San Francisco 49ers

49ers mailbag: What's the plan at linebacker if Reuben Foster is unavailable?

BYU linebacker Fred Warner was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the 49ers.
BYU linebacker Fred Warner was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the 49ers. Associated Press file

Erik Brekke‏ @ekbrekke Assuming Reuben Foster starts the season suspended or off the team, how do you see the LB depth chart shaking out?

ANSW: My guess is that Malcolm Smith is the starting weak-side (Will) linebacker and that the true competition this summer will be among veterans Brock Coyle and Korey Toomer, and third-round draft pick Fred Warner, to play middle linebacker (Mike). Warner wins in athleticism. But he mostly played out in space – like a strong safety – at BYU. The question will be whether he can do the old-school, nitty-gritty things an NFL inside linebacker must do. Coyle and Toomer, meanwhile, have a lot of experience in this system.

Jason McCord‏ @jasondmccord What do you think the 49ers do to help Reuben Foster if the DV charges are dropped? Still some disturbing details that night like the gun on the bathroom floor and destroyed cell phone.

ANSW: I agree. Also, there was what police described as a strong smell of marijuana in the house that morning. As many of you have pointed out, marijuana is legal in California, so the smell that police encountered doesn't mean anything illicit, marijuana-wise, was going on in his house. But it's still largely banned by the NFL. To answer your question, the 49ers will do everything they can to offer him help – support, counseling, whatever he needs. But as general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have said several times in the past few months, he's an adult. It's up to him to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

Kevin‏ @shortywest87 Was this the anti-Reuben Foster draft? Seemed really really focused on character and smarts, and last year they barely mentioned it.

ANSW: Well, it may not have been mentioned a lot last year – or maybe we weren't listening for it as acutely – but guys like Solomon Thomas, Ahkello Witherspoon, C.J. Beathard, etc., are no dummies. Witherspoon double majored and aspires to be a doctor when his career is over.

Dan‏ @Dan_Salopek How do you see the 49ers secondary shaking out after free agency and the draft? Sherman’s health? Who’s the slot corner? Where does Jimmy Ward fit in? Is Colbert the presumptive starter at FS?

ANSW: Tarvarius Moore is a safety who is moving to corner. D.J. Reed is a corner who is moving to safety. Jimmie Ward was a college safety who played nickel cornerback, outside cornerback and free safety is recent years who is now moving back to outside cornerback. Which is to say, there are plenty of combinations for how the secondary could be composed this year. But if everyone stays healthy my guess for the Week 1 base defense would be this:

CB: Richard Sherman

CB: Ahkello Witherspoon

FS: Adrian Colbert

SS: Jacquiski Tartt

That would put Ward in a position to be the top backup at four spots (CBs, FS and NCB) and also to have a role in dime packages. The nickel position is going to be a good battle between K'Waun Williams and Reed. Both coach Kyle Shanahan and secondary coach Jeff Hafley looooove Williams, who is the ultimate underdog. But if Reed can play two spots (NCB and FS)? That makes the roster decision more difficult.

Scott Hansen‏ @MKEMovieMan Does the cost of living in SF/Santa Clara hurt the 49ers chances when it comes to signing undrafted free agents?

ANSW: My very first 49ers story for The Bee came in 2002 and was about the sticker shock incoming rookies face with housing. That is, the cost of living around here has been extraordinary for a long time now. But I can't recall any instance in which the 49ers were beat out for undrafted rookies because of that. By far, the two greatest criteria for those players and their agents are 1.) Guaranteed money 2.) Opportunity to make the squad. They two are usually related.

Jimmy G’s Beard @jimmyGsBeard Do you think (Jerick) McKinnon will eclipse (Carlos) Hyde’s 59 receptions out of the backfield this season?

ANSW: Hyde wasn't exactly known for his soft hands and deft routes, but I don't think the answer is a no brainer. Fifty nine catches for a running back is a big number. For example, Devonta Freeman only surpassed it once in the last four seasons. Jimmy Garoppolo also seems confident about pushing the ball down field. That is, he might not be as apt to go to his check down as other passers. Hyde, for example, averaged 4.5 catches per game when Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard were quarterback last year. He averaged two per game when Garoppolo took over.

Michele @4GenSFFanFam Why did Jimmy‘s beard disappear ?

ANSW1: Remember, Michele: His beard is never really gone if we find a way to remember it.

ANSW2: It didn't disappear. It's on a big farm out in the country chasing rabbits and running around with other beards.

ANSW3: Because the Sharks lost.