Five 49ers perched at make-or-break for their careers

Five 49ers perched at make-or-break for their careers:

For some players, training camp is a nuisance they have to endure without getting hurt. For other players, it’s the last chance to fight for a job.

This is about the “other” players fighting for a job. These are the five 49ers with the most to lose during training camp.


Hyde will be a free agent after next season, and the 49ers probably won’t re-sign him next year. They already have his replacement — rookie Joe Williams. The new regime drafted him in the fourth round this year.

Unlike Hyde, Williams is a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone run game. Williams almost certainly will be the 49ers’ starting running back in 2018. The coaches just have to decide when they want to transition from Hyde to Williams — this season or next.

Click here to read the rest of my Wednesday column.

This article has 93 Comments

  1. Personally, I don’t feel like Bowman has much to worry about. He will be the starting MIKE linebacker. The only one who is behind him taking MIKE snaps might be Brock Coyle, who is not going to be a great starter.

    Foster and Malcolm Smith will be at the WILL position. Depending on how much Foster progresses, Smith could be on the bench.

    Agree with the rest. The other guys might be on the cutting block, or benched.

  2. 1. Carlos Hyde – I agree that Williams is the future, but I think that future doesn’t start until next year. Maybe this year after the bye or if Hyde gets hurt.

    2.Eric Reid – I agree 100%.

    3. Vance McDonald – I agree 100%.

    4.Aaron Lynch – Agreed, but I’m hopeful he gets his weight down.

    5. Navorro Bowman – The Lombardi story was trash. They quickly admitted that they were trying to trade Vance. They would have done the same if they really were trying to move Bow. But yes, this is a make-or-break season for him.

    1. There’s a difference between trying to trade someone and making him available. One is active. The other is passive.

      1. But they denied that they are making him available.

        “The report that we have been shopping NaVorro Bowman is completely false,” the statement reads. “From the time we joined the organization, NaVorro has been the consummate professional. It is evident he has been working very hard to prepare for the upcoming season and we have been impressed by what we have already seen on the field.”

        1. They said they weren’t shopping him. That’s active.

          Lombardi said they made him available. That’s passive.

          1. Then why not admit that they are making him available. Denying the story would keep teams from calling.

            1. If the niners were going to cut Bowman they wouldn’t have quickly tried to reassure him so emphatically based on what they said. The reason being if they told him that the story was not true, and then wind up doing it they run a serious risk of alienating vets. If you’re gonna do that be honest, and don’t wait until the season after him.

              It really doesn’t seem like this managements style to do it that way.

              Next year maybe, just can’t see it this year, but happy to let Grant run out on the branch on this one.

              1. If Bowman loses the competition to Smith and Foster, Bowman could request his release.

              2. What is it about the difference between “shopping ” and letting teams know that a play is available if some team wants to make an offer that you guys don’t seem to understand? There have been times when teams have announced that everyone on the roster was “available “. Did that mean they were actively trying to trade ? No! All the front office did was deny that they were “actively” trying to trade Bowman as they were Mc Donald. If a team finds they are in need of a linebacker with Bowmans qualities and makes them an offer they will probably take it. That is what making a player ” available – for offers” means. The other team instigates the trade not the Niners. So if they trade him it does not mean that they were lying when they said they were not actively shopping him. Understand.

              3. will,

                Of course players are available for the right deal. That goes without saying. The Lombardi story makes it seem that we are ready to move on from Bow instead of just being open to listening to offers.

                They would have been making phone calls if they were done with Bow, similar to Vance. They had no problem saying Vance was available.


                “Frankly we received some interest from other people, then we did explore some options throughout the league with Vance.”

                Why didn’t we hear about the Niners passively making Vance available before the active trade talks?

                “Our big deal, Kyle and I, was we are always going to be up front with players. Guys understand this is a business.”

                They were upfront with Vance but not Bow?

          2. Grant, can you differentiate between the fact that Bowman was made available just like Joe Staley was available? I mean, lets face it…Joe Staley is not part of the rebuild. He is available for the right price, too. Isn’t that correct? And he might seek his release if he didn’t get the start either. Right? I really don’t see why you made the distinction between the two. Bowman is easily better than Watson or Smith; and even Foster, who hasn’t been cleared for contact yet, doesn’t know the defense and reportedly might have trouble learning it his rookie season. But pat yourself on the back…you certainly stoked the conversation.

