice problem to have. Why? Because he does not consider it a problem at all.RB Brandon Jacobs: He made it through his first full practice Wednesday since sustaining a left knee sprain on Aug. 18. He should be in uniform for the first time Sunday when the 49ers play host to the Buffalo Bills.To make room on the 46-man roster, the 49ers' most logical option is to de-activate undrafted rookie tight end Garrett Celek, who did not play any special teams on Sunday against the New York Jets. Jacobs does not have a role on special teams, either.Frank Gore is clearly the 49ers' No. 1 running back. He is averaging 4.9 yards a carry. Kendall Hunter has a 4.6 average, and don't mistake him for just a change-of-pace back. He can hit it inside the tackles, as he showed on a 1-yard touchdown plunge against the Jets.Jacobs made his biggest mark in his seven seasons with the New York Giants as a reliable short-yardage back. He scored 56 touchdowns in 100 regular-season games. He'll probably get a carry here and there in the middle of the field, but when it's third-and-short or the 49ers are on the goal line, that's when Jacobs will be summoned."We're a pretty fully healthy team right now, and Brandon is saying that he's healthy and ready to go," Harbaugh said. "And we'll make a decision as we go through the week and really see what our best options are. But they're good options and we'll see what fits best for us this week."WR Randy Moss: In four games, Moss has averaged 20 snaps a game. When the 49ers go with three wide receivers, it's Kyle Williams who gets the call because of his short-area quickness from the slot.Williams has played four more snaps than Moss this season. But Moss has eight catches for 88 yards and a touchdown, while Williams has just two receptions for 16 yards.If a replacement is needed for starters Michael Crabtree or Mario Manningham, Moss would likely get the call. Harbaugh says Moss' relative lack of playing time is not a matter of the 49ers attempting to keep his legs fresh for later in the season.After all, Moss, 35, is in tremendous physical condition. He did not miss any practices in the offseason program, training camp or first four weeks of the season.
"We have a lot of combinations," Harbaugh said when asked about Moss' playing time. "We have a lot of things we can use right now. It's more that than anything else."WR A.J. Jenkins: When the 49ers selected Jenkins with the No. 30 overall selection, it was apparent he was joining a position group that was not a short-term need for the 49ers. So consider this a redshirt season for Jenkins.The 49ers selected the player they had rated as the best-available at that spot in the draft. If the 49ers remain healthy at wide receiver, he probably will not step on the field at all as a rookie.Does that make this a bad draft pick? No. There's not a player the 49ers could've chosen late in the first round that would be a significant contributor as a rookie. Sure, another player chosen at another position could've gotten on the field from time to time. But the 49ers believed Jenkins was the best long-term player available.
We shall see But we're probably not going to see anything from Jenkins for at least another year.RB LaMichael James: Joining a position group that already included Gore, Hunter and Jacobs, it is difficult to figure out a way for LaMichael James to make an immediate impact, too.Hunter is built more like an every-down back. James has "change of pace" written all over him. Ultimately, he might be able to make an impact in the return game. But he's not there, yet.Neither James nor Jenkins contributes on the coverage units on special teams, so there's no way the 49ers can fit them onto the 46-man game day roster.In the meantime, James and Jenkins have a role at practices during the week. They help prepare the 49ers' defense for what they're going to face against the upcoming opponent. Jenkins mimics the opposition's top receiver, while James this week will line up as Bills running back C.J. Spillman Spiller.This is what Harbaugh said Wednesday in reference to James and Jenkins:"Getting ready, learning, being there when they're called upon. I felt that it's been good. All those young guys, again, I know they want to play, and I think they're demonstrating that on the field that they want that. Nobody's hiding. Nobody's trying not to be seen out there on the practice field. They're jumping in there and they're working extremely hard. And that's good. That's what you want. Just try to emphasize it, you'd rather be prepared and not be called upon than be called upon and not be prepared."

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”