49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. working to cut down on fumbles

San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (41) is tackled by Seattle Seahawks defensive back Shaquill Griffin, hidden, and free safety Tedric Thompson (33) during overtime of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

SANTA CLARA — Jeff Wilson Jr. did everything right until he didn’t.

With 2:50 remaining in the first quarter of the 49ers’ 26-23 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday, Wilson — the 49ers’ undrafted rookie running back — took a handoff from quarterback Nick Mullens, found a hole, broke a tackle and ran for 14 yards.

So far, so good.

As Wilson ran upfield, he approached Seahawks strong safety Brad McDougald and had a sudden choice to make: run around McDougald, or run through him. Wilson picked Option B, because he’s a collision runner. That’s his nature.

When Wilson lowered his shoulder, McDougald ducked his head, hit the football with his helmet and caused a fumble, Wilson’s third of the past three games. The Seahawks recovered the ball.

“It’s like a dagger in the heart,” Wilson said, describing the feeling he gets when he puts the ball on the ground. “It hurts. As a running back, you know in this league there are so many guys who are right by each other as far as talent. So, (fumbling) like that can set you aside and be the difference between you and the next guy. When I (fumble), I am hurting myself and my teammates, and farther down the line in my career, that can be a downfall to me.”

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This article has 82 Comments

  1. Jeff Wilson should not struggle upright for every inch. He should stay low, gain yardage and go down after initial contact.
    The defense will want to hold him up, and rip at the ball. Wilson needs to make positive yards, secure the ball with both hands, and get down.
    Sure, he may miss out on a few extra yards, but losing the ball is a good way to lose the game.

    1. I have an idea Sebbie! Let’s ask Grant to pose the ‘why don’t the 9ers teach the fall down early technique‘ question to Shanahan at his next presser.

      Go for it Grant! This would be an excellent opportunity to corner Kyle with a great question. Plus, your football acumen (and Sebbie’s by extension) would be spotlighted yet again. Your peers, 9er staff, and players would be blown away.

      This goes beyond ball security. Sebbie has preached the fall down technique too as a way to avoid injury–just collapse in a heap as defenders close in. No injuries, no fumbles. Brilliant!

      1. Naw, just tell him to stay low, so they cannot hold him up. He should run free, but once there is first contact, ball security should be his highest priority.
        Sure am glad the Niners are concerned about Wilson’s fumbles, and hope they help coach him to prevent any more fumbles.

  2. 9ers will have an interesting mix of RBs competing through the off season and training camp. Will be fun to observe.

  3. QB – UFA
    RB – UFA
    FB – 4th round
    O-line – 1st round, 7th round, 2nd round, 1st round, 1st round
    TE – 5th Round
    WR – 3rd round, 2nd round

    Wilson has played well for an UFA. Obviously, he has to eliminate the fumbles or he will be a 1 contract guy. If he’s getting playing time as a RB next year then the 49ers have experienced another catastrophic year for injuries. Wilson’s future in the NFL is on special teams and spot duty at RB. The real story of the success of the 49ers run game is the 0-line and the play design. The 49ers have done much better than even I expected in the run game this year.

    1. Richburg will have a full offseason to train, get stronger and a better grasp of the offense. As will McClinchey, and not sure what happens with Person.

      I would like to draft a tackle next year to shore up the line but only after we exhaust all options in free agency at the edge rush position.

      1. Richburg puzzles me and maybe that’s because I don’t know his history. He’s not a rookie. Why should he have to get stronger. For the number of years he has been in the league, he should already be strong. In other words that phase should be over with, I would think. The Giants played in a similar zone running scheme didn’t they, so it’s not like he’s being asked to make a change to a power running scheme.

        Is it the injury that he had and perhaps still recovering from that left him with less strength? Or has he always been that way, and if so, why should we expect any improvement (it might not be a priority for him).

        1. I think with Richburg it’s a three fold dilemma. Complex system in his first year thereby requiring lots of thinking, especially as the center. Add in that he’s been fighting through wounded knee since Oct. 7th. Lastly, cohesion and continuity. First year playing together from the LG to the RT. My hope is once he gets healthy next year with less study and thinking, more weight room and reaction, continuity; his below average PFF grade of 53 can rise into the 63 range, which is a high average. Next year is gonna solve many puzzles at some key positions. Looking forward to it….

