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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

5 risers and 4 fallers during 49ers training camp

Rohan Chakravarthi
Aug 18, 2022 at 1:15 PM--

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There have been some stellar performances during training camp from 49ers' players, some of which were expected, but a few have risen above expectations.

Additionally, there have been a few disappointing performances, with some players' stock falling as the regular season approaches.

Let's evaluate five risers and four fallers during 49ers' training camp that could help paint a picture of the depth chart as the preseason nears its conclusion.


1. RG Spencer Burford

After taking almost all of his reps with the second-team offense during minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs) during the second phase of the offseason, Spencer Burford stepped into training camp as the starter at right guard, and that wasn't even the biggest surprise.

Three weeks in, Burford has faced zero legitimate competition at the position, taking all of the first-team snaps while former starter Daniel Brunskill has competed with Jake Brendel at center.

Burford's strength and athleticism have been on display throughout camp and the first preseason game against the Packers, and the rookie guard doesn't seem to be looking back.

While inconsistencies do occur—particularly in pass protection, Burford has filled the right guard spot admirably, and it appears that his offseason work with Trent Williams has certainly paid dividends.

2. WR Ray-Ray McCloud

Ray-Ray McCloud continued to improve his stock during training camp, following a strong showing at OTAs. The 25-year-old receiver is solidifying his spot within the San Francisco offense.

McCloud has been characterized as a "gadget" player due to his usage. The former Pittsburgh Steeler has run check-down, out, comeback, and deep crossing routes during his different reps in 11-on-11s.

Despite his smaller frame, McCloud has displayed the ability to consistently get open out of the slot and has seen time with the first team offense as well as the second team.

McCloud has been the most consistent receiver in camp not named Brandon Aiyuk and figures to have a bigger-than-expected role in the offense on top of his return duties on special teams.

McCloud has had some ball security issues in his career, which was on display in the 49ers' first preseason game when the receiver hauled in a high pass from Nate Sudfeld but lost the ball after taking a hit from a Packers safety.

However, with head coach Kyle Shanahan's ability to scheme players into open space, which is where McCloud works best, hopefully, those problems can be avoided.

3. DT Kevin Givens

Kevin Givens was brought back as a restricted free agent in the offseason and figured to be a fringe-rotational player, given the depth that the 49ers had along the interior defensive line with Javon Kinlaw, Arik Armstead, Maurice Hurts and offseason acquisition Hassan Ridgeway atop the depth chart.

However, injuries to Ridgeway, Hurst, and Armstead have provided Givens with a full-time starting role alongside Kinlaw, and the fourth-year defensive lineman has risen to the task, especially showcasing his speed as a pass-rusher.

Additionally, Givens held up well as a run-defender during Friday's preseason game, and overall, has looked the part of a starting-caliber defensive lineman in the NFL. He's going to be excellent insurance for the 49ers, should Kinlaw or Armstead face an injury in the regular season, and will likely see some snaps as a rotational piece on the interior, especially on passing downs.

Givens played 28% of the defensive snaps in 2021 and could in line to receive the same snap share in 2022 alongside a deep defensive line.

4. DE Kemoko Turay

Coming into a deep defensive line room as a first-year player in the defensive system, it was originally unclear how extensive Kemoko Turay's role would be with the 49ers, despite a strong 5.5-sack season in 2021.

However, Turay has certainly proven himself during training camp, rising above the ranks, and seeing second and first-team defensive snaps at times after originally seeing time with the backup rotations in training camp.

Turay has a variety of pass-rushing moves that have allowed him to be a menace in the backfield. His spin move has been especially lethal against offensive linemen as an edge-rusher.

Turay's pass-rushing acumen was on display during training camp, having five sacks in one practice, and the veteran showcased his ability to defend the run as well during the preseason game against the Packers, forcing three stops of three yards or less on the day.

Turay is one of the more refined pass-rushers along the 49ers' defensive line and has certainly seen his stock rise since the beginning of training camp.

5. SS Talanoa Hufanga

The strong safety position has been a question mark for many, myself included, since the beginning of the offseason, when starter Jaquiski Tartt hit the open market and it quickly became apparent that a reunion wasn't likely between the two sides.

Instead of signing a frontline starter at the position, the 49ers elected to shore up their special teams unit, signing George Odum to a three-year, $10.95 million deal in a move that indicated their trust and confidence in second-year player Talanoa Hufanga.

During camp, Hufanga has solidified himself as the starter opposite Jimmie Ward, with his aggressiveness, short-distance range, instincts, and tackling ability regularly on display.

