Since taking over after the 2016 season, 49ers General Manager John Lynch and new 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan have overseen a roster rebuild consisting of nearly 50% of the roster being reshuffled. Position battles will be prevalent at every level of the roster, leaving one common thread for this training camp, Compete, because there is no tomorrow.
Across the landscape of the NFL this summer there will be training camp battles taking place. What makes training camp in Santa Clara so unique has to be the lack of established starters. Of the 90 men who will strap up during the five weeks between the start of training camp and the cut down to the 53 men who will open the season as 49ers, only four can be counted on as sure-fire locks at their positions. They are Punter Bradley Pinion, Kicker and free agent acquisition Robbie Gould, both of who were recently discussed on Niners Live, Cornerback Rashard Robinson and Left Tackle Joe Staley. Even fan favorite and perennial defensive leader Navarro Bowman is geared up to be locked headfirst in a position battle and a possible battle for his roster spot this summer due to the rebuild taking place in Santa Clara. Bowman, when asked about his pending competition said, “I won’t be on the sideline. I will tell you that now.” When the team’s leader is bracing for competition, everyone should brace for a competition.
In taking a look at the turnover by position group you will find the quarterbacks, tight ends, wide receivers, defensive line, and linebackers can possibly have both the first and second strings featuring new names and, in most cases, names that were not on the roster to end the 2016 season. With the quarterback guaranteed to be completely different as free agents Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, along with third round draft pick C. J. Beathard who Niners Live recently discussed, will make up the new depth chart. Same can be said for the tight end depth chart as rookie fifth-round pick George Kittle who’s in his Developmental Stage and free agent acquisition Logan Paulsen were sitting atop the chart at the close of Mini Camp. Leaving the top two tight ends from last season, Garrett Celek and trade blocked incumbent starter Vance McDonald to battle with Cole Hikutini…… for what is looking to be third string reps and a roster spot.
Recent training camp article alert: All eyes on- Johnson, Reaser and Witherspoon. Who’s the #2 cornerback? ; All Eyes on Joshua Garnett; Who’s the Starting Right Guard? And The competition can come at Carlos, but he won’t Hyde.
Cornerback Dontae Johnson summed it up best when asked about his impending battle with Keith Reaser and third round pick Ahkello Witherspoon for the job as starting corner across from Rashard Robinson. Johnson said, “Come out here and compete at a high level and do it consistently.” This type of approach is exactly what Lynch said any team he is associated with would be about. Asked during his introductory press conference call what the cultural identity of the team will be he answered (in part), “The one promise I can make is that of any team I’m going to be associated with, you’re going to have competitive players that want to compete, that live and breathe football, that are going to play hard. If they don’t play hard, we’re going to find players that will play hard.” And that is the environment for competition.
Speaking of competition, who can forget about the much talked about draft crush – none other than 5th round pick Trent Taylor, and the discussion Niners Live recently had on how he would be utilized: Expect a Slot Machine by Committee Approach by Kyle Shanahan.
Training camp is soon upon us
From the day John Lynch was hired, competition was the underlying theme of the 2017 season. Training camp is just the next phase of the ongoing battle that began for each man when they signed onto the team this off-season. Starting on July 27, this competition will begin its next phase, and with it, the next test for those who strive to be 49ers for the 2017 season.
On a Niners Live side note: Why Brian Hoyer and Colin Kaepernick will be Joined at the Hip in 2017 ; How Ronald Blair can Best be Utilized by DC Robert Saleh ; San Francisco 49ers: The Right 53 Featuring the Defense Part 1 And San Francisco 49ers: The Right 53 Part 2 Featuring the Offense.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Edward Erving Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor Sequoia Sims.