          1. All good points. I think he has never quite recovered from that knee injury which has affected his agility and balance, especially against bull rushes. I expect he will be much better next season once he recovers. They do need a competent backup at center — perhaps Person is good enough.

            1. Razor

              What I find frustrating is why so many of our fellow posters insist on complimenting so many of our ‘hi-dollar’ players as though they were doing the jobs that they’re being paid BIG BUCKS to do. Do you think that Richburg, Thomas, Celek, Ward, Garnett, are even worth their weight in stones ? They’re the highest paid at their positions on the whole team ! Since 1949, I have always been a 49er fanatic, and even in the dark days of the late ’60s before we had even won a division crown, I and many others on here gave cheers to Nomellini, St.Clair, Joe ‘the Jet’ Macillheny, Toneff, Dave Baker, Eddie Dove, and those ICONs who played for not much more than the love of the game. Where did we go wrong ?….How the hell did we screw that up ? TOO MUCH MONEY…You could add up the salaries of all those Niner heroes and probably have to pay more to every player on our present roster…money DOESN’T talk….

          2. Razor and Mood: Thanks for the replies. Makes sense. BTW: I noticed that my choice for center, Ryan Jensen, is barely above Richburg on the the PFF rating scale.

            Just out of curiousity, though, didn’t Mack perform pretty well as center his first year with KS?

            1. Wouldn’t surprise me, Cubus but I’m going to remain hopeful he can be better next year. If not, as Scooter pointed out, the 49ers will need to find one….

            2. Cubus like Razor said, coming off a major injury, especially the knee, he needs to get stronger.
              He also struggled with injuries this year but I think he still played through them.
              I think an entire offseason building up “football strength” will help his game.

              Again, I’ll say, nothing wrong with drafting a linemen who can move and play all along the line and eventually take over for one of Staley, Person or big Lake.

              4th pick overall, Jonah Williams.
              *only after sigining Dee Ford and Brandon Graham.

        2. Richburg has been a real disappointment for me. I liked him as a draft prospect and thought he played well to start his career. I was happy when the team signed him. But he’s been pretty bad all year. Hopefully it is a case of injury and learning a new offense, but next year is going to be something of a prove it year for him. A good backup option would be a wise investment this offseason.

          Unfortunately for the 49ers they don’t get much cap relief from cutting Richburg until the end of the third year of his contract, so if he doesn’t perform next year they won’t save much from getting rid of him.

          1. It sometimes takes free agents awhile to adapt.
            Add the fact this offense is pretty demanding and the injuries, I think he did ok this year.
            They’ve really come on as a unit the last couple weeks.

  4. Tiki Barber had the same issue and he rectified it. Wilson just needs to run with more awareness, and proper technique. He needs to put the ball vertical to the ground, wrap his off-ball hand across his on-ball hand, and go to the ground with basically an ‘x’ across your chest as opposed to two parallel boards across your chest….

  5. High and tight Wilson! Fortunately for him Breida cannot stay healthy making him the last option worth putting out there at RB… These last two games will give him a chance to correct his mistakes against some opportunistic D’s… If not good luck sticking around next year kid.

  6. http://www.espn.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/131488/nick-mullens-staking-his-claim-to-49ers-no-2-quarterback-job

    “… Nick deserves to be in,” Shanahan said. “Nick’s played very well and he’s gotten better as he’s gone. I thought [the Seattle game] was probably Nick’s best game, especially the way he finished it in that fourth quarter. … He’s done too good of a job. We’d love to get C.J. more playing time, but Nick’s earned it and I’m not taking him out….”

    If it sounds like praise … looks like praise … and smells like praise …
    you can pretty much bet .. that’s what it is …

      1. Did Grant ask the question about listening to the possible trade chatter? Or did he ask about developing synchronicity with Pettis?
        I liked Mullens’ presser. In fact, I liked all of his responses and his demeanor. Mullens was poised, polite and confident, and gave thorough insightful answers. He even seemed to be humble and self deprecating when pointing out his 2 over throws.
        Overall, I am very impressed with Mullens, and would be happy if he remains a Niner.
        However, if he wins his next 2 games, he might generate enough interest, that the Niners might get an offer they can’t refuse. Teams are starved for decent starting QBs, so he might garner a first round pick if he wins out the season. That would be a situation the Niners would be fortunate to be confronted with.

