For the third time in his coaching career, Kyle Shanahan will coach in the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, it was announced on Monday.
The game, set for Jan. 26, 2019, at 1:30 p.m. CT, will pit Shanahan and his staff, coaching the South, against Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and his staff, coaching the North.
Given the fact that San Francisco will have the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft this spring, and the fact that a position of need for the 49ers — edge rusher — will be available in abundance, the opportunity is a boon for the organization.
“I think it gives Kyle and his staff what you covet: You covet time and in this game,” said general manager John Lynch, during Monday’s post-season press conference. “We’re not looking for rocket scientists. We’re looking for guys that can play football. We get to see them learn football and apply it to the field. You get to see them in that setting and I think it’s invaluable.”
Where exactly San Francisco will go with the No. 2 overall pick is still up for debate, but considering that they weren’t able to faze Rams quarterback Goff (2 QB hits in the three quarters he played), and that they finished 22nd in the NFL in sacks, an edge rusher in a draft stocked with them could be the smart way to go, and there is plenty of pass rushing depth in the draft beyond projected No. 1 overall pick Joey Bosa.
“I think it’s strong there,” Lynch said. “That’s clear. There’s good pass rushers in this draft. I think that’s a strength of this draft. That will be. Everyone is looking for those guys, so I think we’re excited. Everybody is excited for that.”
Given the team’s cutting ties with Reuben Foster — their 2017 first-round linebacker pick — and the aging Malcolm Smith, linebacker, in particular, would also seem to be a need, as would getting a good look at interior linemen — especially with Laken Tomlinson’s injury coming so close to disaster, and spotty center play.
San Francisco allowed six quarterback hits in the first 14 dropbacks on Sunday (9 in the first three quarters) and came into the game tied for first in the NFL in quarterback hits allowed with 116.
Adding depth in the secondary should be a priority, as will be finding playmakers at wide receiver, as Pierre Garcon will be departing, and neither Marquise Goodwin nor Dante Pettis was able to stay healthy all year.
While the rosters have yet to be completely set, a number of invitations have already been accepted, including Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen, USC linebacker Cameron Smith, Kansas State offensive tackle Dalton Risner, Michigan defensive end/outside linebacker Chase Winovich, Mississippi State outside linebacker Montez Sweat and Boston College defensive end Zach Allen. Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd will also be in attendance, as will Kentucky free safety Darius West and USC safety Marvell Tell.
“It’s the same thing as the Combine to me,” Shanahan said. “It’s not as much about the players. It’s not about the athletes and stuff because you can see that on tape pretty well. You can see that when we work them out. It’s about being around people. It’s hard in the interview process to fully get to know someone. It’s hard to get tricked when you’re with someone for seven straight days. That’s my experience and what I’ve gotten the most out of it. You know that group of guys better.”