49ers camp report: C.J. Beathard injury opens door for QB Nick Mullens

49ers camp report: C.J. Beathard injury opens door for QB Nick Mullens

SANTA CLARA – 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens got his opportunity last season after C.J. Beathard got banged up and could not make a start on a short week.

Beathard is back on the injured list, opening the door for Mullens to build a lead in the competition for the 49ers’ backup job behind Jimmy Garoppolo.

Beathard did not practice on Tuesday, as the 49ers returned to the field after two days off following the team’s preseason opener on Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys. Beathard sustained a thumb injury when he hit his hand on a helmet on his final pass attempt of the game.

Last season, Mullens took full advantage of his opportunity when Beathard was sidelined after five up-and-down starts. Mullens played well down the stretch of the season, giving 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan no reason to take him out of the lineup.

Mullens ended up starting the final eight games of the season. He averaged 285 yards passing per game, ranking him fourth all-time through eight games behind Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton.

On Tuesday, Mullens completed six of his nine pass attempts, including two throws to rookie Jalen Hurd, who had another good day.

Mullens and Beathard remain in competition for the backup job. If Beathard is available to play Monday night in the 49ers' second preseason game, he is scheduled to enter the game second, behind Garoppolo.

Offensive play of the day

The 49ers have been waiting for second-year wide receiver Dante Pettis to show more consistency on the practice field. Pettis caught only one pass in 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday, but it went for 30-plus yards when he found himself wide open down the right sideline to catch a pass from Garoppolo.

Cornerback Richard Sherman was trailing the play, which appeared to be a blown coverage in the 49ers’ defensive backfield.

Defensive play of the day

Veteran Malcolm Smith and rookie Dre Greenlaw are in a battle for the starting job at outside linebacker. Smith, who has been plagued by injuries since signing with the 49ers, returned to practice after missing some time with a hamstring strain.

Smith made the top play of the day when he diagnosed a shovel pass from Garoppolo to Tevin Coleman and was there to make the stop behind the line of scrimmage.

Injury report

Tight end George Kittle is experiencing tightness in his calf and did not practice. Kittle is not expected to miss much time.

Rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel was excused for personal reasons, the team announced.

Nose tackle D.J. Jones (knee) and tight end Levine Toilolo (undisclosed) did not practice after seeing extended action on Saturday night.

Defensive end Arik Armstead (calf), linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring) and running back Jeff Wilson (calf) returned to practice.

Safety Jimmie Ward was back on the practice field without pads, wearing a blue jersey to signify no contact. He is returning to work after sustaining a fractured collarbone in June.

This ‘n’ that

--Rookie Wilton Speight, the No. 4 quarterback, got his first 11-on-11 snaps of the summer in practice. He completed all three of his attempts. . .

--Left tackle Joe Staley had a devastating blindside block on cornerback Dontae Johnson on a run play. Staley immediately went to Johnson and apologized for the hit that sent Johnson crashing to the ground. . .

--Ben Garland lined up at center with the first-team offense, with Mike Person playing right guard. Reserve guard Joshua Garnett remains out of action after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated finger on the first weekend of camp. . .

--Emmanuel Moseley lined up at nickel back with the first-team defense with K’Waun Williams and Jason Verrett out through the end of the preseason with injuries. . . .

--Veteran wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who is competing for a roster spot, dropped an easy pass at waist level from Mullens near the goal line on a play from the 22-yard line. . . .

[RELATED: Shanahan not blown away by 49ers rookie receivers’ debuts]

--Garoppolo and Matt Breida hooked up for a 10-yard touchcown against the coverage of Kwon Alexander. . .

--Defensive linemen Solomon Thomas, Kentavius Street, Jullian Taylor, Jamell Garcia-Williams and Jordan Thompson registered pressures. . .

--Linebacker Fred Warner scooped up a fumble against Tevin Coleman on one of the first running plays of the day. . .

Next up

The 49ers are scheduled to practice Wednesday at 10 a.m. before traveling to Denver on Wednesday afternoon. The club will have a day off on Thursday before practices Friday and Saturday against the Broncos.

Five 49ers to watch: Jimmy Garoppolo needs to do more


Five 49ers to watch: Jimmy Garoppolo needs to do more

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers take the field on Sunday looking to rebound from a loss for the first time this season.

The 49ers (8-1) still lead the NFC West by a half-game over the Seattle Seahawks, who snapped San Francisco's wining streak with a 27-24 victory in overtime on Monday night.

Now, the 49ers will face the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in three weeks.

The clubs met on Oct. 31, a game in which the 49ers hold on for a 28-25 victory over the Cardinals. Here are five key players for the 49ers in this Week 11 matchup:

5. LT Justin Skule

The sixth-round draft pick is back in the starting lineup after veteran left tackle Joe Staley underwent surgery to repair a dislocated and fractured finger. Skule started six games earlier this season in place of Staley before he was inactive on Monday night against the Seahawks.

Skule surrendered four sacks and 13 total pressures in his six starts, and he will go up against one of the more difficult assignments on the schedule – a return matchup against Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones.

Jones has registered double-digit sacks in five consecutive seasons, including this year with 11.5. Jones and Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett are tied for the lead in the NFL.

Coach Kyle Shanahan will do all he can to take the heat off Skule, but there will be plenty of instances in which he must be able to hold up one-on-one against one of the best in the league.

4. SS Jaquiski Tartt

The 49ers saw what worked for the Cardinals in Week 9, and you can be sure the formula will remain mostly the same on Sunday.

