The San Francisco 49ers officially kick off their 2019 edition of training camp on July 26. Here are the five most notable storylines to pay attention to later this summer.


There's less than a month before the San Francisco 49ers resume football activities, as 2019 training camp will kick off on Friday, July 26. There might not be as much buzz in 2019 as there was a year ago. After all, the Niners aren't coming off a five-game win streak to close out the previous season, as was the case this time back in 2018. Instead, plenty of attention will focus on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's efforts after tearing his ACL and the subsequent recovery. Fans will pay attention to the Niners' top pick from this year's NFL Draft, EDGE Nick Bosa, and how he's coming along.

Yet there are plenty of other topics and storylines to watch, as head coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff look to whittle the 90-man roster down to 53 players for the regular season.

Here are five, which should garner plenty of attention in July and August.

The Running Back Pecking Order


San Francisco's addition of Tevin Coleman during the offseason shakes up San Francisco's running back crop considerably. Coleman, who thrived under Shanahan with the Atlanta Falcons between 2015 and 2016, got the primary first-team reps during organized team activities while fellow runners Jerick McKinnon (ACL) and Matt Breida (pectoral) were sidelined and recovering from their respective injuries.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco predicts Coleman will win the starting job over the other two, while Shanahan has previously told reporters each runner will determine his own role in camp.

Regardless, it's a good problem for Shanahan and the 49ers to have.

A Resurgent Wide Receiver Corps


Last year, no Niners wide receiver reached 500 receiving yards. Kendrick Bourne led this group with 487 yards, yet he might be in danger of missing out on final roster cuts.

One of the reasons is fellow wideout Jordan Matthews, who was one of training camp's bigger standouts. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Matthews is an intriguing red-zone option and can play both on the outside and as a big slot.

Speaking of slots, third-year pro Trent Taylor looks to bounce back from a season-long back injury, which severely limited his abilities a year ago. During his rookie 2017 season, Taylor recorded 19 third-down receptions for a first down, which was tied for ninth among all pass catchers that year and tied for the most among rookies (Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp). San Francisco wants to see that kind of production out of Taylor, who'll battle it out in camp with second-year pro Richie James.

The 49ers are also looking at a resurgence from the veteran, Marquise Goodwin, who is expected to be used more situationally this season.

Second-year pro Dante Pettis will look to emulate how he finished his rookie campaign last year, while rookie wideout Deebo Samuel will look to fill the void left by former Niners wide receiver Pierre Garçon, whom the team let go during the offseason.

Ahkello Witherspoon's Ability to Retain No. 2 Cornerback Spot


Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Ahkello Witherspoon the worst cornerback out of 112 qualifiers. He also led the team in accepted penalties against (six) and seemed susceptible to give up big plays each game started.

While Witherspoon managed to finish the year on a strong note before landing on injured reserve, he'll have to do a lot to retain a starting boundary role opposite the veteran, Richard Sherman.

Witherspoon's struggles prompted the Niners to bring aboard oft-injured corner Jason Verrett during the offseason. Verrett, a one-time Pro Bowler, has played in just five regular-season games dating back to the start of 2016. And his recovery from a 2018 Achilles tear has held Verrett out of OTAs and minicamp, giving Witherspoon a chance to bounce back in practices.

According to The Athletic's Matt Barrows, Witherspoon is doing his best to re-seize the opportunity.

The No. 2 Quarterback Spot


There will be plenty of attention on Garoppolo, yes. But one of the more intriguing battles this training camp will be one the 49ers hope won't have any effect on game day.

Backing up Garoppolo will go to either C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens, and Shanahan has indicated both will have an equal shot to claim the role this camp. But as KNBR 680's Al Sacco pointed out, the in-game numbers are entirely in Mullens' favor, not Beathard's:

Mullens has also proved to be the more accurate passer, completing 64.2 percent of this throws, while Beathard has struggled with a career percentage of 57.3. As far as getting the most out of their throws, Mullens finished fifth in the NFL with a whopping 8.31 yards per attempt. Beathard was almost a full yard below that last year at 7.4 and carries a career average of 6.4.

Whoever loses this competition faces an uncertain future, sort of. Mullens, especially if he wins the camp bout, has a much higher trade value than his counterpart. And while backing up Garoppolo is important, it's hard to see other teams lining up to grab Beathard in a trade, especially if he loses the competition to Mullens before Week 1.

Either way, this will be a focal point of the regular season.

That 49ers Pass Rush


San Francisco spent considerable effort reinforcing its defensive line during the offseason, including making the draft selection of Bosa and trading for former Kansas City Chiefs EDGE Dee Ford.

Ford, who managed 13 sacks last season and a league-leading seven forced fumbles, is coming off a career year. One can hope he replicates that, especially when paired alongside fellow Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner. Bosa, meanwhile, will likely occupy the opposite pass-rushing end on the strong side of the formation. This trio, especially combined in the new wide-9 alignment, figures to make a vast improvement over the 37 sacks the 49ers posted a year ago, which was tied for 22nd in the league.

Until the pads come on, however, it's tough to gauge just how effective this unit will be. Mock "sacks" reveal a little, but a good idea how this unit will work out won't be revealed until there's some actual physical contact.

It's time to see if all those Niners investments up front paid off.
  • Peter Panacy
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.