Niners Live does the dirty work and covers the unappreciated and undervalued part of a football team, special teams.
The 49ers made headline signings with Pierre Garcon and Kyle Juszczyk at the start of free agency. In total, they signed 11 players the first two days of free agency (via the team’s website). Players like Brian Hoyer, Malcolm Smith and Marquise Goodwin, just to name a few, will get plenty of media coverage this offseason. However, the acquisition of role players Don Jones and Brock Coyle could end up providing the 49er team overlooked, but valuable production. Games can be lost and won on special teams. Big hits on special teams can shift momentum or set the tone for the game. Block kicks or a block that springs a big return are all big game changing plays. General manager John Lynch just added two heavy hitters to the 49ers special teams’ units.
Jones, 5’11 195 lbs., is an ace on special teams. In nine games with the Houston Texans he registered 11 tackles on special teams. That ranked sixth in the NFL. It is quite possible that if he played all 16 games, he would lead the league in the category. The four-year veteran has registered 37 special team tackles and one forced fumble in 56 games. Look for Jones to be one of the team’s gunners and be part of every ST unit.
Coyle, 6-1 245 lbs., is the second former Seattle Seahawk, the first being Malcolm Smith, to join the 49ers this offseason. He played three seasons in the 4-3 defense that will be new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s core defense. He will be able to help teach the nuances of the defense to his new defensive teammates while being comfortable in the position himself as he transitions to a new team and city. Coyle has five career starts for the Hawks and has 24 career tackles and one sack, while adding nine special team tackles. He also has playoff experience with four ST tackles in seven games. Coyle will replace Nick Bellore as one of the team’s primary linebacker ST players.
Special edition late add-on:
Last, but not least, the blocking Beast. Who do you say? Well, none other than Mr. Logan Paulsen, and even though he’s a straight blocking Beast, please don’t get him mixed up with the Wolverine aka Logan, no pun attended…… Paulsen, 6-5, 268 lbs., originally signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent on April 29, 2010. Working with Shanahan in Washington in 2013, Paulsen registered career highs in receptions (28) and receiving touchdowns (three), (for additional career stats see team’s website). Logan is arguably known as the best blocking tight end in the NFL (per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). Logan will be called upon to play special teams and help teach/transition fellow teammates on offense into head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme while also helping pave the way for starting running back Carlos Hyde to run to daylight on his quest for a 1k yard season in 2017.
These three additions will strengthen the bottom half of the roster while providing depth and valuable ST production. They will also help change the culture of the team. The 49ers want to be a physically intimidating team, and these men aren’t afraid of contact.
New special teams’ coach Richard Hightower will have three trusted agents he knows that will get their job done. Field position is very crucial in football. Being able to pin your opposition deep in their own territory, contain kick and punt returns, execute reliable tackling/blocking, block punts and field goals as well as returning for big yards are all crucial plays in a game. Many times these plays don’t make the highlight reels or Sportscenter, but are vital to the outcome of the game. Coyle, Logan, and Jones have proved to be standouts in the NFL’s game within a game, and have the chance to be sleeper signings paying big dividends on game day.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author Jimi Payne Staff Writer at Niners live. Co-Author, Editor NinersLive.