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“This is our year!” screams the irrational football fan in early July.

But could this actually be the 49ers’ year? Or at least close to it?

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are entering their third season at the helm in San Francisco. So far, they’ve come closer to the No. 1 pick than the playoffs. Through two seasons, coach Shanahan’s 49ers are 10-22 in the regular season.

There are factors that show the 49ers could be primed for a breakout season, however. Sports Illustrated lists the 49ers as one of five teams — along with the Bears, Browns, Colts and Dolphins — that are entering their Super Bowl window.

Here are three reasons why.

Jimmy Garoppolo
It all starts with Jimmy G.

Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr says the quarterback’s “contract looks better with time.” The 49ers made Garoppolo, 27, the highest-paid player in the NFL at the time when they signed him to a five-year, $137.5 million contract in February 2018.

But only 53.8 percent — $74 million — is guaranteed, which makes it such a steal to Orr.

When healthy, Garoppolo has proven his worth. He’s gone 6-2 as a starter for the 49ers while completing 64.8 percent of his passes. He did tear his ACL in third game of the season last year, though.

The 49ers need Garoppolo to stay healthy. If he does, they’ll have a chance to win plenty of games.

Defensive line
“On paper, their defensive line is how a general manager would draw it up in their wildest dreams: All first-round picks, all under the age of 30,” Orr writes.

The 49ers’ defensive line, from left to right, is expected to consist of Nick Bosa (21), Arik Armstead (25), DeForest Buckner (25) and Dee Ford (28). That should be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

The trio of Buckner, Ford and Armstead combined for 28 sacks this past season. Bosa, the No. 2 pick in the draft, is expected to contribute right away and add to an imposing pass rush.

Free agency
Orr highlighted three signings by the 49ers in free agency: Linebacker Kwon Alexander, Running back Tevin Coleman and offensive lineman Weston Richburg (who signed in the 2018 offseason).

The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract. Though he’s coming off a torn ACL as well, Alexander is expected to be healthy for the season and pair perfectly with Fred Warner and Malcolm Smith.

Coleman could be the steal of the offseason. San Francisco has a loaded backfield, but Coleman could end up being the best fit. He has worked with Shanahan before, and is a factor as a ball-carrier and receiver.

[RELATED: Why Williams believes 49ers' pass rush is primed to excel]

Richburg, 27, signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract before the 2018 season. He started 15 games at center last season before being shut down for the finale with a knee injury.

The 49ers are creating the right combination of youth and experience. The third time could be the charm for Lynch and Shanahan.

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LOS ANGELES — Injured, idle and dejected, Nick Bosa headed west in the fall of 2018, leaving his dorm at Ohio State University for the warm climate of Southern California, where his older brother’s condo awaited.

The older Bosa, Joey, resided only 10 minutes away from the rehab facility where Nick planned to train. And so for the next couple of months, the Bosa brothers shared a space while they navigated divergent paths, Joey completing a playoff-bound season for the Los Angeles Chargers and Nick — as is documented on the ESPN+ series Draft Academy — preparing to be a high-round pick in the upcoming draft.

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Their time together reaffirmed a thought Joey had long held — that Nick might be the better edge rusher among them.

Draft Academy

Draft Academy documents the journey of six prospects: Nick Bosa, Marquise Brown, Drew Lock, Tyree Jackson, Jarrett Stidham and Josh Jacobs. Watch on ESPN+

“When it’s all set and done,” Joey said, “I think he will be.”

Joey, speaking days before what ended up being the Chargers’ final game this past season, was fully expecting Nick to be drafted No. 1 overall. Instead, the San Francisco 49ers took him No. 2, immediately after the Arizona Cardinals selected Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.

Asked in what ways Nick was better, Joey said: “There’s a lot. He’s more flexible than me at this point in his career, and I just think he’s got a better understanding of the position right now. I mean, we’ll see. I intend to improve a lot more throughout my career, and I hope he does as well.”

Joey (6-foot-5, 269 pounds at the 2016 combine) and Nick (6-foot-4, 266 pounds at the 2019 combine) have similar frames and fancy the same number (97). Joey might be a little stronger and Nick might be a little faster, but their play has practically been indistinguishable thus far.

Joey, the third overall pick three years ago, compiled 28.5 sacks, 51 quarterback hits and 35 tackles for loss through his first 35 NFL games. Nick followed Joey from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in South Florida to Ohio State, compiling 13.5 sacks through his first two collegiate seasons. Before suffering a season-ending core muscle injury in the third week of his junior year, Nick was generating pressure on 21.2 percent of his pass-rush attempts, the second-best rate in FBS.

2019 NFL DRAFT COVERAGE

What you need to know from Rounds 1-7:
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Nick is fully healthy now, enough so that he plans to take part in the 49ers’ rookie minicamp at the beginning of May. By that point, the Bosa brothers will no longer be roommates. The two spent many nights together on the couch over these past few months, watching TV and playing video games the way they did as kids.

