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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. — In the hours before making his NFL debut, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens said he got a good night of rest.

“I slept good except I woke up about every hour,” Mullens said, laughing. “But those hours were great. I slept pretty good.”

If that qualifies as a good night of sleep, Mullens had to feel as if he were living out a dream Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders.

Mullens, a 2017 undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss, began the day by receiving a good luck text from fellow Golden Eagle Brett Favre. He ended by receiving a congratulatory call from Favre and approximately 600 congratulatory text messages from other friends and family.


49ers put RB Mostert on IR with broken arm
Niners running back Raheem Mostert was placed on season-ending IR with a broken arm.
T.O. gets Hall ring; ‘no regrets’ skipping induction
Terrell Owens was presented his Hall of Fame ring during halftime of Thursday night’s 49ers-Raiders game and stood by his decision to skip the induction ceremony in Canton earlier this year.

In between, Mullens put together one of the greatest statistical performances by a quarterback making his debut in NFL history and led the 49ers to a convincing 34-3 victory against the Raiders.

Mullens, who replaced an injured C.J. Beathard as starter, was unfazed by his prime-time debut, calmly directing the Niners to touchdowns on the first two drives of his young career and going on to post the best passer rating by a quarterback in his first start since the merger in 1970.

“You never know until you see someone,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He didn’t surprise us in terms of, the game’s not too big for Nick. He’s very poised. He is always locked in. The guys, they respect him. He earned a lot of respect in the preseason, them watching him play. Both years, last year and this year. The way he handles himself in practice each week. He didn’t really know for sure whether he was going to start today, until today, and just the way he handled the two days of long walk-throughs and stuff.

“He’s a machine in there and I was happy for him.”

With Mullens at the helm, the 49ers blew out the Raiders in what was the final “Battle of the Bay” before the Raiders relocate to Las Vegas.

By the time Mullens’ first regular-season playing experience was done, he was 16-of-22 for 262 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 151.9.

With each completed pass, Mullens seemed to reach another historic benchmark.

• Mullens’ passer rating of 151.9 was the best by a quarterback making his debut with at least 20 attempts since 1970.

• That passer rating was the highest by a 49er since Alex Smith had a rating of 157.1 on Oct. 29, 2012.

• Mullens joined Marc Bulger, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Marcus Mariota as the only players over the past 25 seasons to throw for three or more touchdowns in their first game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

• Mullens is the first player since Carson Wentz to throw for a touchdown in his first career game on the team’s opening drive, and one of four to do it in the past 15 seasons, along with Wentz, Mariota and Matt Ryan.

• Mullens joined Fran Tarkenton (1961) and Jim Kelly (1986) as the only quarterbacks to throw for 250-plus yards, three-plus touchdowns and no interceptions in an NFL debut since 1950.

• Mullens is the first player in 49ers history to throw for three touchdowns in his first game with the team, according to Elias Sport Bureau.

• The last time a 49ers quarterback threw two touchdown passes on the first two drives of a game was Colin Kaepernick in Week 4 of 2016. The last time the Niners scored a touchdown on their first two drives of a game was Week 14 of 2016.

Things went so well for Mullens on Thursday night that his previously unverified Twitter account was granted a blue check mark — during the game.

All of that added up to the Niners’ second win of the season in one of the biggest blowouts by a team with only one victory this late in the season in the Super Bowl era. The Niners’ 31-point margin of victory is the second largest in that category.

The 49ers signed Mullens in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss, where he was the most prolific quarterback in school history, surpassing Favre along the way and ultimately shattering Titans quarterback Austin Davis’ records.

Before Thursday’s game, Favre tweeted good luck to Mullens, which might have helped his case for verification, and sent a text message to Mullens that said, “No pressure, just be yourself.”

Best of luck to my fellow @USMGoldenEagles alum and QB @NickMullens tonight for the @49ers! #SMTTT

— Brett Favre (@BrettFavre) November 1, 2018
Immediately after the game, Favre called Mullens.

