San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams: Chris Biderman’s five players to watch
Kyle Shanahan all but closed the book on Tom Savage overtaking former practice squad player Nick Mullens to become the 49ers’ backup quarterback.
“He just got here and by no means are we trying to have a number two quarterback competition battle right now,” Shanahan said. “We’re trying to get our starters ready to play, continue to prepare our backups in case something does happen and if that does ever happen, we’ll deal with it then.”
San Francisco signed Savage on Tuesday, giving the team a third quarterback for the first time since starter Jimmy Garoppolo went down Sept. 23 with a season-ending knee injury. Savage has started nine games after the Texans made him a fourth-round draft pick in 2014. He spent the offseason with the Saints and was brought in because he has run similar schemes to San Francisco’s during his pro career, Shanahan said.
Savage has the clear edge in experience over Mullens, who has yet to appear in a regular season game after going undrafted in 2017 out of Southern Mississippi. He spent all of his rookie campaign on the practice squad and was elevated from there last month following Garoppolo’s injury.
“One guy (Mullens) knows our offense and knows how to line people up and has played in it and has done a lot of good things, our team has confidence in him,” Shanahan said. “Another guy (Savage) just got here last night and is just trying to learn what the words mean. He has ability. He’s a guy that I’ve always been impressed with his ability.”
Shanahan said the decision ultimately comes down to practice reps. And with C.J. Beathard needing as much work with the starters as possible, Shanahan isn’t willing to work in both Mullens and Savage into drills to facilitate a competition.
“The only reps the backup spot gets in the NFL is the scout team cards,” said Shanahan. “So, we’ll give (Savage) some scout team cards to let him get some work and stuff. But, in order to have the guys compete to be a backup player, that means I’d have to give both of them reps over our starting quarterback and that’s not something anyone would ever do at this time of year.”
Receivers return to practice – The 49ers got some good news regarding two of their prominent receivers, Dante Pettis (knee) and Trent Taylor (back). Both participated in the team’s Wednesday walk through and would have participated in a normal practice, the team said, but the schedule was switched due to the short week following the Monday night game.
Taylor missed last week due to pain in his back following offseason surgery. His absence against the Packers came after a career-high seven-catch performance the previous week against the Cardinals, which included his first touchdown of the season.
Pettis has been out since his knee injury during a punt return Sept. 30 against the Chargers. The recent second-round draft pick has just three catches (on seven targets) for 96 yards and a touchdown in four games this season.
Cornerbacks down – Three cornerbacks, Jimmie Ward (hamstring), Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion) and K’Waun Williams (shoulder), did not participate in Wednesday’s walk through.
Ward was injured in the fourth quarter against the Packers, forcing reserve Greg Mabin into the game. He was victimized by quarterback Aaron Rodgers multiple times late, including on the game-tying touchdown pass to Davante Adams.
Williams, the team’s top slot corner, would be backed up by rookie fifth-round draft pick D.J. Reed should he miss time. However, the 49ers may be catching a break Sunday because Rams slot receiver Cooper Kupp has been ruled out after suffering a leg injury Sunday against the Broncos.
Witherspoon, who assumed a starting job last season, didn’t play a snap on defense in Green Bay and was demoted in favor of Ward. He sustained his head injury on Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal attempt as time expired.
Practice window opened – Rookie safety Marcell Harris, a sixth-round pick from Florida, had his practice window opened Wednesday. He started the season on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in August. He missed his final season at Florida due to an Achilles tear.
The earliest Harris can be added to the 53-man roster is for Week 9 against the Raiders on Thursday night football. He will revert to injured reserve if he’s not activated the following week against the Giants.
Practice squad moves – The 49ers added tight end Cole Wick and defensive end Ryan Delaire to the practice squad. Both were on the roster last week and released before the Packers game.