Since July 25th, the San Francisco 49ers have been actively engaged in Training Camp and it hasn’t disappointed. There have been ups, downs, and most importantly, some players who have stepped up to make a strong push for a roster spot.
All eyes have been on Jimmy Garoppolo and he hasn’t flinched. Back in June, Garoppolo had some difficulty with the deep ball, especially when targeting Marquise Goodwin. Those struggles are over as he consistently completes long passes for touchdowns.
Garoppolo has been heaped with praise from his teammates on his growth from last year. Matt Breida said “watching him go in there with confidence, knowing what he’s doing, and understanding why he’s doing it, it’s just amazing.”
“Jimmy G” has been able to make several excellent throws to set up his wide receiver corps to make plays and they have done just that.
C.J. Beathard has also looked good and has the number two spot locked up.
This is a speedy group. Jerrick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Joe Williams all possess 4.41 speed and will be a nightmare for opposing defenses. While the running game will likely show more success than last year, it’s what these guys can do in the passing attack that are turning heads.
Both McKinnon and Breida will split time running the ball, but could see themselves in the lineup at the same time with McKinnon in the slot. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan loves speed and has several plays designed to get the running backs open out of the backfield. (see 2016 Atlanta Falcons)
Williams has an uphill climb. He has shown some promise, but with Raheem Mostert’s Special Teams ability, he will have to prove he belongs. Stay tuned.
The receiver corps is deep and there will be hard decisions to make for Shanahan and his staff. Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin can play both the X and Z. Dante Pettis has impressed in camp and could be a real X-Factor all over the field, including the red zone.
Slot Receiver Trent Taylor is healthy and will be in a position to improve even more over last year. With Garoppolo at quarterback, Taylor had a 141.0 Pro Football Focus rating, tops in the NFL during that period.
Kendrick Bourne, the undrafted standout from last year, is projected to make the team and have a big role.
It gets dicey after that as Aaron Burbridge is a special teams ace, Aldrick Robinson has a history with Shanahan, and rookie Richie James has been impressive in camp. This group will be fun to watch in the Preseason.
George Kittle and Garrett Celek are locks and look good. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk does a lot of work with this group and is an active part of the passing game. The best quote was from Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh when asked about the difficulty in covering tight ends in Shanahan’s scheme. He simply said, “Miserable”.
Joe Staley (LT), Weston Richburg (C) and rookie Mike McGlinchey (RT) are in. Guard Laken Tomlinson has shown promise at left guard. The issue is right guard. Joshua Garnett has knee issues again. Jonathan Cooper is inexperienced. Mike Person is the main third option. Someone needs to step up. Ideally, it’s Garnett.
Overall, this is a good unit. DeForest Buckner is a future Defensive Player of the Year. Earl Mitchell is a good tackle. Cassius Marsh and Jeremiah Attaochu are promising options at edge rusher.
D.J. Jones will make the roster and has had a good camp. Sheldon Day will likely get more playing time than Mitchell and have a big role.
Solomon Thomas has improved his pass rush skills during camp, according to his coaches. If Thomas is improved, the pass rush should be better.
Arik Armstead is the downside of this group. He cannot seem to stay healthy. If he doesn’t have a good year, he could be gone next year.
This is another stout group. Rookie Fred Warner may be a steal in the third round. Malcom Smith and Reuben Foster are ready to lead. If Eli Harold can turn into the player the 49ers thought they drafted, this will be a very strong group.
The defensive backs have looked good in camp. Ahkello Witherspoon has had a good camp overall. He has been beaten a few times, but someone has to win the battle and the receivers are also very good.
Adrian Colbert continues to look like a steal in the 7th round last year and has been a ball hawk in camp.
K’Waun Williams rolled his ankle, but that has opened things up for Tarvarius Moore and D.J. Reed, and both have taken advantage of those opportunities.
Jimmie Ward is close to being back, which will help his chances of making the team. He hasn’t had a strong camp, but he could make up for it with a strong preseason.
Richard Sherman has been eased back into the mix and did suffer a minor hamstring injury.
People are making too big of a deal about Sherman. He will be fine, but we won’t know anything until Week 1.
Overall, this unit is tight and getting better. There is no reason to think it will be any kind of liability in 2018, like it was in 2017.
It’s training camp. Teams will practice things they won’t normally practice and overreactions one way or another are commonplace.
The injuries are not significant, but there are a few players who will need to step up if they want to make the team.