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Updates from Week 4
Brock Purdy’s performance in the preseason finale should put to rest any lingering fears about his shoulder. He played only two drives but led the offense to 137 total yards while completing 5-of-9 passes for 73 yards. He’s potentially a quality pick as your No. 2 in fantasy drafts. The Trey Lance saga finally came to an end with a trade to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2024 fourth-round pick. 49ers management clearly trusts Purdy to be the long-term starter, which increases both his redraft and dynasty value. Sam Darnold won the backup job, and he could have potent fantasy value if Purdy gets hurt again.
SB Nation’s Kyle Posey notes the Niners want Christian McCaffrey at his best in the winter months. The plan is to minimize the risk of an early-season injury, which includes putting the star tailback on ice all summer. McCaffrey could have a career season if he stays healthy, running behind the 49ers offensive line. Elijah Mitchell returned to practice after missing close to a month with an adductor injury.
Preseason games are just tune-ups for good players, and Brandon Aiyuk looks like he’s roaring for a big 2023 season. Aiyuk caught a simple 5-yard hitch route but then broke two tackle attempts on his way to a 35-yard gain and was stopped just short of a touchdown. He has received glowing reviews all training camp and should be a top-24 fantasy receiver. Deebo Samuel worked hard to get into better shape. He said,” I think it’s like a little more to my step. Like a little more speed, so it’s a little bit more power.” A more powerful and faster Samuel will certainly help his fantasy value and trouble defenses in 2023.
George Kittle was dealing with a hip injury and missed a chunk of training camp. Fortunately, Kittle played in the final preseason game and is healthy for Week 1. Rookie Cameron Latu suffered a torn meniscus, which will require surgery, and he was placed on injured reserve.
The team started camp with two healthy kickers but ended the preseason with none. Zane Gonzalez suffered a calf strain this week, following third-round pick Jake Moody's quad strain earlier in the preseason. Coach Shanahan said it's possible neither will be available for Week 1 and that the team might have to resort to a backup plan. Could that be Robbie Gould? Shanahan did not rule it out, stating it's a possibility but that the team hasn't discussed it yet.
49ers general manager John Lynch was asked about the ongoing Nick Bosa contract negotiations. When asked if Bosa will be under contract by Week 1, Lynch replied, “Yeah, I do. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ll continue to do that. He’s a great player. We want him here. We need him here.” Talanoa Hufanga has a knee injury called a Baker’s cyst, which has caused him to miss time. The Athletic’s Kawakami notes, ”On defense, Javon Kinlaw has been an eyebrow-raiser all camp. He’s mostly going up against backup OL, so it’s all relative. But Kinlaw has mostly remained healthy, he’s obviously in great shape, he looks fast, and he’s even gotten some defensive end reps.” Kinlaw looks on the verge of having his best season.
Ray-Ray McCloud is out indefinitely with a broken wrist, though initial reports suggested he could return sometime around Week 5. He'll likely be the team's top returner when he's back. Rookie Ronnie Bell will likely handle special teams responsibilities until then (provided he makes the final 53-man roster).
Updates from Week 3
According to The Athletic's Matt Burrows, Brock Purdy practiced for three consecutive days for the first time since his return from an elbow injury. Purdy started the preseason game and looked smooth, completing 4-of-5 passes with a passer rating of 118.8. A conversation between Fred Warner and Trent Williams about Purdy increased his confidence last year in the preseason. The backup job took a turn in the second preseason game, with Sam Darnold playing with the second-team offense, while Trey Lance had that honor in the first game. Niners Wire’s Kyle Madson believes neither player has a definitive lead in the backup job. Purdy said of Lance in the second preseason game, “Yeah, we all want to see him succeed and be great. He put together two great drives at the end. It was awesome to see. Really excited for him.”
Coach Shanahan doesn’t get how Christian McCaffrey can get better, saying, “He really studies it from the whole, kinda like a quarterback…he does get the big picture…I’d like to say he’s gonna be a lot better, but I don’t get really how he can be. He did pretty good last year; I just think he’s more comfortable.” Elijah Mitchell has been out for a few weeks but should return to practice this week. Tyrion Davis-Price has been getting praised for his progress in training camp. GM John Lynch said of Davis-Price, “He’s really come a long way…at times last year, it just didn’t feel like it was the guy we watched in college. But man, it’s been a complete turnaround.” Jordan Mason is competing with Davis-Price for the final roster spot, but his dropped passes might cost him the spot.
