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4 things to keep an eye on during 49ers OTA practices

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Football is back! Kind of...

New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers will begin the third and final phase of their offseason workout today. The team will hold practice May 20-21, and 23 of this week. Then will be back next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Finally, the 49ers will come back for three more days during the first week of June.

Remember: these drills are designed to be non-contact (no pads allowed), so it’s not quite real football yet, but it’s still better than nothing. Here are four things to keep an eye on as the Niners kick things off this today.

Don’t shrug off guys that are consistently winning

Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings is the best example of this. When he was at the Vikings rookie minicamp, then OTA’s shortly after, he was beating everyone. From cornerbacks who were UDFA’s like himself, to the first-round pick Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings noticed, early on, but most fans scoffed at the idea of Thielen. A few years later and he’s one of the best receivers in the NFL.

If you see a name pop up consistently throughout the next nine practices, he might be a real threat. Whoever that player is might not be the star that Thielen is now, but even if he can contribute this year, that’s plenty good as well. If that player comes from a position of need, then I’d especially keep an eye on him as we get closer to training camp.

Any tight end love?

Between Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, and Tyree Mayfield, the 49ers wanted to add size at the tight end position. Could we see more 12 and 13 personnel this season? Those are formations with two and three tight ends. The team didn’t run much of this last year. Kyle Shanahan favored formations with Kyle Juszczyk on the field instead, which can be the de facto tight end as well.

Seeing if there are different packages, especially in the red zone, that include tight ends is certainly something to keep an eye out for. The team was small on the field when it was time to score last year, and they went out and addressed that. If one of the tight ends steps during OTA’s, we might be seeing more multiple tight ends sets next year.

Does Colbert have a shot?

We’ve talked about Jimmie Ward and how the 49ers should stand pat at free safety. One name that we haven’t talked about is Adrian Colbert. The only other competition is Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, who was an undrafted rookie. That’s a good indicator that the team likes what they see in Colbert, too. It would not be the worse thing if Colbert won the job. He has two years left on his rookie contract. Neither player has been healthy. It almost feels like the Niners are hoping between the two of Colbert and Ward, they get a full season worth of games.

The 49ers need health, but they also need production. Colbert hasn’t registered an interception in 21 career games. That needs to change. With two new pass-rushers, that’s the hope.

New toys on offense

From Jalen Hurd to Tevin Coleman, the 49ers have over five new additions that could contribute in 2019. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has to be thrilled. It might be a headache for fantasy owners, but Kyle Shanahan will likely line guys up all over the place. We could see one play were Juszczyk lines up wide at receiver, and Deebo Samuel is in the backfield. The very next play Coleman could be in the slot with Jerick McKinnon lined up out wide, and Hurd in the backfield.

I’m expecting a bunch of crazy this year. Crazy leads to chaos, which leads to receivers running open. One thing to keep an eye out over the next few weeks is where players are lining up at, and if there are specific packages that are being thrown out there whether that’s a tight end package or a personnel grouping that includes Matt Breida, McKinnon, Coleman, Hurd, and Samuel on the field at the same time.