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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
Head coach Kyle Shanahan insinuated he could see playing both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance to exploit their different styles. We saw that last week in practice and the preseason finale. Shanahan said, “It depends who we’re playing, what the situation is, what fronts. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. Could happen today, could happen Week 1, could happen not until the end of the year. But I think we have a guy who has a skill set to come in and do some different things, and that’s what we’ve been working him at. And we’ll do that when we think it helps us.” Shanahan was inspired by Sean Payton’s use of Taysom Hill in the Saints' offense. This design carried over to the final preseason game as Garoppolo started, but Lance entered on the first drive in a run package. Both Garoppolo and Lance scored rushing touchdowns in the game. Shanahan said of Garoppolo’s touchdown run, “He’s kind of got a linebacker mentality. I kind of like that about Jimmy, too. …That’s why guys fight for him.” Given Lance is the more mobile option, this is an indication Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starter early in the season, with Lance sprinkled into the offense.
Trey Sermon has returned to practice after missing time last week. Likewise, Elijah Mitchell returned after missing extended time during training camp and made multiple long runs in recent practices. Raheem Mostert left practice on Wednesday but returned the next day and played in the finale. He played all ten snaps on the first drive, indicating he is the lead back for now. Sermon saw extensive work on the second drive through the end of the first half before the 49ers turned to JaMycal Hasty, who scored two touchdowns. David Lombardi and Matt Barrows of The Athletic predicted the 49ers would cut Hasty with the intent to get him on the practice squad, but the final preseason game performance may make that more difficult.
Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel have No. 1 potential, but Aiyuk has been more impressive during camp. Mohamed Sanu and Trent Sherfield are roster locks as the No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Jalen Hurd returned to practice after missing extended time earlier in camp. He is on the roster bubble. Grant Cohn of Sports Illustrated thinks Hurd had a good week of practice but will need a big finish to make the roster. Hurd played 27 snaps in the final preseason game, with Shanahan commenting, “I’d consider his day a success.”
George Kittle had an encouraging preseason and is set to re-establish his dominance. Ross Dwelley has also drawn praise throughout camp and should be a competent backup. Charlie Woerner should stick as the No. 3.
With Nick Bosa and Dee Ford returning the practice, the 49ers' defensive line is overloaded with talent. A few players who don’t make the 53-man roster are likely to latch on elsewhere and play meaningful snaps. Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Sam Ekuban, D.J. Jones, Zach Kerr, Kentavius Street, and Kevin Givens are all good enough to make the team. The linebacker corps is thin beyond starters Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Azeez Al-Shaair. The secondary is well established, but the summer's biggest story was the emergence of rookie Talanoa Hufanga. He went from unheralded fifth-round pick to potential starter in a few months. “Opportunities in the NFL are earned, and that’s what he’s done,” General manager John Lynch said of Hufanga. “He’s vying to start for us.”
Richie James has handled returns for San Francisco the last two years and was looking to make it a third straight, but a late injury cost him his chance to make the 53-man roster. Brandon Aiyuk has received opportunities as a punt returner this preseason, but it's still questionable how much the team would want to risk one of its top receivers on special teams. Instead, the last two return specialists left standing are Travis Benjamin and Nsimba Webster. Both can return punts and kickoffs.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Jimmy Garoppolo was perfect in 7-on-7 drills against the Chargers in practice during the week, including completions to Kyle Juszczyk, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. Matt Barrows of The Athletic also noted Garoppolo, “who’s mostly shied away from deep passes thus far in his career, has let ’em fly this week.” Garoppolo started against the Chargers, playing one drive that ended on an interception that bounced out of Brandon Aiyuk’s hands. Trey Lance played for an extended time and was also intercepted on a dropped pass. Lance did score a touchdown on a throw to Mohammed Sanu and showed his ability to read the field on a touchdown to Travis Benjamin. If you listen to head coach Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo remains in line to start Week 1. Looking at how each quarterback has performed this summer, it’s hard to understand why Lance won’t be on the field sooner than later. Shanahan wants Lance to get rid of the ball faster. “[We’re] going to challenge him to get rid of the ball. You've got to know where those outlets are and how to get rid of it. He didn't have the most time in everything [in practice], but it's kind of our standard with things and how fast you've got to play and how not just athletically, but with your mind, you can't hesitate. You’ve got to get rid of it because you get a sack in a two-minute, look at the percentages, it's pretty much over. And it's not going to be a lot of great protection there. So, it's good to give him some of this experience without being in a game. We're just going to keep challenging him hard and I can't wait to watch the tape in about an hour with him,” Shanahan explains. The plan is to get Lance more reps with the first-team offense, “Not just so he can get with our ones, but also, so he can go against the one defense and stuff.” The 49ers waived Josh Rosen, leaving Nate Sudfeld as the No. 3.
Elijah Mitchell has an abductor injury and is expected to miss multiple weeks. That positions either Wayne Gallman or JaMycal Hasty in a better place to earn a 53-man roster spot. Both Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon sat against the Chargers. Sermon tweaked his ankle during the week, but it’s not serious. Hasty was more explosive against Los Angeles, while Gallman ran with more power.