        1. No way anyone parts with a first round pick for Mullens if he “wins out the season”. No way Sebbie.

          Calm down and have cup of ‘ol Joe….

          1. Both Jax and Washington may be desperate enough, since this draft class does not have a strong QB class.
            Goff garnered 6 picks and Wentz garnered 5 picks. Both with multiple firsts. They both were untested. Mullens has NFL experience, and has shown he is a starter in this league.

            1. Won’t happen Sebbie–unless over the next two weeks Nick throws for 14+ TDs with no picks at a >90% completion rate, and runs for 250+yards and 5+TDs. Good luck.

              Let’s play this game further…. You and others (including Mr. Luminary) have concluded that Lynch and Shanahan are absolutely horrible at drafting. What makes you believe they would do anything useful with the ‘boatload’ of picks they would gather? Hmmm?

              You’ve made it clear over time that you’re fixated with the draft–it’s your big, bright shiny object. Dozens and dozens of base-covering mock drafts annually. Daydreaming about wearing trader Bill W’s shorts, bundling multiple players for picks, turning Nick into a ‘boatload’ of picks, etc. gets you sky high. Nothing wrong with dreaming.

              Sadly, Nick won’t snag a first in 2019.

              1. Today on the radio when someone asked Schefter about the leagues interest in Mullens he indicated there wasn’t much… And that teams were far more interested in Foles.

            2. Seb …
              Think about this one for a minute …if you get your wish .. and
              Mullins remains a Niner … and Jimmy G comes back … There
              will be no room for Kaep ! …. What then ?

              ( A little food for thought …)

              1. MW, I have stated that with JG, the Niners have a franchise QB, and I do not think Kaep would come back, or was needed. I still wish Kaep well, and hopes he does sign with another team. The blackballing and collusion is unfair persecution, and diminishes the game.
                However, when JG did tear his ACL, I thought that they should have signed Kaep, and he could have won 4 of those games that they lost while CJB started. Then, we would have been fighting for a Wildcard spot, instead of speculating about the draft.
                I certainly thought that CJB was not the answer, and Mullens has proved that with decent quarterbacking, the Niners still have enough talent to win. Of course, Mullens is still only 3-3, and this upcoming Bears game will be a stern test.
                All I want is for the Niners to win games, and win more rings. If Joan in accounting could do that, I would cheer her on. Too bad they wasted our time with Hoyer and CJB. Mullens has shown he can be a starter in the league, but he needs to win these next 2 games before I say he is comparable to JG.
                I still think Kaep can play, and the improvement in the Niner defense makes winning more than a distant memory. I still expect with the attrition rate of QBs in the league, there will be a team that needs a QB. The present drek QBs like Fitzpatrick, Peterman, Savage and the Butt Fumbler, prove that Kaep is being blackballed. The fact that Matt Barkley and Josh Johnson can step in off the street after not playing in years, and lead their teams to victory, while Kaep cannot even get a tryout, shows how strong the blackballing is, and how wrong Kaep’s detractors are.
                Guess some teams, striving to get into the playoffs, would rather lose without Kaep, than win with Kaep.
                ( Put that in your pipe and smoke it). ;p

              2. Sebbie…

                Like you care Kaep is being blackballed….

                sebnynah says:
                August 27, 2017 at 6:18 pm
                If Hoyer can play like that, I will not mind if Kaep is blackballed.


            3. Washington and Jacksonville may be desperate, but there are good options in Flacco and Bridgewater that are expected to be available to trade for or sign as free agents.

              1. Flacco is in decline, and the Saints have Bridgewater waiting in the wings for the eventual retirement of Brees.
                Maybe you think the Skins may want RGIII.

              2. Flacco was actually having a pretty decent season before he was injured and Lamar Jackson supplanted him. And unless Brees rapidly declines, I don’t see Bridgewater returning to the Saints.

      1. I think you, and your obsessive hating, should be a better candidate for a mental intervention. Multiple burner accounts are a sure sign of schizophrenia.

