49ers

Comparing, contrasting 49ers receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Dante Pettis

Comparing, contrasting 49ers receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Dante Pettis

Kyle Shanahan has a type. The 49ers coach wants a receiver that isn't stuck to one position on the field. That certainly was a selling point for the 49ers trading up and selecting Brandon Aiyuk in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The same goes for Dante Pettis in 2018.

Shanahan could turn on Pettis' University of Washington tape and picture using him on the outside or in the slot. Aiyuk brings the same kind of skills. They also both were successful returners in college, although Pettis was better and set an NCAA record with nine punt-return touchdowns.

Aiyuk had 98 receptions for 1,666 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 17 yards per catch in his two seasons at ASU. Pettis, who spent four years in Washington, totaled 113 receptions for 1,583 receiving yards and 22 TDs over his junior and senior seasons.

And Aiyuk's peak was better with a less experienced QB. After being the No. 2 behind first-round draft pick N'Keal Harry as a junior, the former junior college product hauled in 65 receptions for 1,192 yards (18.3 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns as freshman Jayden Daniels' top target.

Pettis' senior season was his best as a returner, but his numbers as a receiver were down from his junior year. He went from 53/822/15 as a junior to 63/761/7 as a senior, both with an experienced Jake Browning under center.

The biggest difference between the two starts up top. Aiyuk has shown much more of a willingness to go across the middle and take on hits. Pettis, through his two years with the 49ers, has not.

"The thing that Kyle Shanahan likes about [Aiyuk] is the same thing that he liked about Dante Pettis," NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco said after the draft. "You can play him in all these different spots. You can play him outside the numbers, you can play him in the slot.

"The thing, though, about Aiyuk is he has this toughness and maybe a sense of urgency that Dante Pettis hasn't shown in his first two NFL seasons. And [Aiyuk] will take it over the middle. He's not afraid of getting hit." 

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This surely was a big hit from Seattle Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald. It also highlights the main point with Pettis. You can see him look at the tackler before securing the pass and then he drops the ball.

The drop came on a third-and-14 and the 49ers were forced to punt on the next play in an eventual 27-24 overtime loss. 

Aiyuk is different. It's clear he's less concerned with contact and wants to be the aggressor. 

In his second NFL season, Pettis quickly fell out of favor with Shanahan. Plays like his drops against Seattle are a big reason why. It's mental more than anything for the former second-round pick. 

With a jam-packed receivers room, it seems Pettis could already be the odd man out. But general manager John Lynch said the 49ers haven't given up on Pettis. 

"I know a lot of people have soured on him, but we haven't," Lynch said one week ago on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo and Dibs" show. "He didn't come to camp ready to play last year physically, and we challenged him. That's got to change.

"We believe, if he does, that he's a guy who can really excel in our offense."

[RELATED: 49ers' Aiyuk selection highlights team's emphasis on YAC]

Aiyuk hasn't had the chance to impress or disappoint Shanahan in person yet. His physical nature on tape says he'll be just fine. 

If competition can rub off on Pettis the right way, the 49ers' offense will be even better. Pettis has the talent, but he just has to put it all together.

Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley's work ethic never was in question during his decade-plus career as the 49ers' starting left tackle, and it appears that determination has continued into retirement.

Staley told ESPN's Emily Caplan in early July that he already has lost 50 pounds since retiring from the NFL in April, and a picture shared on Twitter by Sports Illustrated's Grant Cohn definitely shows the former offensive lineman's body transformation.

[RELATED: 49ers' Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for Super Bowl no-call]

"As an offensive lineman, you're always known as this big, humongous, unathletic blob," Staley said to ESPN. "Offensive linemen get casted in a movie, and they're always 500 pounds. Then you get the opportunity to be healthy again, and all of the effort you used to put into football, you put into that. It gives you a focus once you retire. It's a little bit vain, but I'm starting to see abs that I've always wanted. And it's kind of exciting."

Offensive lineman often must eat an incredible amount of food to maintain the 300-pound frames typically seen across NFL rosters.

Staley seems to be enjoying his retirement.

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49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

Trent Willams has seen more of what Jerick McKinnon can do on the football field than just about anyone over the last two years.

And when the 49ers’ new left tackle was asked which teammate he was most eager to watch on the field, McKinnon was at the top of the list.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Jet,” Williams told the Bay Area media on a video call. “After two years, the way he’s looked in the offseason, I just can’t fathom him not being a breakout player.”

The 49ers were expecting so much from McKinnon after they signed him on the first day of free agency in 2018, coach Kyle Shanahan had planned to unveil an offense in the regular season that would focus heavily on the running back’s ability as a route-runner and pass-catcher.

But McKinnon sustained a torn ACL one week before the regular-season opener. When the graft from that surgery did not fill in properly, McKinnon lost a second consecutive season. McKinnon accepted a greatly reduced salary this year to remain with the 49ers.

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Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, saw plenty of McKinnon’s skills during the offseason as he, McKinnon and Deebo Samuel were among those who worked out with star running back Adrian Peterson.

Samuel described those training sessions as the “one of the hardest workouts I’ve been doing since I’ve been playing football.”

McKinnon has been cleared to take part in 49ers practices, which begin Aug. 15. The 49ers’ first padded practice is scheduled for Aug. 17.

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Thrived through the worst of it

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McKinnon figures to be a big part of the 49ers’ offense as a third-down back. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo recently said he is looking forward to seeing McKinnon take what he’s showing in workouts onto the field during the regular season.

“Even just throwing routes on air this offseason, he runs them differently than most running backs and he has a feel that's like a receiver, but he feels space like a quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “It's very unique and I'm excited to get him back, man. It's been a while.”

[RELATEDBosa says benefits of healthy offseason will show on field]

Williams ticked off other areas of the 49ers that have him excited, too. He spoke about tight end George Kittle and every level of the defense, including the “freakish” defensive line.

“I just want to get this team to a game,” said Williams, whom the 49ers acquired in an April trade with Washington. “It feels like college again, when we had three of the top four picks in the draft. I haven’t had this feeling since then.”

In 2013, Williams was one of three Oklahoma players to be chosen in the top four of the NFL draft. He went No. 4 to Washington, following quarterback Sam Bradford (No. 1 to the St. Louis Rams) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (No. 3 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).