(This is Part 4 in a series that will spotlight five 49ers players to watch in the team's exhibition opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday, 6 p.m., at Candlestick Park.)
Five 49ers to watch: 5. Alex Boone
Five 49ers to watch: 4. Perrish Cox
Five 49ers to watch: 3. Demarcus Dobbs
The 49ers have a deep stable of wide receivers. Kyle Willams is competing for a spot. Look for the 49ers to keep six wideouts on their 53-man roster.The 49ers are also looking for a clear picture in the return game. Ted Ginn should be a lock. Currently, coach Jim Harbaugh considers Williams as the No. 2 man on punt returns.Of course, we all know what happened the last time the 49ers played. Williams' two turnovers on punt returns were pivotal developments in the team's overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game.How does Harbaugh expect the home fans to react to Williams on Friday night?"To Kyle? He's a 49er. He's one of us," Harbaugh said.Clearly, Harbaugh would be disappointed in 49ers fans if they did not give Williams anything but their unconditional support.Williams handled the disappointment of his playoff experience with aplomb. He made himself available and accountable while addressing the topic with the media. He had a determined offseason, using the turnovers as fuel to come back faster and stronger.Williams had a strong offseason program. And he got off to a good start in training camp. He has put himself in prime position to earn a roster spot. Even 49ers CEO Jed York expressed his wish for Williams to have a "breakout" season.
But Williams struggled on Wednesday with a muffed punt and a couple of drops. Then, Harbaugh ordered him off the field after Williams got into a brief "scuffle" -- Harbaugh's word -- with rookie cornerback Deante' Purvis.There is more pressure on Williams than any other player. It does not matter that it's just an exhibition game. He will definitely return punts. And it will not be easy. After all, the capricious winds at Candlestick Park are generally worse during this time of year than any other.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His uncertain status has led to speculation presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be interested in acquiring him in the offseason.
On Sunday, Cousins got a first-hand look at his former coach’s offense.
Cousins posted a photo on Instagram from the stands at the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense blasted the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship game.
Cousins wrote the caption, “Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!”
Washington finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.
Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, coached Cousins for the first two seasons of his NFL career with Washington on the staff of his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins appeared in just eight games with four starts in 2012 and ’13.
Cousins' career has taken off in the past two seasons while starting all 32 regular-season games. He completed 67 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.
Washington placed the franchise tag on Cousins this season at nearly $20 million. He franchise tag is expected to be approximately $24 million in 2017.
If Washington places the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, a team could sign him to an offer sheet at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington for a lesser amount.
Former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula reportedly might be back in the NFL after a one-year hiatus.
Tomsula, who spent his first eight NFL seasons as a defensive line coach, could be returning to that job with Washington, Carol Maloney of NBC4 reported on Sunday. But according to the Washington Post, a deal is not done between the two sides.
If the deal were to happen Tomsula would be rejoining Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and general manager Scot McCloughan, both of whom he worked with while members of the 49ers organization.
Tomsula was promoted to the head-coaching job over finalist Adam Gase two years ago after the 49ers' “mututal parting” with coach Jim Harbaugh. Tomsula was fired after the 49ers went 5-11 in 2015. Chip Kelly was hired to replace Tomsula. Kelly was fired after the 49ers went 2-14, including a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak.