Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated was in Santa Clara late last week at the San Francisco 49ers training camp. Breer reviewed his takeaways on the NFC West recently, and shared his thoughts on what we’ve learned from training camp over the last three weeks.
Some love for the position coaches
Breer started off by praising defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, and how can be a difference-maker with the talent on the defensive line. Kocurek is fun, loud, but isn’t the type that is just yelling to yell. He’s awesome, but I think another position coach has a brighter future.
I believe DeMeco Ryans is the best defensive coach on the staff. From my point of view, anyways. Ryans is relatable, aware, has the alpha personality where he can command attention from the players, but he isn’t talking at you. It’s evident that Ryans won’t be a position coach for too long. I think more than anything, he’s a great teacher. You see him fix problems as players are walking off, and you don’t see the same mistakes. There are plenty of other examples, but my guess is Ryans isn’t going to be a position coach for much longer.
The return of Sherm
The Niners are optimistic they’ll get the Seattle version of Richard Sherman this year. Last summer he was up-and-down in coming back from his torn Achilles’ tendon, and generally operating at about 70% capacity. He’s been a tone-setter in camp for the defense thus far.
This isn’t a new take, but Sherman looks like Sherman again. You couldn’t say that in 2018. In a sense, getting a fully healthy Sherman is like an additional free agent. His confidence shows in his play. If the first preseason game was any indication of what the Niners will do on defense, playing more split-safety looks means they can shift help away from Sherman to whoever may need it at the time.
The most noticeable play came in practice a week ago, when it appeared Tevin Coleman had an angle on Sherm, but he couldn’t get the corner. Ahkello Witherspoon told us that he believes Sherman is faster than he’s ever been.
Everyone’s favorite rookie
Rookie sleeper: LB Dre Greenlaw. The fifth-rounder has flashed instincts and feel for the game, and looks like he could contribute, in some way, right away. Thing is, big-ticket free agent Kwon Alexander plays the WILL, which is his natural spot.
There is no question that Greenlaw can contribute right out of the gate on the 49ers defense. Alexander might be the big-ticket free agent, but if we are looking at this objectively Greenlaw is better in man coverage than Alexander. Also, playing the same position isn’t much of an issue. In today’s NFL, you’re going to have two linebackers on the field the majority of the time. If a team wants you to be on the stong side of the formation, all they have to do is motion somebody to you. There’s no hiding.
The further preseason goes along, I believe it’ll become tougher and tougher to keep Greenlaw off the field.
Center of attention
If there’s a swing factor for San Francisco, it might be Weston Richburg’s health. His status for the start of the season is in question, but if he can play, the OL could wind up being pretty strong. If not ... You’ll see that center is a pretty important spot in the Shanahan offense.
Center is imperative in Shanahan’s scheme. You have to make the calls, be able to quickly process what the defense is doing. Physical traits aren’t as important at center, but in an outside zone-based run scheme, mental checks are everything. Your center is asked to do far more. I think a healthy Richburg will go a long way in Jimmy Garoppolo’s success as well. It will take the pressure of Jimmy G. Richburg can play. Hopefully we are able to find out Week 1.