49ers

49ers have No. 1-ranked backup QB situation in NFL with Nick Mullens

49ers have No. 1-ranked backup QB situation in NFL with Nick Mullens

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is done for the season. New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees likely is out for the next two months. Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton is debilitated by a foot injury, and might miss Week 3 or even more.

The New York Jets' starter has mononucleosis, and his backup is out for the year with an ankle injury. Tampa Bay Buccaneers signal-caller Jameis Winston continues to regress, and the Miami Dolphins have scored a grand total of one touchdown over two games.

We're just over two weeks into the NFL regular season, and several teams already have serious QB issues.

The 49ers aren't one of them, however. Jimmy Garoppolo looked much improved in San Francisco's 41-17 beatdown of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, in which he threw for 297 yards and tied his career high with three touchdown passes. And behind him, the 49ers have the man The Ringer's Riley McAtee ranked as the best backup in all of football.

That's right, Nick Mullens is the best backup signal-caller in the NFL according to McAtee, who cited Mullens' performance in place of an injured Garoppolo last year to support his claim.

"Mullens’ [adjusted net yards per attempt] of 6.7 was 15th-best in the league among the 33 passers who registered at least 200 attempts," McAtee wrote. "That may not be replicable over a larger sample size or in an offense that isn’t built by Kyle Shanahan, but it was an incredibly promising level of production for the then-rookie. To put that number into perspective, Andrew Luck registered a 5.7 ANY/A in his rookie season.

"Mullens is not the next Luck, of course, but if Garoppolo ever misses time," McAtee continued, "Niners fans should feel confident in their backup."

[RELATED: Why this Jimmy G play from 49ers' win made Shanahan proud]

In closing, McAtee used some colorful language to hammer his point.

"Look at the other 31 names on this list: Outside of teams with rookies on the bench, there is no other squad that can put the same faith in their backup. The Niners are the only team that wouldn’t be f----d."

So, relative to the rest of the NFL, the 49ers appear to be in great shape when it comes to their overall quarterback situation. As for the teams who aren't, well, perhaps San Francisco can assist them from a position of strength.

49ers' Deebo Samuel has played with physical mentality his entire life

49ers' Deebo Samuel has played with physical mentality his entire life

SANTA CLARA -- Commentators and fans alike have said Deebo Samuel runs angry with the ball in his hands, but for the 49ers rookie wide receiver, it’s the only way he knows how to play. 

When Samuel played football in his youth, his father was his coach. His instructions to his son?

“Every time you have the ball in your hands, try to get it into the end zone.”

That mantra has never changed.

“I wouldn’t say angry,” Samuel told NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s just the mentality that I have that one guy isn’t going to bring me down. And that’s always been my mentality since I’ve been playing the game.”  

Samuel’s style of play appears to be similar to that of teammate George Kittle. Neither is afraid to catch the ball across the middle and both will run over a defender once they have the ball in their hands. Samuel has an average of 7.5 yards after the catch while Kittle is not far behind at 6.5 yards. 

“I watch George,” Samuel said. “He kind of has the same mindset. I’ve never seen one guy bring him down so it’s kind of like the mentality I play with." 

Some of Samuel’s bruising ways come from his days as a running back, a position he played until he was a freshman at South Carolina. His versatility has already been utilized several times by coach Kyle Shanahan, with five rushing attempts for 27 yards and a touchdown. 

“I know what it is and know what it takes to be back there and the hits that they take,” Samuel said. “DBs out there, they’re not guys that like the physical stuff. So if they see a receiver trying to bring it to them, you know they want to hit low. Not too many people want that contact.” 

Both Samuel and Kittle have been very productive for the 49ers' offense and reliable targets for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Kittle leads the team with 541 receiving yards while Samuel is second with 339. 

With Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders' availability in doubt for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Samuel knows that he will be asked to step up if necessary. Facing the Seahawks, the rookie caught eight of his 11 targets for 112 yards, making him the most productive receiver on the field. 

Of those three missed targets, there’s one in particular that Samuel would like back. Early in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo targeted Samuel on a slant route across the middle. The ball hit Samuel in the hands, but he wasn't able to hold on as it dangerously deflected up into the air. 

[RELATED: Watch all eight 49ers dropped passes in loss to Seahawks]

By the time Samuel made a second attempt to grab the ball, the safety already was on him and broke up the pass. It would have netted a first down at a minimum, but the drive stalled and San Francisco was forced to punt. 

“I was so worried about just turning it up more,” Samuel said. “I was more focused on that than catching the ball first. You could see the safety coming down and he was not a worry of mine. Just got to make those plays. I just don’t only want to make that catch. I want to catch the ball and do something with it after I catch it. It’s just my mentality.” 

Samuel likely will have a chance to redeem himself Sunday when the 49ers face division rival Arizona. 

49ers' decisions on inactive players vs. Cardinals could be made for them

49ers' decisions on inactive players vs. Cardinals could be made for them

SANTA CLARA – NFL rules stipulate that teams are allowed to suit up a maximum of 46 players from their 53-man rosters for games.

The 49ers might not have much wiggle room with their choices for active players for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium due to a stuffed injury report heading into the Week 11 game.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he certainly would entertain the possibility of suiting up fewer than 46 players because the 49ers would not want to place any of their players on injured reserve or create a roster spot by releasing anyone.

“We were very close to doing that the last couple weeks,” Shanahan said of the possibility of suiting up 45 players. “In order to bring in a new guy, you always have to cut someone and there’s definitely not anyone we’re trying to get rid of.

“Everyone in our building we believe can help us throughout this season, but those are some of the tough decisions you have to make, whether you take the risk of cutting someone, which you take the risk of not getting that guy back.”

Six injured players were not on the field at the beginning of 49ers practice Thursday. Another, running back Tevin Coleman, was excused from practice for personal reasons, according to a team official.

Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is moving through the NFL’s concussion protocol. He has to been cleared for non-contact football activity and appears to be on pace to play Sunday.

C.J. Beathard has been inactive for every game as the team's No. 3 quarterback. 

[RELATED: Bosa has lots to study as 49ers prepare for Cardinals rematch]

Here' is the 49ers practice report from Thursday:

DID NOT PRACTICE
RB Matt Breida (ankle)
RB Tevin Coleman (not injury related)
K Robbie Gould (right quadricep)
DT D.J. Jones (groin)
TE George Kittle (knee, ankle)
WR Emmanuel Sanders (ribs)
T Joe Staley (finger)

LIMITED
LB Azeez Al-Shaair (concussion)
TE Garrett Celek (back)
DE Dee Ford (quadricep)
RB Raheem Mostert (knee)
WR Dante Pettis (back)
TE Levine Toilolo (groin)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (foot, quadricep)

Shanahan already has ruled out Staley and Jones for Sunday's game. It also appears doubtful that Kittle will be available. Sanders appeared to go through the walkthrough before leaving the field at the beginning of practice and he is day-to-day.