Brock Purdy

49ers mailbag: How things look before pivotal joint Raiders practices

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The 49ers’ first exhibition game is approaching.

But the important stuff will take place in the days leading up to the televised outing against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.

The major competitions could see some separation during practices Thursday and Friday, when the front-line players will go up against each other at the Raiders’ workout facility in Henderson, Nevada.

After all, few starters are expected to be in uniform for the preseason game.

Those practices are more valuable for the coaching staff as they stack the depth chart and form opinions on which players deserve spots on the 53-man roster.

Before the practices provide some answers, we enlisted the help of followers on social media to provide questions for this edition of 49ers Mailbag.

And here we go . . . 

Q: Knowing the history of injuries with QBs, are the 49ers going with three QBs for the regular season or just two, Purdy and Lance? (@tallskinnyben)

A: There is a zero-percent chance the 49ers keep just two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster.

(And we saw what you did there, assigning the backup job to Lance. But, in reality, that competition is too close to call right now.)

We know Brock Purdy is the starter. Beyond that, it’s too early to tell how the other spots will shake out.

Lance is having his best training camp in three summers with the club. Sam Darnold also has tons of talent that he has yet to convert to NFL success.

The winner of the backup job will be the quarterback who sees the game — and makes decisions — in real time like coach Kyle Shanahan teaches it.

Even the fourth quarterback, Brandon Allen, looks like a good fit for the system with his ability to make the right decisions and deliver the ball accurately. It's not out of the question he could somehow enter the season with the club.

Q: With Brock’s success last year, what are the chances he can be a top-10 QB this year? (@maxamillianm80)

A: It depends on the rating system used to determine the top quarterbacks.

If you’re talking about passer rating or wins, yes, Purdy can be a top-10 quarterback.

After all, last season the 49ers did not lose when he played and actually was able to throw the football from start to finish.

And if passer rating is the gauge, his 107.3 would have led the NFL.

The NFC’s Pro Bowl quarterbacks last season were Jalen Hurts, Geno Smith, Kirk Cousins and Jared Goff. It is not a stretch to think Purdy could break into that mix and become the 49ers’ first Pro Bowl quarterback in more than two decades.

Q: Will Kittle break out this season more in the pass game as he started to when Brock took over at QB? (@noob_to_hersey)

A: George Kittle probably will never match what he did in 2018, when he had 1,377 yards receiving. The 49ers have too many other targets in the passing game with Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey all capable of being 1,000-yard receivers.

But where Kittle can thrive is on third downs and in the red zone. He caught a career-best 11 touchdown passes last season, and that trend definitely can continue with Purdy distributing the ball.

Kittle had four touchdown receptions through Week 12 with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. He caught seven touchdowns in the final four games of the regular season after Purdy took over.

If Kittle gets open, like he should, Purdy proved he will find him.

Q: Where do we go from here with this offensive line? (@KnickedupFan)

A: The offensive line is set with left tackle Trent Williams, left guard Aaron Banks, center Jake Brendel, right guard Spencer Burford and right tackle Colton McKivitz.

The unit looks much further along than a year ago, when things looked shaky with the 49ers’ new interior players.

That unit rounded into form once the regular season began. The 49ers’ offensive line was never much of an issue for an offense that took off in the second half of the season.

This year, things should be better with four returning starters and McKivitz taking over for Mike McGlinchey.

There are competitions for the backup spots, most notably the swing tackle job involving Jaylon Moore and Matt Pryor.

Q: What are the noticeable differences that have shown up in camp that we should expect from the defense with a new coordinator? (@AlexanderFSaba)

A: How often did we see the 49ers succeed with blitzes last season? Not often, right?

Linebacker Fred Warner and safety Talanoa Hufanga had two sacks apiece. And that was about it for the team’s non-defensive linemen.

New defensive coordinator Steve Wilks figures to strategically dial up more five- and six-man pressures. 

We already have seen it on the practice field with more linebackers and defensive backs getting free runs at the quarterback.

The defensive players are learning how Wilks wants those pressures to be timed up.

“I think the timing has been great at times,” Wilks said. “Sometimes we're giving it up a little too early. But it's practice. We’re working through the kinks. Most importantly, I like just the effort, the way these guys are flying around getting to the football and our focus is always on the fundamentals and technique.”

Q: Are people worried about Bosa getting annoyed? (@DankerD)

A: Nick Bosa knows how the business works. His brother, Joey, had a long contract stalemate with the Chargers in 2016 after he was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.

The 49ers trust that Bosa is working hard and will be ready when his contract extension is finalized. The 49ers do not seem too concerned about the situation getting resolved before the start of the regular season.

And Bosa’s camp is patiently awaiting the 49ers to move their numbers closer to what they see as Bosa’s value.

“I think I’ll get what I deserve,” Bosa said two months ago.

While there might be frustration behind the scenes, Bosa and the 49ers still fully expect a long-term union and that everything will work out for both sides.

Q: Who will be the starter opposite Bosa come Week 1? (@49ers4ehver)

A: When things get settled with Bosa, you know he will be on the field a lot. The edge position on the other side will not be nearly as obvious.

The prediction here is that Drake Jackson will open the season as the primary defensive end opposite of Bosa. However, Jackson will be part of a rotation that includes Clelin Ferrell and others.

Among the players who could be worked into the mix are Kerry Hyder and Austin Bryant, who had a dominant practice on Monday upon returning from a minor hamstring strain. Rookie Robert Beal also will get some opportunities to show what he can do.

Ultimately, the 49ers will try a few different players and settle on the player(s) with the hot hand(s).

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