On Monday, we took a look at San Francisco 49ers second-year receiver DeAndre Smelter and his emergence as a legitimate competitor for the team's X-spot receiver. Today, we will look at another wide receiver that is starting to turn some heads.
One of the highlights of the 49ers' second day of training camp practice was a 40-yard touchdown strike down the sideline from QB Blaine Gabbert to WR Jerome Simpson. That was on Monday. On Tuesday, head coach Chip Kelly acknowledged that Simpson, who enters his eighth year in the NFL and his second with the 49ers, is one to watch.
49ers Chip Kelly confirms my observations that WR Jerome Simpson is one to watch. Had TD yesterday— Cam Inman (@CamInman) August 2, 2016
Chip on WR race: "It's really wide open"
"Simpson's touchdown catch served as a promising sign his erratic, eighth-year career could be back on track," said Cam Inman of Bay Area Sports Group following Monday's practice.
Simpson, who spent the first six games of the 2015 season suspended for violating the league's policy and program for substances of abuse, doesn't have a lack of confidence in regards to his ability to be a playmaker for the 49ers. "I feel like the iron is hot right now and it's my time to strike," Simpson said Monday. "I come every day with juice and show coaches I can play for them. I'm a guy that's going to make big plays for us."
Simpson has always been described as a "practices well" player, but one that would disappear once he got on the field. He will have every opportunity to fight for playing time this season as Kelly described the wide receiver competition as "really wide open." Kelly stated that, despite his age (30), he runs around the practice field like one of the youngest guys in the group.
Camp Highlight: Gabbert Finds Simpson for Long TD
"It's amazing to see how he runs," added Kelly while speaking to the media. "He's obviously extremely fast, but just the energy and the amount juice he has through an entire practice, he literally is one of those guys that can run all day. So, he's really flourishing in what we're doing right now and he's a guy to keep an eye on as we continue to move because if he continues to make plays like that, he'll be a real nice advantage to add to Torrey, to have some speed on the outside like that."
"You love being around him because it's kind of infectious. He just loves playing football," Kelly added Tuesday.
"I've come here on a Saturday and he's had three or four receivers out here in the spring catching tennis balls," said Kelly. "He's just kind of the consummate professional in terms of his work ethic and his approach. The younger guys in that room kind of gravitate to him in terms of how he studies, how he watches film, how he takes notes, how he prepares for practice, how he recovers after practice, you know, what his mindset is like in terms of being a professional and he's one of the best I've ever been around in terms of his approach to the game in taking care of what he has to do to put himself in the best situation to make plays."
Chris Biderman of Niners Wire has also stated that Simpson has been impressive early on. "Simpson gives the 49ers a speed element they lack at the position, outside of Smith," said Biderman. "He's one of the team's most athletic players."
Ryan Sakamoto of Niner Fans confirmed that Simpson had another solid practice on Tuesday. "Caught everything his way and ran crisp routes easily separating from (defensive backs)," Sakamoto said via Twitter.
#49ers Jerome Simpson had another solid practice. Caught everything his way and ran crisp routes easily separating from DBs.— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 2, 2016
Simpson's best season came in 2013 when he had 48 receptions for 726 yards and a touchdown with the Minnesota Vikings. That was an average of over 15 yards-per-catch. That's the type of production that the 49ers could really use out of him this season. It will be interesting to see what the final wide receiver depth chart looks when all is said and done. Simpson is certainly making a case that he should not be buried on that depth chart.