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49ers’ Kyle Shanahan assesses early status of training camp competitions at right guard, nickel corner

Jul 29, 2022 at 11:02 AM--

It's tempting to take the first two days of 49ers training camp as a hint about who will win the competitions for the team's open spots at right guard and nickel cornerback, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan says it's too early in the process to come away with anything definitive.

Veteran Darqueze Dennard has been getting first-team reps at the nickel spot, while rookie and fourth-round pick Spencer Burford has been with the first team at right guard. Shanahan spoke about Burford before practice on Friday, saying the Texas-San Antonio product has adjusted well to the NFL in his short time in the league but still has a long way to go before solidifying a starting spot.

"He's got a shot," Shanahan said of Burford. "I think a number of guys have got a shot. But those are things that really I try not to think about much right now. I don't because it's the second day. We haven't even put pads on. I don't try to get too excited about guys yet. You just try to take it day-by-day because there's a lot of football to be played, and especially that we haven't even put the pads on yet. He's done a good job in everything we asked. A number of the guys have. There's a lot of names in there I think you guys don't know or that the fans probably don't know, but there's a lot of candidates who have got the ability to do it. Now we've got to see who can handle the marathon of camp and who is poised enough to handle those real games."

Shanahan also complimented Burford's potential in the 49ers' offense, saying, "When we drafted him, we liked his ability to run. We thought he was a very good scheme fit for us. When it comes to our run game you've got to be able to run very well, and then when it comes the pass game, it's quick feet and length. He has both of those things. He played at a little smaller school. He came into OTAs and he handled that well, but we also didn't do much. He looked the part in individual along with a couple other guys. He's got the first crack in these first two days, but it's not something we've discussed a ton. We're just kind of letting it play out."

Burford being the first man up at right guard might come as a bit of a surprise, but there are still a number of players with the capability to win that spot. One who was expected to be among the candidates is second-year lineman Jaylon Moore, who spent time at tackle as a rookie despite the thought he'd eventually move inside. Moore has been working on the outside in the early going while starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey (quadriceps surgery) makes his way back to full strength, but that could switch up as camp proceeds.

"We've got a lot of candidates," Shanahan said. "I know the guys you guys saw there yesterday who did it mainly in OTAs, which in OTAs we didn't get a lot of team reps in that stuff. But Jaylon, we gave him some work there, especially with Mike (McGlinchey) out, we're starting him here at right tackle. But you've got your starters who play those five spots, and everyone else, you want to be able to play him anywhere. You've only got so many guys up on gameday. All our tackles we'd like to be able to play at guard and that's why we're figuring out what he can do right now."

As for the nickel spot, Shanahan's thoughts are similar to what he said about right guard. He likes the candidates the 49ers have, but there's a long way to go, and the team is early in the process of seeing who is up for the task.

"We have an idea, but I see it similar to the inside positions on the O-Line you're talking about. There's not a solidified guy. There's not a guy who's done it for a long time, but there's a bunch of guys we believe have ability to do it and we think have the skill set to do. That's the thing we're repping as much as we can to see who's tough enough to handle it, who can get better throughout camp, not just have a couple good days and take steps back. That's why it's going to be a process to figure that out."


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