49ers

49ers notes: Rookie tight end Kittle impresses in offseason program

49ers notes: Rookie tight end Kittle impresses in offseason program

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end George Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick, asserted himself during the 49ers’ offseason program as the team’s top rookie and set himself up to compete for a starting job in training camp.

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall draft pick, was prohibited from participating in the practices due to Stanford’s late conclusion of classes. And linebacker Reuben Foster, the first-round selection at No. 31, was limited to individual drills as he continues rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.

Kittle ended on a high note on Wednesday, as he caught touchdown passes of 8 and 5 yards from Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard during red-zone drill. On Tuesday, he took advantage of a blown coverage to score on a 60-yard touchdown from presumptive starter Brian Hoyer.

“George is coming, really battling,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s competed in the run and the pass game. George is a guy you can tell he is going for it, because of the way he competes on the field.

“Mainly, what he does off the field, too. He’s really trying to learn it and that’s given him a chance to show up a little bit.”

Kittle caught six passes in the two days of practice during the team’s minicamp, which wrapped up its on-field work Wednesday afternoon. Only Pierre Garçon (eight) and Carlos Hyde (seven) caught more passes than Kittle.

Kittle appeared to place himself into solid position to compete for a starting job against veterans Vance McDonald, who caught two passes, and Garrett Celek, who had one reception in the two days.

“He has a really good football awareness -- a feel for where to break, how to break, read zones,” Hoyer said of Kittle. “I've been surprised and, obviously, it's a good thing for us to have a guy who has that football awareness and some feel of the game to it.”

Here are some other notes and observations from the final 49ers practice of the offseason before the club reports back to Santa Clara on July 27 for training camp:

--Foster took part in individual drills and showed no signs of a the right shoulder condition that some national reports have suggested will keep him sidelined for his entire rookie season. Shanahan stated that Foster is on track to be cleared for full participation at the beginning of training camp.

--Linebacker Ahmad Brooks, wide receiver Bruce Ellington, and cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and K’Waun Williams took part in some individual work but were held out of team drills due to what appear to be minor soft-tissue injuries.

--Twenty different players caught passes in 11-on-11 drills over the two days, including DeAndre Smelter, who worked inside of rookie left cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on a slant pattern to catch a 5-yard touchdown from Barkley. Smelter was a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2014. He appeared in two games last season and caught one pass for 23 yards.

--Jeremy Kerley, Trent Taylor, Raheem Mostert, DeAndre Carter and Victor Bolden fielded punts from Bradley Pinion during a special-teams drill.

--The defense came through with six interceptions against three different quarterbacks during a six-play stretch near the beginning of practice. Safety Eric Reid picked off a Hoyer pass. Three plays later, veteran cornerback Will Davis, whom the 49ers recently signed, made a leaping grab of a deep Barkley pass intended for Aldrick Robinson. Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong got pressure on Barkley, forcing him to throw from his heels. Then, undrafted rookie Chanceller James stepped in front of a Beathard pass intended for Carter and returned it for a touchdown.

--The offense put together a strong red-zone session with five touchdowns over a sequence of six pass attempts. Garçon found an opening between NaVorro Bowman and Malcolm Smith for a touchdown. Hyde caught a throwback screen. Kittle worked inside of cornerback Adrian Colbert for an 8-yard TD from Barkley. Smelter caught his scoring pass against Witherspoon, and Kittle followed up with another scoring grab from former Iowa teammate Beathard against the coverage of Prince Charles Iworah.

--Undrafted rookie wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was finally allowed to join the 49ers practices after the conclusion of classes at Eastern Washington. He made a reception from undrafted quarterback Nick Mullens.

--Cornerback Keith Reaser and free safety Jimmie Ward, beaten a day earlier on a deep Marquise Goodwin pass, had tight coverage on Kerley on an incomplete pass off a play fake.

--Defensive linemen Chris Jones and Arik Armstead had multiple quarterback pressures.

--With Williams sidelined, Will Redmond and Lorenzo Jerome lined up at nickel back with the first- and second-team defenses.

--Sam linebacker Eli Harold nearly had an interception at the line of scrimmage on a Hoyer pass, but backup left tackle John Theus aggressively separated Harold from the ball as they tumbled to the ground.

--During the course of the two practices, Hyde had nine run attempts, while Tim Hightower had eight. Rookie Joe Williams carried six times, while Raheem Mostert rushed five times. Veteran addition Kapri Bibbs and undrafted rookie Matt Breida had two rush attempts apiece.

--Goodwin had a good showing over the two-day camp with four receptions, as he hones in on running different routes in Shanahan’s scheme. Goodwin told NBC Sports Bay Area he was eager to show he could execute more than just the speed routes that he ran while with the Buffalo Bills.

