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49ers to develop 4 rookie starters on defense

From FOX Sports - November 9, 2017

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)When the 49ers take the field Sunday against the Giants, they could have three defensive rookies starting who began the season as backups.

Thats just the way their 0-9 season has gone.

The youth movement in Kyle Shanahans first season as coach began on offense, with rookie C.J. Beathard taking over under center from Brian Hoyer.

That theme is continuing on the other side of the ball, starting with No. 3 pick Solomon Thomas at defensive end, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Adrian Colbert.

Along with promising linebacker Reuben Foster, whos expected to make his fourth career start, the rookie quartet will be given an opportunity to develop together as the rebuilding project unfolds in the second half.

You can never be afraid to play a young guy. Ever, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. Will you have lumps with them learning along the way? I do believe so.

Those lumps have led to the longest losing streak to begin a season in franchise history. But its been clear since the spring that this season was going to be about building for the future, which means allowing young players to find their footing with extensive playing time.

How can you get that young guy to play like a veteran? He has to play, Saleh said. The more they play, the quicker as a staff we can get those guys to play like veterans while theyre youthful. With all that speed and juice that they just got out of college, thats how you get those fast, explosive defenses that youve seen in this scheme.

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