Joe Williams

49ers to place rookie RB Williams on season-ending IR

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49ers to place rookie RB Williams on season-ending IR

The 49ers determined on Saturday that running back Joe Williams’ ankle injury is more serious than what he believed after the team’s final exhibition game.

The 49ers placed Williams on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury. Williams was a fourth-round draft pick but struggled at times during training camp.

"It's just a little sprain," Williams told NBC Sports Bay Area after the 49ers’ exhibition finale on Thursday night. "Nothing serious. It's something I've been nursing, just taking care of it every day."

But all indications are that the 49ers found the injury to be more serious than Williams previously believed. His ankle was badly swollen on Friday when he reported to the team's facility the morning after the game.

Guard Joshua Garnett was also placed on season-ending injured reserve. Garnett, a first-round draft pick in 2016, underwent knee surgery early in training camp.

After lackluster start, 49ers' rookie running back coming on strong

After lackluster start, 49ers' rookie running back coming on strong

SANTA CLARA – Rookie running back Joe Williams showed few signs of the player who impressed 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner during their pre-draft evaluations.

Williams did not practice with much urgency in the team’s first four practices of training camp. But since the 49ers returned from a day off, Williams has looked like a different player.

“I saw it myself and Coach Bobby T. had a talk with me,” Williams said on Friday. “(I) just told him to keep coaching me and keep staying on me. He’s been that type of positive figure since I came in before the draft. One of the reasons I’m so happy to be here and be under his wing. He’s going to be on me for as long as I’m here.”

Carlos Hyde has gotten off to a good start during training camp to seemingly secure his spot as the top back, but Williams is coming on strong in his bid to earn a significant role as a rookie.

“I thought he had his best day yesterday and then it seemed like today was better than that,” Shanahan said. “So I thought he’s put two good practices in a row. It takes time with some of these guys. By no means has he arrived with two good practices. That’s why I try not to jump to too many conclusions after each practice.

“He got a couple good looks yesterday, which sometimes that’s what they need to spring a little bit of confidence. We’re always hoping it will click because we know he’s got some ability.”

Shanahan told Peter King of the MMQB shortly after the conclusion of Day 2 of the draft, “I’m telling you right now: If we don’t get him, I’ll be sick. I will be contemplating Joe Williams all night.”

In the past three practices, Williams has looked more like the player who averaged 6.7 yards per rushing attempt and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 at the NFL scouting combine. Early in camp, undrafted Matt Breida was clearly the 49ers' top rookie running back.

On Friday, Williams made a decisive cut to find a hole and a big gain on one 11-on-11 snap. In a move-the-chains period of practice, he gained 4 yards on a fourth-and-1 play. He concluded practice with a good burst of speed to go untouched on a gain of 20-plus yards.

Williams’ solid showing was one of the highlights of a day in which a handful of rookies stood out:

--Quarterback C.J. Beathard and tight end Cole Hikutini teamed up for a deep pass, on which Beathard showed good touch to drop it just beyond the outstretched arm of fellow rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who was 25 yards down the field in coverage.

--Foster had another interception, but he owed this one to cornerback Prince Charles Iworah, who dislodged Matt Barkley’s pass out of the hands of running back Matt Breida. Foster was in the right spot to catch the deflected ball.

--Shortly after his interception, Foster went down with an apparent left ankle injury. He got up under his own power and hobbled off the field, but he was back in the action just a short time later.

--Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon had his best individual play of training camp when he broke up Brian Hoyer’s pass for Pierre Garçon.

--Safety Chanceller James had a strip-sack of Hoyer, and Chris Jones scooped it up for a fumble recovery to end one move-the-chains possession for the first-team offense.

--Rookie slot receiver Trent Taylor had another solid day, including an 18-yard reception at the sideline on a pass from Hoyer.

--Second-year cornerback Rashard Robinson made a leaping pass breakup of Beathard’s well-thrown deep ball intended for Aldrick Robinson. Safety Eric Reid aggressively defended a pass to prevent Kapri Bibbs from the reception of a Barkley pass.

--Veteran nickel back K’Waun Williams made the interception of a desperation Barkley pass during a two-minute drill.

--Defensive lineman Aaron Lynch was excused from practice due to the birth of his second child, Samson John Lynch, who was born two months premature, Lynch revealed on social media.

Said Shanahan, “Aaron had a baby in the middle of last night. Not him, his wife. It sounds good. I talked to him through text in the middle of the night, but everything seems like it checked out fine and I’ll talk to him here when we’re over.”

--DeForest Buckner (ankle) and Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) did not practice. Both are listed as day to day, along with linebacker Donovin Newsom. Tight end George Kittle (hamstring) went through individual drills. Linebackers Brock Coyle (ribs) and Eli Harold (concussion), along with cornerback Zach Franklin (ankle) and offensive lineman J.P. Flynn (knee) are expected to miss more time.

--The 49ers will hold an open practice at Levi’s Stadium on Saturday morning. It is their own scheduled practice that is open to the general public. Tickets are still available at 49ers.com.

Ten questions as 49ers open training camp

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AP

Ten questions as 49ers open training camp

The 49ers report to training camp Thursday with 51 of the 90 players on their offseason roster coming to the organization since the arrivals of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.

So, yes, there are a lot of questions surrounding the 49ers, who finished last season 2-14 and the second-worst team in the league behind the Cleveland Browns.

