SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – The San Francisco 49ers hope they are finally getting off the coaching carousel.
After Jim Harbaugh’s four-year tenure was followed by successive one-year stints for Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, the 49ers believe they have found the coach to lead them through a necessary rebuild in Kyle Shanahan .
Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch were each given six-year contracts this offseason in a sign that San Francisco is committed to stability for a change. Though the 49ers know the process of going from two wins in 2016 back to Super Bowl contender won’t be a quick one.
“We’re taking over a 2-14 team,” Shanahan said. “We need to learn how to develop the habit of winning.”
The Niners brought in several players who had played for Shanahan when he was an offensive coordinator to help speed that process. The most notable of those familiar faces is quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer is with his sixth team since entering the league in 2009. He wants to show he is more than just a bridge to next offseason when the Niners could target a potential franchise quarterback in either the draft or free agency.
“All I can do is play this season,” Hoyer said. “That’s what we have in front of us, the 2017 season. And I know from being in this league it’s about what have you done lately, so one whole year can change a lot of aspects on how people think about things.”
San Francisco has been pleased with Hoyer’s performance so far. Lynch dismissed the talk that Hoyer is a temporary placeholder and is excited to see what he can do with his opportunity to prove he is deserving of being a long-term starter in the NFL.
“Our response to Brian and to everybody is he’s got the first crack of being that guy,” Lynch said. “I love the way he’s embracing that opportunity each and every day and really has been a tremendous leader for our group. I think, probably exceeded my expectations of how I thought he could play.”
Here are some other things to watch this season:
LINE IT UP: The 49ers have invested heavily on the defensive line of late, using their top draft pick the past three years at the position. With third-year pro Arik Armstead, second-year player DeForest Buckner and 2017 No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas leading the way, San Francisco should have a strong line for years to come. There is lots of flexibility on the line, with many players capable of playing both inside and outside. Veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil brings his 99 career sacks to provide another element as a speed rusher.
PLAY FAKES: Shanahan’s offense relies heavily on play-action passes and that was clearly evident this preseason . San Francisco’s quarterbacks had a 142.9 passer rating when using play-action , according to Pro Football Focus, compared to 77.3 on all other passes. The run fakes help slow down the pass rush and will give Hoyer the chance to throw deep to speedy wideouts like Marquise Goodwin .
RUN TO DAYLIGHT: For the play-action game to work at its best, the opposing defense will need to honor the run game. That was an area of concern this preseason as starter Carlos Hyde struggled for consistency behind a rebuilt line. Backups Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida fared better against second and third-stringers, but getting Hyde going will be key in easing the pressure on Hoyer.
ROAMING REUBEN: San Francisco’s other first-round draft pick looks like a keeper already. The Niners traded back into the first round to take Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster with the 31st overall pick. Foster has validated that this preseason , showing signs he has the ability to be a three-down player next to fellow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who might have lost a step after a second major injury.
NEXT IN LINE: Shanahan targeted one quarterback in the draft and San Francisco got him in the third round. C.J. Beathard has justified that belief this preseason and quickly vaulted ahead of Matt Barkley to be Hoyer’s backup. If either Hoyer or the team struggles this season, Beathard could get a shot to show whether he can be a long-term answer at the position.
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