Joey didn’t impart much wisdom on Nick.

He didn’t feel as if he needed to.

“People think we’re having these, like, deep life conversations about all this stuff,” Joey said with a laugh. “I mean he’ll ask for advice every once in a while, but he’s got stuff covered. He’s smart. He’s mature for his age, so he’s got a lot covered. He always just watches and listens, just kind of has his own way about things. He takes what I did, or does, and he makes it better.”

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Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander plans to sign a four-year, $54 million deal that includes $27 million guaranteed with the San Francisco 49ers, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

Before Alexander sustained a torn ACL on Oct. 21 last season, the Buccaneers were willing to offer him as much as $10 million annually, a source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.

But the feeling at the time was that Alexander, 24, who led the NFL with 108 solo tackles in 2016, was seeking closer to Luke Kuechly’s annual salary of $12.4 million and an agreement could not be reached. Now Alexander has topped Kuechly with a deal that averages $13.5 million per season.

After re-signing left tackle Donovan Smith last week, the Bucs had less than $3.5 million in salary cap space.

Even after the injury, the Bucs expressed a desire to retain Alexander, whom general manager Jason Licht called the “heartbeat of the defense” — but at the right price.

Sources say Alexander’s recovery is right on schedule. He has been under the care of Dr. James Andrews and has resumed weightlifting — including squatting — and is now jogging.

Driven to be “one of the best safeties in this league,” Mathieu, for the second consecutive season, played in all 16 games and tied his career high with 89 tackles. He also had three sacks, a fumble recovery and two interceptions.

Before joining the Texans, Mathieu ended three of his first five NFL seasons on injured reserve, including tearing his left ACL and LCL in 2013 and his right ACL in 2015, when he was a first-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl. In 2017, he played in all 16 games for the first time since entering the NFL.

The Chiefs are intent on finding a safety to pair with Eric Berry, who missed most of last season with a mysterious foot injury. Berry carries a massive salary-cap hit, but the Chiefs missed out on Landon Collins in free agency and appear content to keep him on the roster.

If he’s healthy, Berry and Mathieu would form one of the AFC’s best safety duos.

Anything would be an upgrade on last season, when the Chiefs allowed a league-worst 425.6 yards and 35.3 points per game. The defense ultimately let down Kansas City when it mattered most, failing to get off the field in overtime in an AFC title game loss to the New England Patriots.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was fired within days, the Chiefs quickly hired Spagnuolo, and now they are beginning to piece together what they hope is a vastly improved unit before next season.

“One great thing about Steve is he is going to put players in positions to make plays and I don’t think he is going to be pigeonholed into any one idea or concept,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said earlier this month. “We have a great coaching staff. We certainly have some talent on our roster now and hopefully we will add some more here soon.”

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With the first win of their new regime finally under their belts, the San Francisco 49ers will get a chance this week to rest, relax and recover during their long-awaited bye week.

Given how the first 10 games of the season have played out, this might be the last, best chance for coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and their respective staffs to come up for air for quite a while.

It’s also why the 49ers didn’t hold back in celebrating that first victory.
It’s hard to envision a scenario in which San Francisco doesn’t either re-sign or tag quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports
“I think it’s been a long few months,” Shanahan said. “I think you build up and you go through a lot, a lot of emotions through all those losses. Guys really trying to compete and constantly being disappointed and to try to get up each week and try to fight again and come up short a number of times, and we started over last week again. We came in for those Wednesday meetings talking about there are four days left in our season, and we’ve got three days to prepare for four hours. And that’s really all we wanted to talk about, all we wanted to see.

“I felt like the guys went about that all week from Wednesday on. And to act that way still doesn’t guarantee you anything. Playing hard doesn’t guarantee anything. All of it to me just gives you a chance. But, to act that way all week, to go through that game where that game was not perfect at all, some of the turnovers, some costly penalties in some situations, but to be able to recover and rebound from all that stuff and overcome some adversity in those games, just to put everything in that week and to get rewarded with a win, I think, that’s just how guys felt.”

At 1-9, the Niners still have six games to go. But with clear needs emerging all over the roster, this figures to once again be a busy offseason, even if there finally is stability with the coaching staff and front office.

Which makes this as good of a time as any to take stock of what the Niners have in place and take an early peek at what they will have at the top of their shopping list when the season is over:

49ers scheduled to be unrestricted free agents: DE Tank Carradine, LB Brock Coyle, DT Leger Douzable, OL Brandon Fusco, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, OT Garry Gilliam, CB Leon Hall, RB Carlos Hyde, CB Asa Jackson, CB Dontae Johnson, DE Datone Jones, C Daniel Kilgore, DE Aaron Lynch, WR Louis Murphy, TE Logan Paulsen, S Eric Reid.
ESPN Stats & Info
Projected 2018 salary-cap space: $111,138,196 (includes current projected rollover of remaining $60,242,741 left on this year’s cap)

Who could be back: The Niners under Lynch and Shanahan have not been afraid of change, turning over the bulk of the roster and then parting ways with veterans like linebacker NaVorro Bowman during this season. With that in mind, it’s possible that only a few of their unrestricted free agents will return.

