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49ers Mailbag: Which rookies have the best shot at making the roster? Nick Bosa’s contract? Does Brock Purdy have a chip on his shoulder?

Marc Adams
Jul 26, 2023 at 9:31 AM--

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And just like, the San Francisco 49ers are back in training camp. That wasn't too long of a wait, was it?

By the time you read this, the 49ers will have already hit the field (or will soon) for their first practice of camp. On Tuesday, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan met with the media. Here are a few highlights:

  • Rookie CB Darrell Luter is on PUP with a knee injury. It's apparently a hyperextension/bone bruise and is expected to sideline him for a few weeks.
  • Punter Mitch Wishnowsky is likely going on NFI. He was lifting weights away from the facility and tweaked his back. The injury is not considered a long-term issue.
  • Lynch & Shanahan both said they do not expect Nick Bosa to step on the field and practice without a new contract. Lynch said this contract may be a little more complex than most.
  • Brock Purdy will not begin training camp on PUP. Lynch says he's "cleared and ready to go." He won't throw three days in a row, however. Since he threw yesterday, he will not practice today, the first day of training camp. This is excellent news. I've said all offseason that I don't expect Purdy to be ready for week one. But I may have to change that thought.
  • Also, Shanahan said Purdy will get first-team reps when he practices, so that should put to bed any thoughts that there will be a competition for QB1.

We opened up the 49ers Webzone mailbag to see what was on your mind. You responded. So let's get to it.

What's the word on Kalia Davis? Most people thought he could go as high as the 3rd round if he had not had the ACL. - DoctorWDS

The 49ers believe they got a steal in the 6th round of the 2022 NFL draft, in Kalia Davis. The 6'2, 310-pound defensive tackle out of Central Florida fell in the draft due to a knee injury.

Davis did not play in 2022, but the 49ers did open his practice window back in December, allowing the 2022 rookie to at least get some practice time with the team.

Shanahan was asked how Davis was doing, back when the coach met with the media in June. Shanahan answered, "Yeah, he's alright. We pulled him out today. We're being safe with him. A number of guys like that, he's been here for a while, but we didn't want him to go today."

That's not much information to pass along, but Davis should be healed up and ready for training camp by all accounts. A lot of people have high hopes for Davis. Larry Krueger has been high on him since he was drafted, and recently compared him to former 49ers' defensive tackle, D.J. Jones, saying, "Kalia has rare speed/quickness for a 315-pound DT. If he's physically right, he may add some serious interior pass rush. I love his potential."

How that knee holds up will be key.

Which rookies have the best shot at making the squad out of camp? - NinerJim

It's going to be really tough for any undrafted rookie to make this squad, but some will certainly be added to the practice squad. There are some locks, like Ji'Ayir Brown, Jake Moody, Cameron Latu, Darrell Luter, Jr., Robert Beal, Jr., and Dee Winters. I think Brayden Willis will make the team, as well.

The two drafted rookies that are question marks would be WR Ronnie Bell and LB Jalen Graham. Both players were impressive in the rookie minicamp and much of the team's mandatory minicamp. Could either or both be cut and find their way onto the practice squad? The 49ers would want both players, but depending on what they put on tape in the preseason, there could be other teams who are interested in them, as well.

I'm going to say all of the drafted players make the team. But it will be close for Brown and Graham. Right now, I don't see any undrafted rookie making the team right out of training camp, but someone could surprise us and slide in there.

While much of the focus will be on the team's rookies, don't forget about the second-year players who essentially redshirted their rookie seasons a year ago. Of those, I'd bet on Davis, and Marcelino McCrary-Ball to be the ones with the best shot. And don't sleep on Qwuantrezz Knight.

I keep hearing that the Bosa contract will be complicated; why? He is the best at his position, he will get some % above the highest-paid player, minus a little based on the injury history - done deal! - Doc

I wouldn't think it would be as complicated, either. Give Nick Bosa what he wants, within reason.

That said, Lynch did say that this contract will be more complex than the others. Also, Bosa's family knows what they're doing, and what they're worth. I don't expect him to give hometown discounts. He will likely want to become the NFL's highest-paid defensive player in history. Katie Mox, of CBS Sports HQ, had a great take on what Bosa's contract might look like, and some probable negotiating points.

I wouldn't let the Bosa contract issue cost you any sleep. It will get done. It just may not happen as quickly as we normally see them come together in Santa Clara.

Question for Brock Purdy: How big of a chip on his shoulders does he believe that he has? - Trey T.

I would imagine Brock Purdy has a massive chip on his shoulders. After all, he was:

  • Barely drafted, being passed over by every team, multiple times.
  • Labeled "Mr. Irrelevent," which he seems to not appreciate.
  • Overlooked by his own team until they had to play him.
  • Doubted by national media leading up to most games he played.
  • Injured in the biggest game of his career.
  • Had to hear Eagles' players and fans say he wouldn't have made much of a difference.

