Nick Mullens

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 Mailbag . . . Should contracts for Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel be a concern?]

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.

C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens start offseason even for 49ers' No. 2 QB job

C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens start offseason even for 49ers' No. 2 QB job

PHOENIX — Coach Kyle Shanahan knows Jimmy Garoppolo is the quarterback atop the 49ers’ depth chart.

After that, it’s a coin flip — literally.

“We’ll rotate C.J. (Beathard) and Nick (Mullens) with the twos,” Shanahan said at the NFL owners meeting.

Shanahan said he does not consider either reserve in the lead to serve as Garoppolo’s backup this season. In fact, he said he is prepared to dole out the initial practice snaps of the offseason program in random order.

“(We’ll) flip a coin the first day,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers have kept two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster the past two seasons under Shanahan. But they could be tempted to keep all three around this season.

Statistically, Mullens out-produced Beathard last season, as the 49ers won three of his eight starts to finish the season. The 49ers were winless in the five games Beathard started.

Mullens completed 176 of 274 pass attempts (64.2 percent), averaged 8.3 yards per pass attempt, and threw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 90.9 passer rating. He also was sacked once every 17.1 dropbacks.

“Nick kind of came out of nowhere this year from being on the practice squad to being a starter for us as long as he was,” Shanahan said. “(I) never went into the year expecting that because you don’t go into the year expecting guys to get hurt. But Nick got his opportunity and he didn’t let it go back. We’re real excited with him, proud of how he played.”

Garoppolo sustained a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3 against Kansas City. Beathard took over and started until a thumb injury and other bumps and bruises forced him out of the lineup in Week 9 against the Raiders.

Beathard completed 102 of 169 attempts (60.4 percent), averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, and threw eight touchdowns and seven interceptions for a passer rating of 81.8. He was sacked once every 10.4 dropbacks.

Beathard was chosen late in the third round of the 2017 draft, while Mullens hooked on with the 49ers that same year as an undrafted rookie.

“I think you got two guys that have proven that they could definitely be backups in this league and they have shown that they are capable at times of playing like a starter,” Shanahan said. “Neither of them are finished products. I think both can still continue to get a lot better.”

Through eight starts, Mullens ranks fourth all-time with 2,277 passing yards – behind only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. In Mullens’ first start, he threw for 262 yards with a near-perfect 151.9 rating against the Raiders.

[RELATED: Shanahan enlisted dad to talk football with Jimmy G]

“When CJ took a step back, he was pretty beat up,” Shanahan said. “He went into that San Diego game, they had a very good pass rush. I think we lost three O-linemen in that game. We lost our receivers in that game and he played at a very high level versus the Chargers.

“But he got banged up a lot in that game. He had a few setbacks in practice but his body never really recovered and then we sat him for the Oakland game because he was hurt the most. I think his body healed up. It’s something he needed to do and it would have been nice for him to get back in after a few weeks, but Nick was playing too well.”