49ers

Joshua Garnett will not practice Thursday, which means Kyle Shanahan is surprised

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Joshua Garnett will not practice Thursday, which means Kyle Shanahan is surprised

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan expressed surprise on Wednesday that guard Joshua Garnett had not returned to practice.

"I'd be more surprised if he's not out there tomorrow," Shanahan said.

An hour before the scheduled start of practice on Thursday, the club announced that Garnett would not practice. Garnett banged knees during practice Saturday and sat out Sunday. The 49ers said the injury was not significant and he would not miss much time.

Garnett opened training camp in competition with veteran Jonathan Cooper for the starting job at right guard. Mike Person and Erik Magnuson are also seeing action at that position.

Garnett, a first-round draft pick in 2016, will not take part in any contact drills.

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead (hamstring), tight end Cole Hikutini (groin), linebacker Brock Coyle (hip) and offensive lineman JP Flynn (knee) remain out indefinitely.

Left tackle Joe Staley, running back Jerick McKinnon, receiver Pierre Garcon, defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Earl Mitchell, linebacker Malcolm Smith and cornerback Richard Sherman will not practice. Each player is being given a "recovery day" according to the team.

49ers must find starting wide receiver in free agency or 2019 NFL Draft

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49ers must find starting wide receiver in free agency or 2019 NFL Draft

Editor's note: The 49ers season isn't over, but we'll keep one eye on the future with our weekly series on the team's biggest needs heading into 2019 and how voids can be filled best. Last week, we looked at edge rushers. This week's focus is on wide receivers.

The 49ers have struggled to find a No. 1 receiver since . . . well, since Terrell Owens was shipped off to Philadelphia before the 2004 season, anyway.

Since that time, the 49ers have selected 20 wide receivers in the draft, including Rashaun Woods (2004), Michael Crabtree (2009) and A.J. Jenkins (2012) in the first round.

Only Crabtree produced a 1,000-yard season for the 49ers (2012). Woods and Jenkins combined for seven receptions for 160 yards and one touchdown in their 49ers careers.

Seriously.

Jenkins never caught a pass as a rookie in 2012, and he was traded away before he even got to the regular season in Year 2.

The 49ers got a couple of good seasons from Anquan Boldin in 2013 and ’14. But the 49ers again find themselves without a true No. 1 wide receiver that can strike fear into an opposing defense.

[RELATED: Two receivers limited a day after practicing]

But maybe the 49ers already have their No. 1 target. After all, tight end George Kittle is likely to have more receiving yards this season than any 49ers player since Owens was catching passes from Jeff Garcia.

Still, the 49ers need more weapons on the outside.

Players likely to stay in 2019

Dante Pettis: The 49ers invested a second-pick in Pettis, so that shows how the 49ers valued him and that position after not finding a match with anyone in free agency. Pettis has played very well since getting healthy and taking over on a full-time basis. He also has versatility.

Pettis can play each of the 49ers’ three receiver positions. He has 19 catches for 363 yards. He has an impressive 19.1 yards per reception and a team-leading five touchdowns. It is debatable whether he can be a No. 1, but the semantics are irrelevant. The 49ers expect him to be a valued contributor for a while.

Marquise Goodwin: The 49ers never envisioned Goodwin being forced into such a prominent role when they signed him as a free agent on the first day of the 2017 league year. Goodwin had a career year, which earned him a contract extension.

This season, he has been plagued by injuries, inconsistencies and family issues that forced him to step away from the team for two games. The 49ers like Goodwin, but they believe his strength would be in a more specialized role.

So while the 49ers will look to bring in a receiver who is more of an every-down player, Goodwin still figures prominently as a weapon to keep fresh throughout games.

Player likely to go

Pierre Garçon: He got off to a great start with the 49ers, and despite issues at quarterback was well on his way to a 1,000-yard season in 2017. After a neck injury cut his season short, Garçon did not look like the same presence upon his return this season.

He had a quiet training camp, and never got going. He never had more than 60 receiving yards in any of the eight games in which he played. After being inactive for five of the past six weeks, he underwent a season-ending procedure on his knee this week.

The 49ers will look to get younger, faster and more cost-effiective.

49ers offseason plan

FREE AGENCY: This is certainly not the avenue teams want to go down in order to pick up a No. 1 receiver.

The cost of doing business for wide receivers on the free-agent market is crazy. Let’s take Donte Moncrief, for example. He did not produce in four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Over the previous two years, he averaged 10 ½ games, 28 receptions and 349 yards.

Although he received just a one-year contract, Jacksonville paid him $9.6 million. By his standards, he is having a very good season. He has 42 receptions for 604 yards with three touchdowns. The Jaguars are getting everything they could have hoped from him. But is he a No. 1 receiver?

