CJ Beathard

These important competitions begin this week for 49ers during OTAs

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AP

These important competitions begin this week for 49ers during OTAs

Organized team activities are all about the passing games – offense and defense.

Those areas are where the most important competitions will take place on the practice field as the 49ers slowly start to prepare for their season opener on Sept. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Full pads are not allowed to be worn in practices during the offseason program, so the real competitions begin the third day of training camp, which opens in late-July. That's when practices change from two-hand-touch to real football.

This week marks the first time since the end of last season that offense vs. defense competition is allowed to take place on the 49ers’ practice field. Although 9-on-7 run drills are permitted, it’s the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills where reasonable opinions can start to be formed.

Here are the positions where players have a chance to take leads in their competitions heading into training camp:

Quarterback

The 49ers will take it slowly with Jimmy Garoppolo, who faces no challenge for the starting job. Garoppolo is not expected to see any 11-on-11 practice snaps until training camp.

The competition will be for the backup job.

Nick Mullens produced better statistics last season in his eight starts, during which the 49ers went 3-5 (winning 75 percent of their games for the season). But the 49ers have not given up on C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick in 2017.

Beathard’s skillset and toughness keep him in this competition. Mullens has his limitations, but he performed at an exceptionally high level when given his opportunity last year. Only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton threw for more yards in their first eight NFL starts.

But all that means is that Mullens, now, will be given a fair shot to win the backup job. He and Beathard start this offseason on equal footing.

Running back

Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman likely will be expected to share the load at running back with Matt Breida not far behind. Breida proved to be a reliable pass-catcher last season. He still needs work with his route running, and this is a great time for him to polish those skills.

Coleman has experience in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. That's a huge advantage. There is no hurry to get McKinnon on the field after he missed all of last season with a torn ACL he sustained a week before the start of the regular season.

Wide receiver

There should be competition at every level of the team at this position. Dante Pettis is the closest thing to a “lock” to be a starter. He caught just 27 passes in 12 games as a rookie, but he averaged 17.3 yards and had five touchdowns.

Rookie Deebo Samuel, the 49ers’ second-round draft pick, will compete against the field, including Kendrick Bourne, for the duties on the other side. Bourne was the 49ers’ leading wide receiver last season with 42 receptions for 487 yards and four touchdowns.

Marquise Goodwin, Jordan Matthews and rookie Jalen Hurd will be angling for significant roles, while Trent Taylor and Richie James are the candidates for the primary slot job.

Cornerback

The offseason program is huge for Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore. There is no questioning the physical talent of both players. They were third-round draft picks in 2017 and ’18, respectively.

Witherspoon vs. Moore could be an elimination battle during the offseason program to see which of those players will go against Jason Verrett in training camp.

Verrett is coming back from a torn Achilles, which he sustained during the camp-opening conditioning test last summer with the Los Angeles Chargers. Verrett is not expected to cut it loose during the offseason program, so Witherspoon and Moore will have the advantage of a full offseason of preparation.

Safety

Jimmie Ward has bounced around from free safety to cornerback over the past few years. He is back at free safety after signing a one-year contract with the club in the offseason. Adrian Colbert entered last offseason as the starter at free safety, but now the onus is on him to beat out Ward.

The free safety position is more on display during non-padded practices than strong safety, because so much of being a box safety is coming up to finish tackles in the run game. Jaquiski Tartt and second-year player Marcell Harris will compete for that job. Pass coverage is important there, too, but that job will be won after the pads go on.

[RELATED: 49ers Insider Podcast . . . previewing organized team activities]

The rules during Phase Three allow for players to be at the facility for six hours a day for a maximum of three organized team activities during the first and second weeks. No pads are allowed, except for protective knee and elbow pads. Helmets are permitted.

49ers OTA workouts
This week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
May 28-29, May 31
June 3-4, June 6

Mandatory minicamp
June 11-13

49ers Mailbag: Should Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel contracts be concern?

49ers Mailbag: Should Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel contracts be concern?

Beginning on Monday, the 49ers can begin offense vs. defense drills in practices on their Santa Clara practice field as Phase III of their offseason program kicks off.

This portion of the offseason program is important because it gives the coaching staff and personnel department an opportunity to assess the talent on the team and evaluate whether there are available players who might be able to add upgrades.