Clearly, Garoppolo is at the top of that list. One way or another, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which San Francisco doesn’t either re-sign or tag Garoppolo. Aside from that, it’s hard to get a read on who might come back considering the Niners haven’t been in a rush to bring back players already on the roster with the exception of nickel corner K’Waun Williams, who already signed an extension.

At this point, Shanahan isn’t tipping his hand on whom he’d like back, but he did acknowledge that there are some players he wants to keep.

Aside from Garoppolo, Hyde and Reid are probably the most interesting names on the list. Before season-ending injuries to Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, Reid moved to linebacker, which seemed to be an indication he could be the odd man out. Still, Reid brings experience and versatility, and if his price isn’t outrageous, he could return.

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
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• 2017 schedule, results
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Hyde is having perhaps his best season despite the 49ers not running all that much. He’s been more involved in the passing game and is still the team’s best runner. Much of his chance for a return will depend on where his price tag goes. If he walked, the 49ers would create another pressing need.

Others who would be worth another look assuming the price is reasonable: Carradine, Coyle, Fusco, Johnson and Kilgore.

Positions of need: Edge rusher, WR, CB, interior OL

 

Free-agency outlook: It’s too early to try to identify specific players who might hit the market and be available to the Niners, especially since most of the big names set to be free agents often end up tagged or re-signed before the new league year begins. But obviously the 49ers will have plenty of cap space to throw around. A big chunk of that will have to go to Garoppolo, but there will still be plenty left to pursue needs. Investing in the offensive line would make the most sense considering how much more difficult it is to get NFL-ready linemen from college. On the flip side, impact edge rushers and No. 1 receivers almost never hit the market, even if some good players do become available occasionally. Cornerback is more of a mixed bag and depending on how you feel about the Rams’ Trumaine Johnson and New England’s Malcolm Butler, there could be some opportunities for the Niners come March.

NFL draft picks: Nine selections, including one in Rounds 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 and two in Rounds 3 and 7.

Draft possibilities: The early read on this draft is that there will be some talented edge rushers and defensive backs but not so much in terms of a true No. 1 wideout. The Niners are all but certain to pick in the top three and in a perfect world, they could trade their top pick for a bunch of other picks, move back a few spots and still get a top edge rusher or corner. Or, perhaps someone like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley will be too talented to ignore, especially if Hyde departs. Of course, a lot will change between now and the draft, but this much is certain: The trade for Garoppolo helped open the Niners to a world of options.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For the past two weeks, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has strolled to the lectern on a Monday and begun his day-after-game news conferences by offering extensive injury updates. With more names added, Shanahan actually had to have a written list of each player, his injury and his potential for a return when he spoke this week. What that list doesn’t contain is an explanation for why Shanahan’s team has been ravaged by injury in his first year at the helm. “I was kind of joking last week when I said you’ve got to ask God, because, I mean, we can guess, but no one knows for sure,” Shanahan said. “I know we’ve been going for a while. We’ve got to get through this week, and we’ll have our bye week after that. I know our guys have been playing real hard. We’ve been playing some long games and battling and some physical games, and injuries happen. I’ve never been a part of a team where it’s been like this, but teams do have to deal with this type of stuff all the time, especially this time of the year.” Indeed, if there’s a guarantee during an NFL season it’s that injuries are going to hit every team. But rare is the case in which one team is hit as hard as Shanahan and the Niners are right now. With offensive tackle Garry Gilliam (knee) going on IR earlier on Tuesday, the 49ers have now had 23 players spend at least some time on injured reserve since training camp began. Many of them remain there, some have been released with injury settlements and defensive lineman Ronald Blair has returned to the active roster. Included on the list of those out for the season are starters such as receiver Pierre Garcon, defensive ends Tank Carradine and Arik Armstead, safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward, linebacker Malcolm Smith and guard Joshua Garnett. None of those players made it past Week 9 in the first season under Shanahan. Making matters worse, that doesn’t account for the many key 49ers such as left tackle Joe Staley, defensive end Solomon Thomas, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and linebacker Reuben Foster who are dealing with week-to-week injuries. To their credit, neither Shanahan nor the Niners are willing to use the injuries as an excuse for their dreadful 0-9 start, though they can realistically acknowledge that the missing pieces are playing a role in their inability to get over the hump. “It’s tough,” safety Eric Reid said. “That’s what happens in football. The guys that are healthy, we’ve just got to make sure that we take care of their body. But again, nobody cares. We’ve just got to get the job done with the guys we have.” For a team like San Francisco going through a rebuild, just how far it has to go to get back to contention might not be as evident when it is fully healthy and has all 22 projected starters in the lineup. The difference between the best starting 22 and the worst in the NFL usually isn’t a substantial gap. When injuries creep up, though, the margin between the best and worst is more easily exposed. That’s precisely what’s happening to the Niners right now and why they were competitive for most of the first half of the season before losing by double digits in each of the past three games. While all those injuries are creating opportunities for the 49ers’ young players, many were already getting plenty of snaps. In some instances, the injuries have forced the Niners into playing some young players who might not have been considered ready to contribute in such important and extensive roles. “Now [there are] a lot of guys are getting opportunities to play that you’re hoping to have more time to develop them,” Shanahan said. “It’s a huge opportunity for some of the guys. Some of the receivers you’ve seen out. Some of the tight ends the last couple of weeks, O-linemen. There’s been guys getting opportunities. When we lost those five close ones, you look at the team and you can see, ‘All right these guys are getting a lot better and we’re going to get there.’ A lot of those guys you’ve missed. “So, you’ve had some guys come up who’ve gotten opportunities to play and I do think it helps you, whether they’re going to be starters next year or whether they’re going to be rotational players.” To Shanahan’s point, the opportunity to give some of those players a chance to play can be helpful in evaluating them, but it’s also something of a double-edged sword because having to force players into action if they aren’t ready can also be damaging to their confidence. In addition, playing for a team without so many key pieces can make some players look worse given what they have around them, (see Beathard, C.J.). In the Niners’ case, the sheer amount of injuries has also forced them to play a variety of players signed off the street with little chance to be part of the team’s long-term plan. Mixing in those players with youngsters they hope will be contributors soon can also create a fragile mix. One way or another, Shanahan and the Niners have seven more games to figure out what they have for 2018 and beyond. But it’s also worth noting that the current circumstances will make determining where those players fit a more difficult proposition. “The main thing is that we’ve got to add to our team, the people that are out there starting and to the depth off of it,” Shanahan said. “Everyone goes through an NFL season, everyone has injuries. We need to build this the right way, so when you do have injuries that you have people who can step up and play. That’s what we’re going through right now. Hopefully these guys who are playing now and getting some opportunities that they maybe wouldn’t have had if we’d stayed healthy. Hopefully that will make them better and give us some more depth going into next year.”

