Any 49er in uniform on game day is going to play, coach Chip Kelly said Tuesday. The idea is not only to keep the roster fresh over the course of a game and the season but to get everyone involved.
“Now more guys are contributing,” Kelly said. “And if more guys are contributing, more guys are invested in what we’re doing.”
That was the case Monday when the 49ers dug deep into their roster – especially on defense – during a season-opening 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Arik Armstead, for example, didn’t start on the defensive line but played 35 snaps, second to rookie DeForest Buckner’s 51 snaps. All six defensive linemen in uniform played.
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In the secondary, the 49ers used a seldom-seen three-safety look that included Jaquiski Tartt, a second-round pick last year. The alignment confused Los Angeles quarterback Case Keenum, bottled up running back Todd Gurley and sent blitzers from unconventional spots. Safety Eric Reid had two hits on the quarterback; Tartt had one.
“It’s something we’ve been practicing since the beginning of the year,” defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said after the game. “We know we have three great players back there in Antoine (Bethea), Eric Reid and Tartt. We kind of held off on showing it all preseason, and it was good for us tonight.”
Another package had cornerback Jimmie Ward sliding from the outside to nickel cornerback, allowing rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson to play 25 snaps, second to Buckner among this year’s draft class.
At inside linebacker, Gerald Hodges started, but Ray-Ray Armstrong played 35 snaps to Hodges’ 19 and had an interception in the third quarter.
The various personnel groups seemed to frustrate the Rams’ offense at times, and O’Neil said the 49ers have even more at their disposal.
“We didn’t unload every bullet that was in the chamber tonight,” O’Neil said.
Kelly said when everyone is contributing, the players are engaged and the atmosphere becomes more lively.
“It’s fun coaching this group because they love playing football and they want to play football and they all want to be on the field and play,” Kelly said. “There was a real, good energy on our sideline last night.”
Et cetera – Kelly said that although Anthony Davis’ primary position is tackle, he must be ready to play guard if two guards are injured. Davis and Marcus Martin were the team’s reserve linemen for Monday’s game.
▪ Guard Andrew Tiller missed seven plays because of a foot injury but returned to the game. Martin filled in for him. No other 49er was reported injured after the game.
▪ Because Christian Ponder is not active for games, tight end Blake Bell is the 49ers’ emergency quarterback. Bell began his college career as a quarterback before moving to tight end.
▪ The 49ers re-signed running back DuJuan Harris a day after releasing him. They waived wide receiver Chris Harper, who could land on the team’s practice squad this week.