Training camp is just about here! The San Francisco 49ers report on Wednesday and host their first practice session on Thursday. The team is heading into their biggest season in several years, with expectations this high for the first time since the Harbaugh years.
We are breaking down all the depth chart battles and getting you the nitty gritty of camp, but first I thought we would break down 49ers training camp in a simple manner. It does not get much simpler than the A-B-Cs, and so, we have created an A-to-Z guide of what to know for 49ers training camp. Our friends at Windy City Gridiron put one together last week, and no good idea on the Internet is going to go un-stolen!
These are not all-encompassing, so feel free to drop in your own suggestions!
A is for Jeremiah Attaochu
This offseason, the 49ers extended Cassius Marsh and signed Jeremiah Attaochu. I suspect their first round pick defensive tackles will be looked at to provide oomph to the pass rush, but Marsh and Attaochu are the x-factors in this group. Marsh showed some things after the 49ers claimed off waivers. Attaochu showed some things early in his career, but was buried behind Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram last year. A potential diamond in the rough? We’ll see how he works his way around the depth chart the next five weeks.
B is for Boy Band
The 49ers spent a first round pick on Mike McGlinchey, setting him up as a right tackle book-end to left tackle Joe Staley. McGlinchey could eventually replace Staley at left tackle, but that doesn’t seem to bother Joe. The two have hit it off thanks to an apparent shared affection for belting out lyrics. My favorite this offseason saw Staley and McGlinchey rocking out to Backstreet Boys at a karaoke bar. I can only imagine what other shenanigans the two will get into, but I eagerly await it.
C is for Catalina Wine Mixer
A year ago, the 49ers introduced their Brick-By-Brick web series that provided a behind-the-scenes look at camp and the preseason. They took a whole lot of mic’d up footage and naturally that provided some amusing moments. One of my favorite moments was when we learned just how much Kyle Shanahan enjoys the movie, Step Brothers. He repeatedly talked about the team’s DJ and the day being his Catalina Wine Mixer. The idea behind it is to not let the moment get too big for you. It’s ridiculous, but it shows Shanahan’s sense of humor and the way he works to motivate players. I imagine if we see Brick-By-Brick again this season, we might hear a Catalina Wine Mixer reference.
D is for DPOY
Buckner was the best player on defense last season, and thinks that if he can get that extra step in 2018, he could see a huge spike in his sack number. Teammates have taken to calling Buckner DPOY and if the pass rush can develop around him, this season could put Buckner on the national radar.
E is for Extreme Violence
49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is verbose when it comes to describing what he likes to see in his defense. Extreme violence is the phrase that pays for Saleh, so much so that he has given his players wristbands sporting the phrase. Jimmy G is getting the publicity, but this is a huge season for Saleh and the defense. It had its moments last season, but with further investment, how it performs this season could decide if this team will be contending in December.
F is for Flash
The 49ers decision to sign Marquise Goodwin (nickname: Flash) paid huge dividends last season. He led the team with 56 receptions and 962 yards, and earned a three-year contract extension this offseason. He and the rest of the receivers had a full offseason to work with Jimmy Garoppolo, but will Goodwin build on last year or regress with a larger contingent of solid pass catching options?
G is for Guards
Entering the offseason, both guard positions seemed up for grabs. However, Laken Tomlinson signed a contract extension that suggested he was the guy at left guard. Training camp brings a competition at right guard between Jonathan Cooper and Joshua Garnett. Regardless of who wins that competition, the play of the guards could be as important as anything on this offense. Big things are expected from left tackle Joe Staley and center Weston Richburg, but Tomlinson’s play could prove critical in making their lives easier. Meanwhile, the right guard will be playing next to rookie Mike McGlinchey. There will be plenty of questions on the right side until we see otherwise.
H is for The Hill
Kyle Shanahan had the team install a hill set at a 30 degree angle to provide rehab and conditioning work. The puke cans nearby were likely available because of that. Modern NFL players have plenty of opportunities to work out on their own, but we’re always wondering if any players will show up out of shape, or otherwise hurt themselves early in camp. Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen, but it will be something to watch this first week of camp.
