Danny Gray

Gray facing fierce competition in 49ers' wide receiver room

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SANTA CLARA — With all of the star power on the 49ers' offense, Danny Gray has his work cut out for him. 

The second-year receiver faced challenges in his first season as many rookies do, particularly in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The attention to detail needed in the 49ers' offensive system is a serious undertaking for a first-year NFL player. Facing a 17-game season and beyond is another.

“I can tell he is in shape, but I can’t decide,” Shanahan said during the first week of training camp. “We’ll see how he handles this whole camp. I thought he had pretty good OTAs, took a step forward and came back in good shape, and we’ll see as he gets more reps and more opportunities and stuff how much better he’s gotten.”

Brandon Aiyuk is ascending as one of the top receivers in the league, and Deebo Samuel has entered training camp with heightened motivation to return to his 2021 First-Team All-Pro productivity. The competition for reps in the receivers group is fierce.

Gray also is battling for reps with Jauan Jennings, who is in a contract year, Ray-Ray McCloud, rookie Ronnie Bell and several others in the talented receivers group.

“We are our own competitors,” Samuel said Thursday. “We aren’t competing with anyone but ourselves. We go in every day, we are hard on ourselves. We have guys like Brandon Aiyuk who has taken his game to another level. Jauan Jennings who is getting better every day.

“As a whole group, we are just going to continue to get better and not pay attention to the outside noise and just compete with ourselves.” 

Gray closed out his rookie campaign appearing in 13 regular-season games and completing only one of his seven targets for 10 yards. The wideout was seen on the field for 87 offensive snaps and 19 on special teams. 

“You can tell he’s been working a lot,” Samuel said. “There’s still a lot of things that we have to work on as a group and bring him on, as well as maturing a little bit. He kind of gets down on himself when he makes mistakes, but in this offense, in this game that we play, we’re going to make mistakes. But it’s how are you going to respond.” 

Gray was brought in to stretch the field with his speed after running a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. The third-round, No. 105 overall selection of the 2022 NFL Draft now needs to put it into action on the field. 

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