49ers wide receiver race is still up for grabs
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Kyle Shanahan still has not announced which wide receivers will start for the 49ers this season.
The 49ers have held a wide-open competition at wide receiver throughout training camp and preseason, a competition featuring mostly young, unproven players such as Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Shanahan hoped two of his receivers would have secured starting spots by now.
“It’s a position we haven’t been in at receiver,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “I think the guys we’ve had have all gotten better, and we have some new guys pushing people.”
The 49ers entered the past two regular seasons with two clear-cut starting receivers: Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. But Goodwin struggled last season — he caught just 23 passes for 395 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games.
Garcon is no longer with the 49ers — they declined to pick up the option in his contract on Feb. 14. To replace him, the 49ers drafted not just one, but two wide receivers this year: Deebo Samuel in Round 2, and Jalen Hurd in Round 3.
Samuel has a chance to start if he plays well during the 49ers’ preseason finale Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Through three preseason games, Samuel has caught four passes for 88 yards, and rushed twice for 59 yards. He has been one of the 49ers’ most consistent receivers since camp started.
Hurd has a chance to start as well if he’s healthy. But, he injured his back during the 49ers’ preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Aug. 19, hasn’t played or practiced since and will not play Thursday against the Chargers.
Trent Taylor, the 49ers slot receiver, has a fracture in his foot and probably will miss the regular-season opener. “We’ll see if he’s ready Week 1, but highly unlikely,” Shanahan said Tuesday.
Pettis could start Week 1. The 49ers traded up to take him with the 44th pick of the 2017 draft, and expected he would improve dramatically this year. So far, he hasn’t.
“We are still trying to find a role for him,” Shanahan said. “He can be our best punt returner. He can be our No. 1 receiver, our No. 2 receiver, a slot receiver or just a role receiver. He has shown he can do all of that, but he hasn’t shown it consistently enough that we know exactly where to put him.”
Pettis said Shanahan wants him to play with more urgency.
“I have such a long, smooth stride, a lot of times it looks like I’m not going hard,” Pettis said. “The way I run my routes might be different than someone who has shorter strides. So, shortening up my strides is one way to do that.”
During the 49ers’ most recent preseason game, Pettis played into the fourth quarter, something starters rarely do. And on his final play, he strained his groin. He will not play Thursday against the Chargers, which means he will not have another opportunity to compete for a starting job before the season starts.
“I have been hard on Dante,” Shanahan said. “But, if anyone knows me, I am the hardest on people I believe in, and I do believe in him a lot. I am always going to be probably a little disappointed, because I think he can be very good, and it’s important to our team that he is.”
NOTES: The 49ers released LB Malcolm Smith. … The 49ers signed RB Brandon Wilds and CB Chris Campbell to one-year deals and waived OL Willie Beavers and DL Dillon Day. … DL Kentavius Street will have arthroscopic surgery on his knee and could spend the season on IR.