I is for Injuries
The 49ers open camp on Wednesday with players reporting and taking physicals and conditioning tests. Richard Sherman, Don Jones, Chanceller James, Jonathan Cooper, Trent Taylor, and Marcell Harris among others, are the players to watch after they all missed some or all of on-field workouts this past spring. But even beyond that, a year ago, Jimmie Ward injured his hamstring during the conditioning test and ended up spending nearly a month on the list. Will there be another surprise injury this year, or can the team stay healthy heading into the regular season.
J is for Joint practice with Texans
The past couple seasons the 49ers held joint practices with the Denver Broncos. They don’t face Denver this year, so they swapped in a new practice series with the Houston Texans. The last time Pierre Garçon was involved in joint practices with Houston, he was playing for Washington and was part of a huge brawl to close out the final session.
K is for KSWOF
Dating back to 2009, Kory Sheets has been the guy we point to when an end of the roster has a huge preseason, only to be cut by the end of camp. It started with the craziest FanPost you’ll ever read, and since then it has become a regular feature. Every team around the league has one or two players who emerge in this vein, and we can guarantee you the 49ers will have one in 2018.
L is for John Lynch
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan enter their second training camp together, which means the second year of roster cuts. Last year was as much about changing the culture, while this year as about setting in the pieces to take this thing to the next level. The team still has question marks, but the roster is starting to get deeper. Roster cuts become a little more difficult, and the next challenge as John Lynch continues developing as a general manager.
M is for Paraag Marathe
Teams work with agents regularly even during the offseason, but training camp often brings an opportunity to get contract extensions done in quicker fashion. Jimmie Ward is the biggest name of the team’s free agents after this season, but I doubt is in a rush to sign him. However, special teamers Robbie Gould, Bradley Pinion, and Kyle Nelson are all entering the final season of their respective contracts. I would not be surprised to see at least one of them, if not all three get an extension during training camp.
N is for No-Fly Zone
The 49ers have overhauled the secondary, and they made their most high profile move to date with the signing of Richard Sherman. Even if he struggles to get back to his pre-injury form, Sherman has served as a mentor to the younger cornerbacks, most notably Ahkello Witherspoon. The 49ers entered the offseason with secondary questions, but suddenly this unit is looking to have considerable potential. Witherspoon could be in for a breakout season, and Jimmie Ward could serve in a super-sub role. Tarvarius Moore reportedly impressed in the offseason workout program as he moves from safety to corner, and Tarvarus McFadden has the potential to be a diamond in the rough. Add in D.J. Reed’s versatility, and this is a unit that could have people buzzing sooner rather than later.
O is for Open practices at camp
Since the organization first broke ground on Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers have limited the number of practices open to the public. They have done open practice at Kezar and Levi’s Stadium, but otherwise any training camp practice opportunities were limited to season ticket holders and sponsors. Last week, the team announced they will open up ten practices to the public. It’s a nice change from recent years.
P is for Punisher & Poptart
The 49ers will roll out a young secondary, and it will be held up on the back end by Adrian Colbert (nickname: The Punisher), and Jaquiski Tartt (occasional nickname: Pop-Tart). Colbert was the surprise of the 49ers 2017 draft class, entering the season as a seventh round pick looking to make a name for himself, and exiting the season as the team’s starting free safety. Tartt enters his fourth year as the team’s starting strong safety. He bounced around the starting lineup the first three seasons facing extensive competition along the way. He isn’t being handed anything, but he’s going to be the starting strong safety after signing a two-year contract extension this offseason. It’s going to be fun seeing the thumping these two lay on offensive players.
Q is for Quest for Six
The 49ers have moved on from the #QuestForSix social media campaign, but that’s what it comes down to. The team is moving from rebuilding to contention, and while they are just starting to approach playoff contention, Super Bowl contention is hopefully not far off. If they can get through a tough first quarter of the season with two or three wins, anything could be possible.
R is for Roster battles
It’s what we’re all here for! With something like 33 or so players locked in to roster spots, that leaves a sizable number of players competing for a roster spot, and plenty included in the locks competing for a starting role vs. reserve role. We’ll be updating the biggest roster competitions each week during camp and free agency.