            1. Lombardi said a team can have Bowman if they offer the Niners a late round pick. I think Staley would be more expensive. And he isn’t competing for a starting job like Bowman is.

          3. I don’t follow Grant’s logic of passive vs active on this.
            Passive – the niners have made him available… and how exactly will other teams know he’s available? The logical answer is they would have to advise other teams that he IS available, which would be active.

  3. Good write up, Grant. I would add Kilgore. He’s another lame duck that could find himself missing from the row.

    1. lol. No. Not really. He’s been one of the best power-rushing 5-techniques in the NFL since he was a rookie ranking only behind JJ Watt.

      1. lol. Yes really. He is playing a new position. He is redundant. Elvis is a better fit at LEO, as is Lynch if he is fully committed. Buckner is a better 3t. Arik can’t play NT or Big End because you have to be good against the run at those positions. For a guy that is supposedly a great pass rusher, he has 4.5 career sacks. He is one-dimensional and he is overrated at that one dimension. He is a role player and he doesn’t deserve a large contract extension at this point in his career. Hence, he needs to prove himself.

        1. I slightly disagree… while I first thought of him as a Leo I have changed my mind. He holds more value to the team as a pass rush specialist.
          And he would get more snaps in this role than he would as a Leo as he would be on this role when the nines were in their nickle or dime packages.

      2. This is where I find PFF so infuriating. Armstead has not played well. He gets an occasional pressure but teams do nothing in terms of protection to focus on Armstead. They don’t change blocking assignments to double Armstead. They don’t run plays away from him. To claim Armstead is a great pass rusher is absurd. He gets an occasional push but nothing special. He is hit or miss against the pass and absolutely terrible against the run. Next year is definitely a big year for Armstead to prove himself.

  4. Horse… see dead… Zzzz… is this the best you can do? Regurgitate what you have written ad nauseam for t least three months? Hopefully you’re make or beak as well.

    1. Tom, I seriously resent this tone, which has been ongoing and unpleasant. Lowell

      1. Lowell (if this is you) I think your son is an adult and should be able to stand by, back up, and receive criticism of the words he puts down on paper (digitally), and shouldn’t have his Old Man come to his defense. Let the boy fight his own fights, and sometimes we have to get popped in the nose every now and then (figuratively) when we make a mistake.

        An adult is responsible for their words and actions, and has the ability to defend them without the help or input of a parent or the use of childish means (like blocking people).

        Just saying.

    2. That is a troll impersonating me. First they accuse me of having duplicate accounts, now they are trolling me with multiple shadow accounts.

  5. Shanahan wants precision. This season I think the starting running back will be the one that minimizes mistakes like sloppy check down routes, drops, fumbles, missed blitz pickups, wrong hot routes.

    The early season starting running back could surprise people.

  6. This is easy – its make or break for . None of Baalke’s acquisitions are really safe, nor lived up to their potential on a full time basis. Big training camp and season coming up for a lot of 49ers.

  7. Lots of assumptions and suppositions on your part Grant, and given your track record, I prefer to wait and see what happens…..

    1. Grant never claimed he could play. Instead, he is the de facto head coach, GM, director of pro personnel, area scout, offensive and defensive coordinator, d-line coach, linebackers coach, o-line coach, QB coach, RB’s coach, WR’s coach and definitely not last, the fortune teller and purveyor of the future.

      This dude reminds me of a guy that would try to give Columbus sailing lessons.

      Bonus question for you Grant:

      What is a “well placed source” anyway?

  8. I think under the new regime, no player is safe as a starter. It’s just that some players (Staley) have little to no competition and that’s the only reason their jobs appear to be safe. Iron sharpens iron taken to even a greater extent than Harbaugh.

  9. “Oh, so it’s his wife’s fault he’s overweight”… A bit of a cheap shot, no? I agree Lynch is battling on a number of fronts. Your synopsis was acceptable to me until the cheap shot. So, you think Lynch was throwing his wife under the bus, blaming her? Really? Hoping you’re better than that.

    Another player in a make or break situation would be Hoyer; considering where’s been in his career. A poor 2017 season (and loosing starting status early) could bring Hoyer’s first string claim to an end for the balance of his career.

    1. Lynch has been indirectly blaming his wife since last season when he said he was 290 pounds due to sympathy eating after his wife gave birth.

          1. Grant

            I disagree….on all five…..I think you’re too personally involved…

            1. Maybe Grant could be kinder and say they are on the bubble, but he is spot on in his assessments.
              However, this was a 2-14 team, so no player should expect anything but major changes.

