Thursday, June 10, 2021

No More Tears

 written by, Mood

It appears that the Niners players in the ShanaLynch regime are having an unusually high incidence of soft tissue injuries.

The mechanism is clear -- Newton's laws and limits to tensile strength and flexural rigidity of tendons and ligaments. It's known that repetitive use, combined with overuse and microtrauma, may cause a progressive attrition of tendons. Wilson's meniscus did not rupture from standing up in the training room. His transferring his weight to his legs that involved a damaged meniscus was likely the final straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.


If the answer was simple as better stretching, training and equipment, sports science would have had a clear answer by now. On the contrary, every major study has shown that stretching does not reduce injuries:

Strength training, etc., can strengthen tendons and ligaments to a limited degree but 200+lb men moving at 4.4 speed creates huge stresses. No health and training staff can help prevent such injuries because they cannot change the laws of physics. As the sports doctor David Chao has stated, it's easy to blame medical but many factors in injury from player selection, pre-existing injury, style of play, scheme, fatigue, playing conditions and of course bad luck are in play.

I've an unproven hypothesis in this regard. The root cause of this problem may be the kind of players ShanaLynch has recruited. They have placed a premium on creating a team of large, powerful players who play very fast. Such players, whether in contact or non-contact situations, place excessive stresses on their ligaments and tendons when they change directions sharply because of the massive accelerations involved for such large masses, which in turn imposes very large forces (and thus, large stresses) on the tendons and ligaments. Either players have to be large and slow, or small and fast, to reduce these stresses that may otherwise cause the tears.

However, I should clarify that I am not referring to the straight-line speed of large humans like Seattle's Metcalfe. I'm also strictly discussing soft tissue injuries, not bone injuries and concussions.

Instead I am referring to large humans changing directions sharply at medium to high speeds that put large torques on all musculoskeletal parts of the body, including the tendons and ligaments.

These sharp lateral movements causing high accelerations and high rotational stresses are more frequent in zone running schemes and in the Niners’ defensive philosophy of "all gas no brakes".

Consider the Wide 9 rush vs. the bull rush. In the wide 9, the rusher (Bosa, Ford) is running in a curve to avoid the tackle on the way to the QB -- constantly changing direction while traveling at high speeds (to cover greater distance to QB). Thus the rusher  in wide 9 rush is acceleration at all points during the rush over longer distances putting extra rotational load on their tendons and ligaments compared to DEs coming off stunts where movements are in smaller spaces and the changes of direction are happening at lower speeds.

Also consider how the safety play has changed from the Lott - Lynch approach through visualizing running violently through the players, to the Tartt - Moore sideline-to-sideline mobility and running around defenders. These motions involve high rotational acceleration motions that may slowly wear down and degrade tendons and ligaments unless there is enough opportunity for rejuvenation.


It would be an interesting idea to look for correlations. For example, calculate a relevant metric for each player, e.g., ratio of weight to the product of 20 yard short-shuttle time and three-cone times.
Risk = weight / (short-shuttle time X three-cone time)
A larger number means higher risk of injury. Now take the average over the entire 53 and plot against such injuries per season.

These are just idle speculations. However, I expect that we will learn more about these injuries and their causes over the next several years leveraging machine learning techniques on MRI images that may be able to spot changing morphology of these soft tissues and detect damage to the tissues resulting from regular play so that there may be interventions possible before such catastrophic events as tears.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Examining the fit: Tony Jefferson

By Scooter_McG 

On Monday, the team announced they had come to terms with FA safety Tony Jefferson on a one year deal. Jefferson had visited with the team earlier in the offseason, and at the time of the signing this appeared to be just a case of adding another low risk, potentially high reward type player, or maybe getting a veteran familiar with the system in case they needed to sign someone during the season. 

However, the reasoning and timing behind the signing came into more focus as news broke that Tavarius Moore tore his Achilles at Monday's practice, and will now be out for the season. While it has not been confirmed by the team, it would appear that Moore's injury was the impetus for signing Jefferson. Moore had bulked up this offseason to provide cover at both safety positions, and with Tartt missing practice as he recovers from offseason surgery, Moore had been the starting strong safety in practices to date. And according to reports Moore was looking good in the early going. Moore had been mentioned as a player the team had hopes for making a jump in 2021.  

Tartt has missed a lot of time throughout his NFL career, making a solid backup safety a necessity. In past seasons when Tartt has gone down the replacements have been exposed to some degree. The team was counting on Moore stepping into the third safety role, and his loss leaves a big hole for the team behind Ward and Tartt.

