DeForest Buckner

Shanahan updates Buckner's status after exiting early in preseason opener

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AP

Shanahan updates Buckner's status after exiting early in preseason opener

Defensive end DeForest Buckner aggravated a low-ankle sprain in the 49ers’ exhibition opener Friday night and is not expected to be available for this week’s game against Denver Broncos.

Buckner originally sustained a left ankle sprain during practice on Wednesday, Aug. 2. He missed three practices. Coach Kyle Shanahan said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Saturday that the plan is for Buckner to be held out of practice this week and not participate in the upcoming exhibition game against the Denver Broncos.

"It won't be a long thing, but I'd be surprised this week versus Denver," Shanahan said. "He keeps doing the same thing over and over again. We're going to rest him a bit and let him get fully healthy."

--Safety Jimmie Ward will undergo some tests Sunday and could be available to be removed off the physically-unable-to-perform list this week, Shanahan said. Ward sustained a hamstring injury during the conditioning test at the beginning of training camp.

--Defensive lineman Ronald Blair (groin) is also doubtful for this week’s game, Shanahan said.

--Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas had a positive first game while seeing action on 28 snaps.

"We wanted him to get out there, play some, get his feet wet, get used to the speed of the game," Shanahan said. "By no means was it all perfect, but I think you guys all saw, he definitely got noticed out there and caused some pressure on the quarterback. He ran to the ball and had a big hit on the sideline."

--Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster saw action at both inside linebacker positions. He played 13 snaps at weakside linebacker and 14 snaps at middle linebacker, Shanahan said.

“We have him playing both positions,” Shanahan said. “He did a good job of making the calls. He wasn’t perfect by any means with his alignments and getting in the right gaps, but he showed why we wanted him. He flies to the ball, he’s a square hitter, good tackler, and got a chance to get his hands on the ball. . . . The more he plays, the better he’s going to get.”

--Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome started at safety played 33 snaps, and Shanahan said he did a “solid job.”

--Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard will not have to wait until the third quarter in the 49ers’ next preseason game to get on the field. Shanahan said it is likely Beathard will be the second quarterback into the team’s next game. Beathard and Matt Barkley are competing for the No. 2 job behind starter Brian Hoyer.

“We haven’t discussed it yet as a staff, but I expect to see C.J. much earlier,” Shanahan said.

--Shanahan had strong praise for defensive lineman Aaron Lynch, who recorded two sacks.

“I was real happy for Aaron,” Shanahan said. “He’s battled his weight this offseason. He came to training camp in as good of shape as I’ve seen him. He’s been doing a good job in practice and you never know if you’re going to get rewarded and how it’s going to play out in a game. But for him to be in the amount of plays he was in (15) and make the number of plays he did, I think he did a very good job.”

Michael Bennett: DeForest Buckner 'not normal; when you're not normal...'

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AP

Michael Bennett: DeForest Buckner 'not normal; when you're not normal...'

49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner grew up in Hawaii.

And he's currently training in his home state with teammate Arik Armstead and Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.

“I think DeForest, I’m lucky to be working with a guy like that.” Bennett recently told Sam Spangler of KHON2. "I think DeForest will eventually be a defensive player of the year. I think he has the talent to be able to do that.

"I keep telling him there’s nobody like him. He’s not normal."

That's some pretty high praise from a guy who reached the Pro Bowl each of the last two years.

After four years at Oregon, the 49ers took Buckner with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft.

He made 15 starts as a rookie and racked up 73 tackles, six sacks and two fumble recoveries.

He was honored with a spot on the NFL's All-Rookie team in a vote of the Pro Football Writers of America.

"His physique, his speed, it’s not normal," Bennett said. "So when you’re not normal you can do not normal things and winning the defensive MVP is not normal for most people.”

Robert Saleh outlines 49ers' defensive blueprint

Robert Saleh outlines 49ers' defensive blueprint

SANTA CLARA -- First-time defensive coordinator Robert Saleh inherited the worst – by far – run defense in the NFL.

The 49ers last season surrendered 165.9 yards rushing per game, including 4.8 yards per carry, and 25 touchdowns to rank last in the league in each of those categories. The 49ers finished 2-14. Coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke were fired. Kyle Shanahan was hired.

After being unable to hire Gus Bradley or Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator, Shanahan filled the position with the hiring of Saleh, who previously worked as an assistant with Houston, Seattle and Jacksonville.

