Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Mailbag: Lance, Cohn, Kinlaw and more questions answered

Marc Adams
May 25, 2022 at 12:00 PM--

OTA's (organized team activities) started on Monday for the San Francisco 49ers. Finally, some good news, having actual football to discuss. I know you're excited to talk football and not dumb things like "arm fitness." I can tell by the look in your eyes.

But the start of OTA's wasn't the only exciting news for 49ers fans. 49ers Webzone announced the revival of a longtime fan favorite. It is the feature that answers fans' questions about the 49ers, packaged nicely in a little thing we call 49ers Mailbag. During the offseason, the mailbag will come out every other week. During the season, we'll do it every week.

So now that the word is out, and 49ers fans are dancing in the streets, let's settle down, compose ourselves, and hit the mailbag:

Does Womack have a legit chance of winning NB? Niners didn't sign anyone notable unless they slide Mosley there, Thomas outside. (@The_J_Wong)

The 49ers selected Samuel Womack in the 5th round of the 2022 NFL draft. As you may recall, this has been the money round for the 49ers, drafting the likes of George Kittle, Dre Greenlaw, and D.J. Jones. The team hopes Womack can be another 5th round gem.

Can Womack take hold of that nickel corner position in 2022? I wouldn't expect that to happen this season if everyone stays healthy. Many believe Emmanuel Moseley will slide inside when the 49ers defense is in nickel (which is most of the time these days). Womack definitely projects as a nickel corner. His look, the way he's built, and the way he plays, remind people of K'Waun Williams. Womack plays the run well. He's tough with good speed and quickness, has great ball skills and gets his hands on the ball.

Matt Maiocco, of NBC Sports Bay Area, wrote, "Womack faces an uphill climb to get on the field as a rookie. The 49ers already have three players on their roster with experience lining up against the slot receiver: Darqueze Dennard, Deommodore Lenoir and Dontae Johnson."

I would agree. If Moseley doesn't move inside, I think Dennard may be the guy. Expect Womack to make his impact on defense in 2023.

This roster is really deep, but the UDFA signings have some intriguing prospects. How many from the UDFA class have a realistic chance at making the 53-man roster? (@brenick77)

This is always a hard thing to predict before training camp, especially for a good team like the 49ers. San Francisco signed more UDFA (undrafted free agents) than I expected them to. As mentioned, the roster is very deep. But there are some UDFAs who could make the roster. Rather than predict how many, I'll list those I think have the best shot (in no particular order):

  • Dohnovan West, OL, Arizona State- If Alex Mack doesn't return, West has a better chance to make the team in 2022. If Mack does return, West may end up on the practice squad. But I think he might be a player the 49ers want to protect (see Reed, D.J.).
  • Jason Poe, OL, Mercer- Poe probably didn't get drafted because of his short arms. But he is extremely athletic. One 49ers Webzone writer named him "the most intriguing prospect of the 49ers draft class." Mike Renner, of Pro Football Focus, called Poe "the best pulling guard in college football."

  • Qwuantrezz Knight, DB, UCLA- A lot of people are high on Knight. On Tuesday, he reportedly made a play when he picked off a Brock Purdy pass. I expect Knight to make a lot of plays during training camp and preseason games. He has a shot to make the team.
  • Jeremiah Gemmel, LB, North Carolina- He seems like a solid special-teams player in 2022 who could step into a regular role on defense in 2023. The 49ers also paid Gemmel $90,000 guaranteed, which includes a $20,000 bonus. That tells me they really wanted him.
  • Leon O'Neal, S, Texas A&M- The 49ers paid O'Neal $60,000 guaranteed, which included a $10,000 bonus. A lot of fans are high on him, as well.

So if these players all make the initial 53-man roster, then I guess I'd be predicting five UDFA to make the team. But that seems high. So I'll say the players mentioned above have the best chance to make the team, but only two of them will actually make it right out of the gate. My best guess: Gemmel and O'Neal. Unless Mack retires. Then I'm changing it to Gemmel and West.

In today's QB-driven era, it seems like Trey Lance's evolution into a star QB is the Niners' primary path to winning a championship. What else do you see from this team that could carry them to a Super Bowl title if Lance doesn't become a top-10 QB this year? (@JDSInfinity)

I believe the defense will be elite. If everyone stays healthy, meaning no injuries to players like Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Charvarius Ward, this defense has the chance to be better than last year. If Javon Kinlaw (more on him below) can return and be an effective replacement for D.J. Jones, and if Drake Jackson can give the pass rush the kind of pressure Dee Ford gave them in 2019, the defense could potentially be better than the one in 2019.

This secondary, depending on health and what happens at strong safety, has the chance to be the best one of the Shanahan and John Lynch era.

If Lance plays at "Jimmy Garoppolo level," the team should be a favorite to win the Super Bowl. If he plays like a young quarterback, with only 10 quarters of experience, the 49ers could miss the playoffs. But I think Lance will continue to improve throughout the season. I believe he'll be better than Garoppolo by the season's end, and this team will be scary to contend with.

I also expect the running game to be better than last season. Trey Sermon has worked hard this season and has a clean slate with a new running backs coach. Elijah Mitchell won't be expected to carry the load. Jeff Wilson, Jr. should be healthy, and Ty Davis-Price brings some late-game bruising to the backfield that has been lacking.

What are your thoughts on the "interview" between Grant Cohn and Javon Kinlaw? (Dave B.)

Wow! It was only a matter of time before Grant Cohn pushed a little too hard. A lot of fans like his style and approach. I find it annoying, and yet, sometimes he makes me laugh.

On Tuesday, Cohn posted a video suggesting Kinlaw was a little too aggressive with him during practice, invading his personal space, knocking his hat off his head, and rapping derogatory terms while staring at Cohn.

If this happened, as Cohn describes, it seems over the top to me. Kinlaw should not be touching a reporter, and I doubt the 49ers will be happy about that.

As far as the YouTube interview, I thought Cohn handled himself well, even though Kinlaw wouldn't let him speak. But frankly, I was more bothered by the fact that Kinlaw had food in his mouth the whole time. You could even see some of it fly out of his mouth at one point. That's disgusting. You're not supposed to talk with your mouth full, Javon. Finish eating your squirrel before you speak.

What's the plan for the interior of the offensive line? Is that something fans should be worried about with a second-year QB likely back there? (Dave B.)

If Mack doesn't return, I'm nervous. Jake Brendel would likely take over, although the 49ers may move Daniel Brunskill to center. I think I would rather have Brendel there so that Brunskill can stay at right guard until one of the younger guys is ready to take over.

If Mack returns, the only spot with some uncertainty (as long as Mike McGlinchey is back and healthy) would be left guard. Aaron Banks is the likely starter there. I am a little concerned about that, considering he barely played last season. But Lynch is high on him. And in Banks' defense, last season they were using him on the opposite side from which he played in college. For some players, that can be a tough transition.

My hope was that the offensive line would improve so that Lance had a solid group in front of him. I don't believe they have improved. But they may end up being not far off from last year's offensive line. Then again, there is the chance they could be much worse. Stay tuned.

Thank you for all your mailbag submissions. And thank you for reading. And remember, don't talk with food in your mouth. It's a bad look, and you could end up on the wrong side of a 49ers mailbag somewhere.

Until next time. Go Niners!
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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