San Francisco will be relying on a number of their pass catchers to step up with the recent string of injuries among the receiving corps. Deebo Samuel suffered a stress fracture to his foot back in June that could threaten his return to the start of the season. Richie James Jr. is expected to miss time while nursing a wrist injury suffered this offseason, and the 49ers are likely to be without Jalen Hurd, who suffered a torn ACL earlier this week.
The 49ers added free agent talent with the signings of veteran receivers Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson and Tavon Austin to add to San Francisco's in-house receivers that include Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor and Brandon Aiyuk to name a few. Dante Pettis is another name looking for redemption, with hopes to align himself back up the depth chart.
After a promising finish to his rookie campaign, the receiver made a lackluster return in Year 2. Registering 27 receptions for 467 yards in 2018, Pettis saw his targets diminish last season from 45 to 24. The wideout didn't see a single target after Week 10, finishing the year with just 11 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Now, a season removed, the wideout hopes to have met the expectations of head coach Kyle Shanahan. With the focus of improving in the offseason, the head coach was equally eager to see the improvements from the third-year wideout.
"I was very excited with Dante," Shanahan said on Thursday. "The first day I saw him when he came back, we weren't allowed to see them for a few days because all the COVID testing and stuff. He was one of the guys that I was looking forward to talking to the most. When he came in, I saw him right away and we got to talk and you could just tell his mindset, how his body was, that he spent the time away from us doing everything he could to put himself in a position to make this team and to be as successful as he can be."
Pettis had his best day of camp on Tuesday after exploding with five catches during full-team drills from all three of the 49ers quarterbacks. Three of his catches came over the middle, including a leaping grab on a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo . As Pettis aims to restore his rapport with San Francisco's quarterback, Garoppolo has already taken note of the wideout's progress in camp.
"He's been coming along and it's very encouraging – just the physicality that he's playing with (and) the competitiveness that he's bringing," Garoppolo said. "You love to see that and it's just one of those things you've got to keep rolling."
Pettis will have to continue to string along these showings if he aims to stand out among a crowded receiving room. Just a week into training camp, he appears to be off on the right foot. With two more weeks to cement his name to the top of the depth chart, the 49ers head coach is already pleased with the early turnaround he's seen out of the receiver.
"I've been very proud of Dante so far and I think it showed," Shanahan said. "I think he had his best practice two days ago since he's been here. I know he got a lot of balls and a lot of opportunities, but it wasn't just that. It was his demeanor, the way he played, the aggression and his routes and everything. I've been very pleased with Dante so far."