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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Mailbag: Will San Francisco trade for a corner? What’s wrong with special teams? Should Kyle Shanahan have pulled the starters earlier in Carolina?

Marc Adams
Oct 12, 2022 at 9:35 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers are in West Virginia preparing for a trip to Atlanta to play the Falcons on Sunday, while simultaneously recovering from a number of injuries in Carolina last week. Emmanuel Moseley was lost for the season with an ACL tear. Nick Bosa also left the game early, but his injury doesn't appear to be that serious. Jimmie Ward returned...for one play. Then he broke his hand.

As a form of comfort, and maybe a little therapy, we opened up the 49ers mailbag to find out what questions and thoughts were heavy on the minds of fans. Let's get to the mailbag and see if we can help out a few distressed fans.

With Eli Mitchell still on IR and Tevin Coleman back, when will Jordan Mason get some touches and why wouldn't Shanahan give Mason some touches in garbage time like Sunday's game vs the Panthers just to give him the feel of a season game? - Johnny Y.

When will we see Jordan Mason? A lot of fans have been asking that question. With how well Tevin Coleman played in Carolina, and with how strong Jeff Wilson, Jr. has looked the last two weeks, I wouldn't expect Mason to get many touches any time soon.

And if Elijah Mitchell comes back right after the bye, which I'm not predicting, that would push Mason even farther down the depth chart. Of course, injuries to Wilson or Coleman could change that. But for now, I wouldn't be going on any food strikes in hopes of negotiating more carries for Mason.

As to why Kyle Shanahan wouldn't use Mason, especially once the game was in the bag, is anyone's guess. Shanahan is hard on rookies. He doesn't like to place much trust in them until he is confident that they won't make a backbreaking mistake. Mitchell was the exception last season.

Even along the offensive line, the 49ers have been rotating rookie Spencer Burford with veteran Daniel Brunskill. Last season Aaron Banks barely played. We all know that Trey lance didn't get the playing time many had hoped for. Danny Gray hasn't played much so far. And Samuel Womack lost his nickel corner job to Deommodore Lenoir.

Part of it is that it's really tough for some rookies to adjust to the speed and strength of the NFL game. Also, some coaches lack trust in rookies and younger players, while other coaches want them to earn playing time. Shanahan is probably a combination of the two. It could be that Mason isn't ready for some of the responsibilities of the position (hint: pass protection). Remember, as great as he was in training camp and preseason, he went undrafted for a reason. That doesn't mean he won't become a great player, it just could mean he's not quite ready.

Or it means that Shanahan hates rookies. You decide.

We should pull the starters when playing on turf - J.R.

I've heard it's hard to win NFL games when your starters don't play. But I get your point.

On Monday, Ian Rapoport, of NFL Network, was a guest on KNBR, as he is each Monday. He said there was a study done recently that shows injuries are not more prevalent on turf versus those on grass. If that's the case, I don't think it's true for the 49ers. Then again, San Francisco loses multiple players every week, whether on turf or grass, so who knows?

Sad we lost Moseley in garbage time. - Sean P.

Along the same lines as J.R.'s question above, it's such a tough call.

Last season, the 49ers lost Jason Verrett in the first game of the season. The 49ers were winning handily, up by 24 points, when Verrett tore his ACL. There was 7:54 left on the game clock.

The Lions mounted a comeback and actually had a chance to tie the game at the end. You may recall the Lions scored, with about one minute remaining, to move to within eight points. The 49ers then gave the ball back to the Lions around midfield thanks to a Deebo Samuel fumble—on a play that he picked up a first down, which should have put the game away. The defense held and the 49ers won. But fans blamed Shanahan for leaving Verrett in the game during a blowout.

The problem with blaming the coach, then and now, is that sometimes it's too risky to remove the starters. When Moseley went down on Sunday in Charlotte, it was a similar situation to the one in Detroit. The 49ers were up two touchdowns with 4:35 left to play when they punted the ball back to Carolina. Yes, there was more time remaining in Detroit, but the score was also more lopsided.

