SANTA CLARA -- Marquise Goodwin’s low snap count in the 49ers' 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday wasn’t just because the receiver had been absent for two games.
It was more about getting rookie Dante Pettis additional playing experience. And he got just that, with a team-leading 61 snaps at receiver.
Kyle Shanahan and his coaching staff have regularly eased players back into the mix if they've been out for injuries or otherwise. It seemed to be the case for Goodwin’s return to the field after he missed two games while dealing with personal issues.
Shanahan explained that it was for a different reason this time, though. As he did with many positions, the 49ers coach wanted to see what some of the younger players could prove on the field. As a result, Pettis and second-year pro Kendrick Bourne, who was on 43 snaps, had the lion’s share of reps against the Broncos.
“We were going to feel it out as the week went,” Shanahan said of working Goodwin back into the lineup, as he had 24 snaps. “I thought he had a very good week of practice and got better, especially as the week went. He didn’t work at Z all week, but he was comfortable with it.
“Quise understands our offense pretty well. Just talking to him Saturday night and seeing where he was at, we told him if he felt good with it, we were going to throw him in at Z a little bit more so we could leave Dante on the field a little bit longer. He was up for the challenge and did a real good job in there.”
Pettis had successes and challenges on the field. While he made some key plays, he also had a gut-wrenching drop. He finished the day catching three of his seven targets for 49 yards and one touchdown.
Shanahan explained Pettis' increased snap count hopefully will help the second-round draft pick be more consistent in the future.
“Yeah, that’s definitely the plan right now,” Shanahan said. “It started in Tampa [two weeks ago]. But that's something just realizing as coaches, Dante, we haven’t been ready to throw him out there a ton because he’s shown he’s not 100 percent fully ready to handle that.
“But what has been neat to watch him is, when we didn’t have a choice and had to throw him out there, he did some things that he wasn’t ready for that we anticipated. But, by going through it, he got better as the game went with it.
“He made some mistakes in Tampa in the first quarter that he was better in the second quarter and got him some experience that he needs. I thought he was better in Seattle after that. Just being out there playing more, he is a very smart guy who listens and understands what you’re saying. But you’ve always got to put athletes kind of through those situations so they can feel it themselves. He has, and he’s gotten better from it.”
Pettis has played in 10 games and caught 19 passes on 35 targets. He's currently second on the 49ers in receiving yards with 363, behind tight end George Kittle's 1,103. Goodwin is third with 359 yards.