  7. Who has been the best players this year? Who have been the worst? Who are still between?

    For me I would have to say the following are among the best on the team.
    1- Buckner- he is a beast and has been all year.
    2-Kittle – among the best in his position in the league. This second year player has done a tremendous job and salvaged a poor draft class.
    3-Breida – he’s done a great job filling in at RB. The only challenge for him is durability.
    4 – Gould- money!
    5- Mullens – I think this kid came of age this last weekend. He may have then in a late season surge.
    6 – McGlinchy and Staley- both have had bad outings but seemed to get better as the year has progressed.
    7 – Pettis – he has been a nice surprise. Hope he can keep it up. I wonder about his longevity.
    8- Warner – knew he would be a solid player but he still managed to impress.
    9- Armstead – finally doing what he should have a couple of years ago.
    10 – Sherman – coach, cheerleader and ambassador. Play wise he is living of reputation but more power to him.

    Now the disappointments:
    1- Foster – what a shame and what a waste.
    2 – McKinnon – not his fault but so much money down the drain.
    3 – Jimmy – Do you not read the legendary postings on this blog?
    4- Witherspoon – he looked good last year and to be fair has improved the last few games, but he’s done for the season.
    5 – Pinion – should be doing better, is he hurt?
    6 – Celek – I guess Celek time had a freshness dating.
    7 – Taylor- His injury took a lot out of him.
    8 – Thomas- his position is somewhat redundant, his pass rush has never materialized. He was chosen 3 and played out of position too long. In either case had he done what he’s done the last couple of games he wouldn’t be on this list.

    The rest of the players are still between in my opinion and can go either way. What do guys think?

        1. I don’t know if we should write off Colbert yet. He has the range to play single high and played well last year. This year he was playing while banged up. Of course missing assignments was the absolute worst, but he wasn’t the only player doing that. Colbert certainly deserves criticism for the missed assignments, but how much of that is on poor communication early in the season with a rookie wearing the green dot? You can say that Colbert lacked awareness and that’s valid, but his awareness should improve with more reps.

          None of this is meant to suggest that we can’t upgrade the position. I’d sign Earl Thomas in a heartbeat.

          1. Nobody is saying to write him off in this thread – these are just the guys that disappointed this year. Colbert’s play was not good, and therefore disappointing.

            1. I said “I don’t know if we should write off Colbert yet.” I wasn’t suggesting that anyone had, just noting that his story isn’t over yet and that he played hurt, and wasn’t the only one missing assignments. His final play was his best play.

              As far as being a disappointment, yeah I guess compared to last year. But he was a 7th round pick.

              1. Whether intended or not, the inference was that the previous comments were writing him off. There was no reason to bring it up otherwise.

                As for disappointing, of course his play was a disappointment. He was the starting FS and was awful. The fact that he was a 7th round pick and people (including coaches) should have seen it coming is immaterial- as the starter he was expected to perform better.

              2. “Whether intended or not, the inference was that the previous comments were writing him off.”

                If you say so. Again, I said “I don’t know if we should write off Colbert yet.”

                I included myself by using “we” because it was hypothetical. I didn’t say that Prime wrote him off or that anybody else did. That sentence was a setup for the rest of my post.

                I said he was a disappointment compared to last year, and I agree that he’s been a disappointment as a starter. My point is that he still has the potential to be good, and that I wouldn’t be too disappointed if a 7th round pick doesn’t pan out.

              3. I never indicated to write him off but to say he has been a disappointment, and that he should have to compete to start next year.
                For a rebuilding team you write off players like Ward with extending or high contracts that don’t contribute much. Otherwise you bring them all back and let them compete.

              4. “I never indicated to write him off”

                I know you didn’t Prime. I don’t think my comment implied that you did. Someone else implied that my comment did.

      1. Yeah those guys are disappoints too, though I still think that the consensus is that Thomas has been a disappointment. As is Richburg and Tomlinson.

    1. I understand concern over punting isn’t worthy of Grant’s attention. Having said that, I’m very curious about what’s going on–if anything–with Pinion. So-so punting (at best) will bite hard now and then. Punters are typically brought in to compete during training camp. I hope the 9ers pay close attention to this–I suspect they will. There’s some strong talent coming out of the college ranks this year.

    2. The list of disappointments should be a lot longer than that. The WRs have by and large disappointed, even Pettis until the past month. The edge players have all been disappointing. The secondary other than Sherman have been disappointing. Losing JG and McKinnon so early in the year was disappointing. Beathard was a disappointment as JG’s backup. Richburg has been a disappointment. The TEs not named George Kittle have been a disappointment.