So it was not difficult for Saleh to find a reasonable starting point for what he wants to establish with the 49ers’ defense in 2017.

“Stopping the run is our No. 1 priority,” Saleh said Monday, on the first day of the 49ers’ offseason program. “The way we align, our demeanor, the responsibility of the defensive players. . . We will stop the run on this defense.”

General manager John Lynch has spoken often in his first two months on the job about deploying an attacking style of defense. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner spoke about playing more aggressively – unlike the read-and-react style of last season.

“All gas, no brakes,” Buckner said.

Saleh, speaking publicly for the first time since joining the 49ers, described the demeanor he wants from his players as “extreme physicality.”

Saleh spoke about the design of his defense, as well as which players fit in the different spots:

--“We are a single-high (safety) defense," Saleh said. "The system you could say, it originated in Seattle. I was there from the get-go. Three teams currently, Seattle, Atlanta, Jacksonville, if you’re looking at tape, all of them have their nuances and how they operate. I don’t want to say it will be a very different scheme, but there are going to be differences and there will be nuances within this scheme that makes it unique to us.”

--Saleh agreed with the observation that the 49ers will run a 4-3 base defense using what amounts to 3-4 personnel. He emphasized that the strong-side linebacker (Sam) will be more of a pass-rusher because of the high volume of snaps that teams now play with five defensive backs in passing situations.

“It’s almost 70-percent nickel, and the nickel who doesn’t get talked about as a starter, he’s starting to come up as an individual piece to the puzzle,” Saleh said. “So when looking at the Sam linebacker and what they’re asked to do on a day-to-day basis, 70-percent of the game their hand will be in the ground.

“So we’re looking for more of an edge rusher as opposed to what it was in years past with a brut Sam linebacker, a Bill Romanowski-type. We’re trying to move forward from that.”

--The best fits for the Sam linebacker on the 49ers’ current roster are Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold and Dekoda Watson, Saleh said.

The Sam is similar to the “Leo” position, which is similar to the “elephant” position that George Seifert implemented in the 1980s and ‘90s with the 49ers.

Saleh said Aaron Lynch is a Leo type. And Arik Armstead could find a role for himself in a Sam/Leo role, too. Said Saleh, “Even Arik, he’s not a prototype, but he’s capable just from his flexibility.”

--When asked what kind of player he is looking for in the Leo role, Saleh ticked off some names of players who have fit in that role – or players in other systems who have the attributes he desires:

“Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley. People outside of the system, you’d look at Von Miller, Khalil Mack. Back in his heyday, Charles Haley would have been a guy that would have been a Leo.”

--Saleh said there is no difference between the Mike (middle) linebacker and Will (weak side). Whichever player is best at communicating with the other members of the defense will be designated the Mike.

“Yeah, the Mike-Will, they’re interchangeable,” Saleh said. “So if you look at Seattle, their Will linebacker, K.J. Wright, is 6-4, 245 pounds. If you look at Jacksonville, the Will linebacker was 6-3, 215 pounds. If you look at Atlanta’s Mike linebacker, he’s 220 pounds. Bobby Wagner sits at 240.

“So there’s no height-weight parameter. But, what there is, is one person can communicate and the other one might be able to communicate, but one is better than the other.”

--The 49ers reacted quickly to release starting cornerback Tramaine Brock last week after his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. The 49ers are keeping an open mind whether to keep Jimmie Ward at cornerback or move him back to free safety to fill a role similar to what Earl Thomas has played with Seattle.

“Jimmie is a very, very versatile athlete,” Saleh said. “He can play corner, he can play safety and whatever is best for the organization is exactly what we’re going to do with Jimmie.”

--Meanwhile, Eric Reid will be a “box safety” – playing closer to the line of scrimmage in a role that Kam Chancellor has filled in the Seattle defense.

--The 49ers have spent first-round draft picks the past two years on defensive linemen Armstead and Buckner. Although selected to play in different systems, Saleh believes both can be versatile enough to play multiple spots in the scheme he is installing.

“The cool thing with the way the front has been built in the past, they are very versatile,” Saleh said. “So you can do anything, we can do anything we want with them. They’re not traditional. When you look at Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, they are very, very unique in the sense that they can play up and down the line however you need them to work. We’ll find what’s best for them.”