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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Whether by choice, by injury or some combination of the two, the San Francisco 49ers’ rookie class has had no shortage of opportunity in 2017.

In fact, their rookie class has combined to play more offensive and defensive snaps through the first 11 weeks than any other team’s group in the league with 2,635. That averages out of 240 snaps per game played by a whopping total of 15 rookies. New Orleans ranks second in the league with 2,355, but that’s split among just nine rookies.

Some of that is the product of a decision by coach Kyle Shanahan to start a rookie from day one, such as the case for tight end George Kittle or linebacker Reuben Foster. Some of it was caused by injury, such as the chances created for free safety Adrian Colbert or receiver Kendrick Bourne.

Whatever the reason, the 1-9 49ers have shown no fear when it comes to putting first-year players into high-leverage situations.
Rookie George Kittle has 27 catches for 277 yards and touchdown this season. Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports
“My first decision is what gives us the best chance to win every Sunday and that will always be the most important thing to me at the time,” Shanahan said recently. “More rookies are playing. I think we’re also getting, we’ve had more injuries. I think more rookies have had time to practice more so they have gotten better. But I’m not … there’s not really a situation on our team where we’re just saying, ‘Hey, play the young guy because he’s younger while we have a better player sitting right there on the bench.’ So, we take all that into account. Yeah, we do have a lot of rookies out there, but it’s not just because we’re deciding based off age who should play.”

For a rebuilding team, going with a youth movement isn’t all that much of a surprise. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have made it clear from the start that they won’t shy away from change. That’s why they released slot receiver Jeremy Kerley in favor of rookie Trent Taylor, didn’t hesitate to trade Rashard Robinson to create a starting job for Ahkello Witherspoon or part ways with NaVorro Bowman in part to expedite Foster’s ascent.

Here’s a look at each of the rookies who have contributed this season, how many snaps they’ve played and what their roles could be moving forward:

TE Kittle (404 snaps) — Kittle earned the starting job from the start of the season and has had some good moments in that role. Nagging injuries have plagued him but there’s no doubt that the 49ers see him as a big part of their future.

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DE Solomon Thomas (394 snaps) — After getting a late start because of the NFL’s rules on college graduation, Thomas didn’t start from Day 1 but he might as well have given his workload. A knee injury slowed him recently but he’s been a strong run defender. The 49ers are still finding his best fit in the defense, but he’s going to be a mainstay for a long time.

QB C.J. Beathard (314 snaps) — Beathard took the starting job from Brian Hoyer in Week 7 and has held it since, getting valuable repetitions. The acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo means Beathard isn’t likely to be a long-term starter in San Francisco, but his toughness and intelligence has earned positive reviews and should make him at least a solid backup in the years to come.

WR Taylor (295 snaps) — A recent rib injury put Taylor on the sideline but he’s been a solid pass-catcher from the slot and handled punt return duties along the way.

CB Witherspoon (275 snaps) — A rough training camp eventually gave way to improvement from Witherspoon, who is now starting. He’s had some ups and downs since stepping into the lineup, but every week is a big chance for him to prove he could be a long-term starter. That would be a welcome sight for a defense that has a serious need at his position.

FS Colbert (199 snaps) — Looking for perhaps the biggest steal of this rookie class? Look no further than this seventh-round pick. Colbert immediately was a strong contributor on special teams, but he’s recently flashed big-time ability at free safety and could hold the starting job there the rest of the season if he can heal quickly from thumb surgery.
Reuben Foster has struggled with injuries, but has been impressive when he’s been on the field. Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
LB Foster (195 snaps) — This snap count would be much, much higher if Foster had been able to avoid ankle and rib injuries. Alas, he has only made it through two complete games. That small sample size has been enough for the 49ers to believe Foster will be a focal point of the defense for many years to come if he can stay healthy.

RB Matt Breida (176 snaps) — The undrafted rookie has been a nice change of pace to Carlos Hyde and looks to have a future as a solid complementary piece in the backfield.

