The 49ers reported to Santa Clara last week for training camp and held four practices before taking Sunday off. With practices set to resume on Monday, here are some of the key takeaways from the first week of camp.
1. QB Competition: When Kyle Shanahan was asked about how reps would be split between incumbent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance during his press conference on the first day of camp, the response from the 49ers head coach was that Garoppolo would be getting the starters reps and Lance would be taking reps with the second team. To some that seemed to squash any notion of a quarterback competition, however that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While it’s true that Garoppolo is currently running with the first unit, Lance has shown consistently throughout the first four days of training camp why the 49ers made him the third selection in the draft. For the most part, Lance has been the more consistent of the two quarterbacks.
In reality, this isn’t a competition. This is all about Trey Lance and the 49ers letting him prove that he deserves to start. From the moment San Francisco invested three first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to draft the former North Dakota State quarterback, this became all about his readiness to play. Once Lance shows that he is at least at the same level or close to Garoppolo he will become the starter. Based on their performances in week one, that time is quickly approaching.
2. Injuries: The week started with the positive news that Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Jalen Hurd had all passed their physicals and would be able to join the team for practice instead of needing to start camp on the physically unable to perform list. Hurd would participate in the first two practices before missing the final two of the week. Training camp can be a long grind, but Hurd hasn’t seen the field much during his time with the 49ers and needs to start showing that he can be counted on. Meanwhile, Bosa would miss Friday’s practice with a maintenance day before returning to the field on Saturday. Ford has participated in each practice so far.
After not initially being reported as having any injury issues, Javon Kinlaw would spend the week working on a side field during team activities. When asked about it after the first practice, Shanahan noted that Kinlaw had some swelling in his knee after traveling to Santa Clara. Kinlaw had knee tendinitis at the scouting combine and then missed time at the end of the season due to a knee injury. While the second-year defensive tackle took to Twitter to state that he is not injured, this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
On day three, tight end MyCole Pruitt missed practice due to a calf injury that according to Shanahan will keep the free agent acquisition “out for a little bit.” In addition to Pruitt, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was held out of practice with an ankle injury and is listed as day to day.
3. Jordan Matthews signed: With Pruitt being down for an undetermined amount of time, the 49ers found themselves thin at tight end. This led San Francisco to sign Jordan Matthews late Friday afternoon. The former wide receiver has added about 20 pounds this offseason and is attempting to transition to tight end. While he may be a long shot to make the final roster, the 49ers are very familiar with Matthews as he spent time on the active roster previously in 2019 and 2020.
4. Kentavius Street shines: With Kinlaw unable to participate in team drills, Street has replaced him in the starting lineup. The 2018 fourth round draft pick is making the most of the opportunity. As defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans noted on Saturday, this is the first time Street has been fully healthy from day one of training camp and it is showing. Street has made a number of plays in the run game and is getting a good deal of push when rushing the passer as well.
5. Mike McGlinchey: After struggling throughout the 2020 season, McGlinchey is looking for a big rebound this year with an emphasis on big. Last season, pass rushers driving McGlinchey back into the quarterback became a regular occurrence. The fourth-year right tackle has added about 25 pounds this offseason in an effort to help anchor in pass protection which would help stop this move. While the extra weight should help with pass protection, McGlinchey’s speed has not been impacted which is very important considering how often the tackles are asked to move while run blocking in San Francisco’s offensive scheme.
6. Mohamed Sanu: The veteran wide receiver is looked at as a leader for the position group. Shanahan and fellow receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk showered praise on Sanu when asked about the receiver. Both receivers had expressed frustration last season when Sanu was released following week three, and spoke about how excited they are to have him back in the fold.
With Kendrick Bourne now in New England, Sanu appears to be the leader to replace him as the third wide receiver. While he may not be a breakaway threat, Sanu showed the ability to be a reliable option while averaging 11.1 yards per catch with Detroit last season. That average matches what Sanu was able to do while playing under Shanahan with the Falcons in 2016.
7. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk: The starting wide receiver duo showed up with big plays repeatedly throughout the first week of camp and appear set to have a big year, especially Samuel. After finishing with more yards after catch than receiving yards in 2020, Samuel has made a number of receptions down the field through the first four practices. He looks determined to change the narrative about him being limited in his ability to make big plays downfield.
8. Rookie cornerbacks not showing up: With veteran Emmanuel Moseley forced to miss the opening of training camp due to being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, there was an opening for rookies Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir to replace him in the starting lineup. Instead, the spot has been filled by Tim Harris Jr. Thomas and Lenoir struggled to keep up with receivers through the first week of camp. They need to start proving themselves or the concerns about the lack of depth in the secondary could prove to be well-founded.
9. Samson Ebukam playing fast: After bouncing back and forth between linebacker and defensive end during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Ebukam will be able to put all of his attention solely on the defensive end for San Francisco. After practice on Friday, I asked Ebukam how this transition has been helpful, “It’s so much easier mentally,” answered Ebukam. “In the past, I had so much to think about, but now I can just go.”
Jack Hammer is a lifelong 49ers fan who shares insights on the team, and leads discussion on all football and team topics. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackHammer_NFL and subscribe to his YouTube Channel, YouTube.com/c/JackHammer49.