The top-producing wide receivers scheduled for unrestricted free agency are Golden Tate (Philadelphia) and John Brown (Baltimore). Tate, 31, and Brown, 29, have receiving totals of 718 and 706 yards, respectively. That does not appear to be what the 49ers want to add to the mix.

DRAFT: Potentially, this draft could set up well for the 49ers to get one of the better wide receivers.

There is no superstar. The first wide receiver probably will not be taken until the latter half of the first round. The 49ers will not select a wide receiver with their first selection. That will most likely be an edge rusher.

[RELATED: Five 2019 NFL Draft prospects who could help 49ers win next season]

But when the 49ers’ second pick rolls around, there could be a handful of options who have size and potential, such as A.J. Brown (Ole Miss), J.J. Arcego-Whiteside (Stanford), D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss), Kelvin Harmon (North Carolina State) and N’Keal Harry (Arizona State).

BOTTOM LINE: The need for another wide receiver is apparent. Pettis, Goodwin and Kendrick Bourne will return on the outside. Trent Taylor and Richie James Jr. will return to compete for roles as the slot receiver.

The 49ers need to add another legitimate threat on the outside to create more conflicts for opposing defenses. They will certain look to improve in free agency, but the addition of an impact player might have to wait until the draft.

49ers' complex offense comes to light with Kyle Shanahan mic'd up

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49ers' complex offense comes to light with Kyle Shanahan mic'd up

SANTA CLARA — Coach Kyle Shanahan was mic’d up in the team’s 20-16 win over the Broncos and it gave a little insight to the wording and complexity of his offense. 

There were creative names like Zelda, X-Dragon and chocolate door that Shanahan called out. He explained that they aren’t random names, they all relate to the play in one way or another. 

“No, they all mean something,” Shanahan said. “I can’t tell you what those mean, but they relate to the type of plays we’re running. It’s not just totally random words. Chocolate door had to do with Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, which has to do with the play. That would be obvious, but I can’t say it or you’ll know our groupings.”

Shanahan’s playbook has been described as very wordy. He says his nicknames for plays is done to help players  remember what their role is more easily. 

“Yeah, you just try not to make people memorize too much,” Shanahan said. “They’ve got enough stuff going on. Stuff changes and you give a game plan each week and it’s alright to make them memorize 10 new things. 

"But if you have them memorize all of this different stuff, they might get it right there, but in the heat of battle they can hesitate and maybe go the wrong way.” 

“So, you try to get words that sound just like the play that we’re trying to do, so that one word can tell a lot of people stuff.”

Several players agreed with Shanahan’s assessment that it helps simplify the calls on the field, but others did not. Tight ends Garrett Celek and Ross Dwelley were two that agreed whole-heartedly. 

[RELATED: Pete Carroll explains what makes 49ers star George Kittle so special]

“Yes, absolutely,” Dwelley said. “They are like code words, so the code word kind of matches up to what the actual play is.” 

“When we are going fast-paced,” Celek said, “the quarterback can’t be yelling out a bunch of stuff. They have to condense it and they come up with something like Zelda. One word tells everyone what to do.”

Do the code words change every week? 

“We can’t tell you that,” Celek and Dwelley said simultaneously. “That’s classified.”

George Kittle said that while the offense is very difficult to learn as a rookie, once you get it down, the abbreviated calls have changed everything.

“It definitely makes the offense a lot easier,” Kittle said, “especially when you learn them. Once you figure it out and you hear that one word, it clicks. It’s still difficult to learn as a rookie but it makes it easier.” 

With the wordy playbook, Kittle would much rather be the one catching the ball than being tasked with calling out the entire names like a 49ers quarterback has to.

“I wouldn’t want to be a quarterback in this offense,” Kittle said. “It’d be very difficult. It’s a lot. I don’t know how they do it honestly. 

“Actually I do.” Kittle joked. “Nick practices at home all the time.” 

[RELATED: Joe Montana evaluates 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens' decision-making]

Others, like rookie receiver Richie James, doesn’t even take notice of the code words. 

“Those words don’t mean anything to me.” James said. “Some of those words might, but a lot of those words mean nothing to me as a receiver at least. I’m just listening to the call, the key word I need to listen to, where to line up, what route, and what block.” 

James reiterated that it took a while to get the verbiage down as a rookie. 

“It took me a long time actually,” James said. “Most of the guys that got here with me, it took us to the first preseason game to get to where ‘I kinda got it.’ But then after the preseason is over with, you’re like ‘Alright, I know what it is now.’” 

What does the rookie wide receiver do when he's having trouble? Just listen to Mr. Mullens.

“I just listen to Nick,” James said. “If you get caught in those words, you’re going to mess up the play.”