Arizona’s offensive game plan called for a heavy dose of running back Kenyan Drake, both as a runner and pass catcher. Drake had 15 rushing attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all four of his pass targets for 52 yards.

Tartt will have major responsibilities in both areas. He will play in the box on the early downs, where he can be the eighth defender against the run. He must also quickly diagnose the Cardinals’ screen game and keep those plays to a minimum.

The 49ers’ pass rush was held mostly at bay against the Cardinals because coach Kliff Kingsbury designed a game plan that called for quarterback Kyler Murray to take short drops and deliver the ball quickly. Tartt might have an opportunity to jump some of those shallow routes.

3. WR Deebo Samuel

The 49ers have not been able to find consistency at wide receiver, aside from newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders. But Sanders is questionable for Sunday with a ribs injury. If he plays, he might not be at 100 percent.

Samuel is showing signs of being a trusted target for Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie.

Samuel, a second-round draft pick from South Carolina, has 30 catches for 339 yards and one touchdown. He had a strong showing on Monday night, but had a bad drop on a play that he might’ve been able to turn into a long touchdown.

With the 49ers not finding reliable answers with Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, in particular, they will need more and more production from Samuel.

2. LB Fred Warner

The season-ending injury to linebacker Kwon Alexander left a large void in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

Fred Warner did a good job of compensating for the loss of Alexander, who proved to be a solid playmaker and an invaluable member of the team for the energy he brings to the defense. On Monday, Warner did it all.

Warner registered 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was disappointed in his own play on Oct. 31 when he missed two tackles and made some assignment errors in the first meeting against the Cardinals.

The next step for Warner is becoming a reliable player every game.

"He had a very good game and now it goes back to consistency being the truest measure of performance,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He’s got to go stack it up and do it again.”

1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo cannot do it all by himself, but he’s going to have to do more than usual.

Garoppolo had his best game on Oct. 31 against the Cardinals. He threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns in the 49ers’ 28-25 victory in Glendale, Arizona

Then, he followed that up with a stinker against the Seattle Seahawks. To be sure, Garoppolo did no receive much support from his teammates on offense. The pass protection was problematic, and the receivers had plenty of difficulty holding onto the ball.

But Garoppolo was also off the mark on many of the throws in which his receivers should have come up with catches. He was also helped out by Seattle’s defense, which did not hold onto a would-be interception or two.

The 49ers do not figure to have tight end George Kittle available, and Emmanuel Sanders’ availability might not be known until Sunday morning. Garoppolo will have to show trust in the team’s other target, and they have to hold up their end of the bargain, too.

Steve Young gives take on Kyle Shanahan's overtime strategy vs. Seahawks

Steve Young gives take on Kyle Shanahan's overtime strategy vs. Seahawks

Hindsight is always 20/20.

Kyle Shanahan knows that, but that didn't stop the critics for coming after his play-calling after the 49ers' 27-24 overtime loss to the Seahawks at Levi's Stadium in Week 9. 

During the overtime period, Shanahan elected not to go for fourth-and-1 from the Seahawks' 29-yard line, opting instead to trot out rookie kicked Chase McLaughlin for a 47-yard attempt. The kick never had a shot and the Seahawks had life. But the 49ers' defense stood tall and forced a punt, giving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the ball back with 1:50 to go.

Shanahan, always the aggressor, opted to throw the ball three times -- all of which were incomplete -- burning only 17 seconds off the clock before punting the ball back the Seahawks. Quarterback Russell Wilson marched Seattle into field-goal range and Jason Myers drilled the kick to give the Niners their first loss.

Fans were critical of Shanahan for not running the ball, and giving the Seahawks time to win the game. Cornerback Richard Sherman doesn't have time for "armchair coaches" who want to play for ties. Niners legend Steve Young wants to remind fans that Shanahan always has been an aggressive coach -- that's part of the reason the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI -- so fans can't all of a sudden expect something different.

"Remember, Kyle Shanahan in many ways, the Super Bowl got away from the whole team, but him especially, because he’s so aggressive,” Young told KNBR. “And when we signed him that’s what you get. Don’t all of the sudden go, ‘aw I wish that he would’ve played for the tie.'

"I'm just saying that we signed a guy that goes for broke," Young continued before pivoting to the fourth-and-1 decision. "To your other point, why didn't you go for it on fourth and a half yard? I was sitting there and this young kid shows up and splits three right down the middle. You couldn't pick a side on any of the kicks. Right down the middle. To win the game, you are so -- it's gone back and forth. You'd won it three times, you'd lost it three times, you just want to end it. I get it."

While Young understands the decisions, he would have gone for it on fourth-and-1 and would have at least run the ball once on the final possession.

"I think I would’ve gone for the half yard. I think. That’s what I felt, that was my instinct," Young said. “I would like them to have 35 less seconds if we have to hand them the ball back. To hand them the ball back with having only taking 22 or whatever it was off -- you would never repeat that. You would never say, 'There's 1:27 at the end of overtime, I'm not going to hand it back with 1:05.' That's not part of the plan."

[RELATED: Warner does it all for 49ers' defense in Kwon's absence]

In the end, Shanahan's decisions backfired, but if McLaughlin makes the kick like he did his first three on the night then the conversation is totally different.

Shanahan is one of the NFL's best offensive minds, and the 49ers love his aggressiveness when calling plays. Sometimes things just don't break your way.