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49ers mailbag: Is Colton McKivitz good enough? Will SF be able to extend Brandon Aiyuk? And more questions answered

Marc Adams
Sep 13, 2023 at 9:42 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers came out of their week one win in Pittsburgh unscathed. Kyle Shanahan said on Monday that the team had no injuries to report. That is great news, and now they turn their attention to the Los Angeles Rams, who beat the Seahawks convincingly, in Seattle, on Sunday.

We opened the 49ers Webzone mailbag to see what was on your mind. So let's get to it.

Can the 49ers afford to sign him if BA keeps up this pace? - DoctorWDS

I think they have to find a way to pay Brandon Aiyuk. And I think they will. He's the 49ers best wide receiver, and he's only going to get better. Granted, the Steelers may have been more focused on shutting down Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel, but Aiyuk did exactly what he was supposed to do. He caught every ball thrown his way and scored twice. And he was just named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

If he keeps this up, it's going to take this offense to another level because defenses will start game-planning to take him out of the play, which will, of course, open up things for McCaffrey and Samuel. But yes, the 49ers will figure out a way to keep Aiyuk.

I like this little nugget of information from Al Sacco, that Aiyuk is the third 49ers wide receiver to win Offensive Player of the Week in week one. Anquan Boldin did it in 2013. And some kid named Rice did it in 1994 (that was the night he broke the record for most touchdowns in NFL history).

Brock Purdy looked fantastic the majority of the game but I'm a bit concerned that he either had fatigue or an injury to his throwing arm later in the game. His passes weren't as accurate and weren't as crisp. Can we get a more definitive answer on that if possible? - Brandon G.

Shanahan said there were no injuries, so I don't think Brock Purdy was injured in Sunday's win over the Steelers. I thought he threw the ball well, except for a few when he was pressured, and one that was a long throw to the sideline. Those throws aren't his strength, and I think he may not have had his feet set on that throw. I'd have to go back and look, but the one I'm thinking of didn't look like it was going to be a good throw from the moment he released it.

I wouldn't worry too much about Purdy, especially with built-in rest days during the week.

Why do we consistently do short kickoffs??? That part of ST is troubling. - SugarRay

Punter Mitch Wishnowski handled kickoffs on Sunday. I'm not sure why he was kicking short, but I'm not crazy about that approach either. Kickoff coverage was one of the few things the 49ers weren't great at in Pittsburgh. I'd prefer to see them kick it out of the endzone. Maybe when Jake Moody takes over on kickoffs, which should be this Sunday, we'll see that happen.

Why was Mitch handling the kickoffs and not Jake? - Niner Jim

Moody had been dealing with an injury. Although he was cleared to play on Sunday, I'm assuming Shanahan either didn't want to risk him having to work on kickoffs, and possibly getting hurt, or maybe he was trying to take some of the load off the rookie, who was playing his first NFL game, on the road, in a stadium that is known to be difficult to kick in.

Whatever the reason, it worked. Moody was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and 3-for-3 on PATs. But as I mentioned in the previous response, I would expect Moody to be handling kickoffs this week in Inglewood.

Why is Kyle running CMC 22 times, and the next in line, Elijah Mitchell, only 5 times; with leads of 20 points in Week 1? - Chris W.

Good question. I'd like to know the same thing. I just wonder if Shanahan wanted to get McCaffrey more work because he didn't play in the preseason. I wondered the same about Nick Bosa, who was in the game late, with a big lead. I know those guys want to play, but I'd prefer to keep them healthy. I was okay with them playing into the 4th quarter, but there was a point later in the game when we all knew it was essentially over. At that point, I would liked to have seen McCaffrey, Bosa, Purdy, and Trent Williams come out of the game.

I supposed it's possible Shanahan didn't want a repeat of the 2021 opener in which the Detroit Lions came back and actually had a chance to win the game. The Lions scored 23 unanswered points after falling behind by 31. Shanahan had pulled some starters and then sent them back in late in the game. Of course, we all remember that Jason Varett sustained a knee injury and missed the rest of the season.

What do you think the 49ers want with all the cap space this year? Is it a safety net because they know they have a SB team, or are they targeting someone? - DoctorWDS

I hope it's because they're targeting a right tackle, but I'm not sure there is anyone who is currently available that would be an upgrade over Colton McKivitz. My guess is that they're using it to roll over into next year when things are going to start getting tighter for them, as far as cap space.

I'm sure they're saving some of it in case they decide to make a trade at the deadline, or in case someone goes down and they need to sign a replacement. But most of the money is likely earmarked for next season.

With Jackson getting the starting Edge job on passing downs, not too much to expect at least 11.5+ sacks this year? With Ferrell as a great 1st and 2nd down option. - Josh

I think it's very possible, especially since Drake Jackson, who had three sacks and six QB pressures on Sunday, is already a quarter of the way there. Jackson's three sacks came as a result of the interior pressure from Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave, but that's still good. Jackson did what he was supposed to do. Maybe there will be times he puts the pressure on the quarterback, and someone else gets the sack. Pressuring the other team's QB is a collective effort, and the 49ers defensive front worked well together on Sunday.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Jackson's performance on Sunday is that he only played 28 snaps. That's some efficient pass-rushing.

Is the offense in good enough shape to play 50 minutes a game? - TLRS

Wouldn't that be a great problem to have? I've never heard of a team possessing the ball for 50 out of the 60 minutes of a game. The 49ers did have the ball for over 37 minutes though.

The Miami Dolphins held the ball for 45 minutes and 7 seconds in a game against the New England Patriots on December 20, 1975. I believe that's the NFL record for greatest time of possession in a single game. Imagine if the 49ers held the ball for 50 minutes, and this defense only played 10 minutes. A rested 49ers defense would be even scarier—like a caged animal that hasn't eaten in days.

Is it now 100% safe to say that Kinlaw is just another 1st round bust/whiff by this front office? We knew it earlier, now confirmed. He continues to get pushed around. - KCarps

I didn't think Javon Kinlaw was that bad on Sunday. He made some plays and made his presence felt when he was in the game. But yes, Kinlaw sometimes gets pushed around. This is a make-or-break season for him. But I didn't think he was too bad in the game with the Steelers.

RT....Yes, he gave up 3 sacks, but they were to a DPOY. Is he good enough? - DoctorWDS

I'm not going to judge McKivitz yet. It's possible he was facing the best (well, probably second-best) pass rusher in the league, and for much of the game, was doing it with no help. Was McKivitz good on Sunday? No. But there was a reason, and it was the guy he was trying to keep away from his quarterback. That guy, T.J. Watt, had three sacks, nine QB pressures, and two forced fumbles. That's bad. But let's wait and see how he performs against less superhuman pass rushers.

That's all for this edition of the 49ers Webzone Mailbag. We'll be back on Monday, hopefully celebrating another 49ers win.
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