Sanu steps up with 49ers missing plenty of wideouts at OTAs


SANTA CLARA -- Five wide receivers who should win spots on the 53-man roster were not on the practice field Wednesday during the 49ers' second week of organized activities.

The shortage of available pass-catchers left the door open for the most-experienced receiver on the 90-man roster to see a lot of action come his way.

Brandon Aiyuk (groin), Richie James (hamstring) and Travis Benjamin (calf) were held out of practice. Deebo Samuel is not injured, but he was excused from on-field work. And Jalen Hurd continues to rehab from a torn ACL he sustained on the first day of training camp last summer.

Veteran Mohamed Sanu, who figures to be in a battle to win a roster spot for the start of the regular season, was the clear No. 1 receiver during practice.

Sanu caught five passes during 11-on-11 drills, including two apiece from Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance, in the team's 72-minute practice.

Sanu, 31, as far more NFL experience than any receiver on the 49ers’ team. He has appeared in 128 NFL games with 96 starts. He has 420 career receptions for 4,694 yards and 27 touchdowns. 

However, his production fell off dramatically the past two seasons. Last year, Sanu appeared in three games with the 49ers and was cut after catching one pass for 9 yards. He ended up with the Detroit Lions, where he caught 16 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown in seven games.

Now, he’s back with the 49ers on a one-year contract and faces stiff challenges to remain with the club into the regular season.

Here are some other observations from the 49ers’ practice on Wednesday:

— Although it came during a 7-on-7 drill, the play of the day came when Lance hit tight end George Kittle with a perfectly thrown deep ball down the right sideline against the coverage of veteran safety Tavon Wilson.

— Garoppolo and Lance shared most of the practice repetitions. Garoppolo completed all seven of his pass attempts during 11-on-11 drills, while Lance connected on six of his nine attempts.

— Nate Sudfeld and Josh Rosen, who are competing for the No. 3 job, received one snap apiece in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7. Sudfeld completed his pass during team drills to undrafted rookie Josh Pederson, while Rosen hooked up with Sanu on his one pass attempt. Prior to Tuesday, the 49ers had five quarterbacks on the roster. The team released veteran quarterback Josh Johnson this week.

— Receiver Trent Sherfield is likely to make the team due to his play on special teams. He saw the second-most action behind Sanu among the team’s wide receivers. Sheffield caught three passes and appeared to have another at the sideline on a throw from Lance. However, rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga ripped the ball away from him as he went to the ground for an apparent interception.

— Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans promised the 49ers would be more aggressive on defense this season. And that showed as the 49ers dialed up the heat. Linebacker Fred Warner broke through for a would-be sack before Garoppolo unloaded a pass to Kittle.

— Nose tackle Zach Kerr batted down Lance’s pass attempt at the line of scrimmage, and defensive end Jordan Willis had a would-be sack against Lance.

— Running back Raheem Mostert sat out with a knee condition that is not considered serious. He is expected back for the start of training camp. Jeff Wilson Jr., who underwent knee surgery two weeks ago, is out for four to six months.

-- The 49ers leaned heavily on rookie running backs Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell. Sermon caught two passes from Garoppolo in team drills.

— Kicker Robbie Gould, who was not at the organized team activity that was open to the media last week, was in attendance on Wednesday.

RELATED: 49ers' D-coordinator Ryans promises aggressive play this year

— Defensive ends Nick Bosa (knee) and Dee Ford (back) continue to rehab away from the facility.

— Defensive lineman Maurice Hurst (shoulder), linebacker Nathan Gerry (Achilles), safeties Jaquiski Tartt (toe) and Marcell Harris (groin) sat out of practice. Each player is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late-July.

— Safety Kai Nacua broke up a Lance pass during 7-on-7 drills.

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