ORLANDO, Fla - Kyle Shanahan provided an in-depth view of the San Francisco 49ers during Tuesday morning’s head coaches breakfast at the NFL’s annual meetings. Shanahan shared how he views the roster now just a few weeks from the start of the team's offseason program.
Here are the most notable topics covered by the 49ers head coach.
1. Rams Reloading
The Los Angeles Rams garnered plenty of buzz with their acquisitions of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Their bandwagon continued to fill up on Monday after the addition of Ndamukong Suh.
Suh joins a star-studded defensive line alongside Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. The 49ers offense will have the task of containing that group twice in 2018. Shanahan stressed the importance of maintaining balance as an offense, but noted the obvious difficulty of keeping that trio at bay.
“It’s going to be a challenge for both guards and our center,” Shanahan said. “They’ve added some firepower this offseason. I think we have, too.”
2. “En Garde”
Speaking of offensive linemen, Shanahan shared that the 49ers are likely to open OTAs with Laken Tomlinson at left guard and newly-signed Jonathan Cooper at right guard. Joshua Garnett will have the opportunity to compete at both spots.
Garnett, who the 49ers took with the 28th-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, spent all of last season on Injured Reserve with a knee injury.
“We challenged Josh,” Shanahan said. “We wanted him to take the year to get his body in the best shape possible. Seeing him at the end of the year in December, it looked like he took advantage of his time off. He got his body fat down and his weight down. I think he’s in the best shape of his life, and he’s given himself a chance to help us this year.”
Shanahan affirmed that he sees McKinnon as the 49ers starting running back in 2018. Others will be involved, namely Matt Breida as it stands right now, but McKinnon will be the focal point.
“You’re going to have a lead guy,” Shanahan said. “One guy is going to get it more than everyone else, and that’s what Jerick is for us.”
McKinnon has expressed his desire to surpass his label as a third-down back. He will have every opportunity to do so in San Francisco.
“People talk about him being a third-down back, which, he is,” Shanahan said. “He’s a very good third-down back. We plan on using him that way. I also think he’s a good first- and second-down back, too.”
4. Ward returns to CB
The 49ers picked up Jimmie Ward’s fifth-year option without knowing exactly where the defensive back will play in 2018. That’s a testament to Ward’s athletic ability and versatility, Shanahan said.
Ward will begin OTAs as the starting outside corner opposite Ahkello Witherspoon until Richard Sherman returns. From there, Shanahan said he plans to reevaluate before training camp.
“Jimmie is a good player, and you don’t want to let a good player out of your building. He can help us at corner. He can help us at safety. He can help us at nickel,“ Shanahan said. “I think he’s good enough to start at five different spots. Jimmie is going to play for us this year.”
Shanahan hinted that Ward’s injury history has been more of a case of bad luck rather than a sign of a player who is “injury prone.” He emphasized that point when referring to Ward’s broken forearm last season.
“He plays the exact way we want a guy to play,” Shanahan said.
5. Good(win) vibes only
The 49ers inked Marquise Goodwin to a three-year contract extension prior to the start of free agency that will run through the 2021 season. San Francisco’s top deep threat posted a career-high 56 receptions for 962 yards in 2017.
Beyond the impressive season from a statistical standpoint, Shanahan admired Goodwin’s perseverance through adversity. Goodwin lost his infant child the day before scoring an 83-yard touchdown against the New York Giants in San Francisco’s first win of the season. His biological father passed away less than a month later.
Despite the unthinkable loss, Goodwin continued to be a reliable weapon for Shanahan and the 49ers.
“To watch a person really turn into a pro as the year goes and to watch his play on the field match that - it was really fun to watch,” Shanahan said. “He’s the type of guy that we want around here.”