49ers: The Youth Movement involves Some Heartaches and Growing Pains

Previously, Niners Live discussed the new direction under General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. Now, after 7 games, five of which have resulted in heartbreak losses; we take a look at how the new players are doing in terms of their performance, what they need to work on as the season continues and what their role could look like in the off-season as we re-evaluate all the units.


49ers Offensive Line: A few more pieces needed

Niners Live talked about the need for the offensive line to get younger back in September and unfortunately, that issue still needs to be addressed. Right Tackle Trent Brown has garnered All-Pro 1st team consideration for his play. Left Guard Laken Tomlinson has been coming along nicely. But two people do not make up for five spots. Watch for the development of Erik Magnusson and the recovery of Joshua Garnett  The 49ers have a chance to draft some studs to complete the offensive line and make it formidable for years to come.

49ers Running Backs:

The running scheme created by Running Backs coach Bobby Turner is in full effect. While the status of Carlos Hyde is undetermined, both Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert seemed to be getting more snaps. While they’ve had occasional bursts, both still have room to grow as they learn to run between the tackles and set up their blocks. Do not be surprised if the 49ers draft another running back suitable to Shanahan’s style in 2018. Stanford’s Bryce Love, seems the most logical candidate.

49ers Quarterback

We knew it was a matter of when, not if, C.J. Beathard would play, and thus he received his first start at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Without question, this will be the most scrutinized rookie on the team, as every pass, every scramble, every decision he makes will be second-guessed. The development and progress he makes will determine both whom and how the 49ers will draft in 2018. As seen from the Dallas game, he is making the right reads, but timing is a work in progress, which is to be expected from a rookie quarterback.

49ers: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Until the Dallas game we hadn’t seen any action from Cole Hikutini or Kendrick Bourne, and Victor Bolden has only seen kickoff return duty. For the purposes of this segment, we will concentrate on Trent Taylor and George Kittle. Frankly, the word frustration can be applied when describing their play. Taylor, at times, has multiple grabs one game only to disappear the next. As for Kittle, his talent and potential have been accompanied by: dropped passes, missed blocks and a failure to find the first down marker after the catch. We can expect Bourne, Taylor and Bolden to continue to receive tutelage from the likes of Pierre Garcon at wide receiver and Hikutini to legitimately challenge Kittle for the #1 tight end spot for the rest of the season. As I was reminded by a fellow staff writer, this is also a time of growing for Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson, for Pierre Garcon will not play forever, and at some point, they will need to assume a leadership role.

49ers: Front Seven

Right now, DeForest Buckner is continuing to develop as one of the most feared interior linemen in the NFL, while it’s been a case of bad luck injury-wise for his college teammate Arik Armstead (currently sidelined with a broken hand). Solomon Thomas continues to develop nicely after being inserted as a starter during the Arizona game. D.J. Jones should see more time in the rotation and we continue to monitor and hope Pita Taumonepenu will elevate on the depth chart. After Ray-Ray Armstrong (himself 26) and Dekoda Wilson (29), who is the next most experienced linebacker on the team in terms of starts? If you said Eli Harold (with 18 starts), give yourself a hand. The combined total of starts for both Brock Coyle and Reuben Foster combined (8) are less than half that of Harold. Meaning they are NOT going to set the world on fire. There have been and will continue to be missed tackles, late reactions, bad formation calls and getting beat on blocks. This is all part of the learning curve.  Malcolm Smith is there to teach aspects of this defensive scheme that cannot be communicated by Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh. Look for improvement in this unit as the season continues.

49ers Secondary: Too much growing to do

There hasn’t been a lot to celebrate among the secondary outside of the improved performance of Jaquiski Tartt at both safety positions. Rashard Robinson, according to Pro Football Focus, is tied for the most pass interference calls with 4. Donate Johnson has been smoked repeatedly in recent games and K’waun Williams, as Niners Live previously noted, has the worst coverage rating. Ahkello Witherspoon just got his feet wet against Dallas and aside from special teams, we have yet to hear from Adrian Colbert outside of the few snaps he played against the Cowboys.The secondary has always been a high-risk high-reward unit and they have taken their share of hits from opposing receiving units. Expect this unit to have a high turnover throughout the season.

The Bottom Line

The reality of the slogan: Brick by Brick has been preached by General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan from Day 1. It doesn’t mean an instant turnaround from a 2-14 season, but starting from a completely new slate. There will be many frustrating moments that will make you want to pull your hair out this season. Chances are, your favorite veteran will soon be gone, if he hasn’t left already. Growing pains are never easy, but they are designed to build character and separate the weak from the meek. Yes, the penalties, the why did they do that moments, the tough losses are all by design. Even being a first-time head coach isn’t an easy task. Now, if this is too much for your sensibilities; chances are you’re a bandwagon fan (or what is known as a Forty-whiner) and the door to root for the NFL’s other 31 teams is open. For the rest of the true 49er Faithful, take note, the 2017 season is an ongoing audition, and this is merely the first act in a 6-season experiment.

49er updates, interviews and news:

Beathard recaps his play, Quote Roundup by playersfull highlights, and here’s what head coach Kyle Shanahan had to say about Sunday’s performance (via the team’s website).

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.

All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson.   Content Creator, EditorSequoia Sims