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49ers Notebook: Niners open Willis’ practice window; McCaffrey-Samuel duo; McGlinchey apologizes; Mitchell’s pass-catching

Nov 9, 2022 at 4:23 PM--

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According to the NFL transaction wire, the San Francisco 49ers have opened the practice window for defensive end Jordan Willis. He landed on the injured reserve list on September 14 due to a knee injury. The team will have 21 days to activate the defender or lose him for the remainder of the season.

Willis joins running back Elijah Mitchell, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, and offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, who saw their practice windows opened on Monday. All three are returning from MCL sprains but are expected to be full practice participants this week.

San Francisco could activate all four by letting go of only one player or activate three and wait on another.

McCaffrey and Samuel duo

Everyone is eager to see what head coach Kyle Shanahan does with running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Deebo Samuel on the field at the same time. Samuel missed Week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams and Week 7 was McCaffrey's first game, just days after the Carolina Panthers traded him to the 49ers.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey was asked about opposing defenses having to face both versatile players simultaneously and if it seems like that puts the opposition in a bind.

"To me, it does," McGlinchey responded during Wednesday's locker room availability. "I thank God I'm not a defensive coordinator against us, or even one that is responsible for calling our plays because it seems like that could be a tough job too, to have too many weapons.

"I think it's something that's going to be a huge advantage for us. I mean, you have two guys that you don't know if one's going to be the top-five tailback or a top-five slot receiver in the NFL, and then the other guy could be a top-five receiver and a top-five running back in the NFL.

"So you don't know which guy you're getting, and I think that kind of a matchup and that kind of a personnel mix-up definitely can provide some fun and some things that will cause defenses headaches."

Shanahan was asked what McCaffrey and Samuel could do for each other when both are on the field. The coach made it clear that each's presence opens possibilities for everyone, not just for one another.

"You got five guys who can touch the ball, so the more people have to worry about those five guys, the better," Shanahan said. "You got two guys who are a little bit interchangeable. They're different positions, but they both can play the other one's position, so it just makes it a lot easier to distribute the field.

"It's not like Deebo is going to do this for him, or he's going to do that for Deebo. They both do it for everybody, including one another and themselves. It just makes a little bit more space, and it makes a little bit more of a threat on whoever gets the ball in their hands."

Samuel, speaking with Justin Melo for a feature for 49ers Webzone, shared his thoughts on the McCaffrey acquisition.

RELATED Deebo talks fatherhood, relationship with Jimmy G, McCaffrey and Wilson trades

"I was like, man, we're getting another guy that's really good with the football in his hands," Samuel said, laughing. "Before we traded for him, we had myself, [George] Kittle, BA [Brandon Aiyuk], Jauan [Jennings], and Ray-Ray [McCloud III]. I can go down the line and name everybody (laughs). We're all capable of doing great things with the ball in our hands. ... We're getting Elijah Mitchell back at some point. We added even more fire to this offense."

Samuel added, "His addition is going to make us even more explosive. You've already seen the early signs of that."

McGlinchey jokingly apologizes for 2018 draft

The 49ers drafted McGlinchey with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Eight selections later, the Los Angeles Chargers selected safety Derwin James. The two will see each other on Sunday night at Levi's Stadium when the 49ers host the Chargers.

James has established himself as a difference-making player, being named a first-team All-Pro in 2018 and earning two Pro Bowl selections (2018, 2021).

"He was obviously a guy [who] I think most people wanted him here, and not me, as a matter of fact, if I remember correctly," McGlinchey joked. "So, sorry for the socks and underwear that they got on Christmas in 2018. But no, he's obviously a very, very talented player ... He's been one of the top players in the league for the times that he's been able to be healthy. ... Obviously a very, very good player, and somebody that we're going to have to account for."

McGlinchey added, "It's all good. I understand the whole deal when everybody gets an offensive lineman [in] the draft. It's not exactly the sexy pick. It's all good."

Evaluating Mitchell's progress as a receiver

Elijah Mitchell caught 19 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown during his rookie season last year. He could return to the field on Sunday night against the Chargers. Mitchell worked on all facets of his game this offseason, including pass-catching.

A reporter asked the 49ers head coach about Mitchell's progress in that area compared to Jeff Wilson Jr., a good pass-catcher, now with the Miami Dolphins.

"Elijah has the capability to be just like that," Shanahan shared. "I think it's tough to do that when he has had the injuries that he's had, and there's a skill set that takes time to develop through training camp, OTAs, practice, the quarterback, the looks. But even if you watch Elijah on his routes and check downs, he's been very serviceable in the pass game, and serviceable is good. But the more Elijah plays, the more reps he gets, he could be very good at that."

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