“It was pretty cool, definitely an honor,” Mullens said. “It’s cool to see Southern Miss alumni stay in tune with the program and support each other. Definitely appreciative of that and definitely have the most respect for Brett. He just told me how proud of me he was.”

In the days leading up to Thursday’s game, Mullens prepared as though he would start, but the Niners held nothing but walk-throughs because of the short turnaround from Sunday’s loss to Arizona.

With Beathard attempting to recover from his injury, the Niners weren’t even sure who would start until things started trending in Mullens’ direction Wednesday night. Shanahan informed Mullens of that decision but still put Beathard’s injured right wrist and thumb through a pregame test Thursday to determine if he’d be available to back up Mullens.

All the while, Mullens was doing what his teammates say he always does, which is relentlessly prepare as if he’s going to play. Mullens has earned a reputation for his dedication to the game, including an at-home ritual in which he downloads crowd noise, plays it as loud as he can in his headphones and practices calling out plays amid the ruckus.

“That was the best thing I’ve seen so far,” tight end George Kittle said. “That’s what he does. So he gets that, I know Coach Shanahan will record the calls for him and he will re-listen to them and he’ll re-call them out. I’m pretty sure last year he was a guy who would take the script after the game and he’d go out on the field and run through the plays by himself. That’s just Nick Mullens in a nutshell.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman even ceded pregame speech duties to Mullens before his first start. Like everything else Mullens did Thursday night, that even got rave reviews.

“He did phenomenal,” Sherman said. “That’s what the team needed. In a situation like this, prime time, Thursday night, this guy’s first start, the team needs to hear from him. He’s going to lead us out there today. He’s going to be the guy who gets us this win and he did everything right today. This is Nick Mullens’ day today.”

The 49ers don’t play again until Nov. 12 on Monday Night Football against the Giants. Beathard should have plenty of time to recover by then. The question now is whether Mullens will get a chance at an encore performance of Nick at Night, something Shanahan wasn’t immediately ready to answer after the game.

“We’ll consider it,” Shanahan said. “Definitely not thinking about that right now, but our whole team played very well. Nick definitely did. … It was a very good all-around win. I was real happy for our guys. We’ve been through a lot here and we’re not done. We’re trying to get our way out of this. It’s good to get a win today and hopefully it can lead to some others.”

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MINNEAPOLIS — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got his first taste of losing as a starting quarterback in the NFL on Sunday.

After running off seven consecutive victories in games he started to open his career, Garoppolo and the Niners came up short against the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday’s 24-16 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“You never want to lose,” Garoppolo said. “It sucks.”

Before Sunday’s loss, Garoppolo was one of five quarterbacks since the NFL merger to win his first seven starts. Garoppolo threw his third interception of the game with under two minutes to go to seal the win for Minnesota.

Had Garoppolo and the Niners been able to complete a fourth-quarter comeback, it would have moved him into third-place all time for most consecutive wins by a quarterback to begin his career.

It was not to be, however, as Garoppolo had an up-and-down day against a Vikings defense that ranked at the top of the league in fewest yards and points allowed in 2017. Garoppolo finished 15-of-33 for 261 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 45.1, the worst in his eight starts.

“We went against a very good defense and we all didn’t play as good as we could,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Lots of quarterbacks struggle against that defense. Jimmy did some good things but by no means was he perfect. And that’s what everyone was like on offense. (Our) defense holds that team to 17 and if I didn’t think we could get more than that, I wouldn’t be as upset but I really think we should have.”

That Minnesota defense presented Garoppolo and the Niners with one of their biggest challenges though many of the Niners’ errors were self-inflicted.

In the third quarter, Garoppolo threw an interception to Vikings rookie corner Mike Hughes, who returned it 28 yards for a touchdown and what would turn out to be the winning points as Minnesota jumped to a 17-3 lead.

According to Shanahan, there were multiple miscommunications on the play, not just between Garoppolo and receiver Kendrick Bourne but for the offensive line before the snap. Four plays earlier, right guard Joshua Garnett suffered a foot injury that forced the Niners to move tackle Mike McGlinchey to guard with Garry Gilliam entering at right tackle.

