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“I did not want to let him down,” he said Monday of Kocurek. “That coach has always been there for me, and he always wants me to do well. So when he gave me the opportunity, I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure I didn’t let him down and I didn’t let the team down.”
The third storyline revolved around how well Kinlaw could replace DeForest Buckner, who was traded to the Colts in March. Comparing a rookie to a veteran is unfair, so we’ll look at their rookie seasons. Buckner missed one game in 2016 on a defense that was miserable — the worst in franchise history — against the run. Kinlaw missed two games this season with a knee contusion that was improving as the season grew to a close. The stats are from Pro Football Reference:
Buckner: 1,005 snaps, 73 tackles (43 solo), 7 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 18 quarterback hits
Kinlaw: 546 snaps, 33 tackles (15 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 4 quarterback hits
1. 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh
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There’s a very good chance Saleh has coached his last game as 49ers defensive coordinator, and he went out on a pretty solid note. Through three quarters, the 49ers defense allowed just 109 yards of offense and six points to a Seattle Seahawks team trying to win the one-seed in the NFC.
Unfortunately, things fell apart in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks put up three touchdowns and 91 rushing yards in the final 15 minutes alone. To be fair, one of those scores came after the 49ers fumbled inside their own 20-yard line, but it’s not exactly the finish Saleh was hoping for.
Overall, Saleh seems like the best candidate for the kind of qualities the Lions are looking for, and his hometown roots make it a pretty perfect pairing.
When healthy Mostert is one of the best running backs in the NFL. With his speed he has the ability to take every carry the distance. The only question is his durability. Mostert has played in 31 of the 49ers last 48 regular season games, missing the final seven games of 2018 and a total of eight in 2020. Mostert’s 151 touches in 2019 is a career high.
Jeff Wilson Jr has shown flashes whenever given an opportunity. He started 2020 near the bottom of the 49ers running back depth chart, but due to injuries and ineffectiveness he gradually moved his way into a starting role. Wilson finished the season with an impressive average of 4.8 yards per carry, but that is inflated a bit by big games against New England and Arizona. Outside of those two games, Wilson averaged 3.5 yards per carry. He has shown the ability to be a good complimentary back, but the lack of consistency could be an issue moving forward.
Core players: None. Mostert could be, but he has not shown the ability to stay on the field as the main back. Wilson is nice, but you can’t be a core player if you are a backup.
San Francisco has the 12th overall pick and will likely start the 2021 NFL Draft with 10 total picks. One of the likely top-10 picks is BYU quarterback Zach Wilson.
Wilson had a BYU TV interview on Wednesday and was asked what NFL teams he felt he’d be a good fit with. His immediate answer? The 49ers.
“I haven’t watched a ton of specifics with NFL teams as far as what offenses they run,” Wilson said. “One just off the top of my head is the 49ers, because I’m very familiar with what Kyle Shanahan does and the system that they have in place and I think I’d fit in well there.”
Wilson also mentioned the Carolina Panthers and offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who worked with Joe Burrow, who has the same agent as Wilson. He said he hadn’t watched Panthers tape, but liked what Brady did with Burrow.
That alone relegates Bourne to a less-important supplementary depth role.
Additionally, Over the Cap has the Niners already committing nearly $158 million in player salaries to the 2021 roster against what’s likely to be approximately a $176 million salary cap. With 39 other free agents of one kind or another, San Francisco won’t have an easy time meeting Bourne’s asking price if it gets above the modest $3.259 million he made as a retained restricted free agent this season.
And considering Bourne’s career year, there’s likely to be a decent market for his services among teams looking for some wide receiver help and with better cap situations than the SF 49ers.
What also likely thwarts the Niners’ idea of re-signing Bourne in NFL free agency this offseason is twofold, too. For starters, slot receiver Richie James is still under contract and flashed moments as an offensive playmaker when given chances. On top of that, the 2021 NFL Draft is projected to be just as deep at wide receiver as the 2020 class was when San Francisco nabbed Aiyuk.