Richburg and the Jet: 49ers Upgrade Offense and Get Their Men

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The San Francisco 49ers are a better team today than they were Monday after signing center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon March 14, something that both the GM and the head coach were very clear about.

“…[U]ltimately these were the top two guys on our priority list, so to land them, that’s pretty special for us,” general manager John Lynch said.

For two of the newest members of the 49ers, the move to Santa Clara is a special one as well.

“This is the opportunity that I’ve been waiting for, not just since I’ve been in the league, but since I’ve been playing football, period,” said McKinnon. “I’m just excited to be here, be a part of this team, and push myself to be the best I can when the season is ready to kick off. Push the guys at the same position to be the best. I’m excited to be here and I just can’t wait to get to work.”

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Richburg spent the first four years of his career with the New York Giants and Eli Manning, an organization and a quarterback from whom he learned a lot.

“I just spent four years with Eli and that was fantastic,” said Richburg. This is a little different. Eli’s like 30 years older than I am.”

He’s kidding but Richburg and Jimmy Garoppolo are the same age and at similar points in their careers, so it should make for good chemistry.

“Watching [the 49ers]from a distance last year, you could see there was excitement,” Richburg said. “Even when things weren’t going well, there was still excitement. Surrounded by some guys I talked to today talked about how it didn’t feel like they were losing games and then when Jimmy comes in and they go on that run, it just looked like there was a lot of great things ahead and that’s how I feel being here today, is excited about what’s in store for us and what we can do as an offense and then as a team together.”

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McKinnon is a versatile back who will do well in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He can run. He can catch. He can block, and that last one is an important one.

“This guy is violent,” said Shanahan. “…He’s one of the more physical backs I’ve seen. Running backs coach Bobby Turner is a study on how running backs work when the ball’s not in their hands, and McKinnon is not a liability there.”

It’s an area of his game that the Jet is proud of.

“It’s one of my strong points of my game,” McKinnon said. “It’s something I’ve worked hard on since I came into the league.”

With the Richburg signing, the 49ers traded center Daniel Kilgore to the Miami Dolphins, which was a little surprising as they had signed him to a three-year deal before the start of free agency. That being said, Richburg is an upgrade at the position, and no matter how difficult, football is a business.

“…[W]e see Dan as a center,” Shanahan said. “I think he does also. I don’t think that’d be fair to put him at guard. This situation with Dan was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through as a coach. I’ve got the utmost respect for Dan. I think he is a good player and he’s even a better person. That’s why this was so tough, but when we had the opportunity to add a center of Weston’s caliber and improve our interior like that, when we go into free agency and we watch all the O-Linemen and how can we improve this the most? I think we all personally felt that it was the top O-Lineman that we saw out of all the inside guys.”

Knowing that his new head coach sees center as such a vital position made the decision to sign with San Francisco a pretty seamless one.

“Well, that does mean a lot, and we spoke a little bit yesterday, and it became very evident how much he values the center position, and I want to be in a place where it’s understood how important that is,” said Richburg. “I think to some extent, everybody knows that. But he really expressed to me how important he thought it was, and that excites me because I think I’m a good center, and I want to be a great center, and I think I have the ability to do that here with the 49ers.”

The Garoppolo gang is coming together. Upgrade at center. Upgrade at running back. Pierre Garçon still hasn’t played with Jimmy G so that will be fun to watch. And Marquise Goodwin is extended and ready for action. Let the games begin.

  • The 49ers also added linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu to the roster today, signing the former Los Angeles Charger to a one-year deal.
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Tracy Sandler

Bleeding gold and staying Niner faithful, I bring you the latest news features & commentary on my beloved San Francisco 49ers.

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