Training camp is right around the corner for the San Francisco 49ers.
This is the time when the team starts to get their bodies ready for the tumultuous and strenuous season. But it is also the time when starters, role players and roster spots are determined. This can make or break players with their status on the team or Kyle Shanahan’s favoritism ladder.
Here are five 49ers that need an impressive training camp.
Shanahan and John Lynch have remained adamant that Jalen Hurd will be ready for the start of training camp. If that holds true, that will be the first of many practices in which Hurd needs to start to show his stuff. Of course, the 49ers are going to roll him along slowly. He has had two severe injuries in back-to-back years after all. Hurd doesn’t need to ball out or be the best, but he has to show something that intrigues the coaches.
He has to show that there is still hope for him. That there isn’t going to be dependability issues with his injuries and production. Being the 67th pick, the 49ers invested a bit of draft capital weight into Hurd. That isn’t just a “whatever” draft pick. It is definitely a valued pick the way the 49ers will look at it. Filling the role as the No. 3 receiver will be relatively open. Hurd doesn’t need to take that now, but an impressive showing will give the 49ers hope of what he can be once he’s ready to handle a hefty workload.
Richie James Jr.
One player who I have always felt never gets a fair shot is Richie James Jr.. He has had some sweet moments for the 49ers the past two seasons, but can never be looked at as more than a special teams role player by Shanahan. Going into training camp last year, I was skewed towards James being a camp casualty just because he isn’t in good standing on Shanahan’s favoritism ladder. That same thought I had last year remains the same going into this year’s training camp.
The 49ers just picked up Nsimba Webster off waivers from the Rams. He’s a return specialist, which will just increase the competition there. That does not bode well for James who hardly gets any looks on offense. All it will take is a couple mistakes from him, or even just good looks from others he’s competing with and it’s goodbye James. An impressive performance in camp behooves him to both stay relevant on the 49ers and on the team.
No body has proven more versatile to the 49ers than Daniel Brunskill. The guy has seen action on every position on the offensive line outside of left guard. Last season, it was tough sledding for Brunskill. He was training to be the starter at right guard and proved how solid he is there against the Rams in their first meeting last season. Once he got thrown into the fire at center, it was just a porous showing. Entering training camp this year, he finally can put the majority of his focus on right guard again. However, Aaron Banks stands in his way.
The 49ers drafted Banks fairly high in the second round and he can be a capable starter right from the jump. If Banks looks too good or if Brunskill can’t hold it down, that starting position is going to go to Banks. For a player who has done everything the 49ers have asked, Brunskill deserves to be a starter. But that just isn’t how the league works. If Banks is the better player going forward, then he will start. Brunskill will still be implemented in heavy set formations surely, but you would think he’d love the accolade of being a starter.
I know, I know, another wide receiver here with Jauan Jennings. But when receiver is wide open outside of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, there are opportunities for everyone to try and stand out with an impressive training camp. Jennings didn’t get to show much of anything last year thanks to an injury. Before that injury, however, he looked mediocre at best in camp. He was dropping passes, struggling to create space and get off the line.
Now is his time to see if he improved or developed any new skills. All it takes is a couple of good practices before Shanahan takes notice and increase his looks. The reverse is also true but all it takes is a few poor plays and Shanahan will lose interest since he’s not a highly coveted draft pick. Jennings can easily find himself back on the practice squad without an impressive training camp.
You may be thinking “why on earth is Trey Lance being mentioned?” when it comes to this article. It’s simply because Lance has a chance to start Week 1, and his best way to make that a reality is to look impressive in training camp. He will not start if he is looking inconsistent. Shanahan just won’t trust him fully yet and would rather go with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Plus, this is going to be a quarterback competition whether it is official or not. Lance has to look good with the pressure of being a starter as early as possible on the line. Now if he doesn’t look too great in camp, it doesn’t mean he won’t ever start or be featured in the offense this season. But for starting Week 1 purposes, an impressive training camp will get him there regardless of what Garoppolo is doing. The ball is in Lance’s hands and it is up to him when he starts.