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As the longest-tenured member of the San Francisco 49ers, left tackle Joe Staley has been around for plenty of good times and plenty of bad, but none of the bad had approached what Staley felt through the first nine weeks of this season, as the Niners set a franchise record for futility.

The frustration of being in the middle of the worst start in team history came rushing out of Staley as he stood before the team — along with veteran defensive end Elvis Dumervil and fullback Kyle Juszczyk — on Saturday night. Coach Kyle Shanahan asked the veteran trio to speak and relay to their younger teammates just how difficult it is to win in the NFL.

Even in this, his 11th season, Staley felt like a teenager delivering a speech to his high school class.

“I get nervous,” Staley said. “Just kind of spoke from the heart. Told them what I’m telling you guys right now. All you guys are wondering what it takes to win in the NFL? What does it take to be great, to be good players? I’ve seen great players, I’ve seen great coaching staffs, I’ve seen not-so-great players, not-so-great coaching staffs. What we have here, what we’re building here, it might not seem to the outside as amazing. Trust me when I say that we’re really, really close. I think it’s a confidence, a belief that we have to have every single Sunday that what we’re doing is good enough, what we’re doing is what we can do to win games.”
The 49ers finally had reason to celebrate Sunday, notching their first win of the season after an 0-9 start. Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time this season, that message — a message Shanahan has attempted to imprint on his players since he arrived in February — was finally validated. On their 10th try, the Niners got Shanahan his first win as a head coach and did the same for new general manager John Lynch. The 31-21 win over the New York Giants sparked a wild celebration that began with safety Eric Reid dumping some water bottles on Shanahan and Lynch on the sideline and ended with a giant wet area in the middle of the locker room from the additional water and Gatorade that was poured out in the ensuing euphoria.

“When you lose nine in a row, you learn to savor the moments and enjoy these,” Shanahan said. “It was tough work for us to get our first win, and we got it. I think the guys knew how much it meant to me, and I knew how much it meant to them. I think we’re a pretty close team, and I think we’ve gotten closer through adversity. I hope this can make us better through adversity also.”

After the 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams last year on Christmas Eve, many — myself included — believed it was a meaningless win that would ultimately harm the long-term future of the franchise. As it turned out, that victory cost the Niners the No. 1 overall pick and a shot at edge rusher Myles Garrett, a player who certainly would look good in a Niners uniform right now.

This win, however, isn’t the same as that one. That one was harmful because it was a directionless team dealing with a coach and general manager not on the same page, and it was inevitable that change was coming. This year’s Niners also could undoubtedly use a high draft pick, either to find a difference-maker or to make a trade to stockpile more picks.

