49ers

49ers training camp questions: Who will win backup quarterback job?

49ers training camp questions: Who will win backup quarterback job?

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will face a lot of questions, and much will be written and said about one competition in particular during training camp.

But if things go as the 49ers hope, the result of this training camp battle will have no impact on the season as the winner will not step on the field for a meaningful snap after the exhibition season.

Nick Mullens was more impressive than C.J. Beathard last season, but they will open training camp this week with an equal chance at winning the backup quarterback role.

The competition for the 49ers' backup quarterback job probably will not be settled until the final cuts before the start of the regular season. The organization must also determine whether the loser of the battle will remain on the team's 53-man roster or end up on the waiver wire.

Mullens had a historically impressive eight-start opening to his NFL career last season. But he opens camp on equal footing with Beathard for the right to serve as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

“I know both of them so well because we’ve been here two years with them and we’ve gotten a chance now to see both of them in practice and both of them in games,” Shanahan said.

Mullens piled up big passing yards after taking over for Beathard at the midseason point, averaging 284.6 yards passing per game. In fact, Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are the only players to throw for more yards in their first eight starts. The Southern Mississippi product compiled a respectable 90.9 passer rating while putting up big numbers after taking over for Beathard prior to the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Raiders.

And Shanahan seems to be pleased with both players, based on what he witnessed during the nine-week offseason program.

They arrived at this point through different modes of transportation.

Beathard was a third-round draft pick in 2017. The 49ers signed Mullens immediately following that same draft as an undrafted rookie. Mullens was among the final cuts before the beginning of the ’17 and ’18 seasons. After he cleared waivers both years, Mullens was immediately signed back to the 49ers’ practice squad.

Beathard has made 10 NFL starts over his first two seasons in the league. He's proven his toughness, but he has to do a much better job of getting the ball out quicker and avoiding hits. Beathard took one sack for every 10.4 dropbacks. At the time Mullens replaced him in the Week 9 game against the Raiders, Beathard needed a break mentally and physically. In two seasons, Beathard has thrown 12 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Mullens might not have all the physical attributes, but he knows the system as well as anyone and does not back down from a challenge. Statistically, Mullens was better last season. He averaged 8.3 yards per attempt while completing 64.2 percent of his pass attempts. Beathard averaged 7.4 yards per attempt and completed slightly above 60 percent of his passes.

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The big question about Mullens is his ability to connect on the deep ball, which is a major component of Shanahan's offensive blueprint.

Why Justin Skule is thankful for 49ers O-line before first NFL start

Why Justin Skule is thankful for 49ers O-line before first NFL start

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers left tackle Justin Skule, who will take over for injured six-time Pro Bowler Joe Staley at the position in Sunday’s home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, is just a rookie. But Skule already has a huge supporting cast to help him prepare. 

The 22-year-old is an unknown to most in the Niners fanbase. The rookie has quietly kept his head down since he was selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the 49ers in April. Staley, who has vowed to help Skule adjust to his new responsibilities, has already made an impact on his replacement. 

“He’s been awesome since I’ve been here just taking me under his wing and giving me little tricks of the trade,” Skule said Wednesday of the veteran left tackle, who is out six to eight weeks after breaking his fibula in Week 2. “He’s done a phenomenal job just these past couple days giving me pointers just showing me how he goes through his process and everything like that. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.” 

Staley isn’t the only offensive lineman to offer Skule helpful advice. The rookie had to fill in for Staley in the 49ers' 41-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and Skule said Mike Person imparted some wisdom when the two shared the field at Paul Brown Stadium. 

“He’s like, ‘Take a deep breath it’s still just football,'" Skule recalled. "So, I think that’s something that I’m really going to focus on this week. It’s still the game of football. Just take a deep breath, and don’t let anything get too big for myself.” 

Skule apparently has taken that advice to heart during his first week of practice as the team's starter.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t notice the nerves that were brewing in his newly appointed left tackle. Garoppolo that Skule appeared unfazed when he first filled in for Staley and has been the same ever since. 