We solicited questions from our followers on Facebook and, once again, we have a full 49ers Mailbag of solid topics:

What’s the status on Bosa’s and Samuel’s contracts? (Daniel Hernandez)
Neither player has signed his mandatory four-year contract. The dollar amounts are already set under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Bosa’s four-year contract will be worth $33.55 million, while Deebo Samuel’s deal will be four years, $7.7 million. There is no issue with players who have yet to sign at this point. They can participate in all team-related activities before the opening of training camp in late-July.

Bosa and Samuel are both represented by CAA Football. That’s the same agency that represents Mike McGlinchey and Solomon Thomas, the 49ers’ past two first-round draft picks. McGlinchey was signed a week before camp, and Thomas joined his teammates in the middle of the first practice of training camp in 2017.

Because the money amounts are already set, the only true haggling points are the potential for offset language and how the signing bonus money will be paid (lump sum or over time).

Since the new CBA went into effect in 2011, I have generally granted myself the luxury of not spending much energy on the signings of draft picks. Again, I won’t spend a whole lot of time on it, until I return from vacation a day or two before training camp.

Do you think Bosa will have an immediate impact, or will it take him a year or two to get used to the speed of the NFL game? (Chris Munson)
My belief is that outside pass rusher is a position that allows for a rookie to come in and make an immediate impact. You either have it or you don’t. And I believe Bosa’s next-level technique and attention to detail give him an opportunity to excel from the first snap of his first game. (Great to see you this week, and tell everyone back in the land of jumbo shrimp, "Hi," for me.)

If Dee Ford or Bosa goes down, what’s the plan? (LoEs Carlos)
Ronald Blair, who was one of the team’s primary outside pass-rushers in nickel situations, is now a rotational player. So he would be the next in line. There will be a role for him, regardless. The team will be looking for a fourth outside pass rusher to emerge in competition.

Do you think, the 49ers should sign another safety like Tre Boston or Eric Berry? Is the position safe with Ward, Tartt, Harris and Colbert? (Frank Höhle)
Will we be making any more additions to the secondary? (Gil Hernandez)
Any veteran who signs at this point is likely to sign a one-year contract. If the 49ers saw any defensive back on the market that they considered a sure starter among the group they already have, they would have offered that player a multi-year contract some time ago.

I believe the 49ers viewed Jimmie Ward as their top target among the available safeties and they gave him a one-year, prove-it contract. They did the same with cornerback Jason Verrett. Ward will compete against Adrian Colbert at free safety, while Verrett will go against Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore.

Boston is interesting because he has played for three teams in the past three years. There are reasons why no team that’s had him has been willing to give him a multi-year contract. (But I do not know the reasons.) He is considered more of a hybrid nickel back and cover linebacker.

Berry is a nine-year veteran who has played in just three games total the past two seasons due to Achilles and heel injuries. The 49ers' actions would suggest they believe Jaquiski Tartt and Marcell Harris are better options because of health, age and ability to continue to develop.

Will the 49ers make any additions to the secondary? More than likely, anyone they add will be somebody who would come in and compete for a roster spot, not necessarily someone who is viewed as a legitimate contender for a starting job.

If Nick Mullens beats out C.J. Beathard for QB2, what happens to C.J.? (William Winter)
Are Nick Mullens and Beathard eligible for practice squad? (Fred Reimers)
As I understand it, any team can retain four exemptions from the 2017 and 2018 rookie classes regardless of how many games they have played.

What happens if Mullens beats out Beathard? What happens if Beathard beats out Mullens?

The 49ers must make a decision whether they want to keep two or three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. If they keep two, they would try to bring back the other for the practice squad. But it’s possible that the player who gets cut would get claimed by another team. That’s a situation that will play out over the course of training camp and the four exhibition games.

Is there any chance that 49ers pursue a trade with the Jets for Le’Veon Bell? (Rick Orozco)
What’s the probability we trade Matt Breida or Jerick McKinnon before the season? (Matthew J Azar)
Is there any chance? There’s always a chance.

But the 49ers have to feel pretty good about their running back situation after signing Tevin Coleman to a two-year, $8.5 million deal. The Jets have already paid Bell a signing bonus of $10 million, so any team that wants to trade for Bell would pick up the entire Jets contract, minus that $10 million.

Still, Bell’s contract is a steep price to pay. Bell is not taking part in the Jets’ offseason program, so I’m sure the 49ers would not be in a hurry to add a player they know they would not see until training camp.

We saw last season how depth at running back is important. A) I do not see why the 49ers would be so eager to trade any of their running backs at this stage. B) I don’t see why any team would give up a good draft pick for any of the 49ers’ running backs when every team just had an opportunity to add RBs in the draft.

