While Shayne Skov's NFL career got off to a rather unclear start -- reports had the Stanford linebacker agreeing to join the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent last year before actually inking with the San Francisco 49ers -- things are starting to come into focus for him.
Like this: Not only is Skov, who spent last season on not only the Niners’ practice squad but also the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’, a good bet to make the 49ers’ initial 53-man roster, he is one bad hit on NaVorro Bowman’s rebuilt left knee away from potentially being a starter in the NFL.
“I wasn’t drafted,” Skov said Tuesday. “I think I’ll be battling until the day my career is over. You have to have that mentality, whether you’re drafted or not, actually, in this league to stick around.
“Every year is a new challenge and they’re always looking for your replacement. I’m fighting, scratching and clawing, but so is every other guy in that room. I mean, there’s 90 of us, and there will be 53 soon enough.”
Skov, who was waived by the Niners twice and the Buccaneers once last year, started in place of Bowman in the Niners’ exhibition-opening loss at the Houston Texans last Saturday when the team decided to give the veteran the day off on NRG Stadium’s uneven grass playing surface. So, yeah, all of a sudden Skov is the next man up.
And when veteran Desmond Bishop went down with a calf injury in the second half, Skov returned to the game. His 66 snaps led all players.
“[Shayne] ran the defense really well,” defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said . “He’s a very, very smart guy, does a great job with adjustments. Very rarely do you have to coach Shayne twice on the same mistake. He sees it, he understands what the coaching point is and, typically, it doesn’t happen again.
“And he’s getting a lot of playing time, which is great for him and great for us to see where he’s going and where he is at this point.”
While Mangini is employing the same 3-4 defensive scheme used by departed Niners D-coordinator Vic Fangio, Mangini will use more blitzing.
“As a linebacker you want to be active, whether it’s in coverage or blitzing,” Skov said. “But obviously, I think we want to have an aggressive mentality, so being able to be on the attacking end from the get-go is fun. But we’ll play whatever Coach calls.”
Against the Texans, Skov’s eight tackles were the second most in the game, behind fellow inside linebacker Nick Moody’s nine stops.
Not bad for a guy who had not started in a game since Stanford’s Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State on Jan. 1, 2014.
“I wasn’t as sore as I expected to be, but I was pretty darn tired on the flight back,” Skov said. “Eighteen months since I had played that many snaps in a game, but it was fun. I had a blast out there.”