49ers: Will New Coaching Staff Utilize Players’ Talents Effectively?

Niners Live pointed out during the season that former Head Coach Chip Kelly and his coaching staff were not putting individual players in positions for success or giving other players quality repetitions. Will the new coaching staff repeat this error in judgement?


Here is Niners Live’s list of players we thought were particularly underutilized by playing time/lack of reps, scheme, and coaches’ inability to feature players’ skill sets and abilities correctly.

Blake Bell, TE

  • At 6’6”, Bell is a red zone threat who wasn’t featured in the red zone. He can win jump balls against smaller corners or safeties.
  • Bell played quarterback at Oklahoma and ran many QB keeps/option plays in the red zone. He has the size, vision, and quickness to score from inside the five running. He earned the name “Belldozer” in college. The 49ers never even attempted a play of this sort all season.

The coaching staff played many multiple tight end sets but rarely targeted Bell. He is taller and more athletic than backup tight end Garrett Celek (led team in drops with five). In 13 games played, he caught four passes for 84 yards, 21.3 average, and zero touchdowns.

Torrey Smith, WR

  • Smith’s downfield speed was not taken advantage of schematically. Kelly’s offense had him running many underneath routes in an attempt to gain yards after the catch.
  • Smith led the league in yards per catch last season at 20.1; this season it fell to 13.4.
  • He simply wasn’t targeted enough, especially for being the No. 1 WR with 20 catches for 267 yards with an average of 13.4 per reception in 12 games. That is less than two catches a game.

Vance McDonald, TE

  • The coaching staff underutilized Vance. He should have been targeted more, especially in the opening quarters of the game. Four catches are the most he registered in one game.
  • He has the size at 6’4” to be a threat in the red zone; he should have been flanked outside and thrown jump balls.
  • Routes like slants, drags, and screens that took advantage of his run after the catch ability were not called frequently. He scored touchdowns of 75 and 65 yards this season. The 75-yarder was his only reception of that contest.

Rod Streater, WR

  • He is the tallest receiver on the team at 6’2, ” and his size was not taken advantage of enough. When given quality snaps, he was effective. Caught the last two passes against the Rams in Week 16 to set up the team’s second win of the season.
  • Before Torrey Smith’s injury, he barely got offensive reps and ended the season with a total of 18 receptions for 191 yards and two scores.
  • Should have been included in the team’s weekly red zone packages because of his height.

Ronald Blair, DL

  • Underutilized by the defensive coaching staff, Blair didn’t get enough reps early in the season.
  • His pass rush ability was not showcased frequently by calling stunts on the defensive line.
  • The new coaching staff must find creative ways get him involved in the new defensive scheme.

Dontae Johnson, CB/S

Team’s tallest corner, 6’2”, was not matched up against opposition’s tallest receiver. Example: against the Panthers’ Jimmie Ward, 5’11”, he was matched up against Kelvin Benjamin, 6’5”. Benjamin’s numbers for the game: seven receptions for 108 yards for an average of 15.4 and two touchdowns.

  • The defensive staff couldn’t figure out whether to play him at corner or switch him to safety.
  • Relegated to a special teams role and should have played more defensive snaps.

Eli Harold, OLB

  • Schematically should be moved around to take advantage of his speed on passing downs.
  • Played in coverage too much for a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
  • The new coaching staff must work on his closing techniques when closing in on the passer.

Jeremy Kerley, WR

  • The team’s leading receiver made the list. The coaching staff ran out of creative ways to get him the ball. Opposing defenses adjusted their coverages to take him out of the main passing downs.
  • Had a three-game span where he registered three catches. Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ defensive game plan held him to zero catches.
  • Plays to Kerley became highly predictable and led to the offense not converting on numerous third downs.

In Closing: Chip Kelly’s offense lacked creativity and became painfully predictable. Jim O’Neil’s defense set franchise lows in rushing yards allowed and frequently looked out schemed by opposing offensive coordinators via NFL.com. This led to a 2-14 season with Kelly and Trent Baalke being fired.  The new coaching staff must find a way to maximize the talent on this roster, especially those who provide match up/mix matches for the team. Niners Live’s eyes will be wide open next season to see if the new regime does or doesn’t utilize the team’s players effectively. #eyeswideopen

On a Niners Live side note: Here at Niners Live, we also had to ask the question that all fans wanted to know? Why isn’t San Francisco 49ers’ safety Jaquiski Tartt who stands at 6’1″ and 224 pounds, being utilized?  Will the new coaching staff have their eyes wide open when it comes to A.K.A the “Tartt Seeking Missile?” Let’s hope so 49er fans….. #GoNiners 

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author Jimi Payne Staff Writer at Niners live.  Co-Author, Editor Niners Live.