49ers' defensive draft needs


49ers' defensive draft needs

With the 49ers able to bring back nearly their entire defense from a year ago, there figure to be no starting positions up for grabs this season.Still, the 49ers do have some depth concerns on defense that the organization will seek to address throughout the draft, which runs April 26, 27 and 28:Defensive line
Who's here: LE Ray McDonald, NT Isaac Sopoaga, RE Justin Smith, Ricky Jean Francois, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu, Ian Williams.
Draft needs: Smith played 91 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps, while McDonald was on the field 83.5 percent of the time. Jean Francois is the only backup lineman who saw significant action behind Sopoaga. With more quality depth, the 49ers would be able to create a regular rotation with their defensive front and keep Smith and McDonald fresh. The 49ers will be on the lookout for quality depth and potential future starters on the defensive line from the first round on.Linebackers
Who's here: OLB Ahmad Brooks, ILB Patrick Willis, ILB NaVorro Bowman, OLB Aldon Smith, OLB Parys Haralson, ILB Larry Grant, ILB Tavares Gooden, ILB Michael Wilhoite.
Draft needs: The 49ers carried only three outside linebackers on their 53-man roster last season. The lucked out a year ago. Depth was not needed a year ago, as everyone remained healthy. They would like to add an insurance policy at outside linebacker. Not a lot of help is needed at inside linebacker with Grant's return. He did not get an offer as a restricted free agent to start elsewhere, so he is back with the 49ers as their top inside linebacker backup for another season. But the 49ers will likely keep their eyes peeled for a player who also has special-teams value in the mid to late rounds.

Defensive backs
Who's here: CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown, S Dashon Goldson, S Donte Whitner, CB Chris Culliver, CB Tramaine Brock, S C.J. Spillman, CB Perrish Cox, CB Curtis Holcomb, CB Cory Nelms, S Mark LeGree.
Draft needs: With the departures of reserve safeties Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams, the 49ers must add a young player to compete with Spillman for the top backup spot behind starters Goldson and Whitner. Also, the 49ers would like to create more competition for the cornerback jobs. The 49ers kept five cornerbacks last season. Shawntae Spencer was released, so there is an open spot for a newcomer to compete with Brock, Cox and Holcomb for roles behind Rogers, Brown and Culliver. And if the 49ers take a cornerback with the No. 30 overall pick not an unlikely scenario -- suddenly there becomes more competition for the top three spots, too.Specialists
Who's here: K David Akers, P Andy Lee, LS Brian Jennings, LS Ryan Pontbriand, LS Kyle Nelson.
Draft needs: Akers, Lee and Jennings all deservedly made the NFC Pro Bowl team last season. There's no reason to waste a draft pick on any of those positions. Where the 49ers could use some help is in the return game. They need another reliable decision-maker for punt returns behind Ted Ginn, so the 49ers could add a player who has return skills at some point in the middle of the draft.Projected starters in italics

49ers release Ian Williams

49ers release Ian Williams

The 49ers on Thursday released nose tackle Ian Williams off the reserve/non-football injury list with an injury settlement.

The move, which was disclosed on the NFL, daily transaction report, is a procedural move, according to sources. It allows the 49ers to provide Williams with more compensation than he would have received if he had remained on reserve/non-football injury for the entire season. The move does not preclude the 49ers from re-signing Williams in the future.

The 49ers originally agreed to a five-year contract extension with Williams in the offseason. However, the contract was amended to a one-year deal after he underwent a team physical after undergoing surgery on his left leg.

Williams, 26, is a five-year NFL veteran. He originally signed with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame in 2011.

He played his first 16-game season in 2015. He ranked third on the 49ers with 85 total tackles, according to the stats compiled by the coaching staff.

Williams took over as the 49ers’ starting nose tackle in 2013 after the free-agent departure of Isaac Sopoaga.

But he started just 10 games over the next two seasons due to two fractures of his lower leg.

Chip Kelly reveals why 49ers going with slower-paced offense

Chip Kelly reveals why 49ers going with slower-paced offense

Chip Kelly's offense with the 49ers is his slowest-paced version of his four NFL seasons.


“I think that’s what fits with this group of guys we have on the offensive side of the ball,” Kelly said this week.

Kelly did not expound on that thought. But it could be safe to assume his thinking is the same reason why it does not make sense to enter a Ford Pinto to race against pro stock dragsters.

The 49ers’ offense is running more plays this season. The 49ers snap the ball every 24.4 seconds on offense. That’s down from 26.1 seconds last season, and 29.7 seconds in Jim Harbaugh’s final season in 2014.

Last season in Philadelphia, Kelly’s team snapped the ball every 22.6 seconds. In Kelly’s final season at Oregon in 2012, the Ducks snapped the ball every 20.5 seconds.

“I don’t think we’re playing fast right now,” Kelly said. “So if someone said, ‘How are you playing offensively?’ I don’t think we’re playing fast offensively. I think we’re just not going back (to huddle). We’re saving seven yards of run time for our offensive line because they don’t have to run back in the huddle, get a play called and then do it.

“We’re just calling it at the line of scrimmage. So I think it’s a lot of what Denver used to do when Peyton (Manning) was there. But there’s a lot of times that we’re under 15 seconds when we’re snapping the ball and getting the play off. So we’re not playing fast and we’re not calling tempo-type plays in those situations. We’re just calling plays.”

Kelly said part of the problem is that the 49ers are not converting third downs. The team has a 36.3 percent success rate on third downs, which is actually an improvement over the 30.5 percent success of last season.

But the 49ers’ overall lack of offensive success this season cannot be camouflaged.

The 49ers are averaging just 4.5 yards per play. The 49ers have not averaged fewer than 5 yards per play since 2007, when Alex Smith sustained a shoulder injury and was replaced by Trent Dilfer.

While the 49ers are running more offensive plays than it has in the past, so is the opposition. The 49ers have averaged 64.3 plays per game. The 49ers have defended 69.9 plays per game – only 2.3 more plays than last season but 8.1 more plays than in 2014.

The biggest problem for the offense has been its run defense. The league’s worst run defense has surrendered 185.1 yards per game and is on pace to give up 2,962 yards this season, which would be the most in the NFL since the 1980 New Orleans Saints yielded 3,106 rushing yards.