The addition of Jefferson has the potential to provide a quality replacement, and at worst will provide a respected veteran voice to the locker room during the offseason practices and a savvy player to the competition at backup safety.  

Tony Jefferson had a strong college career at safety for the Sooners, making an immediate contribution on his way to earning All-Freshman honours and displaying true playmaking skills over his three years of college football. He decided to forego his senior season and enter the draft in 2013, and prior to the combine was widely considered one of the top safeties in the draft. However, despite his film indicating a player with the range and intelligence to play any safety role, a 4.75s 40 time tanked his draft stock and he would ultimately sign as an UDFA with the Cardinals. 

He played all 16 games as a rookie in 2013, primarily in a backup role, but worked his way into the starting lineup from 2014 onwards in the Cardinals DB-heavy defensive scheme under first Todd Bowles and then James Bettcher in 2015 and 2016 (who is now the 49ers Senior Defensive Assistant)

His play for the Cardinals made him a prized free agent after the 2016 season, with the Ravens winning the race to sign him in 2017 and making him the sixth highest paid safety in the NFL at the time. However, while he was a respected leader and locker room presence, his level of play took a step back while at the Ravens as he struggled with inconsistency and mental lapses, and he was released by the Ravens at the end of the 2019 season after suffering a torn ACL early in the season.

Jefferson hasn't played in the NFL since that knee injury, and was unsigned throughout 2020. So it is unclear how much Jefferson has left in the tank, though at only 29 years old he should have plenty left to give so long as his knee holds up.

Bringing in Jefferson is likely in part due to the presence and recommendation of his old Defensive Coordinator at the Cardinals, James Bettcher. Bettcher will be very familiar with what Jefferson brings to a team both on and off the field, and knows how to get the best out of him. 

This move has no real downside, while having the potential to add a high level starting calibre player to the defensive backfield. It is the ultimate low risk, potentially high reward signing at a position that needed bolstering following the season-ending injury to Moore.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Injury Party

 #49ers have canceled today's OTA practice, and added 2 depth pieces to the injury party. It would have been 8th of 9 (NFL max is 10) before next week's mandatory minicamp.

This comes in wake of yesterday's injuries (plus earlier ones in OTAs). Instead will do a team-building activity (presumably a no-risk one)
Cam Inman
#49ers lose Tarvarius Moore to torn Achilles, Justin Skule to torn ACL via @mercnews

   Coleman's chances to make the roster have increased, as well as Tavon Wilson's.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Jefferson Airplane


Former Ravens’ safety

Tony Jefferson, who hasn’t played since he tore his ACL in 2019, is coming back and signing with the San Francisco 49ers, per source.

Played for Bettcher so he's his camp body. Doubt he makes the roster.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Examining the fit: Andy Jones and MyCole Pruitt

By Scooter_McG

The 49ers have been linked to and brought in a bunch of WRs over the past few weeks. First, according to rumours, they wanted to trade for DaeSean Hamilton prior to news breaking that he tore his ACL working out. Then they tried out and subsequently signed Marqise Lee, but he lasted less than a week before getting injured. Following Lee's release, the team brought in journeyman Bennie Fowler. And the team has consistently been linked to Julio Jones. The team also recently added a different WR named Jones - 6'1", 217lbs WR Andy Jones who most recently saw NFL action for the Lions in 2018. 

Andy Jones was initially signed as an UDFA by the Cowboys in 2016, and spent the year on the practice squad. He bounced around with a few teams in 2017 - after being released by the Cowboys during training camp he spent time with the Texans and Lions, playing in 3 games but not recording any catches. In 2018 Jones stuck with the Lions, finishing the season with 11 catches for 80 yards and a TD, but was on the move again in 2019 spending most of the year bouncing on and off the Dolphins practice squad. 

So the question is, what are the 49ers looking for at WR, and how does Andy Jones fit? As best I can tell there are really two main components to the 49ers search for a WR. First, the 49ers have been in the market for a WR that could step in and compete for the 3rd WR role. This is why they had interest in Hamilton, and why they signed Lee. Second, the 49ers have been hit by injury (mostly minor) at WR to start their offseason program, with five of their top guys not practicing (Samuel, Aiyuk, Hurd, Benjamin and James), which has created a need for camp bodies. This is the group the likes of Fowler and Jones fall into. Don't expect either player to make the roster this year, and I'd even venture to say they may not even make it to training camp if the WR group is mostly healthy. 

There is of course a third component to this, which is the rumoured interest in Julio Jones. Adding Julio for mine would fall into a similar category as the first group, with the team looking at options for a third WR. Not that Jones would be the third WR, he would push one of Aiyuk or Samuel into that role, but it is a similar principle whereby the team is looking to add reliable depth to the WR group to insulate them from injury and (especially in the case of adding Jones) give the passing game an additional weapon.

