Home News Position-by-position look at Brock Purdy-led offense

Position-by-position look at Brock Purdy-led offense

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SANTA CLARA — Playoff-tested veterans and long-shot rookies have two more weeks of the offseason program to impress their 49ers bosses before summer break.

Whether they have the makings of another Super Bowl-bound team, time will tell. But the championship clock is ticking.

Last Tuesday was their chance to show the media what they’ve got at organized team activities. Such voluntary sessions run through next Friday, then comes the June 4-6 mandatory minicamp.

Here is how the offensive positions are looking:

Quarterback Brock Purdy throws passes during the San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Quarterback Brock Purdy throws passes during the San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

QUARTERBACK

Brock Purdy is healthy and in command. Turns out his NFL career was not doomed two years ago when, as a fourth-stringer, he threw an OTA-ending interception to Qwuantrezz Knight.

“I know it’s no small feat to be the face of a franchise and the leader of an organization,” quarterbacks coach Brian Griese said. “That takes time to get the confidence and be comfortable in that position. … Brock is growing in that area, and that’s really cool.”

Tuesday, Purdy zipped on-target passes to Deebo Samuel, Ricky Pearsall and Trent Taylor, the latter of whom also caught an improvised, cross-field, deep throw Purdy floated over a helpless cornerback. Purdy has dissected film from last season’s 49ers-record 4,280 passing yards and has been able to focus on refining his footwork, timing and rhythm

Shanahan praised Josh Dobbs’ ability to memorize plays and now it’s a matter of getting reps in the system if he’s to serve as Purdy’s immediate backup instead of Brandon Allen, last season’s No. 3 behind Purdy and Sam Darnold.  “I hope everybody thinks of it as a competition,” said Griese, who praised Allen’s experience as a QB2 behind Joe Burrow and his rapport with Purdy.

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan talk with Kyle Juszczy and Fred Warner during practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan talk with Kyle Juszczy and Fred Warner during practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

RUNNING BACK

Christian McCaffrey is not present at the voluntary sessions. He’s been working out in his native Colorado, preparing for his wedding to Olivia Culpo, and devoting time to his charity foundation. If he wants a pay raise, he deserves it after winning his first rushing title. His $11.8 million base salary is still No. 1 among running backs on a contract that voids in 2026; he restructured last April to give the 49ers cap relief. Guaranteeing his salary and enhancing his pay seems more than fair.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk and running backs coach Bobby Turner are leading the way at OTAs, while a healthy Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason are sharing reps with rookies Isaac Guerendo and Cody Schrader. Guerendo was this draft’s fastest running back, and although he saw limited action over six college seasons, Shanahan said it’s already been fun working with a versatile back who played wide receiver in high school.

Ricky Pearsall #14 participates in the San Francisco 49ers OTA practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Ricky Pearsall #14 participates in the San Francisco 49ers OTA practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

WIDE RECEIVER

First things first: Deebo Samuel now dons the No. 1 jersey, and he was the No. 1 offensive star on the field Tuesday as he tries improving ways to get off the line of scrimmage.

Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings are not participating as they seek stronger financial commitments beyond their one-year deals ($14.1 million for Aiyuk on a fifth-year option; $4.6 million, second-round tender for Jennings).

Receivers coach Leonard Hankerson explained the pros and cons of those absences impacting first-round pick Ricky Pearsall: “It’s good for Ricky because he gets a ton of reps. But it’s also bad, because those are two guys who know who we do things, who know how it’s done the right way. He’s not able to see those guys.”

It’s good to see Taylor jitterbugging his way through defenses like he did as a 2017 rookie before his 49ers’ tenure was sidetracked by a foot injury. Danny Gray and Ronnie Bell have work to do if they’re to stick on a deeper unit, but they indeed are working at it. Missing for unknown reasons Tuesday was Jacob Cowing, a 5-foot-9 speedster who’s envisioned as a slot receiver, an end-around rusher, and a punt returner.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talks about the team's OTA practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talks about the team’s OTA practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

TIGHT END

As George Kittle recovers well from core-muscle surgery, the 49ers are auditioning an otherwise raw and unproven unit; Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley are now Atlanta Falcons. Tight ends coach Brian Fleury is up for the “very fun” task of teaching all he can to this year’s crop.

Brayden Willis is positioning himself as the No. 2 tight end. He played sparingly as a rookie seventh-round pick. His 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame lined up with the first unit Tuesday. “He showed up with his body in the right shape, his mind in the right place, and he’s maximized his time to be ready,” Fleury said.

Still rehabilitating is Cam Latu, a 2023 third-round pick who has a year’s worth of mental reps and still must prove himself on the field. Eric Saubert offers eight years and 84 games of experience. Jake Tonges is a Los Gatos native and Cal product who’s impressed with his intellect and pass-catching ability.

The wild-card candidate likely needs practice squad seasoning: Undrafted rookie Mason Pline, a 6-7 former basketball player at Ferris State. “There’s other basketball players we’ve evaluated that I haven’t been as excited about,” Fleury said. “But we are always looking for signs of a certain level of toughness and physicality tolerance, and he definitely has that.” Pline must adjust to NFL-caliber speed and stamina but is adjusting quicker than expected.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Left tackle Trent Williams has steered clear of the voluntary (and unnecessary) installations at this stage of his All-Pro career. All four other starters are back, although center Jake Brendel’s knee tendinitis has him restricted to a side field until training camp.

Jon Feliciano, who took over at right guard last season, is getting valuable reps at center. That’s allowing Spencer Burford to show what strides he can make in Year 3. The greater study will be whether Dominick Puni, a third-round pick from Kansas, can make a move to start at right guard. Nick Zakelj, Purdy’s roommate for the past two years, is back from a biceps injury to audition on the interior.

Left guard Aaron Banks reported for duty as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, and right tackle Colton McKivitz is going to get tested big-time against Nick Bosa and Leonard Floyd before the season opens Sept. 9 against the New York Jets and Haason Reddick.

Recently signed veteran Chris Hubbard wasn’t on hand Tuesday, and Jaylon Moore got first crack as Williams’ fill-in at left tackle, then it was Brandon Parker’s turn. Rookie Jarrett Kingston projects as a guard but played right tackle on Tuesday’s second string.

Undrafted rookie Drake Nugent (Stanford, Michigan) was the third-string center, and he looks assertive enough to make a run at a roster spot.



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