SANTA CLARA – Nearly a quarter of the 49ers’ 90-man roster ended up being spectators during the team’s offseason program, which officially comes to an end Thursday with a family fun day on the practice field.
The goal all along was to get to the starting line as prepared as possible when the team reconvenes in late July for the opening of training camp. Tight end Garrett Celek is not expected to be ready for the opening of training camp due to back surgery. But everyone else should be ready (or near-ready) when camp opens.
Now, the team reaches one of its most critical stages of the offseason. Everyone is on his own.
The 49ers’ coaches will not see the players during the critical 40-day period before the grind begins.
“You have to stack days up in this league,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “If you think you can just take 30 days off and stuff, you are going to be in for such a rude awakening.
“If you aren’t a pro in this offseason, and not only just train but eat the right way, sleep the right way, it will catch up with you in this league.”
Shanahan said he always gives a variation of the same speech on the final day of the offseason program. Steve Young and Jerry Rice also spoke in 2017. Last year, general manager John Lynch delivered some remarks. Thursday, new wide receivers coach Wes Welker will be the featured speaker.
The general message is to be smart and don't do anything that can have an adverse impact on your career.
The 49ers held their final on-field work Wednesday at the team’s practice facility, bringing a close to the full-squad practices. Some areas of the team came into sharper focus during the workouts:
-- Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took major strides with more than 180 snaps during the team’s 7-on-7 passing drills.
Everything was controlled, as Garoppolo faced just one pass rush during the entire offseason program. That came late in the final practice when the defensive line did not gain the full understanding of Shanahan’s command to refrain from advancing off the line of scrimmage.
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“It kind of caught me off guard a little bit, but I guess it was good to get started on that,” Garoppolo said. “That’s what it’s going to be in training camp.”
-- The competition for the No. 2 job is going to be close with, perhaps, C.J. Beathard gaining a slight edge over Nick Mullens based on the practices. Beathard has the better arm strength and is able to make all the throws, but he appeared a bit shell-shocked toward the end of his run last season.
Mullens has great knowledge of the system and played at a high level in eight starts. He needs to improve his throws outside the numbers.
-- Veteran wide receiver Marquise Goodwin’s spot appeared vulnerable when the offseason began. But he came through with a very strong showing, including a great start to Tuesday’s practice with receptions on deep-out patterns to the left and right sides from Beathard.
-- Trent Taylor clearly created separation against Richie James for the team’s primary slot receiver job. Taylor is healthy after missing all of last offseason’s work following back surgery. Taylor created a nice rapport with Garoppolo.
“He feels space differently than most guys,” Garoppolo said.
James, a second-year player, did not appear to take advantage of his opportunities to make catches during the practices that were open to the media.
-- Taylor, Goodwin, Dante Pettis and Jordan Matthews had the best offseasons among the team’s wide receivers.
-- Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon might have been the best player on defense during the offseason program. He routinely had tight coverage and broke up numerous passes. Witherspoon's elevation in play –- along with Jimmie Ward’s fractured collarbone – prompted the 49ers to move Tarvarius Moore to free safety.
Obviously, Richard Sherman is slated to start at left cornerback. Witherspoon, now, must hold onto his job against Jason Verrett, who is expected to be a full-go for practices at the beginning of training camp.
-- Moore broke up a Garoppolo pass on a deep crossing route for Goodwin during practice Wednesday. (It was a pass Shanahan thought Garoppolo should not have thrown.) Moore is already looking better at free safety than he did during his time at cornerback. But Moore faces an uphill climb for playing time with Ward and Adrian Colbert ahead of him on the depth chart.
-- It is difficult to read much into play on the offensive and defensive lines when the players are not wearing pads. But veteran nose tackle Sheldon Day opened some eyes with his quickness off the ball. He got into the backfield on back-to-back run plays on Wednesday to stuff running back Tevin Coleman.
-- Linebacker Eljah Lee is making a bid, along with Dre Greenlaw, to win a starting job in the 49ers’ reconfigured linebacking corps. Veteran Malcolm Smith is also in the picture to start alongside Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander. Lee looked particularly good in coverage during practice Wednesday.