      1. Okay, so you essentially stripped away the indirectness and called out Lynch for blaming his wife. Anything else we can load on her (or anyone else) by way of his remarks–direct or not?

  10. geeze how long can you beat this horse. we know you dont like bow,lynch,reid,hyde.Please something fresh and new

  11. Reid is my clear choice to be moved. Watching the guy last year pull short of the stack while in a jog was beyond unreasonable. All I ask of any player is put in the effort and look professional don’t further embarrass a team that was already embarrassing. Reid failed miserably as a well paid employee. Reid is ever taking bad routes to ball and I agree he has never been above average in any category a very below average player. Another player built in the Reid mold that should have been placed on the list is Eli Harold. Harold was non-existent last year. If Harold wants to continue to play in the NFL he too has to put in a greatly improved effort. With players like Reid and Harold is it any wonder the 49ers were the worst defensive team in 2016?

  12. 1. Hyde is a complete player. There is nobody who has the NFL skills necessary to start in his place. Williams is a one-hit wonder who struggled to outperform college backs who did not make the NFL and is completely undeveloped as a a receiver (they generally took himi out) and can’t block (they took him out). Worse, Williams is being shown up by Brieda.

    Maybe next year. But unless Hyde gets hurt, I can’t see Williams getting the job, no matter how many times you proclaim the Death of Hyde.

    2. Reid. They may not resign him, but there’s noone to take his place. Tartt just flat out sucks in coverage they should convert him to WILL because he’s only good at run-defense. Reid isn’t as good at run defense, but he can cover and play zone. And those are necessary skills.

    3. McDonald. Pretty slim chance of making the team. Kittle is a better athlete and has better hands. Paulsen will have the blocking TE role locked up. That leaves one spot and the player should be versatile meaning Bell or Celek who both have better hands even if they’re not as athletic.

    4. Tremendous talent. Lack of work ethic. I want players who want to play. Who really want to play.

    5. Back in 2015 PFF gave all the 49er defenders grades. Bowman was 18th over all. Behind Shayne Skov and Matt Bellore. He at least beat-out Wilhoite and Brooks.

  13. Grant which players have gotten the most reps at the corners and nickel positions?

    1. Dontae Johnson and Keith Reaser have split the reps pretty evenly at corner. They’re competing for one spot alongside Rashard Robinson.

      K’Waun Williams was getting all of the reps at starting nickel until he got hurt. Now Will Redmond is getting the reps at nickel.

  14. Here are my additions:

    Dontae Johnson has shown flashes but the former regime just never seemed comfortable in giving him a real chance. Sounds like he’s going to get that chance. We’ll find out if the previous hesitations were justified or not.

    Malcolm Smith. Despite triple digit tackle numbers two years straight the Raiders made almost no attempt to re-sign Smith. Zero sacks last year might have had something to do with that. A glance at PFF would suggest that 2013 is the only good season he’s had in the league. Seems like he has one more chance to prove he belongs as a starter in this league.

    Brian Hoyer. When he’s hot, he’s a competent starting QB. When he’s not he’s your worst nightmare under center. The reason Hoyer is on his 5th team in 8 years is because in practice and games he has more not days then hot. One has to assume that this latest go around with Shanny will likely be Hoyer’s last chance at proving he can be a starter in this league.

  15. Additional players on the bubble.
    Garrett Celek. Hikutini may shine.
    Ward. He may be better at CB.

    1. I agree with Grant’s list, and the additions of Kilgore, Hoyer, Smith and Johnson.
      I would add Celek and Ward, along with Brooks and Carradine. Of all 4, only Ward could be retained, The others could all be expendable, and traded away, unless they perform well in TC.

  16. 1. Reid…he’s a chandelier and had no business playing the in box.
    2. Hoyer…he’s just a stopgap, but he’s better than the cop hater.
    3. McDonald…agree that his hands are awful
    4. Ward…he better learn to ball hawk and hit
    5. Gould…he’s missed way too many FG’s over the years. He’s not an upgrade over Nedney.

    1. He only hates rogue cops who snap and unload their weapon at a guy who is reaching for his wallet.

      1. Oh because you know so much about law enforcement and what cops go through on a daily basis. It’s hard to imagine that there are cops out there that put on their vest, and gun belt saying to themselves that they are going to go out and murder someone.

