George Kittle

NFC West Rumors: 49ers, Cooks, Gordon

The 49ers (and certain fantasy owners) may well have to make other plans at tight end this week. George Kittle drew a doubtful designation for San Francisco’s pivotal Week 10 game against Seattle. The All-Pro candidate is battling knee and ankle injuries, and although he played eight games with torn rib cartilage last season, Kittle is likelier than not to miss the nationally televised game. Levine Toilolo and second-year UDFA Ross Dwelley reside as the other tight ends on the 49ers’ roster.

Veteran Garrett Celek could be activated from the PUP list, however. Celek has been dealing with a back injury for months but returned to practice this week, per ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner (on Twitter). While the 49ers are not against activating Celek for Monday, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required) the team would prefer he go through multiple practice weeks before debuting this season. Dwelley and Toilolo have combined to catch nine passes for 38 yards this season.

Here is the more from San Francisco and the latest from the NFC West:

  • In more promising 49ers injury news, the 49ers may get both of their tackles back this week. With Joe Staley expected to return this week, Mike McGlinchey may join him. The second-year right tackle worked in three limited practices this week. He has been out since Week 5 due to arthroscopic knee surgery. Staley also participated in three limited practices this week. Despite both of San Francisco’s tackles being out for much of the season, the 49ers’ run game ranks second in the NFL.
  • The team’s Chase McLaughlin acquisition will likely lead to game work. Robbie Gould joins Kittle in being given a doubtful status. Gould, who has not missed a game since his 49ers tenure began in 2017, is dealing with a quad injury.
  • In advance of the Rams‘ road assignment against the Steelers, Brandin Cooks has spent time in Pittsburgh because of concussion trouble. Cooks has made multiple trips to Pittsburgh to meet with doctors over the past two weeks, Omar Ruiz of USA Today tweets. The Rams wide receiver remains in concussion protocol and is out for Sunday’s game. Cooks has suffered two concussions this season, one in 2018 and one in Super Bowl LII. The 26-year-old receiver is not considering retirement and still wants to return this season (Instagram link).
  • Josh Gordon‘s Seahawks debut is likely set for Monday night. Despite being on the Patriots’ IR list to start last week, Gordon was not listed on the Seahawks’ injury report. Pete Carroll said there’s a “good chance” the recent waiver pickup plays against the 49ers, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The former All-Pro played in six Patriots games, catching 20 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown.

49ers’ Kwon Alexander Done For Year

That’s a wrap on Kwon Alexander‘s season. The 49ers linebacker will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

Earlier today, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that he was nervous about the MRI. After doctors reviewed the scans, they confirmed his (and Alexander’s) worst fears.

The Niners signed Alexander to a four-year, $54MM deal in March with $27MM guaranteed. Former Bucs star and current 49ers GM John Lynch was high on Alexander – perhaps a touch higher than other clubs this offseason – but things haven’t gone according to plan in the 25-year-old’s first season with SF. After missing 14 games between 2017 and 2018, he’ll miss the second half of the ’19 campaign, plus the playoffs.

Through eight games, Alexander rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 ranked linebacker in the NFL (though, PFF’s metrics have never been high on his work). At the time of his season-ending ACL tear in 2018, PFF had him as the 53rd-ranked LB in the league.

On the plus side – Shanahan believes that tight end George Kittle’s knee injury is a short-term issue. Also, the 49ers are 8-0 – that also helps to ease the pain of losing one of their defensive starters.

The 49ers topped the Cardinals on Thursday night to keep their undefeated streak going. On Monday Nov. 11, they’ll return to action to face another division rival when they take on the Seahawks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rosen, Kittle, Newton

Amidst a deluge of trade speculation concerning second-year QB Josh Rosen, the Cardinals opted against making Rosen available to the media last week. But Rosen himself spoke to SI.TV (video link) about his uncertain status with the club, and while he did not disparage Arizona, he certainly sounded frustrated. He said, “I definitely understand the situation. I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions. . . . Whatever decisions are made, it’s my duty to prove them right if they keep me, and prove them wrong if they ship me off” (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Now for more from around the NFC:

