We are now less than two weeks ago from the regular season. On Sunday, two players became the first NFL players to go on the reserve/COVID-19 list in 11 days.
Although Mullens did not attempt a pass in 2019, he told NBC Sports Bay Area late in the season that he felt more confident in his ability to produce based on his improvements physically and mentally since he last stepped on the field.
During practice on Friday, Mullens completed seven of 10 passes for 65 yards with an interception that deflected off the hands of rookie receiver Jauan Jennings. Another potential big-gainer to Jennings was dropped.
Beathard completed seven of 12 attempts for 75 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin. Rookie running back JaMycal Hasty dropped a well-thrown deep ball from Beathard on the previous play.
It is clear Shanahan has confidence in both players as the 49ers plan once again to carry three quarterbacks into the regular season.
“They’ve been thrown in as two of the toughest situations that I’ve really had for any quarterback that I’ve ever coached, some of the situations we put them in our first two years,” Shanahan said. “They went in there and they did some good things and they did some bad things.
“That’s so valuable for quarterbacks to get that and for some of the stuff they went through, for them not to fold and still to come back and they get better each day in training camps where they get the most reps. I’ve been very impressed with them, both of them, in these practices. I think both of them are further along than they were last year.”
On Friday, the club practiced in an otherwise quiet Levi’s Stadium as they ponder what it will be like to play regular-season games without any fans.
“It was definitely different,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “Just talking to guys when we were warming up and in stretch lines, it is what it’s going to be.
“Having you guys out there, the reporters, was the most fans we’ll probably have at home games this year. It’s something that you just have to get used to. Like a lot of these things, it’s out of our control.”
The 49ers’ first-team offense struggled during the team’s practice inside their stadium, but Garoppolo got back on track Sunday with five consecutive touchdown passes in a red-zone drill, including three short scoring tosses to running back Jeff Wilson.
2. Wide Receiver Dante Pettis.
I rarely put a player in the Good section who dropped two passes in one practice as Pettis did Sunday. One of the drops technically wasn’t a drop, because it hit him in the face and never actually touched his hands. Pettis turned his face late after making his break near the sideline and got beaned in the facemask. Jimmie Ward actually laughed at him. Usually when Pettis has a couple bad plays, he goes in the tank and has a terrible practice. But today, he rallied and caught five passes from Garoppolo, including two touchdown passes in the red zone. Overall, Pettis had a solid camp with a few fantastic days. Today wasn’t fantastic, but it certainly was good. Pettis probably will start Week 1 if Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk both are injured.
THE NOT SO GOOD
1. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Made quick decisions and threw five touchdown passes in the red zone. After practice, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Garoppolo is much more decisive than he was a year ago, and Saleh is absolutely correct. Garoppolo doesn’t hold the ball in the pocket as long as he did during last year’s camp. But being more decisive doesn’t mean Garoppolo is making better decisions. He still throws about one pick per practice. Today, he threw his third pick-6 of camp. He also fumbled a snap from the shotgun, meaning he committed two turnovers. It’s good that he’s improving in the red zone and becoming more decisive. Now he needs to become a better decision maker. That’s the next stage of his development.
The 49ers have more options at wide receiver for Shanahan to shuttle in and out of the lineup. Last season, the team had confidence in only Sanders, Samuel and Bourne. This season, the club can spread the ball around with a lot more freedom.
The 49ers did not intend for Samuel to play as much as he did a year ago. He made a lot of mistakes, but the 49ers had no choice other but to continue to play him a lot and have him learn on the job.
Aiyuk might be further along than Samuel was at this time a year ago, but because of a better cast around him, it probably will not show up on the stat sheet.