While Hufanga still lacks the deep speed to consistently keep up with players down the field, he plays his role on this specific defense well, which has earned him praise from both his running mate, Jimmie Ward, and his defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

With Ward currently injured, the pressure will increase on Hufanga, who steps in as the top safety on the roster for now.


1. C Daniel Brunskill

After signing his one-year, $2.54 million right-of-first-refusal restricted free agent tender this offseason, it seemed as if Daniel Brunskill would be a starter somewhere along the offensive line, presumably at right guard, but possibly at center should Alex Mack retire.

However, at the start of OTAs, Kyle Shanahan told reporters that Brunskill was suffering from knee tendinitis, which would force him to miss the entirety of the second phase of the offseason, losing out on crucial reps with Trey Lance at quarterback.

Then, during training camp, Brunskill was placed at center, where he was given 50% of the first-team reps and a chance to potentially run away with the starting job if he performed well, given his familiarity with the system and the inexperience of fellow center Jake Brendel, who has only started three games in his career.

However, day after day, Brunskill failed to separate himself during the competition, often looking like the worse player of the two as he struggled with snapping and pass protection, especially against bull-rushes.

During the preseason game against the Packers, Brunskill reportedly suffered a hamstring strain, which will sideline him for a few weeks, almost assuredly paving the way for Jake Brendel to be the Week 1 starter at center.

While Brunskill certainly has value as a "sixth-man" on the offensive line given his ability to play all five positions, he's one of the fallers of training camp after failing to secure a starting spot.

2. OT Jaylon Moore

During OTAs and minicamp, second-year offensive lineman Jaylon Moore seemed like a promising player, taking all of the first-team reps at right guard alongside Jake Brendel and Aaron Banks at center and left guard, respectively.

However, due to Mike McGlinchey still recovering from injury and the absence of Trent Williams to begin training camp, Moore, who seemed to be training to play at guard all offseason, was forced to play outside and struggled at both tackle spots when he was playing.

Then, to make matters worse, Moore suffered a lower leg strain, which has caused him to miss a few weeks, taking him out of the competition for any of the offensive line spots after being a starter to begin the offseason.

3. WR Jauan Jennings

During a time when both Brandon Aiyuk and Ray-Ray McCloud have been impressive, third-year receiver Jauan Jennings has had a quiet training camp and has struggled with drops.

Jennings was expected to build off his strong finish to the 2021 season, having caught 21 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns over the second half, but he has looked less impressive than newcomer Ray-Ray McCloud.

Jennings' route-running ability has been on full display at times, but he has suffered several concentration drops, which has resulted in minimal targets during the 11-on-11 periods on several days.

While the 2020 seventh-rounder is still lining up as the starter in the slot next to Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, he's been one of the fallers during training camp.

4. CB Ambry Thomas

Ambry Thomas has perhaps been the biggest faller of training camp so far, as the second-year cornerback came into the offseason as the presumed third cornerback behind newly-signed Charvarius Ward and incumbent starter Emmanuel Moseley.

However, Thomas has struggled significantly in training camp and has, at times, been relegated to the third-team defense in favor of rookie Tariq Castro-Fields and veteran Ka'Darr Hollman.

The Michigan product did start opposite Deommodore Lenoir against the Packers and played the most snaps of any 49er in the game.

When playing press coverage, which is the strength of Thomas' game, the second-year player has occasionally held receivers, while also consistently getting beat at the catch-point, which has resulted in big completions for the offense.

Because the defense is looking to minimize those bigger completions, Thomas has, as a result, played in soft coverage, but hasn't fully developed a feel for it, giving up catches over the middle of the field where receivers are easily able to separate on crossing routes.

Currently, it seems that Thomas is struggling with his confidence. He isn't trusting his speed and traits, and while it's unlikely that he's cut, even with the depth the team has at cornerback, the backup defensive back has been very inconsistent during training camp.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • BigAl
    Yep...This is a solid breakdown of everything Ive seen and read. The only thing I want to add is the optimistic view that some of these guys are gamers. Jauan Jennings probably fits this idea the best. Samuel, Kittle, and Jennings all have been susceptible to drops. I remember Lances first start vs the Cardinals, the skill players did not rise to the occasion or help him out. But after that they seemed to make the plays they needed to. I do know this offense will be better able to overcome 3rd and long, 2nd and 15, alot more than with JG at the helm. If it was 3rd and long KS elected to play the field position game as he knew JG couldnt convert...KS didnt do that with Matt Ryan and as Lance develops this will be an aggressive offense with everybody getting oppurtunities.
    Aug 19, 2022 at 6:02 AM


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