In addition to adding WRs, the 49ers tried out former Titans TEs MyCole Pruitt and Delanie Walker. Walker is the bigger name, who after starting his career with the 49ers as the number 2 TE behind Vernon Davis, became one of the top TEs in the NFL during his career with the Titans. However, Walker is soon to turn 37, skipped last season and has struggled with injuries the two seasons before that, and a 49ers reunion did not materialise (at least not yet). 

Instead, the 49ers opted to sign Pruitt. Pruitt was an NFL Combine star in 2015, finishing in the top group in most athletic testing including a 4.58s 40 time and 38" vertical jump. However, after being a fifth round selection of the Vikings, he struggled to work his way into much meaningful playing time between 2015 and 2017 as he bounced around the Vikings, Bears and Texans. In 2018 he was signed by the Titans and developed into a solid blocking TE, and despite limited production as a catcher he earned offensive snap shares of 20%, 44% and 24% the past three seasons (while also being a core STs players). 

The addition of Pruitt is an interesting one. After last season it would have appeared the more natural fit would have been for a receiving TE that can replace Jordan Reed and potentially fill in for Kittle if he goes down with injury. 

Instead, the addition of Pruitt would appear to signify the team is looking for more help in the running game. Pruitt has been one of the better run blocking TEs in the NFL over the past three seasons, helping pave the way for Derrick Henry at the Titans in Arthur Smith's run heavy, zone offense. There are in fact a lot of similarities between Arthur Smith's offense and the 49ers offense, something that was noted during the lead up to Trey Lance's pro days as they incorporated concepts from both the 49ers and Falcons (where Smith is now the head coach). 

The addition of Pruitt will likely put pressure on Charlie Woerner to perform. The 49ers TEs struggled in run blocking in 2020 after Kittle went down injured and following Levine Toilolo's departure after the 2019 season. Pruitt will likely compete with Woerner for that blocking TE role that Toilolo filled in the highly successful 49ers run to the Super Bowl. 

This isn't necessarily an indication the 49ers are losing faith in Woerner. It is more likely an indication that the team has identified a need to emphasise getting the running game back to its 2019 level, which was punctuated by the additions of Alex Mack, Aaron Banks, Jaylon Moore, Trey Sermon, Elijah Mitchell and Wayne Gallman. Before signing Pruitt the 49ers options for that blocking TE role were Woerner and Daniel Helm (who was waived to make room for Pruitt), neither of which have proven themselves at the NFL level. The addition of Pruitt provides a proven blocking specialist that can push Woerner and provide a security blanket if Woerner is unable to win that role. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

What To Expect: DeMeco Ryans Edition

 Earlier in the year I commented on the belief that, Ryans will blitz more often and from all over the field in conjunction with the end of last years trend towards more man coverages. After adding James Bettcher to the staff, signing Verrett and drafting predominantly man coverage cornerbacks, Ryans has recently expressed his interest in being more aggressive defensively. “You will see some similarities there, but you will see some wrinkles,” Ryans said. “You will see my brand of football on it … We’re going to let our defensive line get off the ball and attack, and we’re going to clean up things behind. But we will be a more aggressive, attacking defense.” According to player reports, Ryans attempted to simplify the defense last year, and apparently has made this years version even simpler. I'm expecting Greenlaw, Warner, Tartt and the Shark to all get more opportunities behind that defensive line to blitz the quarterback, along with an obvious player like the recently signed, R-Ebukam who I believe will fill the void left by the Ford, which has yet to get out of the garage and onto the field. Samson should finish the regular season with at least 8 sacks under Kocurek's and Tapp's aggressive nature.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Coming And Going

 The 49ers have made some moves. They've released, Josh Johnson and Daniel Helm, and signed wide receiver, Andy Jones. Here are his pro day results:

Dates: 04/01/16 03/22/16@Florida
Height: 6012
Weight: 217
40 Yrd Dash: 4.55
20 Yrd Dash: 2.56
10 Yrd Dash: 1.51

225 Lb. Bench Reps: 11
Vertical Jump: 41 1/2
Broad Jump: 11’01”
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.35
3-Cone Drill: 6.97

The 49ers are scheduled to workout Delanie Walker this Wednesday. 

Maybe, Josh Rosen is breathing a sigh of relief right now.

No More Tears

 written by,  Mood It appears that the Niners players in the ShanaLynch regime are having an unusually high incidence of soft tissue injurie...