But more than lofty draft position, this Niners team needed a win. There’s no way to measure confidence or culture or the intangible things that get stirred into the pot in an effort to forge a winner, but if losing becomes the standard, then losing becomes standard. For a young roster such as San Francisco’s, there’s a real danger in starting a new regime with nothing but defeats.

That isn’t to say one win against an opponent as dismal as the Giants is the cure to anything or that it’s going to be the turning point in the Niners’ rebuild. It’s just to point out that somewhere along the line, young players have to learn how to win. And, as the saying goes, there ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.

“You lose nine games in a row, especially some of the tough ways we did it, and then feeling like you’re getting more banged up as it went along,” Shanahan said. “It’s tough. It’s tough work. It’s a lot easier when you just check out and point fingers at people and blame it on someone else. That’s not what our guys did. I do think we have some special people in our building. I think it’s tested the character that we have, and I do believe that we will be stronger for it. It’s stuff I talk about every Monday, and it usually leads throughout the week that it’s very hard to find out about other people or about yourself until you see how you handle adversity, and I’ve been very impressed with a lot of guys in that locker room and our coaching staff, how they’ve handled this.”

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
Sure, Sunday’s win might cost the Niners a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, though that isn’t certain. Either way, that isn’t as big of a deal now, with Jimmy Garoppolo in town and the Niners not necessarily in the market to draft a quarterback at the top.

More importantly, the 49ers — both young and old — got to experience that winning feeling, some for the first time ever and some for the first time in a long time. They got to see how hard it is to put a tally in the win column and enjoy the spoils that go with it.

It was the same message Staley delivered on Saturday night, fully realized.

“This win felt just as good as winning the NFC championship,” Staley said. “I mean, it was unbelievable. I know how close this team is. On the outside, looking in, 0-9 record coming into today’s game, young team, everybody doesn’t really see what we see in the locker room. We understand, I understand how close we are. No one’s ever wavered, no one’s ever pointed fingers. We’ve all just kind of buckled down. That’s a tribute to Kyle and the leadership group that he brought in with the front office and his coaching staff… I think we really got something special here. I know the record doesn’t say it, but I’m really excited about it.”

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots didn’t acquire any players at the NFL’s trade deadline Tuesday, which means some of their first-half vulnerabilities will have to be fixed from within.

The lack of activity wasn’t a major surprise, with Bill Belichick hinting it was trending that way because the team had made four trades in late August and early September, landing linebacker Marquis Flowers (Bengals), receiver Phillip Dorsett (Colts), cornerback Johnson Bademosi (Lions) and defensive end Cassius Marsh (Seahawks).

“A lot of times you have those conversations in September or the end of August, those players stay with their teams, and then you get to this point in the season and things have happened and the team is now willing to part with them,” Belichick had said on sports radio WEEI. “I’d say this year was a little unusual that we made four trades in August [and September]. Some of those things have already taken place. Guys we might be talking about now have already been talked about and those trades have already happened.”

Because of this, the anticipated return of linebacker Shea McClellin from injured reserve (eligible as early as Nov. 12 in Denver) can be viewed as similar to a trade acquisition. He would add depth as a hybrid player who can play off the line and sometimes rush from an on-the-line position.

The team also has defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (knee) and receiver Malcolm Mitchell (knee) on injured reserve. If both return to full health, the Patriots would have to pick one of them to come back, because teams are only allowed to have two IR return per season. Belichick said the door hasn’t closed on Mitchell.

The Patriots could use a boost at defensive end, where Trey Flowers has played 91.1 percent of the snaps, while rookie Deatrich Wise Jr. (51.4) and Cassius Marsh (50.1) round out the depth chart. The team sometimes uses its linebackers to play on the end of the line, with Kyle Van Noy and Trevor Reilly falling into that category.

Had the Patriots insisted on having a set-the-edge player such as Eli Harold added in the trade that sent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco, they might have been able to help themselves in the short- and long-term in that deal. That’s one part of the team’s lack of activity at the deadline that stands out — if they were going to cash in one of their most tradable assets in Garoppolo, it would have been nice for them to address some immediate needs in addition to receiving a 2018 second-round pick.

Instead, the answers will have to come from in-house.

Van Noy can’t do much more than he’s already executing — including more recently playing more on the end of the line — but fellow linebacker David Harris has been coming on with expanded opportunity (19 snaps vs. Falcons, 21 snaps vs. Chargers) and that will need to continue.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s return, if he plays like he did against Tampa Bay on Oct. 5 would also bolster the D.
On offense, getting more out of the speedy Dorsett, who was acquired from the Colts on Sept. 2 in exchange for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, will be important as fellow receivers Brandin Cooks (91.6 percent playing time) and Chris Hogan (90.2) probably can’t keep up their current pace. Hogan’s MRI on his shoulder Monday revealed good news, as initial optimism revealed it isn’t a season-threatening injury, but at some point the club will probably want to manage how many hits he’s taking.

