The San Francisco 49ers offense will enjoy a lot of carryover from the 2022 NFC Championship Game roster with only two of its starters from last season, tackle Mike McGlinchey and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, departing in free agency.
That means of course, there weren't many holes left to fill on the offense via the draft and free agency this time around. Foundational players such as tight end George Kittle, running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, left tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk are under contract for at least another season and are expected to make big contributions in the upcoming campaign. Additionally, the unit will return four players who earned Pro Bowl honors in 2022 and two All-Pros.
To further fortify an already formidable unit, however, San Francisco's braintrust did opt to bring in some outside talent, signing offensive lineman Jon Feliciano, quarterback Sam Darnold, offensive lineman Matt Pryor and quarterback Brandon Allen earlier in the offseason. During the draft, the team dedicated three of its nine picks to the offensive side of the ball, selecting tight ends Cameron Latu and Brayden Willis and wide receiver Ronnie Bell on Days 2 and 3.
The biggest question mark of the 49ers offense remains at the quarterback position with no starter named at this point in the offseason. The team currently has four starting-caliber signal callers on the roster, and per head coach Kyle Shanahan, there will be more clarity at this position as the 49ers progress through training camp.
"It's very hard to come to training camp and be ready to beat someone out, and that's why you try to provide all this stuff to give guys a chance to learn the offense," Shanahan said. "Now when they go to training camp, they're ready to compete, and that's truly where I see the competition starting."
Here's three things we learned about San Francisco's offensive unit this offseason:
McCaffrey continues to impress in his first full offseason with the 49ers.
The do-it-all running back was thrown into the mix two days after arriving mid-season in The Bay, so he is taking advantage of being able to go through the full slate of offseason programming with San Francisco for the first time. During the early portion of voluntary workouts, McCaffrey shared some insight on his process between the end of one season and the start of the next.
"I just start from square one as if it's my first day, and I don't know anything, just trying to learn as much as possible," McCaffrey said. "It's nice being able to start from square one and getting right with Coach (Bobby) Turner and making sure it's not just learning the plays but learning every single detail of the positions."
While it's not uncommon to see veterans easing into organized team activities, McCaffrey appeared to have not skipped a beat, running through team drills at near full speed.
"My approach will be the same, just try to get as big, strong and fast as I can," McCaffrey said prior to OTAs. "Mentally, I try to get caught up with every position."
Samuel entered the offseason with a clear goal in mind, getting back to the regimen he had in 2021 that resulted into his career-best year.
The fifth-year pro closed out the 2022 campaign with 42 carries for 232 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and another 56 catches for 632 yards and two scores through the air. While his contributions were critical to the team's run to the NFC Championship Game versus the Philadelphia Eagles, Samuel hopes to make an even larger contribution in the upcoming season.
While evaluating his performance of the last year, Samuel identified a key piece of the process that's guided him throughout this offseason.
"The main focus this year is to get back to the summer and what I did in 2021," Samuel said. "Not even the season, just the summer and the groove of things and getting back in the routine."
Samuel was in Santa Clara for several open OTA practices in addition to mandatory veteran minicamp as he gears up for training camp.
"I'm going to be more than ready to go the first day (of camp)," Samuel said.
Wideout Danny Gray was catching passes from all three quarterbacks during offseason workouts, flashing his speed and playmaking abilities during workouts open to the media.
Gray has always been a speedy guy, but this offseason, it's his fitness and work ethic that's been on display. The young wideout has garnered praise from both his head coach and fellow receivers for the work he's put in during the spring and early summer.
"We saw him in the offseason have a little different attention to detail the way he came here in Phase 1 and 2, how he worked to get in shape, and that's what has allowed him to have a good OTAs and go through a bunch of stuff," Shanahan said. "To me, he's finally got in the shape to where he could do everything, and this will really help him for training camp."
Samuel echoed the sentiments during his press conference in early June.
"Just seeing him these past couple weeks, you can tell that he's learned a lot," Samuel said. "He's done a good job of minimizing those (little mistakes), putting himself in a position to play."
Gray will be competing with a stable of experienced wideouts including Samuel, Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud III and Willie Snead IV in addition to the rookies for increased playing time in his sophomore season.