Deebo Samuel has been on many fantasy football overrated lists this offseason, but that may be too hasty, given how well he’s looked of late. Samuel looked explosive on the opening drive of this week’s game, catching two passes. Brandon Aiyuk was flagged after a teammate scored a touchdown, and Coach Shanahan joked, calling it “genius because it led to us being able to go for the win at the end.” Ronnie Bell is now two years removed from an ACL tear, and he may become a playmaker worth stashing in dynasty leagues. Shanahan on Bell, noting, “I think all you guys saw the plays he’s made with the football in his hands, breaking tackles. For a guy to do that in his first two games as a punt returner and as a receiver shows that he can hang with our group.” Lance said of Bell, “The tackles he breaks—it’s real impressive. He’s a guy who competes his butt off every single time he gets the ball in his hands, every single time he’s on the field. He comes to work every single day with that mindset.” Danny Gray suffered a shoulder injury during the game and won’t be available for Week 1.
George Kittle didn’t practice last week as he recovers from an adductor strain, but he’s expected to return to practice this week. Rookie Cameron Latu bounced back from a challenging first preseason game to catch a touchdown in the second game. Shanahan said of Latu, “He made a hell of a catch that probably took the monkey off his back a little bit.”
The Nick Bosa situation is getting more time sensitive with the season starting soon. Tom Pelissero had this to say about both sides as they negotiate “They continue to talk. (They have a) mutual goal of getting this thing done before the start of the regular season. His fines are rescindable. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t be a very, very rich man prior to the start of the regular season.” Javon Kinlaw has missed 26 of 50 NFL games but has been healthy this training camp. He missed this week’s preseason game but only because of a mild illness. ESPN’s Nick Wagoner wrote a piece on how this is a ”now or never” season for Kinlaw. Dre Greenlaw has been out the last two weeks due to a hamstring injury, but he’s expected back at practice this week. Taco Charlton was placed on injured reserve ending his season.
The 49ers line is led by left tackle Trent Williams, a future Hall-of-Famer and arguably the NFL’s best lineman. Colton McKivitz has taken Mike McGlinchey's old spot at right tackle, but the competition continues. Behind him, Jaylon Moore is another option, or he could be the swing tackle. While vet Matt Pryor might not make the final roster, rookie Ilm Manning has played well. Manning projects as a developmental interior presence. Williams’ dominance plays a big part in the unit’s ninth overall ranking.
Updates from Week 2
Brock Purdy is penciled in as the 1st team starter, but Mirror’s Charlie Wilson discusses growing concerns about Purdy’s turnover-worthy plays in multiple practices. However, Purdy recently said, “...I feel almost back to normal” in regards to his arm. The 49ers benched their starters in the first preseason game, which gave Trey Lance the start. The Athletic’s Matt Barrows said “A typical practice for Lance sees him starting slowly and rallying at the end.” Lance copied this pattern in the preseason game, which saw him look lost, indecisive, and taking many sacks early. Later, he completed passes down the field confidently but also threw multiple balls that should’ve been intercepted. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan said, “I think Sam (Darnold has) gotten better each practice.” Practice reps haven’t been plentiful for Darnold as he competes with Purdy and Lance. However, Darnold started the second half of the preseason game and played well, averaging 10.5 yards per attempt with a 97.9 QB passer rating.
“Yeah, it’s much better,” said Christian McCaffrey, via 104.5FM KNBR, regarding his knowledge of the 49ers’ playbook entering 2023. McCaffrey continues with, “So it’s been great to be able to kind of not just learn the offense but master it.” While Elijah Mitchell has been dealing with an adductor strain, the 49ers signed Jeremy McNichols and waived Ronald Awatt. The preseason game was lackluster from this position group, with nobody averaging even 3.5 yards, and the highlight was McNichols’ 11-yard reception.
The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson III indicates Brandon Aiyuk looks like the best player in camp sometimes. Deebo Samuel said of Aiyuk, “You can’t cover that boy in a phone booth right now.” Samuel pulled a dinner bill prank on rookie receivers Isaiah Winstead and Ronnie Bell. Ray-Ray McCloud suffered a wrist injury, which required surgery and he’ll miss eight weeks. Bell had one of the better performances in the preseason game, despite a drop. Bell ran the football, caught the ball, returned kicks, and showed playmaking ability. AtoZ Sports’ Zach Ragan discussed Jauan Jennings’ reputation as being extremely physical, and it has led to several scuffles in camp. Danny Gray has missed practice due to soreness.
George Kittle has missed some time with an adductor strain. Rookie Cameron Latu dropped a couple of passes in practice this week and said, “The game’s slowing down, but I’m obviously thinking way too much every play.” Troy Fumagalli came down with his only two targets in the preseason game for 30 yards. Ross Dwelley’s focus allowed him to score a touchdown in the play of the game.
