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Jimmy G talks up Pettis, 49ers' young group of receivers

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49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo
49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo
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SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers’ group of young wide receivers is a work in progress, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is encouraged with the work he sees this summer.

Through four practices of training camp, Garoppolo has managed to pick up where he left off with Kendrick Bourne, who was the 49ers' No. 3 receiver last season behind Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders.

But he is working with a mostly new group of targets. Samuel is out indefinitely with a foot injury, and Sanders signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints.

And with Jalen Hurd, who had a spot on the 53-man roster virtually guaranteed, out for the season with a knee injury, Garoppolo has looked to other targets.

Dante Pettis was on the team last season, but he made little impact other than a game-winning touchdown catch from Garoppolo in a Week 3 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Garoppolo and Pettis teamed up on Thursday, during Pettis' most productive day on the practice field in a long time. The receiver had five receptions on routes over the middle.

“He's been coming along,” Garoppolo said of Pettis. “It's very encouraging, just the physicality that he's playing with, the competitiveness that he’s bringing. You love to see that and it's just one of those things that you’ve got to keep it rolling.


“I think our whole group, though, as a receiving core has done a really good job so far.”

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Garoppolo and the 49ers’ offense might be able to incorporate a couple of rookie wide receivers into the mix this season, based on what they’ve shown on the field through four practices.

Besides Bourne, rookie Brandon Aiyuk has been the most consistent performer among the wide receivers in camp.

The 49ers traded up to select Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick, and so far he is looking like the real deal.

“There's flashes that you can see,” Garoppolo said. “He has a good feel for feeling the zones and when it's man-to-man, he knows when to break off routes and just do what he has to do to get open.

“It's a real natural instinct, just running routes for him. It's really cool to throw routes to a guy like that. He sees the field very similar to a quarterback and it makes my job very easy.”

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The 49ers lost a big target with Hurd’s injury, but seventh-round draft pick Jauan Jennings (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) has already shown Garoppolo he can make tough catches.

Jauan Jennings caught a pass from Nick Mullens on Tuesday between defenders Jamar Taylor and hard-charging Marcell Harris, gaining 25 yards. The rookie was known for playing with aggression and passion during his time at Tennessee.

“Jauan, he's got a great mentality. I'll tell you what, he is always ready to roll, locked in, confident,” Garoppolo said. “You love to see that from a receiver, especially a young receiver. He brings it every day and you can see once he gets the ball in his hands, he's ready to roll and he wants to get physical with people.

“He does some special things out there. One-on-ones, he's been tearing it up on the field, too, just in team drills. Whenever you get a young guy like that, it's always encouraging. So just got to keep it rolling at this point.”