The NFL offseason is mercifully nearing its end. At long last, San Francisco 49ers training camp is nearly upon us. Players will report on Thursday July 27 and the first practice will take place the following day.
There are several prominent storylines that will play out over the next month. This week's mailbag focuses on several of those talking points. Thanks to all who submitted questions.
Reuben Foster, Elvis Dumervil and Trent Taylor – to name three. I'm not going to go into much detail here because I'll be putting out a full list of players to watch in the coming days. Stay tuned.
Rashard Robinson appears to be a lock on the right side. Keith Reaser and Dontae Johnson are the top two candidates to start opposite Robinson. Both showed well during the offseason program, but it's impossible to declare a leader in the clubhouse before padded practices.
Ahkello Witherspoon will be in the mix, but the rookie third-round pick would have to make great strides in order to start in Week 1.
For all of the great training camp position battles, I don't anticipate quarterback being one of them. Pierre Garçon dominated first-team reps during the offseason program and Shanahan hasn't given any indication that a quarterback competition exists. I'm far more intrigued to see how reps are split between Matt Barkley and rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard throughout the preseason.
What's the LEO spot looking like? — Chris Sanchez (@Chucky__Sanchez) July 24, 2017
Dumervil could get the first crack at LEO reps on passing downs. He's the most accomplished pass-rusher on the 49ers roster and believes he has good football left in him. Arik Armstead, Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold and Ahmad Brooks are other candidates who could vie for playing time at LEO. The position will likely feature a healthy rotation based on game flow and situation unless someone separates themselves from the pack.
The "plan" for Will Redmond may have changed with the new regime. Redmond, like every other player, is given a clean slate to work with in 2017. That means his draft slot (the third round) and injuries as a rookie are both largely irrelevant factors in his chances of making this year's roster. He'll have to earn his spot, plain and simple. Redmond's best chance to do so will likely be at the nickel position. He and K'Waun Williams are two of the top candidates for that role.
Joey Bosa-type production is the dream scenario here. Bosa posted 10.5 sacks in 12 games last season. Those may be too lofty of expectations, but it is a prime example that rookie pass-rushers can be productive immediately. Both players were also taken third overall. But how about being on par with what DeForest Buckner accomplished as a rookie? Would anyone argue with six sacks, 73 tackles and a spot on the All-Rookie Team from Thomas in 2017? I think not.
I'll dive deeper into the tight end competition later this week, but I believe it's the most intriguing position group on the 49ers roster. Vance McDonald scored four touchdowns in 2016, with two being scores of 65 yards or more – the only NFL tight end to accomplish such feat. He's struggled with consistency, but so has the 49ers entire passing game in recent years. McDonald possesses above average speed at his position and his ability as a blocker helped earn him a contract extension last winter.
All that said, John Lynch brought in three new tight ends to the roster this offseason: Logan Paulsen (free agent), George Kittle (fifth-round pick) and Cole Hikutini (UDFA). Roster spots will be highly competitive.
Tickets to the open practice go on sale on Tuesday July 25!