The missed protection call led to a hot route call that shouldn’t have happened, according to Shanahan. Garoppolo expected Bourne to run an in-breaking route but Bourne never cut inside, making it easy for Hughes.

After the game, Bourne took responsibility for the mix-up and said Garoppolo did the right thing on the play. Garoppolo opted not to let himself off the hook.

“It’s an it-is-what-it-is type of thing, and it’s both of our faults,” Garoppolo said. “Whenever you throw an interception, it’s always on the quarterback.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo tossed another interception, this time simply throwing too high for rookie receiver Dante Pettis and into the hands of Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

Garoppolo’s third and final interception came as he tried to lead a last-minute, game-tying drive, but Minnesota safety Harrison Smith intercepted the second-down pass intended for Trent Taylor to seal the win.

While Shanahan said Minnesota didn’t do anything surprising defensively, Garoppolo did struggle with the Vikings’ pressure at times. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Garoppolo was 1-of-8 with a touchdown and two interceptions under duress Sunday, a sharp decline from the 54 percent completion rate he previously had under pressure as a starter.

Garoppolo’s supporting cast also missed some opportunities to help him out. Tight end George Kittle dropped a deep pass that would have gone for a big gain, running back Alfred Morris fumbled at Minnesota’s goal line, and receiver Pierre Garcon was unable to come down with a contested catch in the end zone.

“He did his job,” Garcon said. “He did the best he can. We have to make those tough plays for him, we have to protect him, we have to help him out.”

Despite those miscues, Garoppolo and the Niners still had some opportunities to pull off the come-from-behind victory.

With big plays coming frequently down the stretch — including Garoppolo escaping pressure and finding rookie receiver Dante Pettis for a 22-yard touchdown — the Niners had the ball twice with a chance to tie the game.
Although, Garoppolo’s completion rate of 45.4 percent was also the worst of any of his starts, he made up for it by continually hitting on some big plays. Garoppolo averaged 7.9 yards per attempt, just a little under what he did the final five games of last season. San Francisco had nine passing plays of 10 yards or more.

“I think the chunk plays helped us but finishing drives, keeping them on the field for longer. I’m not sure exactly what the time of possession was, but I think it was pretty close so it’s all those things tied together,” Garoppolo said. “All the negatives that were in the game, we still had a shot at it, so it’s a tough one.”

Alas, the late-game magic that allowed Garoppolo to lead the Niners to win five straight to close last season ran out. Now the Niners seek to begin a new run.

“We’ve got a good group in there, so I think we have the right mindset of coming in tomorrow, watch the film and bounce back and be ready for next week,” Garoppolo said.

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The San Francisco 49ers made a big move on their offensive line last month, drafting Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and then turning around and trading right tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots. Brown always had a ton of potential, but his ability in power vs. zone blocking coupled with his impending free agency and regular concerns about his weight and conditioning made this not entirely shocking.

We’re back once again with some thoughts from a college blogger on the 49ers draft pick. Big thanks to Joshua Vowles, site manager at One Foot Down, for taking a few minutes to talk about McGlinchey.

What does he do particularly well on the football field?

He clears a very wide path. When McGlinchey gets his hands on an opponent, he generally overpowers them with excellent technique and a hunger for contact. So quite simply, he destroys those in front of him.

What does he need to do to improve his game at the NFL level?

His footwork needs help. McGlinchey isn’t slow or heavy footed, but he had a tendency to take a misstep which cause a loss in position against a speed rush. I’m not sure if he has trouble anticipating that rush with his body, or if he just loses focus. It has been an issue from time to time, but it does appear to be something that can be helped.

There is some talk he might be best suited at right tackle in the NFL. That would be his initial role with the 49ers, but there could be an opportunity at left tackle down the road. What do Notre Dame fans think about his chances of moving to the “premier” LT position in the NFL?

