5 Bold Predictions for 49ers Training Camp: Offense Edition
For now, the 49ers plan to start training camp in late July at their facility in Santa Clara, as usual. But the plan could change depending on the status of the pandemic and local regulations.
Let’s assume 49ers training camp goes according to plan. Here are five bold predictions for their offense. Emphasis on “bold.” I swung for the fences with these predictions, so I might have whiffed all five times. We’ll find out. At least I took my hacks.
1. Jerick McKinnon will start at running back on Day 1 of training camp.
Raheem Mostert should be the starter, but that was true last season and he never started a game. He backed up Tevin Coleman. Now, I predict both will back up McKinnon when training camp begins.
Since 2018, Kyle Shanahan’s plan was to start Jerick McKinnon -- the 49ers made McKinnon one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL when they signed him away from the Vikings. But McKinnon tore his ACL befor 2018 and missed the past two seasons -- he never has played a game for the 49ers. His knee required a second surgery in 2019.
Now, the 49ers say McKinnon is healthy. And I think Shanahan wants to prove his plan to feature McKinnon was right all along. Shanahan loves doubling down and proving himself right. Who doesn’t? I do.
When Shanahan visualizes his ideal offense, I think he pictures McKinnon on the field. So I think McKinnon will be in the 49ers’ offensive huddle when they take their first snap of training camp.
2. McKinnon will not make the final roster.
I hope I’m wrong about this. McKinnon is an extremely nice, professional person and I hope he gets his career back. He didn’t do anything wrong. He got injured.
But he couldn’t practice more than two days in a row last offseason without suffering an injury. This offseason, he has trained tremendously hard, but hasn’t played football yet. Hasn’t had to cut and react on the fly. Can his surgically-repaired knee handle those violent movements? It couldn’t last year.
Even if McKinnon stays healthy -- and I hope he does -- will he be the same player he was before the injury two years ago? Will he have the same speed and quickness that made him a dangerous receiver out of the backfield? Can he still beat man-to-man coverage and make tacklers miss?
The odds are against him. He’ll get a chance to prove himself, but I doubt he’ll play well enough to make the team.
Prove me wrong, Jerick.
3. Tom Compton will start at right guard on Day 1 of training camp.
I believe the 49ers planned for him to start when they signed him this offseason -- they gave him the same amount of money they gave last season’s starting right guard, Mike Person, in 2019: $2.75 million.
Brunskill is better than Compton -- Brunskill showed that last season. But he will earn just $650,000 in 2020. I believe the 49ers plan for him to backup both guard and tackle spots, which means Compton will have to lose the job at right guard for Brunskill to get a chance to play. And Compton might not lose the job right away -- not unless he gives up a few sacks during the preseason. Shanahan seems to like him. Shanahan and his father drafted Compton in Washington in 2012.
4. Jalen Hurd will win the starting wide-receiver job opposite Deebo Samuel by the end of training camp.
Kendrick Bourne probably will be the starter opposite Samuel on Day 1 of camp. But I doubt the 49ers want Bourne to start during the regular season -- he’s a No. 3 receiver at best. So there will be an open competition for the No. 2 job.
And rookie Brandon Aiyuk will have a tough time winning it, because teams couldn’t have OTAs or minicamp this year. Meaning training camp will be Aiyuk’s first time practicing in the NFL, and he probably will make lots of mistakes. Not his fault.
Hurd is entering his second training camp -- the 49ers took him in the third round of the 2019 draft. And he played well in training camp before he suffered a stress fracture in his back and missed the entire season.
If Hurd stays healthy through training camp, I believe he’ll start Week 1 against the Cardinals, Trent Taylor will be the No. 3 receiver and Kendrick Bourne will be the No. 4 receiver. Meaning Bourne probably will have to take a pay cut to stay on the team -- he currently is the 49ers’ highest-paid wide receiver. They’ll make him accept a contract that reflects his position on the depth chart most likely.
Call those bonus bold predictions.
5. The 49ers will trade Dante Pettis before the regular season begins.
Pettis has talent -- he showed that during the second half of his rookie season when he played with backup quarterback Nick Mullens. But starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo simply doesn’t seem to trust Pettis. Those two have zero chemistry, even though they tried hard to build it last offseason.
I believe Pettis will come to camp determined and in shape, unlike last year. He probably will play mostly with the backups and catch a few passes from Mullens and C.J. Beathard during the preseason, and reporters will write how much better Pettis looks in 2020 compared to 2019. A feel-good story.
And then 49ers probably will trade Pettis for a sixth-round pick.