SANTA CLARA – The 49ers did not select wide receiver Dante Pettis in the second round of the 2018 draft for his tenacity as a blocker.
And Marquise Goodwin did not qualify for the Olympics because of his size, strength and aggression.
But the team’s starting wide receivers have played a significant supporting role in enabling the 49ers to rank No. 2 in the NFL through five games with a 178.9-yard average on the ground.
“They’re a smart group, so they know that if they block well in the run game, it’ll set up the play passes and things like that down the field,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said on Wednesday.
“When you have a group of receivers that are willing to do that and they’re able to make plays on the back end on the play passes, that makes for a dangerous combination. You got to tip your hat to them. That’s not easy for a wide receiver to go into the box.”
Neither Pettis nor Goodwin is known for his physicality or aggression. Yet, they often speak to each other about that area of their games. For Pettis, he said his improvement as a blocker is a direct result of understanding how it ties into the successes of the offense.
“I did it because I needed to,” he said of his improved blocking. “I was lazy in it before.
“My whole life blocking has never been something. I’m a receiver. But seeing how Kyle does a really good job of showing how important we are to the run game, showing how much our blocks tie into the scheme up front. Seeing all that, it was like, ‘OK, this is super important to the team.’”
Pettis said there will be times when he and Goodwin are watching film and Goodwin tells him he’s not doing his job well enough. Pettis consults Goodwin, who is an effective and willing blocker, about certain techniques.
In the 49ers’ 20-7 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Pettis made good blocks in the running game against linebacker Samson Ebukam and free safety Eric Weddle.
“You can’t play if you’re not out there blocking,” Pettis said.
Pettis’ increase in playing time from the first couple games of the season has been a direct result of how much he has embraced his role as a blocker. Pettis has just nine catches for 83 yards and one touchdown on the season. Pettis had three receptions against the Rams, and each went for a first down.
“Dante is going to show up when he gets his chances,” Garoppolo said. “He’s been showing it in practice, consistently and it’s starting to transfer over to the games. He’s a hard-worker and puts in time, and he’s always going to be there for you.”