I actually think that McGlinchey would make a premier right tackle as a career. In this day and age, as it was the argument for taking a guard in the top 10, blitzes and rush packages come from everywhere on the field. I think he could do well on the left side, but his more natural fit is on the right. It’s a position where he could play at an elite level for 10 years.

What can you tell us about his personality and how he is off the field?

Mike is everything that you would want in a teammate. He’s a strong leader and is full of confidence, but he shows a humbleness that one doesn’t expect from his gigantic frame. I was most impressed back in 2016 when the Irish kept losing close game after close game. They trotted McGlinchey out to talk to us after the coaches press conference, and despite the anguish that was so noticeable on his face, he remained patient, and kept a professional demeanor.

Anything else of note worth knowing about McGlinchey?

Many people know that Matt Ryan is Mike’s cousin, but he never told anyone until his junior year. The news came after a follow up question to something innocuous. I always found that a bit fascinating given the way people normally want to attach themselves to success.

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Cassius Marsh was only on the San Francisco 49ers roster for six games last season after being claimed off waivers in November from the New England Patriots, but the team liked what they saw enough to keep him around into next season and beyond. Marsh, who was scheduled to hit free agency on March 14, was given a contract extension by the 49ers today that will keep him under contract for the next two years.

Marsh, 25, seemed to fit in well with the 49ers after coming over from New England, giving them a needed boost with their pass rush and some depth at defensive end. Marsh posted 11 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles in the six games he played with the 49ers in 2017.

“Since joining the team late last season, Cassius has impressed us with his unique skill set and the tremendous energy and passion he brings to all phases of the game,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “Cassius is a great example of our desire to reward our own players with contract extensions as we continue to build out our roster. We’re excited to have him as a 49er moving forward.”

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The extension probably comes as welcome news for Marsh, who told the Sacramento Bee last month he was happy to be with the 49ers after not feeling as comfortable with the Patriots, who acquired him in a preseason trade with the Seahawks.

“From the moment I got here I felt at home,” Marsh said. “And I was coming from something that, for the first time, really felt like I was away from home and turned the game I love into true work.”

Marsh (6-4, 245) has 85 career tackles to go with six sacks and four forced fumbles since being selected out of UCLA in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He becomes the second 49ers pending free agent to receive a contract extension, joining linebacker Mark Nzeocha. The 49ers will need to continue to add pass rush help this offseason, but keeping Marsh on the fold gives them a solid piece who will at least add depth and experience in that area in 2018.

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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. — 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.”

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SEATTLE — A look back at how the San Francisco 49ers fared in three key areas of Sunday’s 12-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

Putting it on the line

Both offensive lines were coming off some serious struggles in Week 1 and the side that showed the most improvement figured to have a leg up in winning this one. As it turned out, the Niners’ line mostly outperformed Seattle’s after making a change to the starting lineup, though neither side was perfect.

Laken Tomlinson made his 49ers debut, starting at left guard in place of Zane Beadles. Tomlinson didn’t dominate but he was a clear improvement over Beadles, according to Pro Football Focus metrics.

“I didn’t notice him much, so that’s usually a good thing when it comes to the O-line,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I thought we ran the ball well and our protection at times, I thought they gave us time to throw, which is a good thing when you’re going against that group. I’ll see more when I look at the tape, but I was pleased out there.”

While the pass protection still had some hiccups — the Niners allowed two sacks and four quarterback hits — the run blocking was excellent. San Francisco rushed for 159 yards with a whopping 8.4 yards per attempt. That’s the sixth-highest yards per carry for a Niners team in a game in franchise history and the third-best performance ever against Seattle.

On the other side of the ball, the Niners were able to consistently flush Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson from the pocket and came up with three sacks and 10 quarterback hits on the day. With Aaron Lynch in the lineup after he was inactive against the Panthers, San Francisco was able to get a steady rotation going and create consistent pressure against Seattle’s fledgling line.
Brian Hoyer went 0-for-4 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield on Sunday. Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports
Hitting the big ones

After last week’s game, Shanahan lamented some missed opportunities for big plays in the passing game. Those misses came for a variety of reasons, not least of which was receiver Marquise Goodwin’s drop of a potential long touchdown pass on the Niners’ first possession.

