It hasn’t been all bad news for the 49ers’ offense this season. Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst began his final news conference of the year Wednesday by praising four players.
Chryst’s list: quarterback Blaine Gabbert, guard Andrew Tiller, tight end Garrett Celek and running back Shaun Draughn.
Chrsyt began with Gabbert, who took over as the starter in Week 9. He’s won only two games, and the 49ers haven’t scored more than 20 points in regulation in any of his starts. But Chryst highlighted Gabbert’s accuracy and mobility and pointed out the 49ers have scored 10 touchdowns in 14 trips to the red zone since Gabbert took over.
“Dramatic improvement over the first half of the year,” Chryst said.
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Resurrecting Gabbert, who was considered a bust early in his career, was an offseason project for Chryst and quarterbacks coach Steve Logan.
“With this extended playing time, seven games being the sample size, compared to what he did in Jacksonville when he was a young quarterback, I think there’s been really improvement there,” Chryst said. “That’s what gives you that optimism.”
Tiller began the season on the practice squad, started rotating with Jordan Devey at right guard in Week 5 and has started the past six weeks. Tiller has brought stability to the offensive line and, as Chryst noted, is well-liked in the locker room.
“Even before he was playing, he had a nice chemistry with those other (linemen),” Chryst said. “ ... I don’t want to say he’s the butt of all the jokes, but he’s right in the mix with all the jokes. And that’s a good thing for that room.”
Celek easily was the 49ers’ most consistent tight end and seemed to quickly develop a rapport with Gabbert. He’s on injured reserve because an ankle injury, however, and is not signed for next season. Celek said he hasn’t had any discussions with the 49ers about re-signing for 2016 and beyond.
Draughn impressed coaches by how quickly he picked up the 49ers’ offense and became a productive starter, something he did in just six days when he was signed before a Week 9 game against Atlanta.
Draughn also will end the season on injured reserve and is not signed beyond this season. His ability to play running back and on special teams likely means he will be given an opportunity to compete for a spot on the 2016 roster.
“We appreciate how Shaun was and how he was embraced by the offensive line,” Chryst said.
Cornerback carousel – Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said three cornerbacks – Kenneth Acker, Marcus Cromartie and Dontae Johnson – have alternated practice repetitions in recent weeks and the starter at right cornerback has been based on who has had the best practices.
Johnson had that distinction last week, and he played all but one of the team’s 71 defensive snaps. Acker played 11 snaps, and Cromartie was in on three plays. Tramaine Brock has been the unquestioned starter on the left side all season.
Injury update – Defensive lineman Quinton Dial missed his second straight day of practice because of a back injury. If he can’t play Sunday against the Rams, rookie Arik Armstead (Pleasant Grove High School) or Tony Jerod-Eddie likely will start. Safety Jaquiski Tartt also missed practice because of a knee injury.
Good guy award – Wide receiver Torrey Smith won the Garry Niver Award, given annually by reporters to the 49er who is the most professional with the media. Also receiving multiple votes were safety Eric Reid, kicker Phil Dawson, linebacker NaVorro Bowman, fullback Bruce Miller and Dial.