SANTA CLARA – With little time to spare in the 49ers season, we finally have a win streak to examine in our weekly mailbag. On to the questions that poured in via Twitter and Instagram:
1. Why haven’t they tried playing Buckner as DE? I know he’s a force in the middle, but he’s quicker and more athletic than Armstead and Thomas. Basically a younger and more athletic version of Calais Campbell. (@D_morales85)
I posed this great question to DeForest Buckner a few weeks ago. His response surprised me. He sincerely wants to become a great interior lineman, first and foremost. Then he can show how dominant he can be elsewhere. The 49ers don’t have him rush around the edge. They rely on his interior presence, and it’s paid off with a career-high 11 sacks.
2. With Beathard a third-round pick, will the 49ers try to salvage him as a #2 or is that job Mullens’ to lose now? (@markb094)
Mullens won’t lose it in these final two games. But he will have to win it (again) come the offseason program, when the QB2 battle plays out while Jimmy Garoppolo eases back from knee reconstruction.
3. Why trade Mullens when we kept Young and Montana? Yes, Montana got traded eventually (@phreshetchef13)
I knew the Young-Montana dynamic, and all due respect, Garoppolo-Mullens is no Young-Montana. The 49ers definitely don’t have to trade Mullens. That potential, however, at least exists with three wins to his credit rather than none.
4. Do you think Mullens is playing better than Jimmy G did in the first three games this season? (@na7haniel7)
Yes, but that’s a reflection on the entire offense, with better pass protection, more reliable receiver routes and easier foes. Mullens has a 64.5 completion percentage; Garoppolo’s was 59.6. Mullens, in six starts, has been sacked 13 times, as many as Garoppolo in three games.
5. D.J. Reed or K’waun Williams? @grexx422
It’s kind of a trick question. Reed has impressed in his two starts at nickel back in place of Williams (knee), but that was against run-oriented opponents. Coaches adore Williams, and Reed must carry his strong finish into the offseason program to win the 2019 job.
6. With Breida’s lingering ankle injury and Jeff Wilson’s habitual fumbleitis, do you see the team looking outside for a third RB to finish out the year? (@49erFanZakAttak)
Nah. Breida “checked out fine” on Monday, Shanahan said, so he should be available Sunday against the Bears. Otherwise, Alfred Morris will be active, or Matt Dayes can get his first carries.
7. Do you believe the Niners could go to the Super Bowl in the next three seasons? (@xbxallen)
Yes, Heck, even the Browns will Super Bowl contenders in that span. What a country.
8. Is the end of this season similar to the end of last season? Ending on a good note? (@fyasko51)
Yes and no. Yes, they’re winning, but with a younger and less-proven cast. Each win feeds hope for next season.
9. How much cap space do we have heading into the offseason? (@j.volpe02)
Next year’s projected cap is $190 million. The 49ers currently have $35.8 million they can carry over to 2019, and, according to overthecap.com, they’re projected to have $65 million to spend on free agents and extensions (see: Buckner).
10. Now that the 49ers dropped to fourth overall, who do you see them drafting? (@mrbiz_bee22)
The next-best-pass-rusher-available after Joey Bosa, or trade it to a team that still might be able to take the draft’s first quarterback. As much as I like wide receiver N’Keal Harry, first-round receivers often go bust. A cornerback is reasonable at No. 4 if the 49ers want to get, ahem, Greedy (Williams, from LSU).