Rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk was making headlines for his performance during the San Francisco 49ers’ training camp, but a pair of other first-year players are impressing their veteran teammates.
Charlie Woerner is joining a crowded tight ends’ room. Superstar George Kittle is the leader of the group that also features Jordan Reed and Ross Dwelley. Woerner —who is a 2020 sixth-round pick— is still learning the pro game. Although expectations aren’t high for the 22-year-old Georgia product, Kittle sees the potential in him to develop into an impactful NFL player.
“Charlie’s come a long way, you know, really fast and, you know, it’s just, it’s really incredible. Um, he picks up the offense really quickly. He knows what he’s good at. And he does his best to excel at those things. He’s really good in the run game. We’re working on his footwork, which is something that everyone has to work on to get the NFL, which is different. But he has the right mindset. Every time he’s out there, he’s trying to get better. He’s trying to improve every single snap and you can see that. It’s just, it’s great energy and it’s a great vibe to have long known in the tight end room. Every single day he’s improved from day one that I’ve been working with them, I can tell how far he’s come. And I can also tell that he has a long way to go. But just the improvements that he has made has been really fun and you know, just being a leader in the tight end room. I always try to be a leader to anybody. But having no Charlie, who kind of reminds me of myself, excels the run game, and is figuring out the past game stuff. I will say I think he’s farther along than I was as a rookie, especially in the run game. He is a strong dude with some thick hands when he gets them on people. So he’s gonna be really good player for us. I’m just excited to watch his evolution.”
Well, George, if Woerner reminds you of yourself, then he is on the right track.
On the defensive side of the ball, rookie Javon Kinlaw seems like he has hit a bit a wall after starting off strong. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said the South Carolina product is still learning the intricacies of his position. Kinlaw is relying too much on his strength, and still needs to refine his technique to fulfill his potential. Still, Saleh is confident the 22-year-old will have a strong rookie season.
Veteran guard Laken Tomlinson matched up against Kinlaw during one-on-one drills in practice and was asked for his assessment of the rookie so far.
“He is improving a lot. Every day is a battle with them and he’s a guy that can take coaching. Coach Kris is on him. Coach Shanahan is on him. He’s on very humble guy, but he goes out there, he gives it his all and you can see it on film that he’s learning and he’s adjusting to the speed and he’s doing a good job. Just going against me and learning how to play at the level that we expect him to play, but I think he’s doing a really good job right now. He’s showing up a lot and giving us problems. I think he’s going to be all right ... When he puts his mind to something, then he really goes out there and really tries to work on it and it really tries to accomplish it. And you see that on tape. He’s a big fella, he’s a specimen man.”
The good news for Kinlaw is that the 49ers have a ton of depth on the defensive line, which allows the team to be patient with him while he develops. Tomlinson added that D.J. Jones has improved since last season and that his pass-rushing moves are more refined than they were in 2019.