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49ers training camp: Offensive improvement and extra-special teams

The early storyline throughout San Francisco 49ers Training Camp has been the offense’s struggles against the defense. Jimmy Garoppolo has been inconsistent, and the running game has struggled against the stout defensive front seven.

Friday’s quarterback performance

The 49ers ran about 60 plays throughout 11-on-11 drills Friday. Backup quarterback Nick Mullens has arguably performed the best at the position through the first week, but today he struggled and was outperformed by both Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard.

  • Garoppolo: 9-for-16 passing (2-for-3 in the red-zone, TD pass to Matt Breida)
  • Mullens: 5-for-13 passing, intercepted by Marcell Harris (0-for-3 in the red-zone)
  • Beathard: 10-for-12 passing, intercepted by Tyree Robinson (1-for-2 in the red-zone, TD pass to Kendrick Bourne)

What we saw from the 49ers offense Friday was the ability to spread the ball around and use players in more ways than one. With the running game struggling against the defensive line, the pass-catching ability of backs like Breida and Tevin Coleman has served as a failsafe for when the pocket collapses and 49ers quarterbacks run into trouble.

The offense’s ability to spread the ball around was on display Friday. Of course with three “teams” of players on the field at different times, there are plenty of names who can contribute. But Friday, most of the action in the passing game came from either roster locks or players who have a good shot to make the roster.

WR Dante Pettis, WR Jordan Matthews, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Trent Taylor, TE George Kittle, WR Kendrick Bourne, RB Matt Breida, FB Kyle Juszczyk, RB Raheem Mostert, WR Richie James Jr., WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Deebo Samuel, TE Kaden Smith, and WR Jalen Hurd contributed in the passing game.

The rookie wide receivers, Samuel and Hurd, are expected to be on the 49ers roster this season. Carrying two rookie receivers and plugging them into an offense may require some patience as they learn to translate their skills to the NFL. Pettis was a rookie last season, Bourne the year before that. Post-practice, Bourne discussed what it’s like for rookie receivers such as Samuel and Hurd, and what comes with making mistakes:

“You can see the same mistakes the rookies make, as when i was a rookie. I tell them all the time, it’s just little stuff that you have to key to, it’s a lot in the play calls, so you have to hear everything, and you have to hear a particular part for yourself. It just comes with learning, every day you’ll make a mistake and you’ll get traumatized by it, and it’ll make you remember for next time.”

The punter from down under

In the fourth round of the 2019 draft, the 49ers selected punter Mitch Wishnowsky out of Utah. An Australian-born football player, Wishnowsky is known for his hang time and diverse collection of punts. Drafting a punter in the fourth-round is not common, in fact, it was shocking. For a team that could have drafted for need (defense), the 49ers gambled on a punter.

It wasn’t long into OTA’s that everybody saw what the 49ers scouting department saw. The Aussie punter has turned heads, resulting in a lot of eyes on the 49ers special teams drills, and plenty of bystanders taking out their phones to record his hang time on punts.

What makes Wishnowsky so unique is not just his hang time, but the collection of spins and curves he can put on the ball, making it difficult for returners to follow where the ball is landing. Following practice on Friday, Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower discussed his impressions of Wishnowsky. The other day, Pettis and other returners had trouble with some of Wishnowsky’s punts. Hightower discussed why that may have been:

“You’ll hear guys talk a lot about him having a lot of different clubs in his bag, and he does. Meaning that he has a lot of different balls that he can kick. I’m not going to get into the specifics of each ball that he has just because we’ll let our opponents figure that out, but he has balls that he can kick that fall different ways that can give a returner the illusion that it’s going one way and that it will go a different way. So, that’s one thing he’s worked on his whole life and hopefully that will continue to be something that can help us.”

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