The 49ers held their first open practice of the season at Levi’s Stadium on Saturday, which afforded fans not only plentiful free food and drinks, but the first look at their 2017 San Francisco 49ers. With one of the most turned-over rosters in the NFL this offseason, the 49ers Faithful had little idea what to expect from the Red and Gold, but there were several takeaways that help give clarity on the team’s 2017 direction.
Put the “49ers are moving on from Carlos Hyde” talk to rest
Grant Cohn put forth a rumor that then echoed around sports circles that the 49ers were looking to move Carlos Hyde since he was a bad fit for Kyle Shanahan’s system and because Joe Williams was the future. On Saturday, Hyde was by far the best running back on the field and repeatedly made something from nothing as the offensive line was overwhelmed by the revamped front seven. The “future” at running back for the 49ers, Joe Williams, wasn’t even the best rookie RB on the field. That honor went to Matt Breida, who dazzled with several shifty, long run runs. Williams was surpassed on the field by roster filler Kapri Bibbs. Hyde is the starter, and acting like he’s going to prove that to the 49ers; he waived off Matt Breida trying to rotate in more than once.
There’s not going to be a quarterback controversy
Brian Hoyer has cemented himself as a backend starter to frontline backup in his career, vacillating between the two seemingly at random. That won’t happen in San Francisco, as Hoyer was surprisingly accurate (granted, it’s practice), but also because the guys behind him were also that bad. Matt Barkley sailed or underthrew basically every ball that left his hand, and the practice was just slightly too fast for C.J. Beathard at this point. The 49ers are going to go as far as Brian Hoyer takes them.
Too many wide receivers
While Pierre Garcon is the top dog in San Francisco, Marquise Goodwin was consistently open and Hoyer’s target for chunk plays. Mid-roster guys like Aldrick Robinson and Jeremy Kerley also flashed in practice. However, a pair of small, shifty rookies in Victor Bolden, Jr. and Trent Taylor will give the 49ers fits on the cut-down day this year. Both dazzled in practice, and both seem deserving of a down-roster spot. At less than 12 feet and 400 pounds combined, the two tiny speedsters are two to watch this preseason.
The front seven is rounding into form
The San Francisco 49ers have dumped significant resources into their front seven, probably trying to build from the inside-out like they did in their Jim Harbaugh glory days. They have the face of the franchise (NaVorro Bowman), four first-rounders (Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster) and one of their priority free agent acquisitions (Earl Mitchell) all along the front seven, and they’re starting to round into shape. The Niners had one of the worst run defenses of all-time last year, and look dead-set to fix that going into 2017.
Depth was on display
Even under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers were never a particularly deep team. They had their front-line starters but not much behind them. Starting RG Joshua Garnett went down with a knee injury, and Zane Beadles did a respectable job filling in for him on the line. Malcolm Smith went down with a chest injury, and first-round pick Reuben Foster became the starter. Rashard Robinson and Kapri Bibbs both left practice with an injury, and there was plenty of talent at both the cornerback and running back positions to fill in behind them. The 49ers have put together a deep group of talent to choose from, which should make preseason exciting to watch.