The San Francisco 49ers had the day off on Monday and will return to the practice field on Tuesday. In the meantime, let’s review what’s transpired so far through four practices. Thanks as always to those who participated and asked a question.
Here’s this week’s mailbag with a focus on the early standouts in 49ers camp.
Marquise Goodwin has been a consistent playmaker through the first four practices. Goodwin had a collection of short-to-intermediate receptions before catching a 45-yard bomb from Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday. Their rapport seems to have picked up right where it left off last season.
Defensively, Reuben Foster impresses me every day. He’s simply got another gear that makes him stand out. At each practice, Foster has exhibited his sideline-to-sideline speed in pass coverage to go along with several impressive run stops. He’s got a long way to go, but his potential is evident.
I think that Raheem Mostert and Aaron Burbridge’s potential roster spots are independent of one another. There’s potential that both, one or neither player makes the team. We know that each guy is a special teams ace. If special teams coordinator Richard Hightower had his way, he’d probably keep both of them as his starting gunners on punt coverage.
What it could come down to is their ability on offense compared to others in their position group. Mostert’s primary competition is Joe Williams and Burbridge’s is Richie James. That’s with the assumption that San Francisco will keep three running backs and six wide receivers.
I’m going to stick with Burbridge here. I’ve had my eye on him since OTAs, and he’s had a solid opening to camp. Burbridge has made several contested catches, both in 1-on-1s and full-team work. He’s even had a few connections with Garoppolo. We know that he’s a stud on special teams, but it’s nice to see what he can do as a pass catcher as well. I’ll make this point again, the fact that Burbridge is still on the roster tells you that John Lynch and Shanahan see something in him. The Michigan State product is one of the few holdovers from 2016 to remain on the team.
I’ll also add that Max McCaffrey has been impressive. McCaffrey missed most of the offseason program due to an injury, but he’s had more of his fair share of big plays in camp.
C.J. Beathard still needs to work on consistency, but it’s clear that he’s got a belief he belongs in the NFL. He looks confident, and the ball appears to have some extra zip coming out of his hand. While Beathard has had his share of mistakes, he’s also had plenty of head-turning throws as well. San Francisco should be thrilled to have a backup quarterback of Beathard’s caliber. His five starts as a rookie would prove invaluable should the 49ers ever need him down the line.
I’ll go with Dante Pettis, Fred Warner and D.J. Reed. Pettis showed well in both padded practices. Garoppolo has been impressed by the receiver’s “wiggle” while running routes. Pettis runs fluid routes and has done well to create separation. Establishing a toughness over the middle of the field in traffic will be Pettis’ next stepping stone.
Warner may already be San Francisco’s best linebacker in coverage. That isn’t a huge surprise given it was a huge responsibility of his at BYU. Warner also appears to be a quick learner at MIKE linebacker, a job that requires him to have a deep understanding of Robert Saleh’s scheme coupled with the ability to communicate the calls to his teammates.
Reed has looked comfortable at free safety. He grabbed an athletic interception during Sunday’s practice. Reed has also had several standout reps during 1-on-1 drills.
In general, I think the less you hear about a center, the better. There haven’t been any fumbled snaps and all indications point to strong chemistry between Richburg and Garoppolo. I’d say Richburg has been as expected for Shanahan and the 49ers.
Garoppolo found Pierre Garçon on a deep ball during 1-on-1s on Sunday. They later connected over the middle of the field in full-team work. Garçon hasn’t had the volume of receptions that Goodwin or Pettis have, but he also hasn’t taken as many reps either. He’s already been given a veteran’s day off, and the coaching staff has made it a priority to give more reps to the younger wideouts. I expect Garçon to be a reliable target for Garoppolo in 2018. Garçon should be the last player you’re concerned about during the first week of training camp.
Put simply, Williams will need more than a few strong practices early in camp in order to supplant Breida on the depth chart. Breida had a standout rookie season with 645 total yards and three touchdowns while Williams spent last year on Injured Reserve. In addition, Breida has been just as impressive as Williams in camp. San Francisco appears to be loaded at running back.
I’m assuming this question is in reference to Goodwin beating Richard Sherman deep during 1-on-1s on Sunday. To that, I’d make several points:
1. Sherman has never been a cornerback known for his blazing speed. He wins with elite technique, length and football IQ.
2. That was Sherman’s very first 1-on-1 rep since returning from his Achilles injury.
3. There are very few (if any) corners who could keep up with Goodwin’s straight-line speed.
4. It will be important to have some patience with Sherman as he’s just getting back into the swing of things. Sherman will be a different player in Week 1 than he is right now. Heck, it’s possible that he’s a different player by midseason than he is in Week 1. Stay the course and be cautious not to overreact, positively or negatively.
I’d expect Garoppolo and the first-team offense to get one series in the preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. It might be two series, but I highly doubt it would be more than that.