SANTA CLARA — There’s a definite learning curve for rookies in the NFL. And the 49ers have players in various stages.
Coach Kyle Shanahan pinpointed the progress of several of the team’s first-year players. Some of which have taken some time to become productive.
“These guys are straight out of college,” Shanahan said. "And they’ve had a lot of success their whole lives. Sometimes they take some time to be ready for the NFL.”
In the 49ers 2017 draft class there was some success, like drafting George Kittle in the fifth round. And some misses like Joe Williams and Reuben Foster.
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There are similar results for the team in 2018. First-round pick Mike McGlinchey has already developed into a solid right tackle, and is the heir apparent to the left side when Joe Staley decides to hang up his cleats.
Others have taken a bit longer to develop.
Running back Jeff Wilson played the majority of the offensive snaps in Seattle after Matt Breida re-aggravated his ankle injury in pregame warmups. Wilson ended the day with 15 carries for 61 yards and eight receptions for 73 yards.
Shanahan had hoped to have him ready a few weeks earlier.
“We were hoping he was there a few weeks ago when Raheem [Mostert] went down, and he wasn’t quite ready, but I think his urgency changed a lot after that week," Shanahan said. "He came back after that Bye week, the urgency went way up and the results showed in practice and it carried over to the game.”
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Another draftee who has recently upped his productivity is receiver Dante Pettis.
A knee injury in Week 4 kept him off the field for a few weeks and stunted his development. In his breakout game in Seattle, he caught five of his seven targets for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought Dante came out pretty ready -- always want them further along than they are," Shanahan said. "But, when he had that injury, I thought he got set back a lot. Dante works hard, but sometimes guys have got to learn how urgent the NFL is.”
While Wilson’s turnaround was after a heart-to-heart with his coach Bobby Turner, the impetus for Pettis’ improvement was Shanahan.
“I’ve been definitely riding the heck out of Dante because we believe in him a lot," he added. "We know he has a lot of ability and I’ve told him the last couple of weeks, he’s taken a huge step forward, but don’t get that confused with you’ve arrived. It’s just a couple of steps forward.”
Safety Marcell Harris has also gotten a fair chance on the field after Jimmie Ward was placed season ending injured reserve.
“I think he played like it was one of his first full games starting,” Shanahan said. “He showed some potential and things like that, but he hadn’t been in that situation where he’s had to make that many tackles in a game for over a year.
“He didn’t get to play his last year at Florida. So, I thought he was a little bit rusty, but it was definitely expected. You’ve just got to take some of the good with the bad as he works through that stuff, just kind of like we have with Dante the last couple weeks too.”
Shanahan also detailed why rookie Tarvarius Moore saw more snaps on special teams than on the defense.
“There’s only two corners out there,” Shanahan said. “So we’d have to sit down one of the other two and we don’t think that’s been right here the last few weeks. We’ve had a couple of packages to get him out there, some dime packages, which he’s done.
“He’s really stepped it up on special teams this year. He’s got to work through some stuff out there, at corner, I’d like to get him that opportunity to work through it, just like Marcell got his opportunity yesterday. I think Tarvarius will.”
It was about this time in the season in 2017 when several rookies started standing out, like Ahkello Witherspoon and Adrian Colbert. Shanahan says that's natural.
“It just takes time, just the inconsistency. Happens a lot with rookies."