At tight end, if Dwayne Allen isn’t going to be targeted in the passing game, perhaps the club will integrate Jacob Hollister into the mix more.

So more than a trade acquisition, the focus now turns to upgraded performance from players already on the team. It will be critical to the team’s success in the second half of the season and potentially into the playoffs.

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PHILADELPHIA — The San Francisco 49ers’ defensive game plan Sunday in Philadelphia was clear from the start. Blitz Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, blitz him again and after that, blitz him some more.

For a large chunk of the Niners’ 33-10 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, that aggressive defense kept them in a slugfest against the NFL’s only one-loss team.

Alas, the Niners again came up empty in their search for their first win. The biggest reason for that was an offense that yet again failed to deliver for a defense that kept San Francisco close.

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
With a patchwork offensive line missing starting right tackle Trent Brown (concussion) and left tackle Joe Staley (cut under eye) and rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard making his first road start, the Niners had one of their most anemic offensive showings of the season. They posted just 238 total yards and averaged 3.7 yards per play. Beathard threw two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and despite having favorable field position multiple times, they were unable to break through for a score until there were less than five minutes left in the third quarter.

It was the fourth time this season the Niners finished with fewer than 300 yards of offense. The defense, meanwhile, held the Eagles to 229 yards through three quarters.

And for the eighth time in as many tries, the 49ers failed to put together the complete performance needed to get a victory.

What it means: In the grand scheme of things, another loss doesn’t mean much for this year. This is and has been another lost season for a number of weeks. The implications for the long term have only to do with the 2018 draft, and in that sense, the 49ers’ latest defeat keeps them neck-and-neck with the Cleveland Browns for the No. 1 pick.

What the 49ers did well: The defense earned at least a tip of the cap for the job it did against the Eagles’ high-powered offense. Aided by wet conditions and a Philadelphia offensive line missing left tackle Jason Peters, Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh came up with an effective game plan in which he turned up the heat on Wentz. Saleh called for blitz after blitz, and when the Niners weren’t getting home for one of their three sacks, they were forcing Wentz to throw it earlier than he’d like. Wentz was hit seven times in the process of letting it go. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon even made his first career interception to set up the Niners’ first touchdown.

All of that was with a defense missing linebacker Reuben Foster, nickel corner K’Waun Williams, ends Arik Armstead and Aaron Lynch and dealing with the in-game injury to free safety Jimmie Ward. The Niners defense has struggled in recent weeks, but this was a positive step for Saleh’s group against a good offense, even if the final score didn’t show it.
Taking four sacks and 12 hits, 49ers QB C.J. Beathard had a 46.9 passer rating against the Eagles. Abbie Parr/Getty Images
What the 49ers didn’t do well: Name something that has to do with being effective offensively and the Niners probably didn’t do it well. Beathard was inaccurate on a number of throws, finishing with a 46.9 passer rating. The run game flashed but was inconsistent, and the offensive line didn’t offer much protection, allowing four sacks and 12 quarterback hits. The Niners’ third-down woes also continued as they converted just 3 of 15 tries.

Even the special teams, which has been mostly solid this season, had costly miscues like a shanked Bradley Pinion punt and a blocked Robbie Gould field goal attempt.

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Fantasy fallout: Chances are, you probably didn’t start many 49ers in this one, but if you did, it wasn’t pretty. Receiver Pierre Garcon was targeted four times and finished with two catches for 17 yards. Running back Carlos Hyde didn’t fare much better, finishing with 12 carries for 25 yards.
Injuries pile up: The injury bug bit the Niners hard as a whopping six players suffered from various ailments. Staley (eye), Garcon (neck), Ward (forearm), right tackle Garry Gilliam (knee) and defensive tackle D.J. Jones (knee) departed the game and did not return.

News on the Douz: Defensive lineman Leger Douzable is far from a household name, having just signed with the 49ers on Oct. 17 after having a cup of coffee with the team in training camp. But Douzable has proved usable in his short stint with the team, posting five tackles, two quarterback hits and a career-high two sacks on Sunday.

What’s next: The 49ers’ nightmare October of traveling and losing is finally over, and they will get to go home for the entire month of November. It starts next week when they host the Arizona Cardinals, though the Niners are still two weeks away from a much-needed bye.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers made about half of the moves they needed to make to get to the league-mandated 53 players on the roster by Saturday’s 1 p.m. PT deadline.

Within those moves, there was one easy takeaway from the decisions coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch made: when in doubt, err on the side of youth.

