The first two days of training camp, there were some questions about wide receiver Dante Pettis and how he might handle the physicality of the NFL. Practice reports were a bit shaky for the San Francisco 49ers second round pick, and naturally, it led to some reactions. However, in the two days of padded practices since, it’s been nothing but positives about Pettis.
In the last two practices, Pettis has regularly beaten 49ers cornerbacks for big gains. ESPN’s Nick Wagoner described his movement skills at the line of scrimmage as unorthodox, and allowing him to gain instant separation.
After practice, Jimmy Garoppolo and Pierre Garçon both had praise for the rookie receiver. Garoppolo likes what he calls his “wiggle” and the ability he has to get out his breaks and get separation.
“He moves differently than most guys. He has some long limbs, long arms, long legs and it helps him create space with defenders. He has a unique ability, I call it wiggle, whatever you want to call it though, of just his body moves a certain way and he explodes out of the break and separates a foot from a guy. That’s all you need. As a quarterback, you love to see that. He’s young, he’s learning, just like all of these young guys are. It’s their first training camp. So, we all have a long way to go. But, he’s working hard every day and it’s good to see that.”
Kyle Shanahan is a big proponent of separation, and per PFF, Garoppolo was among the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL when he was throwing to receivers with one or more steps of separation.
The question now is how quickly he will be able to make an impact with what is looking like a fairly deep receiver group. A couple strong practices get people talking, and Garoppolo and Garçon were both asked how he is coming along and the impact he might be able to make this season.
Garoppolo: “I think all the young guys, it’s hard to judge. We’re only four days into this now. I can remember when I was a rookie. Your head is almost spinning every day, new stuff is going in that you’ve never heard before and you have to pick it up an hour before practice. So, I think he’s doing a great job. He really is. All of those young receivers, the running backs, tight ends, all of those guys are working so well together and they’re putting in the time and that’s really what it comes down to when you’re young.”
Garçon: “He’s a good guy. Definitely like you said, different, fast, but he’s definitely, once he gets it going, gets familiar with playing in the NFL, he’ll definitely be great because he’s got speed, he’s got agility, and he can catch and he can make guys miss. So he’s definitely one of the good guys who’s gonna help us later on in the year once he gets comfortable being here.”
I thought Garçon’s comment about helping later in the year was particularly interesting. He seems to figure it will take time for it to all come together for Pettis. Given the 49ers current depth chart at wide receiver, it is not an easy task to climb into a position of a lot of targets — even with a strong camp. The 49ers expect big things given the draft position, but it will be interesting to see just how quickly he can force the situation.