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49ers Notebook: Brandon Aiyuk on his improvement and Deebo Samuel friendship; Drake Jackson ready for year two; Four QBs? TBD; An undrafted rookie to watch

Jul 30, 2023 at 3:24 PM--

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Practice No. 4 of training camp is in the books for the 49ers, which was the last session the team went through before they wear pads for the first time on Monday.

As practice came to a close, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan met with the media, as did wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, defensive end Drake Jackson, and linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Each of them took time to reflect on some of the key issues of camp to this point, while also making it clear they were looking forward to things picking up a notch once the pads come on. We have a rundown of some of the top quotes from the media session, including Aiyuk and Jackson speaking about where they stand as they head into the season, Shanahan on if the team might keep four quarterbacks, a possible undrafted sleeper to watch, and much more.

Check it out in this edition of 49ers Notebook.

Aiyuk as confident as ever

No player has drawn as many rave reviews to this point in 49ers training camp as wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who is coming off a career-best season of 78 receptions for 1,015 yards and eight touchdowns in 2022. The vibe throughout the offseason was Aiyuk looked ready to take yet another step forward in his game this year, and so far he hasn't done anything in training camp to quiet that hype. Aiyuk has been making play after play in practice and has been driven to improve ever since the end of last year.

"I mean, just the way he was all offseason, just how much he was just randomly calling, talking about football, how much he's working out, how prepared he was when we started in phase one and two (of offseason workouts)," Shanahan said Sunday. "You can just tell he's excited. The questions (he asks), he just he's really into it."

Aiyuk talked about his improvement on Sunday, telling reporters his confidence is at an all-time high after three seasons in Shanahan's offense.

"I's a little bit different once your mind is not going a million miles per hour," Aiyuk said. "It just seems like your body, it's just less work that you have to go through. So it kind of feels like every play is not just 1000 miles per hour, like full exertion on the body, just being able to get to spots and just play football."

Aiyuk had to go through his ups and downs to get to this point, including a time during his second season when his production dropped while Shanahan was looking for him to make the types of adjustments to the NFL he wants to see from his young receivers. Aiyuk persevered through those moments, and with two more years on his contract with the 49ers, he now appears set to have the type of season that could help solidify a monster contract in the not-so-distant future.

"This is my fourth year in this offense, third offseason in this offense," Aiyuk said. "And then the work that I felt like I put in, and then also the success that I've had in the years, put it all together and (confidence is) what you get for sure."

Iron sharpens Iron

Both Aiyuk and wide receiver Deebo Samuel are coming off strong offseasons, which is why it will be fun to see who puts together the best performance once the regular season gets underway. The two of them have been making each other better throughout their careers and will continue to do so in 2023.

"I think I love having him as a teammate just because it's like you have somebody around you that motivates you," Aiyuk said. "I said before, I get to watch him, see the things that he does, the way that he goes about his business, and that motivates me to be better. And I'm sure he'd say the same thing, so we have each other.

"Like you go there in a game, he might make a play first or I might make a play first. The next play that's coming your way is like, 'You can make a play too,' but it's like a brother that you have that you get to watch and see do big things and you see where you can take it to and you get to see some things that you get to do, do stuff the right way."

Ready for Year Two

After going through some challenges as a rookie in 2022, defensive end Drake Jackson has been locked in over the past few months as he aims to take a significant step forward during his second NFL season.

Jackson flashed early as a rookie after joining the 49ers as a second-round pick out of USC in the 2022 NFL Draft but saw his playing time fall off as the season neared a close. Part of the problem was physical fitness, which Jackson has been dedicated to fixing.

"I feel well. I feel really well, actually," Jackson said Sunday. "Just to put on a little more muscle, to focus on the little muscles in my body as well, being in the training room and things of that sort, I just feel real good. I feel fluid and I feel strong."

Jackson looks better physically than he did as a rookie and has already been able to tell that his conditioning is paying off on the practice field.

"For sure. I definitely feel a difference," Jackson said. "I felt a difference just striding out, doing regular things. I can't wait until we actually get in and do everything with the pads and stuff."

Jackson was among a number of players to stay at 49ers facilities between the end of offseason workouts and the start of camp, choosing to pass up on the chance to take a break in favor of preparing for the season. Among those to have worked alongside Jackson were Greenlaw and fellow linebacker Fred Warner.

"We're always here the whole time throughout the offseason, and just to see him everyday get better, train and want it is the main thing," Greenlaw said of Jackson. "You can tell that he wants it. So just to see him put in that work, I can't wait to see it pay off for him."

The 49ers could use a big year from Jackson after losing former starting defensive end Samson Ebukam in free agency. Soon he'll be able to see if his offseason approach will pay off during gamedays.

"Sacrifices, man," Jackson said. "Sometimes you've got to sacrifice for the better. I know I could have taken a break, but I'd rather stay here and work on myself. Hopefully it'll show."

Four is a magic number?

The 49ers have four quarterbacks on the roster they seem to like in Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold, and Brandon Allen. It seems safe to assume (barring a trade) they'll keep the first three when roster cuts are made, but could Allen find his way onto the initial 53-man roster as well?

Allen, 30, was signed in the spring while Purdy was recovering from surgery, and it's possible the 49ers might decide to keep him around to have some experienced insurance. Shanahan wasn't ready to say one way or another when asked about it Sunday.

"I have no idea," said Shanahan, who has kept as few as two quarterbacks on the roster in the past. "I mean, there's always types of scenarios, but I'm just excited to get pads on tomorrow and start playing a little bit more football. So (roster cuts are) about 30 days away, so we'll see how it unfolds."

Allen, who has 1,611 yards in 15 games over the past four seasons, has been getting his share of reps over the first four training camp practices, particularly during the two practices Purdy has missed. Things may not stay that way when Purdy returns to a full schedule, however.

"So he got all the (No. 3 quarterback) reps, two of these four practices, which is a good amount," Shanahan said. "The other guys have been splitting the one and twos. And it'll bump down, though, when we have four out there more."

Undrafted player to watch

It hasn't been uncommon for undrafted free agents to make an impact during the Kyle Shanahan era, with some of the more notable examples being three former 49ers in wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair. 24-year-old cornerback D'Shawn Jamison out of the University of Texas could be the next player to join that list.

Jamison turned some heads in the spring and is continuing to do so in training camp. Aiyuk dropped a mention of Jamison on Sunday when speaking about the defensive backs.

"He's out there balling, he's out there working, not afraid," Aiyuk said. "He can get it."

Jamison (5-9, 185) was rated as a Day 3 draft prospect by and was a top 100 recruit in high school. He started 40 games at Texas, totaling six interceptions and 139 tackles while also being one of the team's key return specialists. He has plenty of competition at cornerback but seems to have played his way into the discussion for a roster spot.

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