“He’s been very consistent,” Garoppolo said. “Smart guy, came into the huddle during the game, didn’t blink or anything. Just one of those guys, he does the right thing and he’s in the right spot. He’s been the same guy every day, and you’ve got to appreciate that.”

[RELATED: Chris Simms explains why unbeaten 49ers might be for real]

Thus far, Skule has taken it all in stride. Even with more than 20 media members surrounding him in front of his locker for the first time in his pro career, Skule seemed calm and deliberate. The rookie didn’t hesitate when answering any questions, and his replies seemed genuine. 

Still, Skule knows that even though he feels calm now, the nerves undoubtedly will come before his first start Sunday at Levi's Stadium. 

“No matter who you are replacing, you’re going to go in with some nerves,” Skule said. “Everyone has that competitive edge where you’re going to be nervous when you’re going in. The older guys and everyone in the huddle have just done a great job taking me under their wing and just making sure I’m good and relaxed and ready to go.” 

Chris Simms encouraged by 49ers' start, 'pumped' about offense, defense

Chris Simms encouraged by 49ers' start, 'pumped' about offense, defense

After two weeks, the 49ers are one of nine undefeated teams in the NFL. They've scored the most points in the NFC, and possess the second-best point differential in the league behind only the New England Patriots.

"I'm really encouraged by what I see from the San Francisco 49ers football team," NBC Sports' Chris Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday.

In heaping his praise, Simms broke down the 49ers' roster, unit by unit.

"The defense is legit, and of course, we saw it improved last year," Simms remarked. "We really did. It's well-coached, and now it has more weapons than since the years the 49ers were going to the Super Bowl against the Ravens and all that.

"Where it starts is the defensive line. The defensive line is special, and it's versatile. It can be a small, fast group that can create havoc. If they want to get big and have to stop a Dallas Cowboys-like running game, they're going to be capable of doing that. 

"Linebackers are extremely athletic with Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner. The secondary -- I'm encouraged from what I've seen from Ahkello Witherspoon. We know Richard Sherman is good. The safety play has been good. So the defense is really awesome."

Not to be discounted, Simms turned his attention to San Francisco's offense, coming off a 41-point explosion against the Bengals.

"Offensively, how could I not be pumped? That offensive performance last week against Cincinnati was mind-blowing. I mean, Kyle Shanahan cracked the code. He, like, broke into the Matrix on that one. That was a true show as far as what they did to the Bengals offensively. Huge holes in the run game, wide-open people in the pass game."

Moving forward, Simms believes Shanahan's football mind will help the 49ers withstand the loss of Joe Staley to a broken fibula, starting in Week 3 against the Steelers.

"It's not going to be easy to overcome, to lose a player like Joe Staley. I mean, he's a franchise left tackle. A Hall of Fame left tackle ... But either way, I still think the 49ers will be fine without him.

"As good? No, of course not -- you never replace Joe Staley completely. But there's a phenomenal offensive line in San Francisco. Kyle Shanahan, his run schemes, the play-action, the things he does that keep defenses off-balance is as good as anybody in the sport. So, he'll find ways to protect Justin Skule ... I was very encouraged with the way he looked after I saw Joe Staley go down.

"But he'll hold his own, and then when Shanahan feels like, 'Oh, okay, I don't necessarily like this matchup for my left tackle,' he'll find ways to help him out a little bit, too."

[RELATED: Jimmy G, Shanahan excited to play in front of 49ers crowd]

While Simms is encouraged by the 49ers' strong start to the season, there's still one issue holding him back from being all the way in on San Francisco.

"If I have one question about the 49ers right now -- I'm not totally in the trust tree with Jimmy Garoppolo. I don't think he's playing to his capabilities yet

"But the encouraging thing is, he's getting better and you're 2-0. So when that all meshes together, I say watch out for the San Francisco 49ers."

Time to take the red pill. The 49ers just might be for real.