        You have no idea what it’s like to make a split second, life or death situation.

        1. I notice that the officer was fired after the verdict. It was also a case in which logic would assume a man would not engage in a gun battle with a 4 year old child in the car, but that did not stop the rogue cop from firing 7 shots at close range. The dash cam footage showed a rogue cop deciding to be judge, jury and executioner.
          If he truly feared for his life, he should not have cavalierly walked up to the vehicle. He should have stayed in his vehicle and called for backup. If he wanted to de-escalate the situation, he should have instructed the driver to roll down the window, and with both hands holding his drivers licence and registration extended out so they could see them. If he had told the driver that they were looking for a bank robber and needed to use extreme caution, I am sure that the driver would have complied so he would not have gotten shot like he did.
          Once again, the thin blue line prevented a policeman from getting convicted, even with over whelming evidence. That in itself will cause more deaths when people assume the rule of law does not apply to a favored few and the guilty escape justice. Then the streets will become like the wild west, and the carnage will continue.
          You think the present laws that protect your right to keep your guns is worth it. After nearly 1300 children died from guns last year, I just call it an atrocity.

          1. Damn, you’re misinformed. Actually, just wrong.

            Cops are damned if they do, damned if they don’t and you can’t and won’t understand that. “Cavalierly walked up to the car?” Give me a break dummy.

            1. Watch the dash cam video. He says he pulled him over for a broken tail light, but was actually considering him an armed bank robber.
              Once he heard that Castile had a gun, he snapped, panicked, and unloaded his weapon at Castile.
              Garry F McCarthy, a former Chicago police superintendent, stated- ‘The tactics were a little laissez-faire if you thought you were dealing with an armed robbery suspect.’

  17. Ellington is make-or-break. A slot guy behind Kerley and Taylor. I’ve never liked Ellington as a returner.

    1. Good one, but I kinda considered him gone, since he could not even stay healthy for the OTA and Mini camp.

      1. Probably not. Maybe as KR and or PR if they don’t want to put a rookie in those situations.

  18. Lynch’s weight problems lead to one question. How motivated is Aaron Lynch to be a professional football player? Weight requires consistant discipine in eating habits, Aaron lynch has not showed that discipline yet. At this stage of his career facing a new regime in management with more competition on the defensive line and not maintaining your weight /conditioning is very telling.

  19. If Hyde continues to run like he has in the past, then yes – gone!
    Reid and McDonald – the team will be no worst if they don’t make it.
    Lynch – is he really committed to a team sport. Needs to be in condition year around
    Bowman – sure hope he makes the team if not, next man up.

  20. John Lynch is doing what Trent Baalke should have done. When you’re 2 – 14, obviously the players are bums. ShanaLynch got rid of the riffraff and is starting from scratch. Now, we might still miss the playoffs, but we will win more games. Realistically, I know other teams are rebuilding ( I.e., browns, jets ), or reloading (I.e., patriots, cowboys ). Anybody agree with my logical assessment? GO NINERS!!

  21. 1–I don’t think Hyde will be gone & why cut someone in a contact Year with much to earn? As much as Williams might look perfect, he has to make it through a season first without quitting. May sound harsh but that was less than a year ago & Williams needs to prove he will make the team first & make it through a season when times get tough. 2–Reid has a year left like Hyde & will be on the team, but he sometimes reminds me of a tentative Dana Hall. 3–McDonald won’t go anywhere because he had his best year last year and 5 years on his current deal no matter what the cap, is bad business to cut him. 4–Lynch does have the most upside, but may fetch the most out of this list in a fools gold trade in our favor. 5–Bowman along with McDonald, Hyde & Reid make no sence to trade or cut because they are Quality experienced vets that for this year have no real monetary impact. I personally would like to see if we could see growth with them in this new system rather than going all in on unproven prospects or lesser talent like Malcom Smith.

    1. Agree on Hyde and Williams. I am very skeptical of Williams. His backs story is what it is but he still quit on his team. No telling how he will react when he or the team hits a rough spot. If Hyde is coachable and performs the way Shanny wants him to perform I believe he is a superior player to Williams when they are both playing at their best. Add in a contract year for Hyde and I expect him to have a good year.

      Good call on the Reid/Dana Hall comparison. I hadn’t put that together but they are very similar. Great athletes but they just don’t impact the game like you’d expect from someone with their abilities.