It's a tough decision to make. But Sean is right, it's sad to lose any player, especially in a game that was likely over.

I will be impressed if we beat the Chiefs. - Camilo C.

If Bosa is healthy, and Verrett is ready to go, the defense should keep the team in it. Then it's up to Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers' offense to score some points. The good thing is that the game is at Levi's and not at Arrowhead. And Kansas City will be coming off a huge matchup with the Buffalo Bills.

But, it will definitely be a tough one to win. If the 49ers take care of business in Atlanta and pick up a win over the Chiefs, they will be in a good spot.

How do we fix this (the 49ers being second to last in "banged up score")? - Nick V.

Nick is speaking of the "Bus" or "banged up score" reported by Fox Sports. It's a report that ranks the healthiest, and in the case of the 49ers, unhealthiest teams in the NFL. In case you don't feel like reading the article, the 49ers are ranked the second unhealthiest team in the league, just a hair healthier than the Baltimore Ravens.

How do the 49ers fix this? I have no idea. They've yet to figure this out, even though they have been one of the most injured teams for the last five seasons. I wish I had the answer because I would deliver it to Santa Clara free of charge.

What's up with the ST? This was supposed to be an improved unit after Hightower. It got Gould hurt. - Justin W.

Early on, the 49ers' special teams unit looked much improved. But they have had some missteps along the way, especially lately. Let's hope they get these issues corrected soon. Special teams are a very important part of the game. The 49ers can't afford to have that unit cost them a game—or a player.

I am worried about a drop-off in the secondary now with Moseley out for the season. Will Verrett be able to stay healthy and lockdown the CB2 spot? Will Lenoir be able to hold it down until Verrett is ready? - Big Island Surfah

I'm a little concerned about that, as well. Moseley was playing the best football of his NFL career. I'm not sure when Verrett will be ready, and I'm concerned that they will try to rush him back. Womack replaced Moseley on Sunday. I wonder if he will start until Verrett is ready. If not Womack, I would think Ambry Thomas would be the one they call on to hold down the spot until Verrett returns. Even then, Verrett could be rusty at first. We'll see how they play it.

They will likely leave Lenoir at nickel, so I wouldn't expect him to be in the mix to replace Moseley.

Moving forward, yes we gotta play in ATL, but what are the chances Niners vs Chiefs gets flexed to SNF? - Raj S.

The NFL can technically flex Sunday Night games beginning in week five. But they can only flex two games in weeks 5-10. Would they use one of their two flexes on the 49ers and Chiefs? It would certainly be a good choice. The game currently scheduled for Sunday Night on October 23 is Pittsburgh at Miami.

Once week 11 arrives, the NFL can flex any games they choose. If the Kansas City at San Francisco game was week 11, I think it would have a good chance, but I doubt it will happen this early in the season. I'd love to be wrong, though.

Assuming Verrett/Thomas/Womack doesn't work out replacing Moseley, do you see the Niners making a move via trade for a corner opposite Ward? - Phani T.

My prediction is that the 49ers will not make a move for a corner. Now it is possible they will, but they still have a limited supply of high draft picks, considering they do not currently have a first-round pick in 2023 due to the Lance trade.

The 49ers also have a history of trusting their own guys. The hope is that Verrett returns, plays well, and stays healthy. If he does not, they will bank on either Womack or Thomas stepping up. Thomas played fairly well down the stretch last season but appears to be behind Womack.

What type of reaction should Kyle expect from the ATL crowd this week? I think it's his first trip back since that big game. - Niner Jim

I doubt Shanahan cares what kind of reaction he gets from Falcons fans. They ought to give him a standing ovation. The Atlanta offense has not been the same since he left. In fact, the entire team hasn't been the same. They can blame him all they want for their Super Bowl collapse, but that loss was just as much on the defense as it was on Shanahan's offense.

Thanks, everyone, for your questions and comments. We'll be back next week for another 49ers mailbag.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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