Kyle Shanahan

NFL rumors: 49ers sign receiver Deontay Burnett with Deebo Samuel hurt

NFL rumors: 49ers sign receiver Deontay Burnett with Deebo Samuel hurt

It could be nothing, but it might be something.

NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that the 49ers are signing wide receiver Deontay Burnett to their practice squad, citing a source. Burnett reportedly was signed following a workout featuring multiple receivers.

The fact that San Francisco is altering its practice squad isn't necessarily notable, unless it's a reaction to developments regarding the 53-man roster. As we know, the 49ers' receivers haven't exactly had the cleanest bills of health up to this point in the season.

Trent Taylor might have been talking trash following San Francisco's big win over the Rams on Sunday, but that doesn't change the fact that he has yet to appear in a game this season while recovering from surgery. The same goes for third-round draft pick Jalen Hurd. Jordan Matthews was signed after Hurd was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 3, but he has been inactive for both games since. Then second-round draft pick Deebo Samuel injured his groin in the win over the Rams, leaving the rookie questionable for the 49ers' Week 7 game against Washington.

Given all of those injury concerns circling around San Francisco's receiving corps, the Burnett signing could simply be viewed as insurance, or perhaps it's an indication the 49ers don't expect to have Samuel when they attempt to improve to 6-0 on Sunday.

A three-year player at USC, Burnett looks the part of a Kyle Shanahan receiver. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he's a good route runner who has shown glimpses of potential. Burnett caught on with the Titans after being undrafted out of college and produced a solid preseason with Tennessee, but was a casualty of final roster cuts. He was signed by the Jets shortly thereafter, and caught 10 passes for 143 yards over five games with New York last season. He was waived by the Jets at the conclusion of training camp earlier this year.

[RELATED: Staley, Witherspoon closest to return among injured 49ers]

The 49ers signing Burnett to the practice squad doesn't necessarily mean they expect him to eventually make an impact on the 53-man roster. However, it sure would seem to suggest one or more of San Francisco's ailing receivers is further away from a return than originally thought.

How four Jimmy Garoppolo throws vs. Rams show 49ers can easily improve

How four Jimmy Garoppolo throws vs. Rams show 49ers can easily improve

The 49ers weren't expected to begin the 2019 season with five consecutive wins, so you'll have to forgive people if they're slow to adjust to the developing landscape.

Current ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive back Ryan Clark is one of those people.

After San Francisco started 2-0, he wasn't willing to buy in, calling the 49ers "pretenders."

"They are faking us out," Clark said on an episode of ESPN's "NFL Live." "They are imitators, pretenders, whatever you want to say. They are not the real deal at 2-0."

Since then, the 49ers have won their last three games, including an impressive road victory over the Rams on Sunday. That win in Los Angeles was enough to sway Clark's opinion of the 49ers. However, when he announced his change of heart to the world, it was through a backhanded compliment.

As if Aaron Donald wasn't enough, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has to take shots from former players, too.

Sheesh.

First off, let's just start by saying it's all too evident that Clark is unwilling to let go of his personal bias. He was critical of Garoppolo following Week 1, and made the "pretenders" comment after Garoppolo had thrown for 296 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-point road win at Cincinnati in Week 2. From a head-to-head comparison perspective, Garoppolo was objectively superior to Rudolph in San Francisco's win over the Steelers in Week 3.

Care to guess which franchise Clark was a member of for the majority of his playing career?

Nailed it. Clark played eight seasons in Pittsburgh.

So, yes, it appears Clark has some sour grapes when it comes to Jimmy G, as Garoppolo produced his highest completion percentage of the season while throwing for 243 yards against the Rams. However, Clark isn't without a fair point.

Garoppolo's performance wasn't deserving of a Rudolph comparison, nor was it without its thorns. The truth of the matter is, the outcome of a handful of throws determined how it was perceived.

Let's go in chronological order.

On the opening play of the second quarter, head coach Kyle Shanahan drew up a bit of trickery. The 49ers ran a flea-flicker that was perfectly executed -- up until the downfield throw.

Garoppolo severely underthrew receiver Marquise Goodwin, who would have walked in for a touchdown had Jimmy G hit him in stride. Now, it's fair to criticize Garoppolo for a poor throw in this situation, however, it's unfair to place all the blame on him. Goodwin would be the first to say that every NFL receiver must make that catch, and that's a 35-yard completion that doesn't go on Garoppolo's stat line as a result.

Garoppolo has to do better with that throw, but it wasn't a complete loss until his receiver failed to do his own job.

The next one up is all on Garoppolo, though.

