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Fann Mail: Assessing the First Four Practices, Injuries at Safety

We are now four practices in to San Francisco 49ers training camp presented by SAP. The players have Tuesday off which means it’s a perfect time to recap what has transpired thus far.

This week’s mailbag is chalk full of great questions, and I tried to get to as many as possible. Thanks to all who submitted.

After entering camp without a player on the PUP list, the 49ers are now down their top three safeties – Eric Reid (ankle), Jimmie Ward (hamstring) and Jaquiski Tartt (ribs). Still, it’s too early to hit the panic button. It’s way better for these injuries to happen now than at the end of August. Reid is day-to-day, and Ward’s hamstring isn’t believed to be serious. There is no update yet on Tartt’s ribs.

It’s easy to take a glass half full approach to this. The 49ers have two impressive undrafted rookies in Lorenzo Jerome and Chanceller James. Now they’ll have the chance to get first- and second-team reps.

You could sell me on a number of different tight end combinations to make the final 53-man roster. Outside of George Kittle, I don’t think anyone is a lock, and it’s far too early to start counting anyone out of the competition.

As for the corners, Keith Reaser and Dontae Johnson remain the frontrunners to start opposite Rashard Robinson.

I put these two questions together because they go hand-in-hand. Foster has been a stud thus far playing with the third-team with three interceptions and several stops in the running game. It’s likely he’ll move up the depth chart in the near future, but Kyle Shanahan was clear that the team is in no rush to do so. The next month is a marathon, which means decisions like this don’t need to be made in haste.

There isn’t a timeline to get Foster in the starting lineup, either. Malcolm Smith (as well as Ray-Ray Armstrong and Brock Coyle for that matter) have been playing well won’t concede their spot on the depth chart willingly.

It has to be Marquise Goodwin. It’s not like he’s come out of nowhere – San Francisco signed him as a priority free agent – but I’d be lying if I said I expected to see the volume of plays that Goodwin has been making. Goodwin is good for at least one long touchdown a day in full-team drills. He’s also been near-impossible to keep up with during 1-on-1 work.

I’ve been impressed by Goodwin’s growing route tree and his ability to get open beyond go routes. He’s caught quick slants, quick outs, stopping routes, etc. His consistency thus far is very promising.

Another two-part question here. Shanahan credited Beathard’s ability to process information in the pocket which is a rare trait for a rookie quarterback. The execution of his throws has been hit and miss, but that’s what you’d expect to see from any first-year passer. The most important thing is that the game doesn’t look too big for him.

I’ve already touched on Kittle, but I’d expect Beathard to make the roster as well. Matt Barkley’s strong play in the early going of camp will probably keep the rookie at QB3 on the depth chart.

This is entirely possible, given the 49ers investment in their defensive front. Veterans like Dumervil and Earl Mitchell figure to be key pieces. So too do first-round picks Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. They’ve been a handful for the 49ers o-line at the beginning of camp due to a healthy mix of size, speed and strength.

There’s quality depth there as well. Jeff Zgonina will be able to rotate quality players throughout each game to keep guys fresh. I’m very bullish on the 49ers defensive front.

Smelter has made several plays through the first four practices. He made a contested sideline catch during 1-on-1’s on Monday. He also made another impressive grab on a sideline throw from Matt Barkely during team drills that went for 20 yards.

The problem for Smelter is that he’s not alone. Every wide receiver on the 49ers roster has flashed at one point or another. Big plays have been a commonplace for San Francisco’s offense thus far which adds to the competition at wide receiver. It’s a great problem to have for the team’s coaching staff.

I love this question. A new era of 49ers football is worthy of some new threads. Buckner, Thomas and Foster would be my first picks. Those are your three newest cornerstones to the roster.

For a dark horse, how about Kyle Juszczyk? How many people have a fullback jersey? Now you have the opportunity to get one of the best fullback in the NFL.

You’re definitely panicking too early. Remember, Elvis Dumervil said this week that the 49ers have the best tackle tandem that he’s ever played with in Joe Staley and Trent Brown. Between the bookend tackles, San Francisco has several veteran pieces (along with first-round pick Joshua Garnett) vying for the other three spots.

Additionally, the group is learning a new zone-blocking scheme which will take time to gel. There’s a long way to go and the competition is only just beginning.Keep your finger away from the red button.

One final two-part question to close the mailbag. I’m going to take the John Lynch route and say that “I know what I don’t know.” Running backs are incredibly hard to evaluate in practice, especially without the benefit of going back and watching the tape. The group is also yet to go through blitz pickup drills which will be a huge point of evaluation. We have an idea what the 49ers have in Pierre Garçon and Tim Hightower, but Matt Breida and Joe Williams are still relatively unknown commodities. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Kapri Bibbs looks as a return man during the preseason games.

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