DT D.J. Jones (141 snaps) — Working in a rotation in the middle, Jones has some upside as a run stuffer and makes for a solid backup behind veteran Earl Mitchell.

WR Bourne (113 snaps) — Bourne has only recently entered the mix after some injuries ahead of him. His best performance came in the win against the New York Giants with three catches all going for first downs. His size is something the 49ers don’t have at receiver and makes him a worthwhile developmental prospect.

OL Erik Magnuson (113 snaps) — Injuries forced Magnuson into action at tackle despite spending his time on the interior before that, but he held up OK on the edge despite lack of experience there. Magnuson should have a chance to compete for a starting job next offseason.

S Lorenzo Jerome (68 snaps) — No longer with the 49ers.

TE Cole Hikutini (31 snaps) — On injured reserve.

WR Victor Bolden Jr. (27 snaps) — Bolden has been the primary kick returner and showed some home-run ability there.

LB Elijah Lee (3 snaps) — Also more noticeable on special teams but the 49ers are intrigued by his athletic ability.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers made 35 roster moves on Friday and Saturday, trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players. Here’s a closer look at those moves:

Most significant move: Releasing wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Kerley was the team’s most productive receiver in 2016 and though his numbers weren’t eye-popping, his tape was good enough to earn him a contract extension from new general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. But Kerley never really produced in training camp or in the preseason. Combined with the emergence of rookies Trent Taylor and Victor Bolden Jr., as well as the possibility to put Aldrick Robinson in and move Marquise Goodwin to the slot in three-receiver sets, Kerley was suddenly the odd man out. The Niners guaranteed him $2.8 million on his new deal, a figure they can easily absorb after his release because they have the most cap space in the league.
Jeremy Kerley, signed to a contract extension in the offseason that guaranteed him $2.8 million, was cut by the 49ers. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Youth is served: The 49ers set the tone with their initial wave of roster moves Friday, consistently opting for younger options with upside over older, more established veterans. That trend continued Saturday and gave us a much better view of how Shanahan and Lynch are taking the long view with this roster rebuild. On Friday, they went with younger options at quarterback, running back and on the offensive line. On Saturday, that approach was driven home by releasing Kerley in favor of Taylor, Bolden and Kendrick Bourne and cutting veteran defensive linemen Quinton Dial and Chris Jones in favor of rookie D.J. Jones. All told, the 49ers kept a whopping 14 rookies on their initial 53-man roster, a group that includes five undrafted rookies in running back Matt Breida, Bolden, Bourne, safety Lorenzo Jerome and offensive lineman Erik Magnuson. The only member of the draft class not to stick is running back Joe Williams, who is headed to injured reserve with an ankle injury. Shanahan and Lynch signed six-year contracts when they took over and they sent the message this weekend that they want to build a team that is far from reaching its peak in year one.

More to come?: It should always be noted that these 53-man rosters are far from “final.” Every team in the league will make roster moves in the coming days and weeks, be it for injury or a chance to improve the team. In the Niners’ case, it’s probably a safe bet that there will be some tweaking in the coming days, probably even in the next 24 hours. The 49ers have the second spot on the waiver wire, which means they have the second crack at every player who hits the wire, behind only the Cleveland Browns. With a need for help at cornerback and depth on the interior of the offensive and defensive lines, don’t be surprised if the Niners are active in claiming and adding players.

49ers moves:

Waived or released (28): QB Matt Barkley, C Tim Barnes, TE Blake Bell, RB Kapri Bibbs, LB Austin Calitro, WR DeAndre Carter, CB Will Davis, DT Quinton Dial, DL Leger Douzable, OL J.P. Flynn, OL Andrew Gardner, RB Tim Hightower, TE Cole Hikutini, CB Asa Jackson, DT Chris Jones, WR Jeremy Kerley, OL Andrew Lauderdale, DL Sen’Derrick Marks, FB Tyler McCloskey, QB Nick Mullens, WR Louis Murphy, DL Noble Nwachukwu, WR Tim Patrick, OL Norman Price, K Nick Rose, LB Shayne Skov, WR DeAndre Smelter, S Vinnie Sunseri, OL Darrell Williams Jr.

