49ers rookie Garnett 'playing catch up' in quest for starting job


49ers rookie Garnett 'playing catch up' in quest for starting job

ENGLEWOOD, Col. – When the 49ers jumped back into the end of the first round of the NFL Draft to select Stanford guard Joshua Garnett, it was easy to assume the Outland Trophy winner would be a starter in his first season.

Now, it’s not looking like such a simple task for Garnett to break into the lineup in the first week of the regular season.

And that is actually a good thing for the 49ers, who appear to have assembled a much-improved cast of offensive line candidates from a year ago. Garnett played well Sunday against the Houston Texans in his first exhibition game, lining up with the second-team offense.

“The hope is to develop him as quickly as we can,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “But there are other guys in that locker room competing just as hard for those spots. He’s going to earn whatever role he has. If he’s a starter, he’s going to earn it.

“He’s a talented player. That’s why we moved up in the first round to get him. We feel he is a starter in the National Football League. How soon he asserts himself, time will tell.”

[MAIOCCO: All but one spot on 49ers' O-line remain unsettled]

Baalke pointed out the low numbers of offensive linemen who have been able in recent years to break into NFL starting lineups early in their careers.

In 2015, there were 13 offensive linemen selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Seven of those offensive linemen, including two top-10 picks, were primary starters as rookies. The other six players started a combined 16 games.

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Garnett arrived at training camp in a bit of a disadvantage. Garnett had to stay away from the 49ers until the final minicamp in June because of an NFL rule that does not allow rookies to join offseason programs until their school year has concluded. Stanford is on the quarters system and finishes later than most schools.

“He’s playing catch up right now,” Baalke said.

Garnett opened camp at right guard, where he competed against Andrew Tiller, who played well in his seven starts last season. Two weeks ago, Garnett was shifted to left guard, where veteran Zane Beadles has lined up since signing as a free agent in the offseason. Garnett played on the left side at Stanford, where he was chosen as the best interior lineman in the country.

"We thought maybe the best side for us and him is the left side,” 49ers offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said.

The 49ers targeted Garnett at No. 28 in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, taking no chances that he would still be around when the team was scheduled to pick at No. 37. The 49ers sent Kansas City that second-round pick, as well as a fourth-rounder and sixth-rounder, to receive No. 28 and a seventh-round selection.

“You can never have enough depth on the offensive line and you need time to develop it,” Baalke said.

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Richie James focuses on consistency, not what the future holds with 49ers


Richie James focuses on consistency, not what the future holds with 49ers

DENVER – Wide receiver Richie James has settled into the 49ers’ offense after a rookie season in which he never got completely comfortable with the offensive playbook.

So the last thing he needs as the 49ers enter their second preseason game Monday night against the Denver Broncos is to be thinking about anything that could take his focus off his job.

James is one of at least eight 49ers wide receivers who figures to be on an NFL roster this season. But not all of them will remain with the 49ers when the regular season begins. James could be attractive to some team – such as the Broncos – who need a wide receiver and return man if does not stick with the 49ers.

“You try to control what you can control -- be the best person in this offense and be the best person in any offense,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. Just be you. You kind of let it go and not let it get to you. If you let it consume you, you’re off your game and you’re not thinking about the right thing.”

James is coming off an up-and-down rookie season in which he showed flashes in every aspect of his game. He caught nine passes for 130 yards, including a 53-yarder. He also had a 97-yard touchdown on a kickoff return.

He said he main objective in his second training camp is to achieve consistency. After already being in Kyle Shanahan’s system for one year, James is gaining more confidence in his role.

“Last year, I was thinking way much more,” James said. “But now you kind of got a glimpse of the whole offense and you can think outside the box a little bit – think of the extra stuff: the coverages, who you’re going against, what you need to do, the techniques and stuff like that.”

James had a good training camp, including two solid days of work against the Broncos in practices. Shanahan said he has been impressed from what he’s seen from James.

“I think he’s done a good job and stepped it up throughout camp,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s done a real good job.”

[RELATED: 49ers Mailbag: 10 questions before Monday preseason Broncos game]

James faces stiff competition for a roster spot. Rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, the team’s second- and third-round draft picks, have two spots locked up.

Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor and Jordan Matthews are also in competition for their roles. James showed plenty of big-play potential as a rookie, and now he is looking to show that aspect of his game with more frequency with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.

“They know I can do it,” James said. “People have seen it. The quarterbacks have seen it. They believe I can do it. It’s just about being consistent with it. That’s getting Kyle’s trust and Jimmy’s trust.”

49ers vs. Broncos live stream: How to watch NFL preseason game online

49ers vs. Broncos live stream: How to watch NFL preseason game online

Finally, the moment everyone has been waiting for ... Jimmy Garoppolo is back.

The 49ers quarterback is expected to make his return to the gridiron Monday night when the 49ers face the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is undecided on how long his franchise signal-caller will play, but it marks one of the final steps in Garoppolo's return from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 3 of last season.

If you blink you might miss Jimmy G, but the 49ers still have a number of intriguing players who likely will play meaningful snaps in Denver.

Rookie wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd have opened eyes during training camp, and the 49ers' defense has impressed during joint practices with the Broncos.

While Garoppolo only will see limited minutes, you still won't want to miss the action in Denver. 

Here's how you can watch 49ers vs. Broncos game live online:

Start time: Monday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m. PT
TV channel: ESPN
49ers live stream: fuboTV -- Get a free trial