Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan waiting for 49ers receivers to step up and seize starting jobs

Aug 12, 2019 at 7:15 AM--

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was eager to get his third-round draft pick, Jalen Hurd, on the practice field after the wide receiver missed all of OTAs. Hurd has been practicing since day one of training camp. At first, he was just in there as a blocker on running plays as he continued to pick up the offense.

Hurd immediately showed off his physicality on the field. His aggressive blocking didn't sit well with a couple of teammates on defense, and the rookie got into to fights during the second practice of training camp.

Hurd looked just as physical during Saturday night's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. The rookie wideout hauled in three passes for 31 yards and fought his way into the end zone twice in the 49ers' 17-9 win.

Hurd was met by a couple of Cowboys defenders on the first score. He wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

"It was nice," Hurd said after the game. "It made it look better. If I walked in, it wouldn't have been as cool."

Any doubts surrounding Hurd's potential likely faded away by the receiver's second touchdown. Things weren't perfect for the rookie. Shanahan at least partially placed the blame for one of the game's two interceptions, a pass that left the hands of quarterback C.J. Beathard, on Hurd.

"When you watch the tape, that's something we expect our receiver to step in front of and cross face," Shanahan said via a conference call on Sunday, "and Jalen hesitated a little bit on that and he could've helped him out. Definitely wasn't good, but not quite as bad as I thought the pick was originally."

The general consensus was that Dante Pettis would be one of the 49ers' starting wide receivers this season. However, the second-year receiver's name wasn't on the list of 28 players who didn't suit up for Saturday's exhibition opener while many of the starters' names were.

Shanahan is still trying to figure out who his starting wideouts will be for Week 1. Pettis is far from a lock, it seems.

"I wanted him to compete," Shanahan said on Saturday night. "We're trying to see who our starting receivers are and I wanted to get him a chance to get out there. […] Dante has a lot of room to grow. He can still get a lot better."

Shanahan is waiting for a receiver to step up and Hurd made a statement is his first NFL game — even if it was just a preseason matchup. Rather than sit there and try to figure out who his starting receivers will be, Shanahan wants the team's wideouts to decide for him with their play on the field.

"I want someone to take the job and make it to where it's extremely obvious," Shanahan said on Sunday. "We haven't had that yet. We have a bunch of young guys who are extremely hungry, and they are going for it. We've got some other guys who have been here who have also been that way, but I think guys are very evenly matched right now, and I want someone to step it up.

"The rookies, they made some good plays last night, but they also weren't very consistent either. There's lots of parts about their game that they have to clean up, and I thought it was very similar in the veterans, too. You expect the veterans to be out there, making some plays like they did a few times, but they also made mistakes."

The 49ers next preseason opponent will be the Denver Broncos. It will be quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's first in-game action since he tore his ACL in September of 2018. Shanahan hasn't thought much yet about playing his rookie receivers with his starting quarterback and will see how this week's joint practices against the Broncos go before making that kind of decision.

"That's something that you take day by day, but we get those guys a lot of playing time with Jimmy at practice," Shanahan said. "So, I don't plan on the game being any different."

And the 49ers' other drafted receiver, second-round pick Deebo Samuel, had two receptions for 61 yards against the Cowboys.

"He's very competitive," Shanahan said of Samuel. "He's a good wide receiver, but he's one of the more physical guys out there. We got him a run on an around where you could see a little bit of his physicality. Very similar to Jalen, their bodies are a little bit different but same type of mentality."

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