Waived/injured (2): CB Prince Charles Iworah, CB Will Redmond.

Injured reserve (5): WR Aaron Burbridge, OL Joshua Garnett, DL Chris Jones, DB Don Jones, RB Joe Williams.

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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
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
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. — 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
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
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. — 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.

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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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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Laken Tomlinson has only been with the San Francisco 49ers for a little more than a week, and though it’s still possible the guard could be in the starting lineup for the regular-season opener Sunday, chances are it’s going to take him a little bit longer to get acclimated.

“There’s definitely a chance,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I’ve seen it done before, but it’s definitely a hard thing to do. … He doesn’t have any familiarity with the scheme, so it’s going to be a challenge for him. I don’t want to put unrealistic expectations on him, but I know he’s going for it. I know we’re working with him that way to get him ready. Hopefully he is by Sunday. If not, hopefully he is by the next Sunday. If not, we’ll be trying every single week.”
Laken Tomlinson, a first-round pick of the Lions in 2015, is trying to get up to speed with a 49ers offense that’s unfamiliar to the guard. Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire
The 49ers traded for Tomlinson just before their preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, and he arrived in the Bay Area that night. A couple days later, the Niners placed guard Joshua Garnett on injured reserve with a knee issue, ending his season before it got started. Upon acquiring Tomlinson, a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2015, the Niners hoped he could potentially push for the starting left-guard job, a spot currently held by veteran Zane Beadles.

Tomlinson’s biggest challenge to make that happen will be getting acclimated to an offensive scheme unlike any he’s played in before. In his college career at Duke and his time with the Lions, Tomlinson said he only operated in an outside-zone running scheme sparingly. In making the transition to San Francisco, Tomlinson’s athleticism will be put to the test; most of what he’s done in the past has been based on strength and power.

Although Tomlinson has never played in this scheme, the 25-year-old isn’t completely unfamiliar with it.

“In the offseason I practice everything, outside zone, inside zone, gap, all that stuff, and I’m excited to go out there and do it,” Tomlinson said. “Offensive linemen, you’ve got to be able to do different things. In Detroit, they had some outside zone there as well when I was there. I did it over there and I’m going to try to do that here.”

One thing that won’t require much change for Tomlinson is working on the left side. Though he was predominantly a right guard in college, he worked on the left side for the past two seasons in Detroit. While it can be a challenge to go from one side to the other, it’s not a foreign concept.

That’s good news for Tomlinson, because even if he’s unable to start against the visiting Panthers on Sunday, he might be called upon to provide some depth.

“I think offensive linemen have to be prepared to do both,” Tomlinson said. “There’s just some tweaks in your technique and flipping stances. You’ve got to be able to do both.”

 

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As it stands, Beadles figures to start at left guard, with veteran Brandon Fusco on the right side. If Tomlinson is unable to get up to speed to start, he could still be active, though the Niners also have undrafted rookie Erik Magnuson on the roster to help on the interior.

Whatever the case, Shanahan seems confident Tomlinson will be able to learn enough to help if needed.

“He’s a very intelligent guy,” Shanahan said. “He’s very smart. We got him in here over the weekend so we were able to meet with him, I think we did on Sunday. And he got to practice a little bit on Monday. It was good to get him out there just going. We didn’t do much on Monday. He’s obviously behind. He hasn’t played in a system like this in college or in the NFL, but he’s got the tools to be successful and we’re excited to get to work with him. I know he’s got a lot of work ahead of him. I don’t want to overwhelm him too much, but we’re going to be challenging him every day.”