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Training Camp: 49ers Must Keep/Cut These Players

Gilbert Brink
Aug 11, 2020 at 9:03 AM

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The 49ers will cut good players in 2020. When you have a Super Bowl roster, sometimes good isn't good enough.

As the 49ers currently work their way through an augmented and abbreviated training camp, the importance of analyzing talent is stressed now more than ever. During a regular training camp, coaches are able to evaluate their roster through drills, padded practices, inter-squad scrimmages with other NFL teams and most importantly, actual pre-season games. Many of these tools have been stripped away, and now coaches are left only with their padded practices to determine who will make the team. These next 4 weeks will serve as the initial building block for success, or failure, in the 2020 season. Let's look at 6 key players, and determine whether they should stay or go:

*Cut doesn't necessarily mean a release, it can also mean the 49ers seek a trade option.

QB C.J. Beathard - CUT

It has been puzzling that Beathard has remained on the 49ers for as long as he has. In 2019 Beathard clearly lost the QB2 battle in training camp to fan-favorite QB Nick Mullens. Once a Shanahan prized possession, Beathard was selected in the 3rd round in 2017. In speaking with KNBR in 2017 Shanahan said "So you put the whole package together with the ability and the type of character that you're dealing with and those things, I feel you have a chance to be very successful in this league."

Kyle Shanahan has proven to be a great head coach but this was one of his biggest misses. At this point, Beathard is what he is. There is no hope for some great revelatory moment. He is a 3rd string QB who has proven to be that in his 10 starts. Notching a pedestrian 12 TDs, 13 interceptions, a 57.3% completion rate and a QB rating of 74.6, Beathard has done everything in his power to earn his 1-9 record as a starter.

There may be some trepidation in ditching a QB in the COVID-19 era, but if the 49ers lose both Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens, the season is over anyway. It's time to say goodbye to Beathard and carry only 2 QBs, freeing up that roster spot for someone who may actually impact the 49ers' fortunes in 2020.

RB Jeff Wilson Jr. - KEEP

Scoring touchdowns is the key to winning football games. In 2019 RB Jeff Wilson Jr. touched the ball a meager 30 times. He accounted for 30 points on those 30 touches, not bad for a practice squad call-up. Yes, Wilson Jr. scored 5 touchdowns on 30 touches. To put that number into context, rockstar TE George Kittle scored 5 touchdowns on 90 touches. Of course no one is foolish enough to equate the value of Wilson Jr. to the value of Kittle, but it's undeniable that Wilson Jr. was a significant contributor in 2019.

Wilson enters the season at 24 years of age, much younger than veteran RBs Jerrick McKinnon (28 years old), Raheem Moster (28 years old), and Tevin Coleman (27 years old). Not only is Wilson younger than the trio, he has far less tread on the tires. This season will present many challenges to roster depth and Wilson Jr's knowledge of the system and fresh legs will be an asset to the 49ers during an unpredictable year.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan is aware of the value of Jeff Wilson Jr. When it came time to crafting his Super Bowl roster, Shanahan made former 2nd round WR Dante Pettis inactive in order to find a spot for Wilson Jr on the active roster. Wilson's skills stretch beyond his nose for the end-zone, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield put him on the field in a key-spot as he caught a pass for 20 yards against the Chiefs in Super Bowl 54. The route he ran was the same one he clinched a win over the Arizona Cardinals with on November 17th 2019.

WR Dante Pettis - CUT

Dante Pettis may become a star in the NFL one day. On that day, he will not be wearing a 49ers uniform. The former 2nd-round pick possesses many of the physical tools to be a star. This is what makes his lack of progress all-the-more frustrating. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said "He's had his opportunities. The more he doesn't take advantage of his opportunities, the less he opportunities he gets." Ouch, it's apparent that Shanahan has spoiled on the prospect of Dante Pettis.

In 2018, Pettis exhibited the talent that led the 49ers to selecting him #44 overall. During a 4-game stretch in late 2018 Pettis recorded 17 receptions for 338 yards and 4 touchdowns (11/25/18-12/16/8). Those numbers led many to believe that Pettis was on the rise and poised to be the 49ers WR1 heading into 2019. That was not the case and Pettis slogged through 2019, contributing very little to the success of the 49ers and recording the fewest receiving yards of any WR on the team (109 yards). Only TE Ross Dwelley, RB Jeff Wilson Jr., and TE Levine Toilolo put up fewer receiving yards than Pettis.

