3 players with the most to gain in training camp for the 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers kicked off the 2018 season with high expectations for themselves with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. Earlier that offseason, Garoppolo received a lucrative extension and was handed the keys to Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
A couple of weeks in though, the 49ers’ season came crashing down after Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3. After that, things continually got worse for the 49ers and their ability to win games.
After Garoppolo went down, Shanahan turned to C.J. Beathard as the quarterback, but second-year quarterback went 0-5 in the games he started in. Then, a guy by the name of Nick Mullens stepped in and was surprisingly decent as the starter.
Mullens helped lead the team to a 3-5 record to end the season as an undrafted free agent. Despite the injury to their franchise quarterback, Shanahan was able to help the offense reach the 16th-best offense in the NFL. Now, the return of Garoppolo is highly-anticipated this offseason.
Garoppolo will get a chance to get himself ready for the 2019 season in training camp this season. Besides Garoppolo, there are a few players who have something to gain during training camp this year for the 49ers.
3. Ahkello Witherspoon
One of the possible starters on the 49ers defense this season could be Ahkello Witherspoon. The 49ers pass defense was decent last season with Shanahan hoping for improvements this year.
Of course, the 49ers have Richard Sherman manning one side, but the other side has not yet been decided. This offseason, San Francisco brought in Jason Verrett in hopes he can get healthy and return to his once-dominant form.
It’s uncertain if Verrett will be ready for the beginning of training camp while he is still nursing his Achilles injury he suffered before the 2018 season began. Verrett was with the Los Angeles Chargers, but the team decided not to bring him back.
Witherspoon is entering his third season in the NFL but figures to have a decent shot at starting at cornerback alongside Sherman. If Verrett misses any time during training camp, then Witherspoon has to take advantage of all of the reps he is given.
2. Arik Armstead
The 49ers drafted Nick Bosa with the second overall pick in this year’s draft, but he has rarely been on the practice field due to a hamstring injury he suffered in OTAs this offseason.
Bosa should slide into the starting spot once he returns from injury, but while he’s been sidelined, Arik Armstead has been starting in his place. It’s highly unlikely that Armstead starts in Week 1, but he could earn himself a decent-sized role.
Armstead is entering his fifth season with the 49ers after starting at all 16 games for the team in 2018. In 2018, Armstead had just three sacks among the 37 that the team had altogether.
With the team struggling to get to the quarterback in 2018, the 49ers drafted Bosa and traded for Dee Ford. That leaves Armstead to try and secure a rotational role in the defense. The only way he can do that is by having a strong training camp this month.
1. Deebo Samuel
During the draft process, Deebo Samuel was one of the most-talked-about receivers in this year’s draft. Samuel comes to San Francisco where he could easily find himself having a role in the offense.
Of course, Dante Pettis is expected to step into the top receiver spot, and Marquise Goodwin is a dangerous weapon alongside him. After that, the 49ers will likely go into training camp with a battle for the slot receiver position.
Currently, Samuel, Trent Taylor, and Jordan Matthews will all compete for the third receiver spot. Samuel’s route running and ability to make plays after the catch makes him a top candidate for the spot.
The 49ers plan is to surround Garoppolo with as many weapons as humanly possible. Samuel will need to impress in his first-ever training camp if he expects to have an important role in Shanahan’s offense.