So yes, I would say Purdy has a very big chip on his shoulder. And he seems to perform well with one.

Which do we use more, 3 safeties, a nickel, and one linebacker, or 2 safeties, 3 linebackers, and a nickel? - Kenny S.

I think it will depend on the situation and the team they are playing. But we can expect to see both, especially with three good safeties, in Brown, Talanoa Hufanga, and Tashaun Gipson. The addition of Brown is really intriguing, and I'm sure Steve Wilks will want to get him on the field as much as he can while he's still a backup, which may not be for very long.

That said, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are great linebackers, and both are good in coverage, so I think you'll see them on the field more than not on the field. This means the three safety set won't happen as often as you might like. And, of course, we'll see plenty of three-linebacker looks.

Who is going to be the breakout player this year? - DoctorWDS

Is Brandon Aiyuk a candidate to be a breakout player? I'm not entirely sure, considering he had a really good season in 2022, with 78 catches, 1015 yards, and 8 touchdowns. But I think Aiyuk is going to blow up this season. It will be challenging for him, though, because he is the fourth option, after Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel (the guy who sent multiple shirtless pics to his coach this offseason), and George Kittle. And if you count the running game, Aiyuk is actually the fifth option.

If Purdy doesn't come back from his injury like everyone believes he will, I will pick Trey Lance. But we're not at that point yet, especially with the news that Purdy is cleared to practice in training camp.

If I had to pick only one, I'm going with Drake Jackson. For one thing, I think that he learned a lot last season, has the talent to be really good, and will show up to camp ready to prove himself. I also think the 49ers need him to be that guy. So that's who I'm predicting is a breakout player. If I'm wrong, it will be another season of frustration from that side of the defensive line. If I'm right, the 49ers will win Super Bowl LVIII.

Last week, I asked Katie Mox, which second-year player might have a breakthrough like Hufanga did last season. Her response was the same as mine—Jackson.

Who is more important to emerge out of training camp: Danny Gray, Lenoir, or Drake Jackson? - Nick E.

Definitely Jackson. Here's why:

As I mentioned above the 49ers need Jackson to provide that pass rush opposite of Bosa like Dee Ford did in 2019. With Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Javon Hargrave all primed to wreak havoc, if they can get some disruption from the other edge, the pass rush will help the secondary, create turnovers, and keep points off the board.

I also feel like Deommodore Lenoir already emerged last season. He moved into the starting lineup when Emmanuel Moseley went down, and though he had his struggles, turned into a solid corner as the season went on.

Another reason I didn't pick Lenoir is that if he falters, there are others like Samuel Womack and Luter who could potentially end up being an upgrade. If Jackson isn't what the 49ers think he is, who is going to be an upgrade over him (that's currently on the team)? I like Beal, Jr., but he's a project. I doubt Kerry Hyder, Jr., Austin Bryant or Clelin Ferrell would be much of an upgrade over Jackson.

I didn't choose Danny Gray because the other two are hopeful starters. At this point, Gray is a third or fourth-stringer. So if he doesn't emerge, it's not the end of the world.

WR Jalen Hurd, any word on why he didn't try and make his comeback with the 49ers? - Doc

My guess would be that he and the 49ers have moved on. It's probably best for both sides if he gets a fresh start somewhere else. I hope he makes the roster in New England and does well. He's been through a lot.

Who is leading the QB [competition] right now? - Spencer B.

If we're talking QB1, that's Purdy. Shanahan and Lynch have both declared Purdy the starter, multiple times, once he's healthy. Shanahan recently spoke on NFL Network, and said, "I get how everyone wants something set in stone, but it's not set in stone. But I love the options, and I love the experience that Brock got."

Shanahan was speaking on the 49ers' QB situation. Some have taken this as the coach saying there's a competition for the starting spot, but I don't take it that way. I think he's probably just keeping his options open in case Purdy isn't ready, or doesn't come back from the injury as planned.

The backup QB job is the one up for grabs. Lance and Sam Darnold will likely share reps throughout training camp and preseason. Don't read too much into who's getting first-team reps, unless it's leaning strongly one way. Shanahan said on Tuesday that Lance and Darnold will split first-team reps on the days that Purdy doesn't practice.

I still believe Lance will win the QB2 competition. But if it's close, and there's a team willing to give the 49ers what they want for him, it wouldn't shock me if they trade him.

Have the 49ers figured out their injury issues? - DoctorWDS

We won't find out until the season begins, but we all hope so. If you ask any 49ers fan what their biggest concern is for the 2023 season, they're likely to say, "Health." Figure this out, and you're hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. Don't figure it out, and it'll be another disappointing end to the season. What's the biggest concern for the 49ers in 2023? It's not the quarterback position or the offensive line. It's health.

That's all we have for this week. Check back next week for another 49ers Mailbag.
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.

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