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49ers training camp stock report: Hufanga continues to make plays

A look at who is trending up and who is trending in the wrong direction on the Niners ahead of their first preseason game

San Francisco 49ers Off-Season Workout Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

We’re a little over 48 hours from finally getting a chance to see the 49ers wear game jerseys. It feels like it’s been years since the team played a game inside Levi’s Stadium.

Don’t expect to see the starting defensive line as they continue to either heal or recover for Week 1’s matchup against the Lions. We already know what the team has in its defensive line.

Honestly, you should be equally as excited to see the backups, who have made the second-team offensive line’s life a living hell. We should also get an extensive look at Trey Lance, as Jimmy Garoppolo and the starters should play a series or two.

Before the preseason kicks off, let’s take a look at whose stock on the roster is trending in the right direction and who needs a strong couple of weeks to make the roster.

Stock up

Talanoa Hufanga

Hufanga had an impressive interception playing free safety during Wednesday’s practice that excited defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who called it an awesome play. Ryans said Hufanga continues to build confidence and get better and better each day.

You expect that type of coach speak from a coordinator. Star tight end George Kittle spoke glowing about the rookie safety:

“Whenever a guy consistently makes one or two plays every single day and puts something good on tape every single day, it’s hard not to notice guys. He’s consistently in the right spot at the right time making plays.”

Most of Hufanga’s work in practice has come with the backups. Tavon Wilson figures to start the season alongside Jimmie Ward, but he’s been a journeyman in this league.

The rest of August will serve as a terrific opportunity for Hufanga to show the coaching staff that he deserves to play with the starters. Two weeks into training camp, he’s been better than advertised.

Jonas Griffith

One injury opens the door for another player to shine. Griffith would be at the front of the list when naming players making the most of their newfound chance. Griffith delivered a big hit on George Kittle during Wednesday's practice that was the most physical moment of practice. Griffith has the old-school thumping mentality, but he moves better than you’d expect.

With Azeez Al-Shaair out and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, we’ll get a long look at Griffith on Saturday. As of today, Griffith has done enough to make the roster. But I’m sure he has bigger aspirations than that.

Don’t be surprised if we see No. 53 on the field occasionally this season. Only No. 54 has made more plays during training camp at linebacker.

Trent Sherfield

The Sherfield camp has reached Trent Taylor decimals. We’re not far off from crowning Sherfield as the new Korey Sheets if he has a big preseason game. If there’s a practice that goes by without Sherfield making a play, it’s a surprise.

After Wednesday’s practice, Trey Lance had this to say about the former Cardinals wideout when asked what he does well:

“Everything. He’s in the right spot at the right time. He doesn’t bust. He’s on his assignment at all times. He’s the first guy in last guy out type of guy.”

Because we don’t need to see anything from Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, or Mohamed Sanu, that means Sherfield should be one of Lance’s primary targets through the first two preseason games.

Sherfield’s stock couldn’t be any higher. I want to see if what’s happened at practice spills into the game. If it does, No. 81 is your WR3. I believe everyone will be pleasantly surprised with Sherfield this season.

Stock down

The 49ers have plenty to be proud of through the first two weeks of training camp. The defense looks great, and they were bolstered once Emmanuel Moseley returned to the lineup.

The offense has slowly but surely started to pick it up, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Here are three players who need to step it up and do so soon before it’s too late.

Jalen Hurd

On Monday, when the media met with the 49ers position coaches, Wes Welker has this to say about Hurd: “At the end of the day, you have to practice. You have to get reps. And if you don’t do that, it’s really hard for us to play you.”

The old saying rings true here, as you “can’t make the club from the tub.” It’s one thing to be called out by your position coach. It’s another when the head coach mentions you publicly. Here’s what Shanahan said on Tuesday about Hurd:

“I mean, it hurts it. I know he’s battling back from a serious injury. And we know the potentially he has and the upside on how much we think he can help us. But, he’s got to show that. There’s not a lot of time left. We want to be smart with him. I know that some things were bothering him today. We were smart with him, but hopefully he can get into a groove where he has a chance to go out there and play some football and give himself a chance to make this team.”

Magically, Hurd was feeling better on Wednesday as he returned to practice. You could say he...Hurd the message from his coaches. However, he’s still struggling to separate and simply hasn’t made plays that you’d expect a third-round draft pick to make.

Perhaps it’s mental, and that would make plenty of sense. Hurd hasn’t had physical contact on a football field in two years. It was August 10, 2019, when he caught those two preseason touchdowns against Dallas.

That feels like a distant memory.

Since Hurd remains unproven, he’ll have ample opportunities to make plays this preseason. However, if he wants to be on this team come September, Hurd doesn’t have a choice. Right now, he’s on the outside looking in.

Rookie CBs

Ambry Thomas and Demmodore Lenior have their hands full every day at practice as they’re lucky enough to guard Deebo and Aiyuk. But, unfortunately, they’ve been on the wrong end of big plays more often than not.

Wednesday's practice is a prime example, as Lenior gave up a deep pass to Samuel, while Thomas was yelled at by Tavon Wilson for forgetting to tag River Cracraft down after he hit the ground on a reception that led to a touchdown.

Those are only two plays, but each play sums up how the last week or so have gone for the rookies. The youngsters will face offenses between the Chiefs and the Chargers and want to test you deep early and often.

It’s early, and cornerbacks tend to struggle out of the gate. But the good news for Thomas and Lenior is that there’s only one way to go from here!

All kidding aside, they haven’t taken an NFL snap yet. So even if one of the two pans out, the 49ers should be thankful.

JaMycal Hasty

You’re in a good spot as a team when we’re talking about the fourth or fifth-string running back. Hasty was put on notice when San Francisco drafted two running backs this past year, but he hasn’t done himself any favors early on in camp.

Hasty has four fumbles and seems to have a target on his back from the defenders. They know they can pry the ball loose from the former Baylor running back.

Hasty has his work cut out for him as he has to overcome the label he’s put on himself as a guy who fumbles, but that’s not all. Hasty must prove that he brings more to the table than either Elijah Mitchell or Wayne Gallman, which won’t be easy.