• Terrance Epps

Storylines to Watch Following Week Three of OTAs

It’s been a relatively quiet couple of days since the Niners’ last OTA session, except for Victor Bolden’s suspension and Terrell Owens wanting to play for John Lynch at the tender age of 44. The team will finish with OTAs this week with workdays on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (June 4, 5, and 7), before beginning their mandatory three day minicamp the following Tuesday.

As the offseason continues to progress, we’re going to delve into three burning concerns going into Week 3 of OTAs:

Jimmie Ward’s fluctuating role:

Despite being a former first rounder, Ward is basically a player without a designated position during this year’s OTAs. Ward suffered a season ending arm injury halfway through 2018 and has been slowly phased out of his free safety spot by 2017 stud Adrian Colbert, who looks to solidify that role for the start of the season.

With Richard Sherman still out, Ward has been seeing a lot of outside cornerback work and has been a regular victim of the Niners’ first-team offense. Ward gave up three touchdown passes in the red zone, and got burned deep twice. He also broke up two passes but was beat on both of those plays. Ward has underachieved so far in this new scheme but hey, it’s only OTAs so it may be a little too early to panic.

Answers for the LEO/edge rush positions:

Last season, the 49ers finished tied for 26th in the league with only 30 sacks. One of the main issues was a serious lack of an outside rusher, which (sort of) negated the strong play of interior lineman Deforest Buckner.

The Niners have decided to move Arik Armstead back to an interior role, while former first rounder Soloman Thomas is slated for the LEO spot on base downs. Thomas displayed some great defense against the run, but he’ll thrive way more from the interior on passing downs. As far as the edge position, both Cassius Marsh and Jeremiah Attaochu seem to be a lock for the majority of the pass rushing workload.

Chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo & the offensive line

One of the most underrated aspects of team sports is chemistry. This is probably something that shouldn’t go unnoticed, especially in football. Why? Well, there’s an overwhelming amount of pressure to get all 53 players to think, move and buy into the system as one. Does it always translate to success? No, but as long as the foundation is in place, the chips will begin to fall accordingly. Let’s explore one of those examples:

Jimmy Garoppolo and Weston Richburg - Obviously, we all like to believe the quarterback runs the offense right? I mean, he handles the ball more frequently than any other player and decides what to do with it on every play. However, in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, the center has a very critical role: calling protections, breaking down defenses and organizing zone runs without any assistance of double team blocks.

Garoppolo and Richburg seem to be a perfect fit to work together. They are both turning 27, both were second-round picks in 2014 and both played in the Senior Bowl that year. Also, they’re both pretty new to Shanahan’s scheme and will be learning it together.


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