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Golden Nuggets: 49ers DC Robert Saleh has been excellent this year

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for Friday, November 20, 2020

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Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are on a bye, but that hasn’t stopped them from making the news. On Thursday, LB Joe Walker and C Hroniss Grasu were both placed on the Reserve/COVID list.

Takk McKinley’s role, 49ers’ free-agency priorities and other mailbag questions

Scott H. asks: If Shanahan wants/wanted to keep McKinnon’s legs fresh, why are they having him return kickoffs?

I was wondering the same thing on Sunday. It may have been that two other options, River Cracraft and Trent Taylor, were on the injury report entering the game while Richie James was earmarked for a busy day at wideout. James ended up playing 69 of 71 snaps and took over as punt returner. I don’t have access to the team’s GPS data, but I’d bet James ran farther than anyone else on the field Sunday.

As it turned out, McKinnon only returned one of six kickoffs. (And was crunched after a 14-yard return.)

Why Shanahan views both Mullens, Beathard as 49ers’ backup QB

In fact, Shanahan has said he considers Mullens and Beathard as near-equals as backups behind Jimmy Garoppolo.

“Nick is our guy, but I also try to make it not as big of a deal as it could come off,” Shanahan said this week. “Both of them are our backup quarterback to Jimmy, and both of them we’re capable of winning with.”

“Jimmy’s been our true No. 1 guy, and that’s how the team treats him and everything.”

Shanahan said he would not consider it a big deal if he were compelled to go with Beathard over Mullens, if he felt the results would be better with a change at quarterback.

“We can put in either guy, our team will respond the same way,” he said. “Both of those guys are always prepared to go in like they’re the starter, whether they’re the two or the three.”

George Kittle could return this season if 49ers stay in playoff hunt

“All those guys, whether it’s Jimmy, whether it’s Kittle, Ben Garland, I’d probably put just a little bit ahead of them, if I had to say, but all those guys have a chance to come back and help us,” Shanahan told reporters via video conference. “We’ve just got to take care of business here in these next few weeks to give them a reason.”

Kittle went down in Week 7 with a foot fracture and was given an eight-week timeline, although there was some speculation he could be shut down for the year. The latter situation could certainly be the case if the 49ers want to protect their star tight end should they be playing meaningless games in the closing weeks. However, if San Francisco is in the hunt, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them fit Kittle back into the fold.

One Running Back the 49ers Should Sign Right Now

His name is Jordan Howard.

He averaged 4.4 yards per carry just last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. Then he signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, gained just 28 yards on his first 33 carries and got waived, but also scored four touchdowns.

Howard might be a better fit on the 49ers. Or he might be washed up. Either way, he’s cheap. The 49ers can sign him to their practice squad and see what he has left. If he stinks, they can cut him. But I’m guessing he’s just as good as McKinnon and Coleman, if not better.

2021 NFL mock draft: 49ers bolster OL, secondary in 3-round mock

Round 1, Pick 12 | Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey

Humphrey didn’t need long to establish himself as the center in an explosive Sooners offense. He started 12 games as a redshirt freshman. His sophomore year in 2019 he started all 14 games, didn’t allow a sack, and was the Big 12 co-Offensive Lineman of the Year according to the University of Oklahoma athletics site.

The 49ers’ offensive front has struggled this season and they don’t have a long-term answer at center. Finding a cheap, reliable center option who can pass block and keep whoever’s playing quarterback clean has to be a priority for San Francisco.

Grading the 49ers’ Play Callers at the Bye

Robert Saleh: A

There is no debate to this. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has been the BEST play caller for the 49ers through 10 games this season. The 49ers are the fifth-ranked defense in the league so far, which is a massive accomplishment considering the star players the defense are missing. Saleh is doing a better job in 2020 than 2019 because of what he is working with. He is constantly forced to shuffle, adjust, and step out of his comfort zone.

Saleh is not a coordinator that likes to dial up blitzes, but this season he recognizes that his defense is lacking a pass rush with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford out. This is the adapting I wish Shanahan would implement. Saleh is working without so many key players, yet has been keeping the ship afloat and then some. Aside from a Brian Allen travesty in Week 5, the defense has been solid. They have not been the issue in ANY game this season.