[RELATED: Buckner sees 'bright future' for Bosa]

What's going on with Robbie Gould? (Kasie Miller)
This:

The 49ers tagged kicker Robbie Gould as their franchise player. He wanted to be free to negotiate with any and all teams and make his own decision. He has requested a trade. The 49ers have said they are not going to trade him. Gould has not signed the one-year deal. He continues to work out on his own in the Chicago area, where he lives with his family.

The 49ers are hopeful that Gould will be there when the team opens the season on Sunday, Sept. 8, at Tampa Bay.

George Kittle's NFL record shows 49ers tight end's determination, grit

George Kittle's NFL record shows 49ers tight end's determination, grit

LOS ANGELES -- George Kittle had two plays to make NFL history as the 49ers' season-ending loss to the Rams wound down Sunday.

Kittle had pulled within 8 yards of the league's single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end midway through the fourth quarter. It was just 5 yards to the goal line, and the 49ers didn't use Kittle on any of the three plays it took for them to score.

So, the 49ers' defense had to get a stop to allow Kittle another chance to break the mark. It did, and coach Kyle Shanahan then told Kittle he would have two shots at breaking the 1,336-yard record that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had set less than an hour prior.

With 2:37 left on the game clock, Mullens threw a short pass to Kittle, putting him within 2 yards of the record. The next play looked to be a short pass to the left that would break it, but it did more than that: Kittle took it 43 yards for a touchdown -- the final score in the 49ers' 48-32 defeat.

"We told him as soon as he gets it, we're done," Shahanan said. "It's pretty cool that he turned it into a touchdown. He's done a hell of a job."

Kittle finished the season with 88 catches for the NFL-record 1,377 yards and five touchdowns.

After the game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, he still was slightly in shock.

"It hasn't really hit me yet," he said, "but it's definitely exciting."

Kittle credited the team with helping him break the record, adding he would've enjoyed a win but making history made it a little better.

“It was huge,” Shanahan said. “We were hoping that it would work out that way. At the end, he made a few big plays. I was happy the defense got a stop at the end there to give him a chance to go for it."

With the game out of reach, Shanahan would have started to sit players as to not risk injury, but he knew he owed his second-year tight end after a miss at history earlier this season, Plus, the coach said, "the whole team and us wanted to get that for Kittle."

[RELATED: 49ers' 2019 opponents are confirmed]

Kittle came within 5 yards of breaking Shannon Sharpe's single-game record for most receiving yards by a tight end three weeks ago when he recorded 210 yards in the first half of the 49ers' win over the Denver Broncos. Shanahan previously apologized to Kittle and felt like he “owed him one” after the tight end didn't have a catch in the second half of that game.

“A little bit,” Shanahan said, jokingly. “Definitely did. He let me know about it. So did his mom … and dad. We tried to make it up to him.”

Veteran left tackle Joe Staley joked that the entire purpose of the last drive was for Kittle to break the record. There even might have been some banter directed toward the Rams' defense.

“We were basically telling them,” Staley said, “‘We’re just out here to throw the ball to Kittle, so don’t guard him!’”

Kittle also broke Eric Johnson’s 49ers single-season record for receptions by a tight end with his 88. Johnson caught 82 of his 117 targets for 825 yards and two touchdowns in his record-setting 2004 season.

Quarterback C.J. Beathard, who also was Kittle's teammate in college at Iowa, couldn't have been happier for the tight end, saying he hoped the record would "stand for hopefully 100-plus years." He has been impressed with Kittle the entire season, especially his big-play capability.

"It shows what kind of player he is," the quarterback said. "Especially his runs after the catch. He turns a 5-yard play into a 50-yard touchdown. He's been doing that all season long. It says a lot about him."

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman had similar thoughts about Kittle's last play, which he said "was like a microcosm" of the tight end as a player and a person.

"It’s a 5-yard gain for the record, and he takes it 40 yards, scores a touchdown," Sherman said. "He just never stops playing.”

[RELATED: Where the 49ers will pick in the 2019 NFL Draft order]

Beathard also has noticed Kittle playing with a higher level of anger this season.

"You can see that in his style of play," the quarterback said. "No one wants to mess with him. He’s trying to run guys over and get off tackles, and no one wants to tackle the guy.”

While it was another loss to end a disappointing 4-12 season, it sounds like a few 49ers might have felt a little bit better after the game because of what Kittle accomplished.