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What are ESPN’s ‘2020 NFL Training Camp Nuggets’ for the 49ers?

San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

ESPN went through each team and gave a few ‘nuggets’ ahead of training camp which starts on July 28. Here’s what they said for the San Francisco 49ers:

2019: 13-3, first in NFC West; lost in Super Bowl

2020 preseason FPI rank: 3rd

Returning starters

Offense: 7 | Defense: 9

Nuggets to know

1. The 49ers are trying to become the third NFC team to lose the Super Bowl and reach the game in the following season (1971 Cowboys, 1974 Vikings). The past few teams to fit this mold? The 2015 Seahawks, 2016 Panthers, 2017 Falcons and 2019 Rams. None won more than 10 games, two missed the playoffs and the other two lost in the divisional round.

2. Raheem Mostert tore it up in the playoffs with 336 rushing yards and five TDs in three games and appears to be in line to start for the 49ers this season. Mostert has averaged 6.1 yards on 231 career rushes including the postseason, but has yet to start in 51 games played.

3. Given a stellar defense, talented running game and efficient offense, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t necessarily been forced to take over a game very often. In last season’s playoffs, Garoppolo had just 27 pass attempts entering the Super Bowl, the fewest by any QB since Bob Griese for the 1973 Super Bowl-winning Dolphins. In Super Bowl LIV, Garoppolo went 3-of-11 with an interception in the fourth quarter after going 17-of-20 with a touchdown and an interception in the first three quarters.

That first nugget is eye-opening. We hear about how hard it is for teams coming off a Super Bowl loss to make the big game the following year but not winning 10 games? That’s surprising. The 49ers are loaded on both sides of the ball, and many people, including ones that no bias, expect the Niners to win at least 11 games.

The second nugget should be more about which receiver steps up in Deebo Samuel’s absence. Do the coaches have a player in mind, or will they allow the talent to play itself out? There are always politics involved in sports, but the 49ers seem to do a good job avoiding them. In the coach’s mind, Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor may be the best options in the slot, but Dante Pettis may come out ahead of both of them two weeks into camp. Yes, that’s an extreme example, but we see these scenarios play out every year. Figuring out the receiver rotation will be one of the most critical parts of camp.

The Jimmy arguments were old in March, and they’ve been recycled since. I’m not sure what new info there is to talk about. All we’re looking for is steady improvement from Garoppolo. If he improves, the 49ers have a good chance of winning it all. That sounds simple, but that’s the truth. That doesn’t mean “it’s all on Jimmy to win.” We expect Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, and other players that don’t have a ton of experience to take another step. The same goes for the quarterback.