Here are ten questions from followers on Facebook that seem to be most on the minds of 49ers fans on the eve of reporting day:

1. How much better is the coaching staff compared to last season's coaching staff? (Raymond Robles)
That remains to be seen, but there is little doubt Kyle Shanahan has in place a proven NFL offensive system. General manager Trent Baalke did not give Chip Kelly much talent with which to work last season, but there is plenty of doubt whether Kelly’s scheme can sustain success in the NFL.

Shanahan has installed a traditional NFL offense. The fullback position will be a key component. Long-time running backs coach Bobby Turner has routinely produced exceptional results.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was not Shanahan’s first choice. Shanahan wanted an experienced coach on that side of the ball, but could not land Gus Bradley or Vic Fangio. Saleh got high marks from players after the offseason program, but the true indication will be the results of the 49ers’ defense during the regular season.

2. Hoyer is the presumptive starter, but what chance do you think Beathard beats out Barkley for the backup spot? (James Bramow)
There has never been a question since the moment the 49ers signed Brian Hoyer that he steps in as the starting quarterback. After the 49ers could not land Matt Schaub, the 49ers lined up Matt Barkely as the backup.

Hoyer and Barkley open camp as the solid Nos. 1 and 2 on the roster. C.J. Beathard, whom the 49ers selected late in the third round, will likely remain as the No. 3. The plan is to bring him along slowly, so it seems unlikely he has much of a chance to move up the depth chart unless an injury forces some shuffling.

3. What's the future looking like for Carlos Hyde with San Francisco 49ers? (Steven James)
Hyde is the best running back on the 49ers’ roster. The only question is whether he is the best running back for the 49ers’ new scheme. Hyde enters the final year of his contract. The 49ers made the moves in the offseason to build more depth and line up his replacement for the 2018 season. Shanahan and Turner really wanted Joe Williams, and they convinced Lynch to draft him in the fourth round. The future of Hyde with the 49ers depends on how he performs once the pads go on. His physical style of play is what distinguishes him from the others.

4. Will Carlos Hyde and Vance McDonald open camp as the starters? (Joe Ruckus Marsh)
Hyde will certainly open camp as the starter. I’d assume McDonald will enter the first huddle of training camp with the No. 1 offense, too. But there is no question McDonald will face stiff challenges to maintain his role on the team.

5. Is George Kittle the real deal? (Israel Vasquez)
We will see when things start getting serious. But the first indication from Kittle during the offseason program is that he has a chance to be a significant contributor as a rookie. He was very active in the passing game, especially as a red-zone target. He also has good speed, which he showed to get down the field and make some plays. If his blocking holds up, he could easily win a starting job.

6. Who are gonna be the starting WRs? (John Tinsley)
Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin appear to be clear favorites to win the starting jobs on the outside. The 49ers have three solid starting options at slot receiver, led by veteran Jeremy Kerley, whom the new regime re-signed after he led the club in receptions and receiving yards last season. Draft pick Trent Taylor had a strong camp. Bruce Ellington is talented but he has been unable to remain healthy enough to show anything.

7. Who do you think has the inside track to start at center: Zuttah or Kilgore? (D.j. Byrd)
Jeremy Zuttah made the Pro Bowl last season with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has played well – when healthy – since taking over as the starter in 2014. Zuttah might actually be competing for two spots. There’s a decent chance that Kilgore assumes the starting role at center and Zuttah is moved to one of the guard spots. This way, they’re both winners.

8. The new 4-3 front seven with all the new faces, how's the rotation going to look like? (Eric Page)
The favorites to win the starting jobs along the line are big end Solomon Thomas, nose tackle Earl Mitchell, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and “Leo” Arik Armstead. Quinton Dial faces a stiff challenge to learn the new scheme, as he must develop the movement skills to play a one-gap scheme. Elvis Dumervil and Aaron Lynch will compete to work their way into pass-rush specialist roles. Chris Jones enters camp in good position to serve behind Buckner in a backup role. Tank Carradine and Ronald Blair will compete for spot duty behind Thomas.

9. Who will start along side NaVorro Bowman? (Daniel Velazquez)
The 49ers signed Malcolm Smith because of his knowledge and production within the new defensive system. Smith looked good in the offseason program. But the 49ers also fell in love with Reuben Foster and traded up to get him at the back of the first round.

When the 49ers last saw Foster, they expected him to be medically cleared for the opening of training camp. (Foster underwent offseason shoulder surgery that was widely reported as a condition that scared off some NFL teams.)

There is no rush to get Foster onto the field. But he is such a talent that it will be difficult to keep him on the sideline. My guess is that Smith opens as the starter and they add more and more to Foster’s plate until he is deemed ready for an every-down role. His understanding and execution of the defense will determine when he takes over on a full-time basis.

10. How much of a learning curve will there be for the defense going from a 3-4 to a 4-3? (David Hartless)
The 49ers plan to play a much more aggressive style of defense. The defensive linemen will be responsible for one gap, and they will be asked to charge up the field to disrupt plays in the backfield.

That sounds great, but it also leaves the defense susceptible to more big plays. Strong safety Eric Reid, stationed closer to the line of scrimmage, will have a key role in the run game. Free safety Jimmie Ward will be asked to make plays in the passing game.

Saleh’s defense, however, will be simple. Because of the limited number of calls, the defense should be more comfortable doing fewer things. The 49ers will likely have fewer blown assignments and gives them a chance to make a significant improvement over last season, when the club was the worst defense in the NFL.