49ers Minicamp

Maiocco's minicamp takeaways: 49ers' new CMC plan opens RB door

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SANTA CLARA — Coach Kyle Shanahan suggested a goal of limiting the workload of star running back Christian McCaffrey.

The completion of the 49ers’ offseason program featured the common sights of backup running backs Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason running routes and catching passes out of the backfield.

McCaffrey did not practice during the offseason program, including two days of the team’s mandatory minicamp after he signed a two-year contract extension through the 2027 season.

Mitchell caught just six passes for 14 yards last season, while Mason contributed three receptions for 31 yards. If the offseason program is any indication, Shanahan should have more faith in the pass-catching skills of both players.

“Halfbacks can get six targets in a game without one play called for him just because they're on checkdowns a lot,” Shanahan said.

Mitchell led the way in previous practices this spring. On Wednesday, Mason caught three passes from quarterback Brock Purdy in offense vs. defense drills.

The 49ers have been reluctant to take McCaffrey out of games, in large part because of his skills as a pass-catcher on third downs.

As Mitchell and Mason develop more of those skills, the 49ers might find more snaps for those players to limit the wear on McCaffrey throughout the season. 

Here are some other observations from the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp:

— Offensive tackle Trent Williams returned to the 49ers’ facility after attending his daughter’s graduation. He did not take part in any on-field drills.

— Defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who did not take part in the offseason program to remain with family, was in Santa Clara and worked on a side field. Many of the team’s veteran players did not take part in the practices during the minicamp,.

“When guys haven't been here through Phase I, Phase II, Phase III, just to throw them out there in that stuff, we're not going to risk that,” Shanahan said.

— Newly signed veteran tight end Logan Thomas joined practice after signing with the club on Tuesday. He caught a pass from Brandon Allen early during 7-on-7 work.

— Second-year tight end Brayden Willis looked noticeably more comfortable as part of the team’s passing game this offseason while George Kittle continued physical therapy after offseason core-muscle surgery. Willis' best reception came when he hauled in a dart from Purdy in traffic on a seam route. Willis made another catch against good coverage from linebacker Dee Winters.

— Cameron Latu, a third-round pick last season, looked to be running near full speed on a side field. Latu spent his rookie season on injured reserve after undergoing a knee procedure. He has not experienced any setbacks, Shanahan said, and is on pace to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.

— Deebo Samuel was on the receiving end of back-to-back throws from Purdy early in the 11-on-11 session, including a 35-yard gain against the coverage of cornerback Samuel Womack.

— Ronnie Bell faces a challenge to win a roster spot. On Wednesday, he had a pass from Brandon Allen slip through his lands on a deep seam route.

— On the third play of Tuesday’s practice, Purdy hit rookie wide receiver Ricky Pearsall on a 30-yard corner route. Pearsall was a regular, as far as targets and receptions during the offseason program.

“He's doing a good job,” Shanahan said of Pearsall. “He's got really good hands so he’s rarely going to have a drop. We're getting him a lot of reps. He's getting a lot of different routes, trying all the positions and we’ve been really impressed with how he started off.”

— The 49ers are hoping for more production from the defensive end opposite of Nick Bosa than they’ve gotten in the past. Veteran Leonard Floyd showed something with a speed move around the corner to beat right tackle Colton McKivitz, forcing Purdy out of the pocket. Floyd has registered 39.5 sacks over the past four seasons before signing with the 49ers this offseason as a free agent.

— Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos was not at all fooled on a bootleg, as he stuck with Purdy as he rolled left. Gross-Matos forced Purdy’s incomplete pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

— The 49ers worked for one period on the new kickoff format. Mitchell, Bell, Pearsall, Trent Taylor, Terique Owens and Cody Schrader got reps as return men.

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