Image Credit: Bay Area News Group
The San Francisco 49ers open up training camp on July 26, and with that comes the annual position battles. It has become one of the most exciting aspects of the offseason for the fans and team alike. Last year the 49ers saw clashes at running back, defensive line and offensive line. This year the team is considerably more talented and the training camp battles should reflect. What do the fans have to look forward to at the end of the month?
Who the hell is going to play safety?
The one position group that was not addressed by the front office was safety. It is a giant collection of unknowns, underperforming draft picks and players looking to bounce back from a down year. Entering training camp it would appear as though Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert will begin as the starters for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense. Both have shown flashes of playing at a very high level, however, both struggle with inconsistency and injuries. Tartt, in particular, has never played a full slate of 16 games during his four seasons in the Bay. Behind them are players like Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore and Marcell Harris, the most intriguing of which is Moore. A third-round pick just a year ago, the 49ers had plans to change him from his collegiate position of safety to cornerback, but an injury to Ward during OTAs thrust Moore back to his natural spot. If he is able to make the most of this opportunity, he could see a serious uptick in playing time.
Does Jimmy Garoppolo have a number one receiver?
The 49ers not having a consistent number one target from the wide receiver position has become one of the longest running bad jokes for the franchise. Not since Anquan Boldin in 2014 have they had a receiver eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Last year saw the emergence of tight end George Kittle but the receiving corps was lacking across the board. Dante Pettis experienced success but, much like running mates Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor, he suffered from injuries that limited his time on the field. The additions of rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd give Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan the best stable of receivers either have had in their careers. The betting line is on Pettis to take the next step to become 1,000-yard receiver, but do not count out Samuel as a breakout star.
Richard Sherman is a given, but who runs alongside him at corner?
Cornerback Richard Sherman, despite not pulling down a single interception, played very well over the course of last season. With the exception of a few plays, he very much looked like the shutdown cornerback of old. The opposite corner for Saleh’s defense was a revolving door throughout the season as no one could seem to hold the starting spot down. Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward, Greg Mabin and Tarvarius Moore all saw time on the other side of field from Sherman. All were inconsistent and prompted the coaching staff to add the likes of Jason Verrett through free agency and Tim Harris through the draft. Verrett is a former first-round pick with gobs of talent who struggles with staying healthy and on the field. Harris, similarly, comes with an extensive injury history but has more skills than his sixth-round draft pedigree would suggest. Witherspoon and Verrett are the most likely to duke it out for the starting spot with Richard Sherman. This, and the safety positions, should be the most important and most heated position battles throughout camp.
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