The 49ers seem to constantly find reclamation projects on the defensive line and turn a profit. This year, it might be Clelin Ferrell, who The Athletic’s David Lombardi said “seems to be finding his stride in a new system,” and it paid dividends, with Ferrell accounting for the only sack in the preseason game. Javon Kinlaw feels different after a healthy offseason. He said, “I’m really a freak. The world is gonna see.” Nick Bosa was voted as the league’s 4th-best player in the NFL 100, but his contract holdout fines just increased to $992,166 due to missing the first preseason game. Other defensive ends, Drake Jackson, Taco Charlton, and Robert Beal, missed time this week with injuries. The Athletic’s Matt Barrows detailed a full day of Fred Warner’s practice routine. Dre Greenlaw left practice with a hamstring injury.
Ray-Ray McCloud broke his wrist last Tuesday and will be sidelined for eight weeks. The team is holding open competitions to replace McCloud for the season’s first month, with rookie Ronnie Bell earning early praise.
Updates from Week 1
According to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, "This is (Brock) Purdy’s camp." While Trey Lance was involved in special run packages during his rookie year with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter, those packages have not been present this summer. Concerns about Purdy's injury have been alleviated, as per Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News. Coach Shanahan said, "He’s healed. He’s healthy. Guys have to get in throwing shape, and they have to play and get used to that, but I’m not thinking about the injury anymore." Kawakami also noted that Shanahan is focused on giving Brandon Allen equal reps as Lance and Sam Darnold, hinting that Allen might be leading the race for the No. 3 role and that the loser of the Lance-Darnold battle could be cut.
Christian McCaffrey is back and ready for the entire season. Behind him, the team is confident in Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, and Tyrion Davis-Price, in that order. Rookie Khalan Laborn has made a strong early impression and could contend for more playing time. Mitchell suffered a thigh strain and is expected to be sidelined for a week or more. The significant development is the involvement of the running backs in the passing game. McCaffrey's strength in this area has influenced the playbook, and the backups have been under pressure to improve their skills. According to Rohan Chakravarthi of 49ers Webzone, the backfield has been dominant regardless of who’s on the field, with Davis-Price showing the most consistency and Mason displaying growth in his second year.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk have secured the top roles. Aiyuk is an emerging star, as stated in Josh Dubow's report for Herald And News: "The work that I felt like I put in, and then also the success that I’ve had in the years, put it all together, and that’s what you get for sure." Jauan Jennings has solidified his position as the third receiver, with a focus on improving his performance in the red zone. Grant Cohn of SI.com highlighted Jennings' role as a "skinny tight end" in that area of the field. Ray-Ray McCloud's roster spot is safe as the primary returner. This leaves 2023 7th-round pick Ronnie Bell and 2022 3rd-round pick Danny Gray competing for a roster spot. According to Yahoo's Kyle Madson, Gray possesses exceptional speed, and Shanahan praised him, saying, "he’s in real good shape, and he’s been out there very consistently, and the ball came his way a little more today."
George Kittle landed 19th overall on NFL Network’s Top 100 List, the highest-ranking 49ers skill player. Cam Inman from The Mercury News reported that seventh-round pick Brayden Willis has had a strong camp, while third-round pick Cameron Latu has been quieter. Both project to make the roster. Charlie Woerner rounds out the group, having made the roster the last three years. The depth of skill options at other positions likely means any time Kittle misses will not see this position involved heavily in the game plan.
Rookie third-round pick Jake Moody faces significant pressure to secure the job over veteran Zane Gonzalez after the team's considerable investment in him, but he hasn't disappointed. Over the weekend, he succeeded in all three of his kicks, including one from 58 yards, addressing lingering concerns about his leg strength. Earlier in camp, Moody also made kicks from 57 and 60 yards. Gonzalez seems to be vying for a job on another, as Moody has excelled throughout camp.
The story on the defensive side is Nick Bosa's holdout. General Manager John Lynch said, "We have to strike the right mix of urgency. I don't like this. I don't like not having one of our best players here. But I also understand. We have to understand that we're going to have to exert some patience. But I'm very confident. And understand that this ultimately will work out." Javon Kinlaw, the 2020 first-round pick, has been a source of inspiration for the team after overcoming multiple injury setbacks at the beginning of his career. "Every year you're hoping, and every year it's just heartbreaking. This is the first time he's gone from February up to now with no setbacks. You're really pulling for the kid," noted Shanahan. The 49ers' defense is among the league’s best, with the starting eleven firmly established, barring injury.