Nick Mullens' solid four starts proves he's worthy of more opportunities


Nick Mullens' solid four starts proves he's worthy of more opportunities

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Nick Mullens is showing no signs of going away any time soon.

First impressions carry a lot of weight in the NFL, and Mullens has performed admirably in his first four starts since being elevated into a starting role with the 49ers. And his play through four starts would seem to suggest he has proven capable of more opportunities in the future.

“I try to leave a good impression every time I step on the field, not just by how I play, but how I influence my teammates and the passion that I play with,” Mullens said Wednesday, as he prepares to make his fifth consecutive NFL start.

“So, obviously, I hope it’s a good impression really to myself. I just try to outdo myself every week and that’s kind of what matters.”

Mullens, 23, has completed 64.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,147 yards with seven touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 91.5. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and spent his entire rookie season on the 49ers’ practice squad.

The 49ers might not have expected Mullens to play this week, but coach Kyle Shanahan said he knew Mullens would give himself a chance to succeed.

[RELATED: Nick Mullens changed Lynch's thinking]

“I knew it was a possibility because he’s very consistent in everything he does," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said he knew because of the opponents, Mullens would have a chance to have a strong game against the Raiders and the New York Giants. Mullens and the 49ers struggled against Tampa Bay before facing the difficult assignment of going to Seattle.

"I was real impressed last week versus Seattle," Shanahan said. "Mainly, I knew how hard it would be for him, let alone any quarterback not being used to there and just the situation we were in. He got off to a rough start in the first quarter. But I was really impressed how he rebounded after that. I think we all settled down a little bit after that first quarter, and I thought he played three quarters of pretty good football.”

Mullens completed 30 of 48 pass attempts for 414 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the 49ers' 43-16 loss to the Seahawks.

The 49ers play the Denver Broncos on Sunday, and the starting quarterback on the other side has already proven it is possible to take that same route to a long NFL career.

Case Keenum spent his rookie year of 2012 on the practice squad of the Houston Texans. Mullens said he has has done some research on quarterbacks who succeeded without being high draft picks. Keenum is near the top of the list.

“He’s definitely a guy that I’ve looked at his path, see how he’s gone,” Mullens said of Keenum. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s earned everything that he’s gotten in his career and that’s what I respect the most about him. He’s a good player. He’s doing a great job for them right now in their streak and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Keenum earned his most extensive action last season with the Minnesota Vikings. He had 22 touchdown passes and seven interceptions with a passer rating of 98.3. The Vikings went 11-3 in his starts. He signed a two-year, $36 million contract with the Broncos in the offseason. After a slow start, Keenum and the Broncos have rallied with consecutive victories over the Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Mullens knows he will never be handed anything in his career. And his future with the 49ers beyond this season remains unsettled. Jimmy Garoppolo, the starting quarter, is expected to be ready for organized team activities. The 49ers have also not given up on C.J. Beathard as the backup.

But at a time when Washington remains in the playoff hunt with Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson on its roster, it is clear there will continue to be a demand for quarterbacks who can pick up a scheme and get an offense to function.

Mullens is expected to challenge for the 49ers’ backup job next year, and could convince the team to keep three quarterbacks on the roster next season.

Regardless, he has played his way into the picture for future NFL jobs.

Dante Pettis leads 49ers receivers in snaps vs. Broncos, shows promise


Dante Pettis leads 49ers receivers in snaps vs. Broncos, shows promise

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.”

[RELATED: 49ers snap count report from win over Broncos]

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.

49ers sign rookie safety Tyree Robinson off Cowboys' practice squad


49ers sign rookie safety Tyree Robinson off Cowboys' practice squad

The 49ers  signed rookie safety Tyree Robinson off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad on Tuesday in order to fill the roster spot that opened with wide receiver Pierre Garçon going on injured reserve.

Garçon underwent season-ending surgery on his knee Tuesday after missing the past four games with the condition. Garçon appeared in 16 games for the 49ers over the past two seasons. He caught 64 passes for 786 yards and one touchdown.

Robinson (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) originally signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie from Oregon. He was active for the Cowboys’ first two games of the season before he was waived and signed to the team’s practice squad.

The 49ers signed Robinson through the 2019 season. He will wear No. 49.

Robinson started 23 of the 52 games in which he appeared at Oregon. As a senior in 2017, he started 12 games and recorded 48 tackles, five passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.

[RELATED: The 49ers Insider Podcast with undrafted RB Jeff Wilson Jr.]

The 49ers also made a move on their practice squad, signing tight end Marcus Lucas, who has previously been on six different practice practice squads: the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders. Lucas caught 130 passes for 1,638 yards in his four-year career at Missouri (2010-'13).

The 49ers signed Lucas after the Tennessee Titans signed tight end Cole Wick off the 49ers’ practice squad. Wick made the 49ers’ roster at the beginning of the regular season. He appeared in five games, but did not catch a pass.