After spending the past nine weeks with the majority of the 49ers’ 90-man roster, coach Kyle Shanahan arrived at one major conclusion.
Approximately one-quarter of the team’s roster was held out of offseason practices due to injuries or surgeries resulting from the 2018 season, so he got a good look at a lot of different players. Shanahan said he believes the team is better equipped to win games in 2019 even if the organization experiences another injury-filled season.
“You always want to keep improving, so we’ll never say, ‘All right, we made it,’” Shanahan said. “This is the first year going into a year that -- I want to say this truthfully, but it is -- it’s the first year that we can overcome injuries.
“We expect to have injuries. That’s part of football. But I’m definitely a lot more confident going into this year if that does happen, we have guys who have experience. And we also have guys who have some talent who can step in and help us out.”
A year ago, the 49ers lost a significant amount of contributions to starters, most notably quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Jerick McKinnon, and safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt.
Like most NFL teams, the 49ers would have a difficult time overcoming a long-term absence of Garoppolo, but C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens also appear to be improved as they compete for the backup role.
Another position where the 49ers could be hard-pressed to keep it together is at offensive tackle.
Behind Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey is projected swing tackle Shon Coleman, who started all 16 games at right tackle for the Cleveland Browns in 2017. Coleman was working at left tackle, while rookie Justin Skule saw action at right tackle with the 49ers’ No. 1 offensive line.
The 49ers believe they have acceptable depth in the defensive backfield.
Jimmy Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are the team’s presumptive starting safeties with Adrian Colbert, Marcell Harris, Tarvarius Moore, Antone Exum and D.J. Reed in reserve.
Richard Sherman is slated to start at one cornerback spot, and Ahkello Witherspoon placed himself into the front-runner spot at the other position. Jason Verrett, a Pro Bowl selection in his only healthy NFL season, is expected to challenge Witherspoon. K’Waun Williams is set to play the nickel spot. Greg Mabin, Dontae Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley and draft pick Tim Harris will compete for backup roles.
Despite a large number of players who sat out organized team activities, Shanahan was encouraged that there were no injuries sustained during the workouts that will have a carryover impact once training camp opens in late-July. Tight end Garrett Celek is expected to miss significant time in training camp after undergoing back surgery. All the other players are expected to be cleared at or near the beginning of camp.
“I think we were pretty fortunate with OTA injuries,” Shanahan said.
When the 49ers began practices, they knew they would hold out more than a dozen players from participation. The lower numbers of available players placed more stress on the healthy players, Shanahan said.
“But then if one guy gets a little tight and stuff, you want to take care of him, which is good for that guy,” Shanahan said. “But then that next guy has to take a lot more reps and it becomes a trickle-down effect. When you get to this week, that’s why you decide to cut back a couple periods and take care of the guys.”
In keeping with his actions of his first two offseason, Shanahan canceled the final practice of the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday to have a family day with nose tackle D.J. Jones’ father handling the BBQ duties for approximately 200 people.