Because the Niners don’t have a roster full of stars, they can’t afford to miss out when such chances arrive. In Sunday’s game, there simply weren’t many of those opportunities and when they came, the 49ers again didn’t make them happen. Although the run game provided some fireworks, namely in the form of running back Carlos Hyde’s 61-yard run, quarterback Brian Hoyer and Co. again failed to get anything going down the field.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Hoyer failed to complete a pass more than 8 yards past the line of scrimmage against the Seahawks, averaging just 2.9 air yards on his 15 completions. And Hoyer missed on all four of his attempts that traveled 10-plus yards down the field.

Through the first two weeks, Hoyer is 2-of-13 with two interceptions on passes traveling at least 10 yards in the air.

“We had a couple opportunities to do it,” Shanahan said. “We got the wrong look on one and didn’t get the protection on another. You don’t make a living going down the field all the time versus three deep, four under, guys are bailing and it’s about the underneath coverages, but it’s tough when you run the ball like that and you struggle on third down and you don’t get those big plays, it’s tough to score points. So it’s something we have got to find a way to generate those better the next time we play them.”

Although it wouldn’t have qualified as a big play in the passing game, Goodwin had another key drop late in the game as the Niners drove into the red zone. The drop cost the 49ers a likely first down inside the 10 and they settled for a field goal before Seattle drove for what turned out to be the winning touchdown.

Pre-snap priority

An area of emphasis for Shanahan since the preseason has been on cutting down on some of the controllable mistakes his team has made. Things like pre-snap penalties (false starts, illegal formations, etc.) as well as unforced errors such as turnovers or drops.

The Niners showed some improvement on the penalty front, finishing with six for 66 yards after having 10 for 74 yards last week against the Panthers. What’s more, they cut down on those controllable penalties, trimming those from six last week to two against the Seahawks (both of which were offside on a pass -rusher).

Those numbers were especially encouraging considering the 49ers were playing at notoriously loud CenturyLink Field, where false starts are often the order of the day for opposing offenses.

“This is definitely one of the toughest places to play in terms of noise,” Shanahan said. “We do a lot [of practicing] with that. I don’t know exactly what the overall numbers were, but I thought we did a decent job with false starts and I knew that would be a challenge going in. It’s that way for any team that comes in here. By no means was it perfect, but from that standpoint I was pleased.”

It wasn’t all good, however, as the Niners lost the turnover battle with Hoyer throwing an interception right to a middle linebacker for the second week in a row.

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PHILADELPHIA — Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz came into the NFL with a reputation as a bit of a gunslinger, but didn’t do much slinging downfield his rookie year.

New to Doug Pederson’s system and working with a group of receivers that failed to gain separation with any consistency, Wentz didn’t air it out much (9.7 percent of his attempts traveled 20-plus yards, which was in the bottom half of the league) and had minimal success with the deep ball when he did pull the trigger. He connected on just 29.4 percent of throws that traveled more than 20 yards (22nd in the NFL) with three touchdowns to six interceptions, per ESPN Stats & Information.

The Eagles prioritized getting Wentz a burner this offseason, and filled the need by signing Torrey Smith to a three-year, $15 million deal in free agency. The new pairing was on display during Monday’s OTA as Wentz connected with Smith on multiple deep throws, including a 40-plus yard hookup at the expense of second-year cornerback Jalen Mills.

“Torrey obviously brings a speed threat like that. He’s got a track record for doing that, and so I’m definitely excited,” said Wentz following practice. “It’s something within our offense to just kind of figure out where we integrate that and how we go about it. There were definitely times last year where maybe I could’ve take the shot and I didn’t; there were times when I took the shot when I shouldn’t have. So it’s just trying to get a feel for when it’s appropriate to do that, but yes, Torrey brings an element there that is exciting.”

