Scenes from 49ers training camp
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has made a habit out of spending extra time working with his receivers after practice throughout 49ers training camp. He decides which players to throw to based on what might have happened during that morning session – or if there was something in his notes that he wanted to hammer home after studying film.
“I think they’re tremendous,” Garoppolo said of his after-practice sessions. “It’s an opportunity when the coaches aren’t there for us to talk the same language (and) see the defense the same way. It’s good so that they know what I’m thinking and I know what they’re thinking, really.”
San Francisco’s receivers have been one of the most talked about groups since training camp began. The reasons are obvious. The team invested heavily in the position in the past two drafts, taking Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel in the past two second rounds, and using a third-round choice in April on converted wideout Jalen Hurd.
Realistically, the 49ers seem to have eight receivers capable of playing on an NFL roster in the fall, but coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t likely to keep more than six, given the constraints of the roster. He’s considering keeping three quarterbacks (after keeping two the past two years) and four halfbacks (after previously keeping just three). Spots on the 53-man roster are at a premium.
Shanahan is waiting on receivers to distinguish themselves and grab hold of their roster spots, which hasn’t yet happened while the 49ers’ defense has mostly outplayed the offense throughout training camp.
The usually-blunt Shanahan took his receivers to task after Tuesday’s practice, which featured some dropped passes in the end zone and a mishandled throw that led to Garoppolo’s first interception of training camp.
“There’s a number of guys out there and we need that group to step up,” Shanahan said. “We have some ability in that group, but the consistency isn’t there. Of course with rookies, but also the vets too. I’m expecting all those guys to do better and they all need to pick it up.”
Garoppolo’s post-practice sessions are a good way to improve chemistry, which might be difficult to build during practice. The receivers, more than any other position, rotate with the first, second and third strings throughout.
Pettis, who should be the favorite to lead the receivers in snaps played in 2019, has worked as often with Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard as he has Garoppolo, which can be a challenge the franchise quarterback.
“I think just getting the timing down with each guy. When you’re in the huddle, you have to see who you’re with,” Garoppolo said. “If you’re calling an individual route, you’ve got to see who’s on that individual route. Things can get jumbled and mixed up a little bit, but that’s what training camp is for. Injuries are going to happen throughout the season, so you’ve got to be able to react to that stuff.”
The locks to make the team appear to be Pettis, Samuel, Hurd and Taylor, with Kendrick Bourne and Marquise Goodwin needing to play well to maintain their spots, while Jordan Matthews and Richie James Jr. have also shown their values at different portions of camp. Undrafted rookies Malik Henry and Shaun Poindexter are likely practice squad candidates. Chris Thompson was a late addition Aug. 3 and his practice reps have been limited.
“It’s a battle,” Garoppolo said. “There’s a lot of competition and that’s going to lead to better football and a better football team in us and so I love it. Quarterback room’s competitive, every room is, that’s the nature of the beast right now.”
The 49ers will open their preseason by hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, though it might not do much to crystallize the situation at receiver.
For one, Garoppolo isn’t going to play, and the 49ers are bent on keeping key players healthy in time for the regular season. More telling than preseason games might be the joint practices next week when San Francisco squares off against their former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who’s the first-year head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Garoppolo in the meantime will continue to work with his wideouts after practice.
49ers host Dwight Clark day
Wednesday was Aug. 7 (8/7), which the organization commemorated as Dwight Clark Day. Clark, of course, is known for making “The Catch” in the infamous NFC title game against the Cowboys played in Jan. 1982 that led to the 49ers’ first Super Bowl win.
Clark, 61, died in June of 2018 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
49ers coaches and staffers for the occasion wore special “87” shirts in Clark’s memory. Levi’s Stadium was adorned with Dwight Clark Day signs and the team made decorative bunting in the northeast end zone permanent to honor where Clark made “The Catch” at Candlestick Park.
The team’s “community corner” at practice was hosted by 30 alumni – many of whom played with Clark – who hosted 70 families impacted by ALS. There was also a private reception hosted in the team’s museum inside Levi’s Stadium.