Cutting Pettis isn't solely about talent, the player is very talented. Football is about trust, and the 49ers do not trust Pettis any longer. Kyle Shanahan doesn't trust Pettis, nor does QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The questions that swirled around Pettis in college seem to have come to fruition as a pro. This was a player the 49ers traded up to get, and if Shanahan is giving up on him at this point, he must have a good reason to do so. Pettis still has value so keep your eyes peeled for a WR-needy team as a trade partner.

WR Jauan Jennings - KEEP

The wide receiver room is packed right now. With players returning from injury, rookies fighting for a spot, and veterans trying to hold onto theirs, defining who will make the cut at wide receiver may be the most difficult task heading into 2020. In our previous entry, veteran WR Dante Pettis didn't make the cut. His absence should be due to the emergence of WR Jauan Jennings out of Tennessee.

If the 49ers value one thing in pass-catchers, it's the ability to move the ball down the field after the catch. While many teams fawn over 40 times, Kyle Shanahan can't be bothered with that measurable. This becomes evident by examining the 49ers roster (Deebo Samuel 4.48, Brandon Aiyuk 4.5, Kendrick Bourne 4.68). This works out very well for Jennings, who ran a well-below average 4.72. That number scared teams away, dropping him down to the 7th round.

Jennings led college football in one statistic that fits perfectly into the 49ers plans: forcing a missed tackle after the catch. No one forced a missed tackle more than Jennings, who did so 51% of the time. This rookie may be raw, and the lack of speed may be too much of a hurdle to overcome, but Jennings' run-after-catch talent and big body could fit perfectly into the schemes of Kyle Shanahan, even if it means possibly switching to TE.

RB Tevin Coleman - CUT

This move likely wont happen. Coleman has proven to be a Shanahan favorite and has excelled in games sporadically. Yet and still, Coleman's value seems to be the most distorted out of any of the running backs on the roster. Carrying a $4.8 million cap hit in 2020, Coleman isn't the 49ers' best back, as that honor goes to RB Raheem Mostert. He may not even be the second best either. His production is similar to RB Jeff Wilson Jr. and we have yet to see what running backs Jerrick McKinnon, JaMycal Hasty & Salvon Ahmed are bringing to the table either.

Coleman routinely started games in 2019 and failed to make an impact. While Coleman averaged 4 yards per carry, running backs Raheem Mostert (5.6 ypc) and Matt Brieda (5.1 ypc) reminded 49ers fans of how much better they could have it. The 49ers' zone-blocking scheme has made stars out of undrafted players and practice squad call ups, so it's hard not to wonder what others can do behind this dominant offensive line.

If the 49ers can trade Coleman, they would be absolved of his salary while developing younger players for the future. This could be useful for the team in adding an extra piece to further the push for a return to the Super Bowl.

CB Jason Verrett - KEEP

The 49ers have a dirty, dark secret: the roster might face implosion in 2021. The team is scheduled to have 31 free-agents heading into next season and 10 of them are currently staters (full list here). CB Jason Verrett is one of those 31. At one time, Verrett was a star cornerback on the rise; today he is a man attempting to just get back onto the field.

In 2019 Verrett did find his way back onto the field, he just couldn't find the man he was assigned to cover. Verrett gave up two deep passes to a Mason Rudolph-led Steelers offense and that signaled the end of his playing time for the season. Nothing he has done as a 49er has inspired any confidence in his ability be a pro football player, but it cannot be ignored that prior to multiple injuries, Varrett looked to be on course to be a lock down corner.

Like many a player, training camp will be a make or break moment for CB Jason Verrett. The 49ers must keep an eye to the future, with cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley all on the final year of their contracts, Verrett may become an option beyond 2020. A strong training camp could place the once dynamic Verrett in a position to fill the void left by other 49er veterans and to reclaim his mantle as a starting NFL cornerback.
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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