Smith’s yards per catch since 2011 (17.0) is second only to DeSean Jackson (17.4).

Despite Monday’s positive results, the feeling out process is still very much under way.

“He has to get comfortable with my body language because I’m sure I probably scare him sometimes on deep routes, but he’s getting there,” said Smith, who explained that he doesn’t look back for the ball until the very last moment, which can take some getting used to from a QB’s perspective. “And I tell him, even if I’m even [with a defender], I’m going to be open so just throw it and I will be there.”

“[Wentz] is a good dude so it makes [building chemistry] easy. He’s a guy you want to play for. He’s one of the leaders of this team and he is comfortable in that role. So for me, just kind of fall in line, be ready and when my number is called, make sure they can depend on me.”

Some other notes from Monday’s session:

New Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan fell to the rain-soaked NovaCare turf during team drills late in practice and walked off with a noticeable limp. The team had not updated his status at the time of this posting. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews (knee tendinitis), running back LeGarrette Blount (illness) and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) were sidelined.

Still no sign of offensive tackle Jason Peters, punter Donnie Jones or defensive end Marcus Smith. This portion of the offseason is voluntary. Mandatory minicamp runs from June 13-15.

Running back Darren Sproles returned after being absent last week.
Receiver Alshon Jeffery has a knack for making his craft look easy. During a sideline drill early in practice, receivers coach Mike Groh (intentionally, we’re guessing) tested Jeffery’s catch radius with a dart high to Jeffery’s outside shoulder. Jeffery leapt, secured the catch with outstretched arms, then tapped both toes in-bounds in one fluid motion. Above you can see him with a nonchalant one-handed grab. The receiver behind him by the way is Nelson Agholor, who has looked pretty fluid in his own right this spring.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman hasn’t played a snap of football since Oct. 2. That day, he suffered a torn Achilles that cost him the rest of the season.

Bowman has unfortunately grown accustomed to missing large chunks of time, but those absences haven’t killed Bowman’s desire to play. In fact, they’ve only strengthened his resolve to get back better than before.


Such is the case currently as Bowman reported for the start of the team’s offseason conditioning program Monday with his Achilles mostly healed and a return apparently imminent.

“I believe he’s going to be cleared when we get going on the field,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I know that’s something him and [head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson] are still working out. Right now, he was in the weight room doing the testing and stuff. We can’t go out on the field with him yet, but when that time comes, I think two weeks from now at minicamp, might have a better answer for you.”
NaVorro Bowman is expecting to be back on the field when the Niners hold their first minicamp April 25-27. Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports
Bowman said he participated in the running drills and other tests the players participated in Monday. While he said he still has some kinks to work out, Bowman is also expecting to be back on the field when the Niners hold their first minicamp April 25-27.

Of course, whether Bowman gets fully cleared to participate in that is up to Ferguson but Bowman said Ferguson watched him Monday and thought he moved well.

Getting back to full strength has been another lengthy process for Bowman, who has previously returned from multiple serious knee injuries. Bowman has spent most of his time near the Niners facility so the training staff could keep an eye on his rehabilitation.

“It was good,” Bowman said. “We took it slow. In the last month, started ramping it up, doing a bit more things, jumping around, it’s been great, there’s been no setbacks or anything, just looking forward to getting back out there and showing what I have.”

Upon his return, Bowman will be jumping into a 4-3 defensive scheme under new coordinator Robert Saleh. It will be the first time in Bowman’s eight-year career he hasn’t been in a 3-4 front. Although it’s something new, Bowman expressed excitement to play in a scheme where he’s only responsible for one gap and doesn’t expect the adjustment to be too difficult.

The goal will then be to get back to the elite level of play he’s known for.

“I was telling the guys today, I’m hungry,” Bowman said. “I’ve been out of the game since Week 4 so any accomplishment that I had before, none of that matters. I really want to get back to prove myself and get back to that level and guys were saying ‘What are you on? How are you moving like this so early?’ So I’ll put the work in and I think God will bless me with a great season this year.”