Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Insider predicts Tevin Coleman, Malcolm Smith to be 49ers starters

May 27, 2019 at 4:15 PM--

San Francisco 49ers beat writer and insider, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, recently answered some questions from fans. Two of the inquiries revolved around predicting who the starters might be at two positions — one on offense and the other on defense.

The 49ers have an abundance of wealth at running back. The group, however, is ailing right now and a full-blown competition might not take place until training camp.

Jerick McKinnon continues to rehab from the torn ACL he suffered on September 1. The hope is that he will be able to participate in training camp and the start of the regular season. Head coach Kyle Shanahan recently revealed that Matt Breida suffered a slightly torn pectoral muscle during a workout but is expected to be healthy by training camp.

Raheem Mostert landed on injured reserve last year after breaking his forearm during a Week 9 matchup against the Oakland Raiders. He had a setback this offseason and had to undergo the same surgery to repair the injury, which set him back in his recovery by about a month.

"He had a little setback with the surgery," Shanahan told reporters last week. "I'm not really sure what that was. Just in how the bone grows back together. They noticed it early, so they just started it over, which I think cost him about four weeks."

With three running backs unable to participate in the 49ers' offseason program, Tevin Coleman becomes the most likely to receive the most touches during practice reps. That also, in Maiocco's opinion, makes him the frontrunner to receive the most touches during the regular season. Of course, that also includes running back receptions.

"Coleman is the clear favorite with the next three players in line, McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, unable to participate in OTAs," wrote Maiocco.

Coleman's signing this offseason was a bit of a surprise given the team's depth at running back. He signed a two-year deal worth up to $8.5 million on March 13 and has seemingly already become a favorite to be the team's leading workhorse out of the backfield.

Once healthy, Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander are the likely starters at the WILL and MIKE linebacker spots. Alexander is rehabbing an ACL injury suffered during Week 7 of the 2018 season. Warner has his knee cleaned up after reporting to the 49ers' offseason program with issues.

"It stinks not to have him at OTAs for us and for himself, but it's better to know that he won't have to deal with it in training camp," Shanahan told reporters.

That leaves the SAM linebacker spot up for grabs, and Maiocco believes Malcolm Smith, who himself is working his way back from injury, is the favorite to earn that starting job.

Smith had 35 combined tackles through 12 games and five starts in 2018 but struggled to stay on the field due to an Achilles injury. That was after he missed the 2017 season after sustaining a torn pectoral muscle during training camp of that year.

Smith restructured his contract this offseason to remain with the 49ers.

"Mark Nzeocha lined up at the strong side position with the first team last week during OTAs," explained Maiocco. "But I'll go with Malcolm Smith as the starter, as long as he's healthy. The 49ers would not have restructured Smith's contract and brought him back if they viewed him as a backup and special-teams player."

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