      That isn’t to say the disappointing play of some of these players shouldn’t have been or wasn’t expected. The edge players were always likely to be bad, while many of the young secondary players were getting way too much love over the offseason that they shouldn’t have been getting. Still disappointing they didn’t play well.

      1. Good point Scooter Marsh always looks stuck in a bog and Goodwin never lived up to his name. Garcon has been incredibly unproductive as well!
        Beathard was beat pretty hard but his resilience did nothing to make up for long processing.

  8. Grant,
    Good read.
    I liked Wilson in TC. He showed good pop at the LOS, and seemed to see the field very well.
    But fumble is the “F” word for a RB.
    Morris has had limited carries because of his fumbling issues as well.
    I’d like for JW to get a (no pun) handle on this in TC next year.

  9. I found this fanpost over at NN interesting. Based on the title, at first I thought the author was bonkers. However, after reading his proposal, there are parts of it that are actually quite clever, especially if option A (add in Jalen Ramsey) could be consummated. I always did find that Cleveland draft trade for Osweiler’s salary interesting. This guy proposes something similar but at significantly less cost to the team. Probably won’t happen, but interesting to ponder.


  10. Showering?


    “We were confident enough in Nick to keep him on our practice squad,” Shanahan continued. “Then when Jimmy got hurt, we were confident enough to activate him and have him as a backup, and not go out and get someone that we’re not familiar with.”

    “He hasn’t just been lucky,” Shanahan added. “He’s played some really good football. He’s been very consistent. He’s played enough to show that he’s consistent, and what’s been fun with Nick is you see that the more he plays, the better he gets. That makes sense because he is extremely smart. He’s very well prepared.”

    “The game is not too big for him. He’s not scared of the moment and not scared of the physicality in the pocket and everything. With that, he’s just getting live reps. A guy who is made of the right stuff, with the more live reps you get, the better you get.”

    1. Finally. Took Grant to wring it out of him, but KS finally gave some effusive praise. Should have said that from the start. That would be textbook Walsh.

        1. Sigh, you are right. Walsh was such an icon, very few coaches meet his standards. They all pale in comparison.
          Still, KS does take the WCO, and makes new schemes with its concepts. KS does use a FB.
          KS should try to emulate BW and his side line demeanor. Copying some of his game management tactics would help finish games.

    1. If the Niners had been patient, and kept their draft picks, they might have gotten Pettis at 59, because James Washington went at 60, and DJ Chark went at 61.
      Niners gave up picks 59, 74 and 109 to Washington. At 74, Washington chose Geron Christian OT, but the subsequent picks were- Derrick Nnadl DT, Mason Rudolph QB, Sam Hubbard DE, Malik Jefferson OLB, and Rasheem Green DE.
      With the 109th pick, Washington chose Troy Apke S. Later, Da’Shawn Hand DE, and Dorrance Armstrong EDGE, were available.

    1. I should have finished reading the article because after the quote I posted above, the author blew the story:

      “Here’s an even better scenario for the 49ers going into training camp: Garoppolo the starter, Mullens and Colin Kaepernick fighting for the backup job.

      Shanahan has said Kaepernick isn’t his style of quarterback, but Shanahan’s playbook is thick enough that he could dig out a couple hundred plays suitable to Kaepernick’s skills. A good coach adjusts and adapts.

      Garoppolo-Mullens-Kaepernick would give the 49ers the most intriguing QB group in football, by far, and maybe the most dangerous. The 49ers could pack Levi’s Stadium for training-camp scrimmages.”

      1. “Garoppolo-Mullens-Kaepernick would give the 49ers the most intriguing QB group in football, by far, and maybe the most dangerous”

        I can’t remember the last time intriguing won many football games.

      2. Ostler wrote a intriguing article, but I am actually against it.
        I still think Kaep is a starter, and he should go to another team and take the league by storm, again.
        Jax would be the most logical destination. They have a stout defense, but lacked a decent QB.
        Kaep could also go to a team like the Cards, Bills, Jets, with rookie QBs, and compete for the starting job. Washington, Miami, Broncos, Bengals or the Giants, may be a good landing spot. Pats, Steelers, Falcons or the Saints all have aging QBs, so Kaep may be a good successor.
        Luckily, mobile QBs like Luck, Mariota, Wilson, Watson and Jackson, have demonstrated the value of a QB that can avoid the pass rush and gain yardage with their legs.
        Now, once Kaep wins his lawsuit……

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