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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Six player updates from Kyle Shanahan heading into preseason finale

Aug 29, 2017 at 12:56 PM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan jumped on a conference call with Bay Area media on Monday and provided some updates on a number of players.

Joe Staley

Tackle Joe Staley left Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter with a knee injury. He was replaced by second-year player John Theus. Staley remained on the sidelines following his exit from the game but didn't appear to be showing any signs of pain.

Following the game, Shanahan said he wasn't too concerned about the injury. By the time he spoke to the media on Monday, the 49ers were able to run their typical barrage of tests on the Pro Bowl tackle.

"Yeah, it was like we thought, came back good," Shanahan said. "He's obviously got some tendonitis and things like that in his knee, some wear and tear. But, we feel good about it and we think he'll be good by Week 1."

Shanahan went on to discuss what happened to Staley in the game.

"You can see it a little bit on the tape," Shanahan said. "I think it was on the touchdown pass. I think he was just running real hard and cleared out the pocket for us to throw that deep ball to Marquise. You could tell he just caught it a little bit on the turf. I think it scared him more than anything and I know he's got some stuff in there.

"I know he wanted to fight through it and I'm sure he could have, but he landed a little awkwardly on it. You could see it if you saw it on the end zone copy. We just wanted to be safe with him and we'll take it safe with him this whole week up to Carolina, make sure he's 100-percent when we start that game."

RELATED Transcript: Kyle Shanahan gives a Joe Staley update and discusses Chargers game

Brian Hoyer

Sunday's game against the Vikings was quarterback Brian Hoyer's most impressive of the preseason. He completed his first eight passes, which included two touchdowns, and was 12-17 for 176 yards overall. During the 49ers' first two offensive drives, Hoyer and the team appeared to be firing on all cylinders.

On Hoyer's second touchdown of the night, he was able to get a Minnesota linebacker to bite after a look toward wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and that cleared a brief path to running back Carlos Hyde. Hoyer hit his target in stride and Hyde had an easy path into the end zone. Shanahan was asked about that play and if it was something Shanahan felt his quarterback has always been able to do.

"I think Brian's always had that," Shanahan answered. "It's hard to be a drop back quarterback in this league if you can't be like that. When you play against zoning coverages, that's to me what playing the position is. Anybody with a big, strong arm can go against man to man. If guys get open it's just about throwing to a guy. That's really what you can see on air if they're tough enough to stay in the pocket. Playing quarterback in this league is about going through progression, having to manipulate zones when you have the time to do it based off the pass rush and knowing when to check it down also because those zones close fast.

"I think one of the things that helps us is we went against a lot of zone defense in practice every day. When you go against three deep, four under every day you get pretty good at it. And you've got to be because their coverages are sound like that. So, he did a good job on that play. It's a very tight throw. If you aren't balanced and good with your eyes, you can't make it."

Matt Breida

Undrafted rookie running back Matt Breida was impressive during the 49ers' offseason program and training camp. Through two preseason games (he did not play against the Denver Broncos), he has rushed 18 times for 69 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and added three receptions for 19 yards.

Shanahan was asked if Breida is Hyde's backup going into the season.

"No, I'm not going to predict any of that until after the game this week," Shanahan answered. "We wanted to give him a chance. He's done a good job. We wanted to see him out there a little bit earlier in the game, especially against a good defense like Minnesota. I thought he did a good job. I thought the other guys did too. We've got some tough decisions here to make at running back, but we're going to let it all play out. We definitely need this game on Thursday to see the other guys too. They've all made it real tough on us."

Tim Hightower

Tim Hightower was one of the 49ers' numerous offseason signings and is competing with a group of young running backs to make the final roster. He has not received many opportunities during the preseason and carried the ball just three times against the Broncos for -1 yards. He was in on two special teams plays against the Vikings. Shanahan said Hightower would see more playing time on Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers.

"Tim definitely should get some more carries here on Thursday," Shanahan said. "I have a great feel for Tim. I've coached him before, got to play against him the last two years with him being in New Orleans. I see what he does in practice every day. I've seen him in NFL games. The game is not too big for him. It's unfortunate for Tim, he's only got two opportunities, which is always tough because you'd love to show everyone who's watching on T.V. and show your fans and stuff.

"But, we've got a pretty good idea of what Tim can do. That's why we've brought him here. Definitely going to give him more opportunities Thursday. He's definitely in this mix. We just had a bunch of guys that we haven't seen before and we've had to get some of these rookies more opportunities because you never know what you've got with them until you see them in NFL games."

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Carlos Hyde

Despite averaging just 2.6 yards during his 17 preseason carries, Hyde remains the presumptive starting running back for the 49ers heading into the 2017 season. Against the Denver Broncos, Shanahan said Hyde had left some yards on the field. The 49ers head coach shared his thoughts on Hyde's performance against the Vikings.

"I thought he did a good job with the holes that he ran to," Shanahan said. "I actually just watched it with him. There was one run that I thought he made the wrong cut on and he ended up getting seven yards on that run. Couldn't fault him too much for it. There was one run I didn't think he hit the exact right hole and he ended up getting one of our bigger gains on the day on it.

"So, I know Carlos would love to have better stats. I know he really would love to get that big play, but he's got to let the game come to him. We've got to get him some better looks and we've got to get him a few more opportunities. I think that will happen for him eventually."

Reuben Foster

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster was impressive in Minnesota. He led the team with eight tackles in the first half and caught the eye of several analysts thanks in part to the game being broadcast nationally.

Foster was forced to miss all of the 49ers' offseason program as he recovered from shoulder surgery following Alabama's 2016 season. He was able to join his 49ers teammates once training camp kicked off at the end of July and now has a month of full practices and three preseason games under his belt. Shanahan was asked how far Foster has come during that time.

"He's come a long way," Shanahan answered. "I think that's what's been real exciting about Reuben. Missing all of OTAs, not playing in a system this way in college, not being the Mike linebacker down in and down out like he was in college, and really not being able to go through it in OTAs. I did have a lot of worries about it, knowing it would take some time. I think he's ahead of schedule.

"He's a very smart person. He works at it. He loves football. He gets a lot out of the meetings, gets even more obviously out of practice and games. He is further along than I anticipated in terms of the X's and O's part. I think last night was the first time we all saw him really cut it loose."


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