      Totally disagree on McDonald. I think he’s gone. It’s obvious he’s not a Shanny/Lynch type of guy so I highly doubt he makes the team. I don’t think Lynch cares if he has to eat that contract. It’s not that much in the grand scheme.

  22. Williams hasn’t even played one preseason game and already has unseated Hyde and is the sure starter in 2018.

    This is comedy. As usual.

  23. Many here, myself included, seeing a near term end for Bo. I love Bo but the writing is on the wall. But I just looked and it was less than a year ago the boys gave Bo a monster new contract…when he still had 3 years remaining. WTF was Trent thinking?

    1. That extension was a payoff for Bowman’s loyalty in previous years. He was underpaid but didn’t squawk because he knew that Patrick Willis was the man and the 49ers couldn’t really pay them both. Once Patrick retired, they rewarded Bowman. For once, a team did the right thing. Here’s the link. At about 4:50 Bow explains about Patrick.

  24. Grant what is your obsession with Bowman being done? It seems like you are just trying to create chatter and praying that it happens so you can say, told you so. Get over it dude. You sound like a complete f’ing idiot.

  25. I’m a bit surprised Garcon is not on your list. He was signed because of his familiarity with Shanny’s offense but he needs to prove he is still a good NFL WR. His numbers were pretty good in Washington over the past few years but he is 30 years old and I know you don’t necessarily like him as a #1 receiver so I figured you’d include him on this list.

  26. I could see Garnett playing badly in this system and getting traded during the season if it becomes clear he doesn’t have the lateral agility he needs.

  27. Who would be willing to trade for Garnett? If he sucks, he goes PS or outright cut. Everyone knows this drill, everyone does same. Seems only trades are vets near end, with proven (but starting the decline) skills and smarts, that have maybe one more pass through to help someone. I don’t see a guy like Garnett having a tradeable profile.

    What am I missing?

    1. The better rivals podcast guys have talked about Garnett’s best scheme fit being a Harbaugh type power blocking scheme. He is a mauler who can dominate at the point of attack, but is among the worst athletes in the NFL at his position from a psparq score perspective. And baalke traded up into the first round for this. Pinchot would have stayed put and taken Myles jack.

  28. New regime. Yeah, pretty much everyone from the 2-14 team is make or break for their 49er careers.

  29. Thinking in terms of the overview, it’s odd to me all the cuts and waives and trade
    -aways being suggested for so many players.
    A 2-14 team is in building mode, not tear down mode. Even mediocre players could have a spot on this team until the roster talent improves.
    And the trade ideas are amusing……who wants a 2-14 team’s underachievers?
    Curb your enthusiasm, adjust your expectations, get your popcorn, and settle-in for a 2-3 year rebuild.

  30. Here’s a good clickbait article for you Grant. How about a list of Trent Baalke draft picks we think will be starting next year (2018). The only 1 I can think of as a lock is Buckner. That’s pretty damning evidence of Baalke’s incompetence. 49ers had more draft picks than any other team in the NFL the past 5 years so just by sheer luck you’d think the team would have a few starters from the Baalke years. Reid, Robinson, and Ward are also possibilities but they need to play well this year to solidify their spot next year. On offense, we might end up with Garnett and Williams but I’m not sure either player is a good fit for Shanny’s offense. The amazing thing is there will not be a starter at an offensive skill position drafted by Baalke if you are right about Carlos Hyde. If Williams supplants Hyde there would not be a QB, WR, RB, or TE drafted by Trent Baalke. Thats amazing to me.

    1. Another of Baalke’s players is in the make it or break it sweepstakes:

      WR, DeAndre Smelter

      1. Another new discussion…

        Are we seeing 2017’s version of 1979? Is Hoyer Shanahan’s De Berg?
        New offensive system, head coach as OC – WCO style…
        New D system & DC…how will the young D backfield do?
        Any other similarities you can think of?

  31. Aside from Hyde being injury prone, which isn’t a small thing, I don’t understand all the Hyde hate on here. When healthy, the guy has been among the league leaders in yards after contact and broken tackles. It doesn’t seem fair to hold Hyde responsible for having to run behind sub par blocking and in a predictable system.

  32. I agree on all five; and like other commenters think there may be a couple more in similar situations.

    Bowman’s situation is not good news, because he has played so great in the past, and is a committed NFL player. Injuries are a bummer.

    Lynch’s situation is the more frustrating. Get it together man! YOu can’t come in out of shape two years in a row.

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