Goodwin's drop didn't end up killing that drive, as Garoppolo found George Kittle for a 45-yard gain on the very next play. San Francisco eventually faced a 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, at which point the QB totally blew it.

He had two receivers in the area, and threw the ball straight at the defender in between them. A terrible decision and throw, and one that could have been a bigger deal if not for the 49ers' standout defense. When you look at that replay, it's not hard to guess what Clark was watching when he tweeted that comment.

The next throw is similarly Garoppolo's fault, although it luckily wasn't nearly as costly.

In a two-minute drill situation at the end of the first half, Garoppolo and the 49ers were driving at midfield. On first-and-10, Garoppolo locked in on receiver Dante Pettis, who was running a short inward curl to his left. Rams linebacker Cory Littleton read Jimmy G's eyes, and should have come away with a defensive touchdown.

Much like the throw that was intercepted for a touchdown in the first half of the 49ers' win over the Buccaneers in Week 1, that's one that Garoppolo simply can't risk. It should have been six the other way, and a momentum-swaying score at that.

The fourth and final throw, however, is much like the first in the sense that, yes, Garoppolo could have done better, but the ultimate fault doesn't lie with him.

Leading 17-7 with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the 49ers had first-and-goal at the Rams' 2-yard-line with a great chance to put the game away. After failing to score on first and second down, Shanahan drew up the perfect play in which runnimg back Tevin Coleman ran a wide-open wheel route out of the backfield, leaving him completely uncovered with nothing but the end zone in front of him. Garoppolo recognized the opportunity and made the right read, but his execution was lacking, as his pass was a little high and glanced off Coleman's hands for an incompletion.

San Francisco had to settle for a field goal, and Los Angeles still had life as a result.

Now, again, it's entirely fair to say Garoppolo has to make a better throw in that situation. However, much like Goodwin, Coleman's drop was even more egregious than the wayward throw. If he catches that pass -- as he absolutely should have -- that's a touchdown, both on the scoreboard and on the stat sheet. With a passing touchdown, maybe Garoppolo doesn't receive as much flack.

[RELATED: Shanahan not allowing 49ers to feel like they've arrived]

The great news for the 49ers is that they're 5-0 and clearly still are capable of playing significantly better. Garoppolo can easily correct the mistakes that resulted in the end zone interception and the one that should have been a pick-six. He can also be more accurate on the throws to Goodwin and Coleman, but Garoppolo's receivers must do a better job of making him look good, even when he isn't.

Clark didn't have a ton of material from the Rams game to criticize Garoppolo with, but what limited opportunities there were sure stuck out like a sore thumb. That said, Garoppolo's day could have been far better or far worse if those four throws had worked out differently.

Kyle Shanahan wants to wear Jimmie Ward's jersey after 49ers' big win

Kyle Shanahan wants to wear Jimmie Ward's jersey after 49ers' big win

Kyle Shanahan is one of the few high-profile members of the 49ers who doesn't wear a uniform on Sundays, but if he had it his way, he'd be just like everyone else.

Well, actually, just someone else.

"We love Jimmie [Ward]," Shanahan said at his Monday press conference. "I'd wear his jersey on the sideline if I could."

Shanahan has long been a fan of the versatile defensive back, but he had extra reason to praise Ward after he was heavily involved in stifling the Rams' offense in a decisive 49ers win Sunday. He was credited with six solo tackles -- only linebacker Kwon Alexander had more -- and two crucial fourth-quarter pass deflections.

"I love his mentality, I love watching him play," Shanahan continued. "He's had some unfortunate things with just not being able to stay healthy, but when he is healthy, he is one of the better players. You guys see what he does. He plays extremely physical out there. He's not scared of anything, he's not scared to fail. He challenges guys in coverage and it's been fun having him out there these two weeks."

For all of the grief Ward has received throughout his career, it was never for a lack of talent.

They say the most important ability is availability, and that's the one area where Ward has significantly struggled, though often due to no fault of his own. He appeared in just 16 of 32 games over the last two seasons combined, and sat out the first four weeks of the current campaign recovering from a broken finger.

Ward was absent from the injury report for the first time all season heading into the matchup with the Rams, so perhaps it's no surprise he came through with his best performance in years, according to Pro Football Focus.

In the two games that Ward has appeared, San Francisco has allowed 10 total points and limited Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff to a combined 21-of-46 passing for 178 yards and zero touchdowns while intercepting two passes. Certainly, that can't all be attributed to Ward's presence, as the defensive line continues to wreak havoc, but his impact can't be discounted altogether.

[RELATED: 49ers bigger Week 7 favorites than any road game in years]

The 49ers have long maintained that Ward is a key defensive building block -- if he can just stay healthy.

He's healthy now, and clearly, San Francisco is better for it.