The San Francisco 49ers have completed two weeks of training camp and there has been much improvement by several players. There have also been some players that could get pushed out of the 53 if they don't start to stand out. Thankfully for players on the cusp, they have more time to show why they should stay on the roster than they used to. We’ve chosen a few winners and losers after the first two weeks.
Matt Breida, Joe Williams
At first, the stand out running back during the offseason was, hands down, Matt Breida. He has a great motor that you can’t miss when you see him practice. He has made it very clear that he finishes plays with full effort. Those qualities weren’t quite as evident with Joe Williams who recently admitted that he began the offseason not in the best football shape. Head coach Kyle Shanahan just recently mentioned that he is impressed with the way Williams has been practicing and it seems his stock is on the rise. It’s going to be a tough choice if the staff has to choose between these two running backs.
There was some reservation among the fan base about the acquisition of Hoyer as the man to lead this team. Every day, he seems to prove himself worthy. He knows the system and has practiced consistently, throwing very few interceptions throughout the first two weeks. There haven’t been any passes where you hear, “Where/who was that going to,” which is what we kind of got used to seeing. Hoyer could be just what the doctor ordered for Santa Clara.
After OTAs the hot name on the rookie list was tight end George Kittle. He was everywhere, even getting snaps with the 1s. With Kittle sidelined with a hamstring injury, Taylor has taken his place in roster conversations. He is everywhere, making catches worthy of a highlight reel. Fellow wide receiver Aldrick Robinson has already nick named him “Toe Tap Taylor.” If things continue the way they are now, Taylor could see some significant playing time.
It was incredibly unfortunate to lose Malcolm Smith for the season but we all know the saying, “Next Man Up.” Foster will have to earn it, and I think he will. While he has made a few errors during camp, as a rookie will do, he has also made incredibly good plays as well. While I do think that the staff is smart enough to not through him into the fire, letting Ray-Ray Armstrong rotate with the rookie, I think Foster will eventually show what a steal he was as a late first round pick.
The defensive line
The position group took a blow when DeForest Buckner went down with an ankle injury, but things are looking good for the lineman who dressed for the open practice and participated in individual drills. This group is substantially tall and talented. Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil are providing the leadership and mentoring that the young players need to reach their potential.
The new regime
I know it’s early yet but this regime is doing everything in it’s power to bring a better product to the field and rebuild the relationship with the fanbase. It’s the most promising group of rookies the organization has seen in a while and they are already producing. Gone is team ACL, and hoping that a player can produce in a year or two. The organization knows it needs to win now, as well as in the future. The open practice was a success with over 25,000 fans in attendance, all who received free food and beverages and an opportunity for autographs from their favorite players.
While Hoyer has been cool as ice running the offense, Barkley has been more challenged. He has had interceptions and errant throws. While he is learning a new offense, or at least verbiage, he is in his fifth year in the league. Rookie C.J. Beathard seems to have adjusted at about the same speed which does not make a good case for Barkley to maintain a position as the solid QB2.
Vance McDonald, Blake Bell, Garrett Celek
While these three haven’t done anything to lose their spot on the roster, they haven't done much to make an outstanding case for it either. Kyle Juszczyk was a big signing for the new regime and is a lock on the roster, working in both the running back and tight end rooms. Cole Hikutini has been starting to flash in Kittle’s absence making the competition at TE very interesting, especially if Kittle returns and produces like he did in OTAs.
As mentioned before, George Kittle being sidelined with a hamstring injury has not helped his case to be the standout rookie of the 49ers 2017 class. Prior to the injury he was on everyone’s watch list for a very premature rookie of the year, already getting snaps with the 1s and catching everything that came his way. He could easily come off the losers list with a good bill of health and similar production to what he did in OTAs.
Eli Harold looked like he was ready to make an impact in his new role on the defense when he was sidelined with a concussion. He is listed out indefinitely, which keeps him from getting valuable snaps with the defense. I watched him work out in Hawaii and at his lighter weight, looked leaner and faster. This injury is very unfortunate for the third year player out of Virginia.
Jaquiski Tartt was primed to make an impression with Jimmie Ward spending training camp on the PUP list. Unfortunately, Tartt’s rib injury has opened the door for rookie Lorenzo Jerome and Vinnie Sunseri to show what they can do. Tartt is listed as day to day so his could stock could still rise.
These are still early designations and there’s a lot of training camp and the full preseason to go. Practice resumes on August 7th at 11:15 am. They will go back to their usual 10:15 time start on Tuesday the 8th.