The San Francisco 49ers report for training camp Wednesday morning, and position competitions get back underway on Thursday. We’ll have plenty to discuss in the coming weeks, but as a manner of preview, we wanted to highlight the intriguing storylines heading into the team’s first practice. As part of the two-part series, we start with the offense.
10. When will WR Dante Pettis sign his rookie deal?
The 49ers have one rookie left un-signed from the 2018 draft class and that’s former Husky WR Dante Pettis. While Pettis’ Instagram story shows him headed to Santa Clara for Training Camp, is a deal in sight between the two sides?
For what it’s worth, Pettis shares the same agent as Mike McGlinchey and 2017 rookie Solomon Thomas, both players who held out till the last minute to sign their deals.
With San Francisco trading up for the ex-Washington pass-catcher, they look to quickly integrate him into the offense. Hopefully, Pettis is all signed and sealed before camp officially begins on Wednesday.
9. Can anyone beat out backup QB C.J. Beathard?
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like C.J. Beathard has the inside track to becoming the 49ers’ backup quarterback, especially after starting games in 2017.
San Francisco has rookie Jack Heneghan and 2017 practice squad player Nick Mullens coming to training camp, but is there a chance that either of those players beat out Beathard? Probably not, but worth following during the early part of training camp.
8. How does TE George Kittle’s role grow in 2018?
The former Iowa TE caught the fourth-most passes and had the second-most receiving yards on the 49ers’ roster — as a rookie. His home-run hitting ability showed flashes in 2017, but will it be on full display this season?
Kittle will be the No. 1 tight end this season and with a full offseason with Garappolo, the chemistry between the two should further develop. Garrett Celek will likely be the other tight end on the roster, but Kittle’s growth heading into his second training camp should be closely monitored.
7. How will Kyle Shanahan handle his second training camp?
While the steam surrounding the 49ers’ potential success in 2018 has been picking up, it’s only the second year of the Kyle Shanahan — John Lynch era.
Coming into last season, head coach Kyle Shanahan was pulling the strings on his first training camp. Most around the team raved about the efficiency and smoothness of the 49ers’ operation last season.
Fans and the media should be expecting an improvement in 2018.
6. Who will the 49ers’ surprise roster cut be?
There’s always that one player that nobody expects the team to release, yet it happens. No matter what franchise, it happens every season across the NFL.
With San Francisco’s roster and their bevy of young pass catchers, I expect the surprise veteran cut to be amongst the wide receivers. While WR Aldrick Robinson has prior history with Shanahan, I think he’ll eventually get out-played by a younger receiver and find himself looking for a new home.
5. How will the logjam at WR play out?
For the first time in a few seasons, the 49ers have an abundance of talent in their primary skill position — wide receiver. Returning from 2017, WRs Pierre Garcon, Trent Taylor, Marquise Goodwin are locks to make the roster.
Throw in rookies Dante Pettis and Richie James, along with older players, like Kendrick Bourne, Aaron Burbridge and Victor Bolden Jr., the receiving corps starts to present some first-world problems for John Lynch.
4. Who will the 49ers’ starting OGs be?
On offense, the weakest position is likely offensive guard. The 49ers have four on the roster currently, Josh Garnett, Laken Tomlinson, Jonathan Cooper and Najee Toran.
Garnett and Tomlinson are probably the Vegas favorites to land the first-team repetitions, but who else can threaten their position? First-year UCLA Bruin Najee Toran is a longshot, but Cooper and T Erik Magnuson make strong cases to round out the guards for San Francisco, but it will be something to keep an eye on as camp progresses.
3. Battle for the 49ers’ third running back spot
When the 49ers signed ex-Vikings’ RB Jerick McKinnon to a 4-year, $30M deal, it became abundantly clear who the starting tailback behind Garappolo would be.
With RB Matt Breida returning to the squad after notching over 100 carries as a rookie, he seems to be in the pole position for the backup spot.
The biggest training camp battle will likely be for the third running back spot, a competition that will be shared between RBs Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, and Jeremy McNichols. Williams red-shirted his rookie year, McNichols was a late addition to SF’s roster last season, while Mostert is a proven veteran.
2. Acclimating OLs Mike McGlinchey and Weston Richburg
Like any valuable asset, the initial objective should be to protect it at all costs. With Garappolo locked down, John Lynch and the front office went shopping during free agency and the NFL Draft to beef up the offensive line.
While T Joe Staley is penciled in as the Week 1 starter, it will be fascinating to see how rookie T Mike McGlinchey and C Weston Richburg fit in to Kyle Shanahan’s system. The key to offensive line success is cohesion and chemistry amongst the five lineman and the 49ers must start from the ground up in 2018.
With Richburg locked in for five seasons and McGlinchey starting his first season, San Francisco has the foundation laid out to build a wall in front of Garappolo.
1. QB Jimmy Garappolo’s first training camp in Santa Clara
After spending the last four seasons in New England as the backup to QB Tom Brady, Garappolo will finally head into training camp as the unquestioned starting signal-caller for his franchise.
While San Francisco didn’t taste defeat since Garappolo stepped foot on the field, this offseason was going to provide the time for Kyle Shanahan to fully install his offense, get Garappolo acquainted with his teammates and come out swinging.
There may be position battles across the offensive side of the roster, but quarterback isn’t up for discussion. All eyes will be on San Francisco’s newly-signed $137M dollar man heading into training camp.