The San Francisco 49ers have a problem: They don’t have a true No. 1 wide receiver. At least, not yet.
The oft-injured Marquise Goodwin caught just one ball for seven yards in Sunday’s 31-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the presumptive No. 1 headed into camp — Dante Pettis — did the same, and played just two snaps.
The exciting and at times electric Pettis has been challenged throughout the preseason by head coach Kyle Shanahan. With great ability comes great expectations, and he’d been far from consistent, but he’s yet to take hold of the No. 1 spot. No one has, though rookie Deebo Samuel made a strong first impression.
“It’s definitely not Deebo’s job,” Shanahan said Sunday of his second-round draft pick. “It’s not anyone’s right now. That’s something that I kind of talked about all preseason. No one’s really taken that role.”
Pettis’ lack of playing time on Sunday had little to do with his head coach’s frustration during camp, and more with the fact that he’d been dealing with a nagging groin injury during the week, though he didn’t appear on the practice injury report, or the pregame injury report. That injury led to Samuel getting the start.
“I definitely didn’t plan on Dante getting only two reps,” Shanahan said. “He should have been in more than that. That starts with me. I’ll make sure not to let that happen again … He went into this game backing up and when he did go in there, from everything I saw live, he did a hell of a job. Hopefully, he’ll work off that and continue to earn some more time out there.”
Samuel caught three balls for 17 yards — the most catches of anyone outside tight end George Kittle — but didn’t have a breakout game playing 60 of the 68 offensive snaps. It was surprising, then, that Pettis didn’t get more time, especially with injuries to Trent Taylor (foot surgery) and Jalen Hurd (back).
Kittle was the target on 10 of Jimmy Garoppolo’s 27 passing attempts, and accounted for eight of Garoppolo’s 18 completions for 54 yards, while also having two touchdowns negated by penalties.
“The thing I’m excited about is I know we’ve got the answers in our building and it’s taken a while to do that,” Shanahan said. “We have guys that are very young. We have guys that are also injured. So, we’re working through that right now, which is always concerning.
“Whenever you have a young group, you’ve got to play young guys, you don’t want to have to put the pressure on guys who aren’t quite ready. I felt like we’ve dealt with that in the two years previously also.”
Only 12 snaps for Thomas? The 49ers had nine defensive linemen active on Sunday given the intense heat and humidity, and Solomon Thomas, San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2017, played just 12 of the 70 defensive snaps — the second-fewest among the linemen.
“I expected him to play a little bit more than that,” Shanahan said. “We’ve also got a pretty deep D-Line group. [Defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek rotates them throughout the game, how he feels accordingly to what personnel they’re doing, what the down and distance is.”
Thomas is not a starter on the outside or the inside, hence the low snap count, but he is still among the top group.
“I knew he wasn’t going to get more reps than the starting guys did, but I thought he would’ve gotten more than 12, but it worked out that way,” Shanahan said/
DeForest Buckner played 53 of 70 snaps, Arik Armstead 47, Dee Ford 41, Nick Bosa 39, D.J. Jones 37, Ronald Blair 29, Sheldon Day 17 and Jullian Taylor 9.
Bosa’s debut: The 49ers’ top 2019 draft pick had three tackles and a sack in his first NFL game after spending much of the offseason and training camp dealing with one injury or another, including a sprained ankle, pain from which forced him to leave early, though he didn’t aggravate the injury.
“He definitely had an effect on the game which is what we were hoping for,” Shanahan said. “He got in the backfield a lot. I know he got that one sack which started with Dee Ford running into him. He had a number of times where he got free, which I thought were impressive.”
“I thought it was a good first game. Still a lot of areas to improve, but considering what he’s been going through here the last few weeks, I thought it was a success.”
San Francisco had one of the NFL’s worst pass rushes last season (22nd in sacks and sack percentage), hence drafting Bosa and adding Ford and Kwon Alexander. The difference was readily visible on Sunday, with Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston having to make several great escapes to get away from pressure. Bosa’s presence was a major part of that. He had a team-high three quarterback hits
“We all know he’s talented and stuff — you have to be to be the second pick in the draft — being around him, you can see why he’s such a good football player,” Shanahan said. “The guy is extremely smart and knows a lot about football, looks at it the right way. He’s not just always trying to win on ability, he’s trying to win on technique and discipline, plus his ability. That’s why I think he always plays to his best and can always get better too.”