Here’s a quick look at the 17 roster moves the Niners already executed:

Released or waived: QB Matt Barkley, C Tim Barnes, RB Kapri Bibbs, CB Will Davis, DL Leger Douzable, OL Andrew Gardner, RB Tim Hightower, OL Andrew Lauderdale, FB Tyler McCloskey, WR Louis Murphy, WR Tim Patrick, OL Norman Price, K Nick Rose, LB Shayne Skov, S Vinnie Sunseri.

 

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Waived/injured: CB Prince Charles Iworah, CB Will Redmond.

Additionally, safety Don Jones posted to social media that he suffered a serious knee injury in Thursday’s preseason finale. Jones was not a lock to make the roster but had a chance given his penchant for performing well on special teams.

Assuming Jones is headed for injured reserve or possibly an injury settlement, the total would be at 18 moves made Friday, meaning the 49ers still have 17 more decisions to make before the deadline. We’ll get back to some of the things they have to consider in a moment.

But for now, it’s worth noting the Niners seem to be embracing their youth movement. In cutting Barkley, they are making it clear that rookie C.J. Beathard is their No. 2 quarterback and has progressed ahead of schedule. The same is true at running back where Bibbs and Hightower boasted a combined eight seasons of NFL experience but were let go in order to presumably make room for undrafted rookie Matt Breida, drafted rookie Joe Williams and young veteran Raheem Mostert.

On the offensive line, undrafted rookie Erik Magnuson remains on the roster (though nothing is final yet) while Barnes, who started every game for the Rams the last two seasons was released. And Sunseri and Jones’ departure created openings that could be filled by seventh-round draft pick Adrian Colbert and undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome.

Shanahan and Lynch were not shy about giving everybody a chance to make the roster during this camp and the preseason and they are following through on that by opting to choose the players they believe can help best in the short and long term. It’s an ethos Shanahan submitted when discussing the release of linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

“It’s, how are we going to get 53 guys on this team, the right type of 53 guys,” Shanahan said. “You think of guys that might not be as good in Week 1 but you think they’ll be ready in Week 3. What gives you the best chance to win in Week 1 and Week 8 and Week 16? You’ve got to play all that into account. It’s rarely as simple as saying it’s the starter versus the backup, versus the third-string guy. It has to do with the overall 53.”

The moves the Niners made Friday seemed to offer some clarity at quarterback, safety, center, running back and linebacker but there’s still much to consider heading into Saturday.

Here’s a glance at some of the choices the Niners still have to make:

Tight end — All signs point to rookie George Kittle and veteran Garrett Celek being in a good spot. They could be the only two tight ends on the roster but it seems more likely there will be a third. The choice would then come from Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell and Cole Hikutini. Hikutini seems like a good candidate for the practice squad but if the Niners fear someone will claim him, he could make it. Otherwise, the choice comes down to whether the 49ers prefer Paulsen’s blocking and knowledge of Shanahan’s offense or Bell’s ability to contribute on special teams.

Cornerback — The Niners got most of the heavy lifting here done Friday but there’s still probably a choice to make between Asa Jackson and Keith Reaser for what would likely be a fifth roster spot at the position. It’s also possible the Niners could move on from both and roll with Colbert as a utility piece who can play corner, safety and special teams. Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, K’Waun Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon appear to be locked in but it’s also safe to expect the 49ers to keep searching for help whether via trade or on the waiver wire.

Offensive tackle — Will the Niners keep two backups to Joe Staley and Trent Brown or just one? Once that decision is made, the Niners will have to choose from a trio of John Theus, Garry Gilliam and dark horse Darrell Williams Jr. Theus and Gilliam are the best bets, probably in that order, but both could stick early in the season given San Francisco’s need for depth up front.

Wide receiver — Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Jeremy Kerley and Trent Taylor appear to be solid here though it’s not out of the question Kerley could be shopped in trade. Barring that, the question is really whether the 49ers keep a sixth receiver and if they do, whether it’s Victor Bolden Jr. or Kendrick Bourne. Bolden would seem to have the edge given his return skills but the Niners would have to make the determination not only to keep him on the roster but have him active on game day for it to be worth it. Otherwise, it’s still a pretty good bet that a couple of young wideouts land on the practice squad.

Defensive line — Plenty of moving pieces here and the Niners could also be active on the trade market with extra linemen who could draw compensation rather than just being released. Defensive tackle Quinton Dial and end Aaron Lynch, in particular, could be available for a team in need of help up front. Otherwise, the Niners need to decide whether they want to keep Lynch as depth behind Arik Armstead and Elvis Dumervil and who to keep at defensive tackle from a group that includes Dial, rookie D.J. Jones and Chris Jones.

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The draft is over, undrafted free agents have been signed, and the Los Angeles Rams did a little bit of roster maintenance in recent days, parting ways with offensive lineman David Arkin and claiming nose tackle Mike Purcell. Their roster sits at 88 players, two shy of the offseason limit. And OTAs are now only 18 days away.

With that in mind, here’s a position-by-position look at where the Rams’ depth chart stands.