“That’s what’s been fun with Marquise, because you haven’t seen a lot of it on tape,” Shanahan said. “He’s been pretty much outside the numbers his whole career, even in college. Now to move him all over, it’s new for him, its trial and error.”

NFL picks: 49ers vs. Chiefs Week 3 score predictions

NFL picks: 49ers vs. Chiefs Week 3 score predictions

The 49ers (1-1) take their show on the road to Kansas City on Sunday as they face the Chiefs (2-0) in Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season.

San Francisco will be tasked with trying to slow down Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown 10 touchdown passes and has yet to be intercepted in two games.

Running back Matt Breida will look to reclaim his place as the NFL's leading rusher. The second-year back enters the game with 184 yards, trailing former 49er Carlos Hyde, who has 203 rushing yards following Cleveland's win on Thursday night.

NFL experts from around the country have made their picks for Sunday's clash, and all of them see the Chiefs dropping the 49ers to 1-2.

Nick Wagoner, ESPN.com: Chiefs 37, 49ers 31

Adam Teicher, ESPN.com: Chiefs 34, 49ers 28

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Chiefs 31, 49ers 28

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Chiefs 37, 49ers 30

Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star: Chiefs, 30, 49ers 23

Vincent Frank, Forbes.com: Chiefs 41, 49ers 31

***

This Sunday, be sure to watch 49ers Pregame Live at 9 a.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and 49ers Postgame Live immediately after the game on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus and live streaming on the NBC Sports app. Greg Papa, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt will have everything you need to know from the 49ers’ game in Kansas City.

Four 49ers players to watch Sunday vs. Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium

Four 49ers players to watch Sunday vs. Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium

The 49ers have not won in Kansas City since 1982.

OK, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. After all, that streak consists of just four games. But the past three games have been Chiefs blowout victories of 44-9 in 1997, 41-0 in 2006, and 31-10 in 2010.

Arrowhead Stadium is considered one of the most difficult outdoor venues for opposing teams in the NFL. And things should be rocking on Sunday when second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes his first start at home. 

Here are four 49ers who can help spoil what the folks in Kansas City expect to be a festive day.

LB Reuben Foster

Foster returns to action on Sunday after missing the first two games of the season due to a suspension for violations of the NFL’s policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct. His presence should provide a boost to the 49ers, who got uneven play at the weakside linebacker spot during his absence.

Foster is a dynamic playmaker who should help offset some of Kansas City’s speed advantage. Foster is likely to start, alongside middle linebacker Fred Warner, giving the 49ers a player who can range sideline-to-sideline to track down explosive running back Kareem Hunt.

The 49ers also expect veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith to make his 49ers debut after missing all of last season with a torn pectoral and the first two games this season with a hamstring injury. The 49ers will undoubtedly find a way to get Smith on the field with Foster and Warner.

RB Matt Breida

The 49ers must match Kansas City’s big-play ability with some of their own. Veteran running back Alfred Morris is the grinder. Breida is the home-run hitter.

Breida enters Sunday’s game as the NFL’s leading rusher with 184 yards on just 22 rushing attempts. In the 49ers’ 30-27 victory over the Detroit Lions last week, Breida accounted for 159 yards from scrimmage. His 11.4 yards per touch was the highest verage for a 49ers running back since Frank Gore averaged 11.7 yards per touch in game against Seattle in 2009.

The 49ers must establish their outside zone running game, which should help slow down the Kansas City pass rush in order to enable quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to make some plays down the field.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon

The 49ers’ first two opponents have virtually ignored their receivers on the side of the field where Richard Sherman lines up. On the other side, Witherspoon has seen a lot of action. And that does not figure to change this week after he struggled in coverage against the Lions.

Witherspoon is not 100 percent, as he nurses an ankle injury. But he the 49ers say he is expected to play. If he is cleared to play and he says he can play, he is held to the same standard as everyone else. Mahomes will test Witherspoon early and often. And if Witherspoon is not up to the task, especially in attempting to run with wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the 49ers will have to consider once against taking him off the field in order to give the team its best chance of coming out of Kansas City with a victory.

TE George Kittle

Kittle had a big game in the opener at Minnesota, and it could have been a whole lot better. Last week, he was not a big part of the team’s game plan.

This week, he might be needed to quickly beat man coverage in the middle of the field and make plays as Garoppolo and the 49ers’ offense will aim to quiet the boisterous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.

Garoppolo was sacked six times against Detroit, and a lot of the 49ers' problems stemmed from the receivers’ inability to get open quickly. That is where Kittle must excel, in order to give Garoppolo quick and easy solutions to beat the pressure. Kittle has seven catches for 112 yards through two games to lead the team, and he might need to have a huge game for the 49ers to pull off the upset.