San Francisco 49ers

49ers practice report 11: The pecking order heading into Kansas City

Arik Armstead and the 49ers’ talented defensive line will get their first test Friday in Kansas City
Arik Armstead and the 49ers’ talented defensive line will get their first test Friday in Kansas City The Bee

And on the 11th day, they rested … kind of. Two days before their preseason opener the 49ers went through a pad-less, hit-less practice. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon had a notable interception in the end zone and C.J. Beathard continues to look sharp as his confidence grows. But the 49ers were going over looks they likely will see against the Chiefs on Friday and the session was not nearly as competitive as the eight fully padded ones that preceded it. It mostly was valuable in seeing the pecking order at various spots. Kyle Shanahan said he hopes his starters play one quarter in Kansas City.

Quarterback: Brian Hoyer is the starter against Kansas City, and Kyle Shanahan said Matt Barkley would be the next quarterback in the game ahead of Beathard. The situation may be reversed the following week against Denver as the two continue to compete for the No. 2 spot. Beathard took his practice repetitions before Barkley on Wednesday. If undrafted Nick Mullens gets into the game, it will be at the very end.

Running back: Carlos Hyde and Tim Hightower are one-two in the lineup. The others have been rotating among the second- and third-team groups. Matt Breida has been the most consistent of the bunch and has outshined fourth-round draft pick Joe Williams to date. "He’s got a chip on his shoulder, which you love." Shanahan said of the undrafted rookie. "He’s trying to prove himself every single day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a run play, a pass play, whether he’s in protection. The guy loves competing. He’s a talented guy on top of it and he’s a guy who you definitely can tell he’s giving it his all.”

Receiver: Pierre Garcon was given a veteran "rest" day Wednesday. It's hard to see Shanahan giving any players a night off Friday, although someone like Garcon -- a veteran, extremely steady in camp -- would be the exception. Marquise Goodwin and Jeremy Kerley are the other likely starters, although draft pick Trent Taylor has been far more prolific than Kerley in practices and is competing for the slot receiver role. Aldrick Robinson also has stood out. Coaches want to see one of the big-bodied receivers separate himself from the pack; none has done so so far.

Tight end. Rookie George Kittle aggravated the hamstring injury that bothered him early in training camp and won't play Friday. Logan Paulsen and Vance McDonald were with the first-string unit when it first took the field, although the starting composition likely will depend on what play the 49ers run. Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini and Blake Bell have been working with the second- and third-team groups.

Offensive line: The 49ers cut Jeremy Zuttah and said Joshua Garnett is having a knee procedure that will keep him out four to six weeks. That clarifies things a bit. The starters in Kansas City likely will be, from left to right: Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore, Brandon Fusco and Trent Brown. The second-team line: John Theus, John Flynn, Tim Barnes, Norman Price and Garry Gilliam. The third-team: Andrew Lauderdale, Price, Erik Magnuson, Richard Levy, Darrell Williams. There will be some mixing and matching. Both Kilgore and Barnes, for example, have been getting work at left guard as well as center. Williams has played a significant number of snaps at left tackle, too.

Defensive line: The starters are Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell and Tank Carradine. In nickel situations, Elvis Dumervil enters the game and Mitchell usually exits. Armstead slides to defensive tackle. Solomon Thomas plays Carradine's position with the second-team unit but could get worked into the starting mix, especially if the Chiefs have a long drive. Aaron Lynch, Quinton Dial, Chris Jones, D.J. Jones and Ronald Blair are jockeying for positions on the ultimate depth chart. D.J. Jones and fellow draft pick Pita Taumoepenu have been playing on the third-team line with Blair and undrafted Noble Nwachukwu.

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Inside linebacker: The question is whether Reuben Foster or Ray-Ray Armstrong starts at weak-side linebacker next to NaVorro Bowman. Like the Barkley-Beathard competition, whoever doesn't start in Preseason Game 1 could start against the Broncos next week. Foster is dealing with an ankle sprain that has sent him to the sideline in two training-camp practices. Brock Coyle (ribs) seems close to returning to the lineup. He is Bowman's top backup.

Strong-side linebacker: The three are: Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold and Dekoda Watson. Harold and Watson, who is valuable on special teams, may be competing for the same roster spot.

Cornerback: Dontae Johnson suffered a concussion Tuesday and his status for Friday is unknown. If he were healthy, he and Rashard Robinson would start. If he's not ready, it likely will be Robinson and Keith Reaser. In that scenario, Witherspoon and Will Davis are the second-string cornerbacks. K'Waun Williams continues to lead Will Redmond in the race to be the nickel cornerback. Redmond also has been getting some work on the outside with the third-team group.

Safety: Jaquiski Tartt had his most comprehensive practice since injuring his rib in the first week. He took some snaps with the first-string group at free safety with Eric Reid at strong safety. Lorenzo Jerome and Vinnie Sunseri also are options at free safety if the 49ers want to hold Tartt back on Friday. Chanceller James has been the second-team strong safety and Don Jones the third-string player.

From Wednesday's practice …

Beathard and Barkley have not gone deep nearly as much as Hoyer. Then again, they don't get to throw to Goodwin like Hoyer does. Beathard, however, had an on-the-money deep shot to rookie Victor Bolden that traveled nearly 50 yards. Bolden beat Davis and Sunseri but could not hold onto the pass. Beathard also threw a crisp crossing-route pass to receiver Tim Patrick in front of Sunseri.

Witherspoon's interception came while covering DeAndre Smelter on a throw from Barkley. It was encouraging to see from a rookie who has shown good coverage skills early but who needs to be more aggressive when the ball is in the air.

Seventh-round pick Adrian Colbert returned to practice after spraining his ankle Saturday. He's played both cornerback and safety in training camp. … Newcomer Asa Jackson made a nice play in wrenching the ball free of Kendrick Bourne. … The 49ers signed another inside linebacker, Sean Porter, to help them get through practices.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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