Quarterback: The path is clear for Jared Goff. The 2016 No. 1 overall pick is the starter and Sean Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015, is his backup. The Rams never really planned on signing a veteran quarterback, even as insurance, because they want to see what they have in their two young signal-callers. Aaron Murray, a former Georgia teammate of Todd Gurley who was a fifth-round pick by the Chiefs in 2014, is third string at the moment.

Running back/fullback: All eyes in the fantasy football world will be on whether Gurley can bounce back, after being the top running back in many drafts and then finishing with the NFL’s second-fewest yards per carry. Gurley should have a more productive season on the ground — it can’t be worse, right? — but his targets may suffer with free-agent addition Lance Dunbar taking on a pass-catching role similar to what Chris Thompson was for coach Sean McVay in Washington. Malcolm Brown, who previously impressed Jeff Fisher’s staff, could see some third-down carries. Don’t be surprised to see a fullback on the field at times, either Zach Laskey or 2017 sixth-round pick Sam Rogers. One lingering question: What about Cory Harkey, a run-blocking fullback and tight end who has also been a key locker room presence? He seemingly has to prove himself to this new staff.
After Todd Gurley’s disappointing sophomore campaign, the Rams added some pieces to support their lead running back. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Wide receiver/tight end: I explored this topic further here. Tavon Austin and Robert Woods are the two primary receivers, and the third spot seems pretty wide open — between Pharoh Cooper, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, the latter two drafted this year. At tight end, Gerald Everett, taken 44th overall in 2017, will compete with Tyler Higbee, a fourth-round pick in 2016, for the primary role. The Rams also have Temarrick Hemingway, whom McVay recently spoke highly about, and Travis Wilson, a former quarterback and current project. At receiver, there’s Bradley Marquez, who has been mostly a special-teams contributor, and Mike Thomas, Nelson Spruce, Brandon Shippen, Paul McRoberts and Marquez North, all headed into their second season. That’s a total of 16 pass-catchers, if you include Harkey. For the Rams, that means better chances of someone blossoming.

Offensive line: Free-agent addition Andrew Whitworth is the left tackle and veteran Rodger Saffold is locked in at left guard. John Sullivan, a fixture for the Vikings until back issues crept up, is a heavy favorite to be the starting center. But the Rams are also cross training some of their young guards for the position. The right side currently consists of two transitioning players — Greg Robinson, going from left tackle to right tackle, and Rob Havenstein, from right tackle to right guard. In the end, the best five will play. And Robinson and Havenstein will have to prove themselves if they want to start. Jamon Brown, Cody Wichmann and Andrew Donnal, all drafted in 2015, will be the main guys fighting for playing time. The Rams didn’t draft an offensive lineman this year, but they had their reasons.

Defensive line: It’s Aaron Donald, the game’s greatest interior pass-rusher, reclaiming his role as the three-technique and Michael Brockers remaining at nose tackle. The third spot — in a 3-4 base set — seems open, but it will probably go to Dominique Easley, who signed his $1.797 million tender on Thursday. As backups, the Rams currently have Purcell, Ethan Westbrooks, Matt Longacre, Tyrunn Walker, Morgan Fox, Louis Trinca-Pasat and Tanzel Smart, a sixth-round pick in 2017 who will have to beat out several veterans for playing time.

Linebackers: Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn will be the outside linebackers when the Rams are in a 3-4, but will probably serve as defensive ends in sub packages. Quinn is going to spend the vast majority of his time rushing the quarterback, and Barwin will do so frequently, as well. New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will have to rotate players to keep Quinn and Barwin fresh. And that means Samson Ebukam, a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington the Rams are excited about, should see some playing time. Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron are the starting inside linebackers, and it will be interesting to see how Phillips uses them. Don’t forget about Josh Forrest here, a 2016 sixth-round pick who was starting to carve out a role before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. Nic Grigsby, Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager and Ejuan Price, a seventh-round pick this year, lead the rest of the position group.

Cornerbacks: Trumaine Johnson, in line to play under his second straight franchise tag, is the primary corner. Newcomer Kayvon Webster will compete with E.J. Gaines for the other spot on the outside. In the slot, it looks like it will still be Lamarcus Joyner in subpackages. But newcomer Nickell Robey-Coleman is certainly capable of filling in, which could allow Joyner to remain at free safety full time. The NFL recently announced that backup Troy Hill will be suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Blake Countess and Mike Jordan offer additional depth, though.

Safeties: John Johnson, a third-round pick out of Boston College, could see some immediate playing time at free safety if Joyner indeed goes back to his natural role as a slot corner in subpackages. He’s also insurance in case Joyner doesn’t take to free safety as well as the Rams hope. Maurice Alexander will transition to strong safety full time, taking the spot of T.J. McDonald, who signed with the Dolphins. As backups, the Rams have Cody Davis, Marqui Christian, Isaiah Johnson and Brian Randolph.