  • Regardless of who the Cardinals‘ QB is in 2019, RB David Johnson will be getting a ton of touches, both in terms of carries and as a receiver. Johnson said (via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic), “[m]y role this upcoming season, from talking to the coaches, is that I’m going to hopefully get the ball a little bit more.” New head coach Kliff Kingsbury recently said he will build his offense around Johnson, who will be asked to earn every penny of the big-money extension he inked last September. Assuming he can remain healthy, Johnson should be able to tally at least 1,800 all-purpose yards.
  • 49ers tight end George Kittle posted a whopping 1,377 receiving yards last year, and as Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required) writes, Kittle recorded 797 of those yards while injured. Barrows reports that Kittle suffered fractured cartilage in his rib cage early in the team’s Week 9 win over the Raiders, and that he wore two large rib protectors for the rest of the season. It sounds as if Kittle is (or will be) fully-recovered, and he is prepared to build on his monster 2018 campaign.
  • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said QB Cam Newton has gotten a lot of his range of motion back, and while Newton hasn’t resumed throwing yet, that time is coming (via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer). However, Rivera stopped shy of giving a timetable for Newton’s return.
  • As Rodrigue writes, the Panthers have been taking a look at this year’s collegiate passers, which has sparked some concern about Newton’s status. But Rivera and GM Marty Hurney downplayed the meaning of their QB scouting, and Rivera said, “I don’t think we’ve spent any more time on quarterbacks (this year) than we have in the past.” Rodrigue says the club remains optimistic about Newton’s progress, and while the Panthers could select a quarterback if the right player falls to them, they are not going to reach for one, and they are going to keep their focus on reviving the pass rush and bolstering the O-line.
  • Yesterday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed that the club will be exercising Ezekiel Elliott‘s fifth-year option, and as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Jones also said that he will “obviously” be looking for a strong backup for Elliott. Rod Smith was the team’s No. 2 RB last year, but he is still a free agent, and it sounds as though Dallas wants an upgrade. The Cowboys are unlikely to invest a high-level draft choice on an RB given that Elliott will get the lion’s share of the touches, but a quality Day 3 prospect could be in the mix.

NFC Notes: Lions, Vikings, Bucs, Kelley

With more teams debuting their preseasons Friday night, here’s the latest out of the NFC, beginning with one of the teams that indeed begins its 2018 run tonight.

  • A fourth-round pick two years ago, Miles Killebrew may be moving to a different position in order to increase his chances of making the Lions‘ 53-man roster. The third-year safety’s been working exclusively as a linebacker in practice as of late, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Killebrew started three games at safety for the Lions last season, but Birkett adds that the Southern Utah product was working as the fifth safety during camp in a unit that’s now including former full-time cornerback Quandre Diggs. Rookie Tracy Walker was also running ahead of Killebrew.
  • Nick Easton‘s season-ending injury now has the Vikings down three starters, with Pat Elflein still on the PUP list and Mike Remmers also sidelined. Tom Compton is the favorite to fill in for Easton at left guard, and ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin notes the Vikings were eyeing the former Redskins and Bears blocker in the past prior to signing him this offseason. Compton, though, has only made 16 starts in six seasons. The Vikings are likely to keep Compton at guard rather than have him also work at tackle, Mike Zimmer said. Second-year man Danny Isidora looks to the the top insurance option at the other guard spot in case Remmers, down with an ankle injury presently, doesn’t return soon, per Cronin. A fourth-year UDFA out of Portland State, Cornelius Edison is currently working as Minnesota’s first-team center in Elflein’s absence.
  • The Buccaneers will be without Vernon Hargreaves for a bit, potentially the rest of the preseason, with a groin injury. Dirk Koetter, however, doesn’t expect the former first-round pick to miss any regular-season time because of this malady (Twitter link, via the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud).
  • The 49ers will be dealing with similar timelines involving key personnel. Likely tight end starter George Kittle and No. 2 running back Matt Breida suffered separated shoulders in San Francisco’s preseason opener Thursday night, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Both will miss the remainder of the preseason calendar. Kyle Shanahan said the earliest either will return is Week 1.
  • Derrius Guice‘s ACL tear deprives the Redskins of a potential impact player being part of their 2018 offense, and they will likely turn to former starter Rob Kelley in his place, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington writes. He expects Samaje Perine, who was in danger of not making the roster prior to Guice’s injury, to work in off the bench on early downs. Tandler adds the Redskins could go after a veteran back, and while many are available, it’s not certain the team will move in that direction just yet. Kelley rushed for 704 yards (4.2 per carry) in 2016, a season that featured him start down the stretch, but gained just 194 last year (3.1 per tote) in seven games as Washington’s starter.

49ers Sign Five Draft Picks, 16 UDFAs

The 49ers are making quick work of their 2017 draft class, as the club announced today that they’ve signed defensive back Adrian Colbert, defensive lineman D.J. Jones, tight end George Kittle, defensive lineman Pita Taumoepenu, and wide receiver Trent Taylor to rookie contracts. San Francisco also confirmed the previously-reported signing of fourth-round running back Joe Williams.

Additionally, the 49ers have announced the signing of 16 undrafted college free agents: