The countdown has reached 17 days until players report for training camp. As the summer break nears its end, here's this week's mailbag with what's ahead for the San Francisco 49ers.
I'll give you one name on each side of the ball, starting with Solomon Thomas. I'd expect the No. 3 overall pick to get put into the rotation from Day 1. The 49ers will have a bevy of defensive linemen who see playing time in 2017, and Thomas is almost certain to be in the mix. San Francisco hopes he will be able to provide an inside pass-rush on a defense that ranked 19th in total sacks a season ago (33).
Offensively, George Kittle could very well be an impact player as a rookie. You keep hearing his name for a reason. The tight end's play during minicamp earned himself some publicity. John Lynch continued to build the excitement around Kittle during a phone interview with KNBR.
"He's really flashed," Lynch said. "He's got some suddenness to him in his movements. He catches the ball extremely well. George gives us something we don't have as a playmaker down in the red zone. He is that guy who can win 1-on-1. He can impose his will and out-athlete people. He's exceeded our expectations."
There aren't any updates on Reuben Foster's shoulder, but there's also no reason to think anything has changed since Kyle Shanahan said he expected the linebacker to be ready for the start of camp. We won't know Foster's status until the first practice of camp. Until then, the rookie will continue to workout like everybody else on the roster.
That's definitely the hope. Anytime a team invests large draft capital at one position, there's going to be an expectation of improvement and production. DeForest Buckner made the All-Rookie Team in 2016 and should benefit from a lighter workload this season. Arik Armstead has flashed at times during his first two campaigns, and his shoulder is back to full-strength. We haven't seen much of Thomas yet, but most analysts lauded the selection of the Stanford product on draft day.
Shanahan knows Aldrick Robinson incredibly well and clearly trusts the veteran receiver. They spent time together with the Washington Redskins before Shanahan brought Robinson to the Atlanta Falcons last season. My guess is that Robinson will be a situational player with the ability to step in and start should someone go down with an injury. You'll recall that Robinson caught four passes for 111 yards in Week 15 against the 49ers last season in place of an injured Julio Jones.
These are always fun hypotheticals. I'd pick Bruce Ellington (played point guard at South Carolina), NaVorro Bowman (was an AAU star with hometown buddy Kevin Durant) and Arik Armstead (played hoops at Oregon before focusing solely on football). Then I'd choose DeForest Buckner as my sub off the bench. Most 3-on-3 games are half court which can make size more important than speed since you don't have to worry about getting up and down the floor.