S is for Social Media
In an ever-changing world, social media is where we get our instantaneous updates from practice during training camp. We’ll get instant analysis during and after practice. If a player gets hurt, we’ll find out on Twitter. If a player gets cut or signed, we’ll hear about it on social media. We’ll be updating plenty here at Niners Nation, but the various 49ers media and front office social media accounts will be critical to follow over the next five weeks.
T is for Twenty three and zero (23-0)
The start of training camp has most fanbases feeling some semblance of optimism. Some have more than others, but the NFL’s parity means most fanbases think they are either a solid favorite, or at least could surprise the rest of the league. The 49ers enter the season with high expectations, and fans are hoping for the best. It might not end in 23-0, but they’re undefeated for the time being!
U is for Uncle Sherm
DeForest Buckner and Reuben Foster might be two of the most important players on the 49ers defense, but Richard Sherman is quickly emerging as another valuable piece of the puzzle. He has embraced the mentor role for Ahkello Witherspoon and the other young cornerbacks, and regardless of how he looks coming off his Achilles tear, that alone could be worth whatever the 49ers end up paying him. But, we are also waiting to see how exactly he looks once the pads go on. He might open training camp on PUP, but whenever he gets back on the field, fans will be keeping a close eye on how or if he bounces back.
V is for Vance McDonald
You thought Vance McDonald was in the rear view mirror! A year ago on August 29th, the 49ers traded McDonald. There had been trade speculation during the draft, but a deal finally happened as final roster cuts approached. The 49ers still have roster holes, but they have some veteran talent they might look to deal to make room for some of their younger players. Some have speculated they could try and deal Arik Armstead at some point. That seems unlikely this year, but with him entering his fourth year and the team still holding a fifth year option in 2019, there is some value there. Jimmie Ward is playing out his fifth year option. It’s a pricey salary, but a team with cap space might like adding a veteran guy who can play both cornerback and safety. It’s unlikely, but a trade of some sort in August would not surprise me.
W is for Waterboy
Reuben Foster emerged in his rookie year as a smart, big hitting linebacker to lead the 49ers defense into the future. His performances earned him the nickname Waterboy, courtesy of Kyle Shanahan’s son. Foster had issues this offseason, eventually pleading no contest to a weapons possession charge and attending a first time offender’s diversion class following an arrest for marijuana possession. He is suspended the first two games of the regular season, but will be eligible to practice with the team during training camp and participate in preseason games. Health and staying out of trouble seem like the only two things that could keep Reuben Foster from being the next great 49ers linebacker.
X is for X-rated
A year ago this time, the 49ers had Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, and C.J. Beathard on their quarterback depth chart. A trade deadline deal brought them Jimmy Garoppolo and nothing has been the same since. He started the team’s final five games, and his performance in that five-game winning streak was pretty nasty. You might say so nasty one might call it almost X-rated. Jimmy G is the biggest storyline heading into training camp, and coming off a full offseason working with Kyle Shanahan means he could be the difference between making the playoffs and going home thinking about what could be next year.
Y is for Yankee
When the 49ers needed a deep shot last season, Kyle Shanahan dialed up the Yankee concept. Often. The play is emblematic of Shanahan’s play calling expertise. The routes take advantage of his receiving corps — Marquise Goodwin’s speed threatens deep while Pierre Garçon feasts over the middle on the crossing route. And it all starts with play action. The initial outside zone look brings the linebackers up just enough to make the intermediate throw easier for the quarterback. And of course, Shanahan has a complement to Yankee. Changing the deep post to a Blaze Out does just enough to keep defenses on their toes. With the team entering year two of Shanahan’s offense, expect to see more of the playbook and Shanahan’s play calling prowess on display.
Z is for Jeff Zgonina
The 49ers have invested heavily in their defensive line, spending first round picks on Arik Armstead in 2015, DeForest Buckner in 2016, and Solomon Thomas in 2017. The line has shown potential, but it has never all come together. Armstead has struggled to stay healthy, Buckner is looking for that next step, and Thomas is looking to build on an up-and-down rookie season. All eyes will be on defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, but defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina could prove critical. The team did not address the pass rush in a big way during the offseason, and that puts at least a little pressure on Zgonina and his defensive linemen.