SANTA CLARA -- The two rookie wide receivers are coming on strong during 49ers training camp.
Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd have shown the kind of aggressive mentalities that coach Kyle Shanahan wants to see from all of his wide receivers. In that area, the rookies are leading the charge.
Meanwhile, Dante Pettis, who was expected to be the team’s top wide receiver in his second season, has yet to consistently step up his game on the practice field. Pettis has not demonstrated the kind of attitude that has enabled Hurd and Samuel to make a strong impression.
Hurd made his mark early in camp as a blocker on run plays. Now, he’s doing more in the passing game to open the eyes of the coaching staff. Shanahan said he likes how Hurd and Samuel are strong players who play big.
“They’re both big guys, big targets,” Shanahan said. “They have strong hands who can defeat holding. When guys are on them, they’re not thrown off their routes as much.
“Not only do they have the bodies like that, but they have the mentality to go with it.”
While Shanahan singled out Pettis for his hand-eye coordination and catching ability, he praised Samuel, Hurd and Kendrick Bourne for having strong hands and being able to secure the football in traffic.
Cornerback Richard Sherman outmuscled Pettis in the end zone to break up a pass – the kind of play the 49ers want their receivers to win.
Hurd had three receptions from Nick Mullens in a four-play span, including a 22-yard reception. In one red-zone sequence, Hurd was clearly frustrated that Mullens threw the ball away instead of giving him a chance to fight for the ball against a smaller defender. Hurd (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) spent his first three college seasons at Tennessee as a running before transferring to Baylor and becoming a wide receiver.
Offensive play of the day
Rookie tight end Kaden Smith, a sixth-round draft pick from Stanford, had a quiet first 10 practices of training camp. He came up with a big play on Thursday. Against multiple defenders in tight coverage, Smith hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Mullens during a move-the-chains period.
Defensive plays of the day
Safety Tarvarius Moore had the two best plays in practice. We’ll call them co-defensive plays of the day.
Moore had coverage on Pettis in the red zone. When Pettis broke inside, Moore was in great position to step in front of him for the interception of a Jimmy Garoppolo pass.
Later, Moore was playing the deep middle on a play in which Garoppolo looked deep for tight end George Kittle running deep down the left side. Linebacker Kwon Alexander had inside leverage in coverage, and Moore ranged near the sideline to break up the pass.
On July 30, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Moore was a long way from being an NFL-ready safety after transitioning from cornerback in the offseason. But Moore has shown steady improvements. Moore said his speed and instinct have enabled him to make big strides and more plays on the practice field.
The 49ers have five players who are questionable for Week 1 of the regular season: Defensive end Nick Bosa (ankle), cornerback Jason Verrett (ankle), running back Jerick McKinnon (knee), nickel back K’Waun Williams (knee) and center Weston Richburg (knee).
Shanahan was not pleased with how the team practiced on Wednesday, the day Bosa and Verrett were injured.
“I thought it was just a little sloppy, too many guys on the ground,” Shanahan said. “That’s why I don’t like to tackle. Guys get hurt when you go to the ground. We had two guys go to the ground yesterday and had two good players have some pretty serious injuries from it.
“Verrett went to the ground and got his ankle and then we stumbled up and we had a body land on Nick’s knee. So, it was good on him getting his knee out of there. It was a pretty freak thing and just fortunate to come out the way he did.”
Dee Ford (knee tendinitis) is expected to miss at least another week, while Arik Armstead (calf) and Ronald Blair (groin) are listed as day-to-day.
Coming and goings
With the 49ers’ depth on the defensive line being tested, the club signed Jeremiah Valoaga (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) to a one-year deal. Valoaga originally signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2017 and appeared in nine games as a rookie. He spent last season on the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins. Valoaga was 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek at both of those stops.
The 49ers waived wide receiver Chris Thompson to make room for Valoaga.
This ‘n’ That
The 49ers have yet to determine which quarterback will open as the starter in the exhibition opener. Garoppolo will not suit up. Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard are competing for the No. 2 job. All three quarterbacks worked in the offseason with throwing guru Tom House, Shanahan said, and Mullens appears to have benefited the most with increased velocity on his passes. ...
Mullens completed eight of 11 pass attempts, with four of his completions going to Hurd. Garoppolo was 12 of 20, while Beathard was 8 of 13, including three incompletions to conclude the day. ...
Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon appears likely to open the season as a starter after Verrett’s injury is expected to keep him out for approximately a month. Witherspoon had good coverage to break up a deep Garoppolo pass intended for Pettis. ...
[RELATED: How Verrett's injury impacts Witherspoon]
Slot receiver Trent Taylor has been the team’s most consistent receiver through camp. He had a 9-yard touchdown catch to cap a 12-play, 55-yard touchdown drive. ...
Defensive linemen Jordan Thompson and Jullian Taylor provided good pressure with the pass rush.
The 49ers will have no more open practices at their Santa Clara facility. On Friday, the club is scheduled for a walk-through. The exhibition opener is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.