With the start of training camp just days away (July 25), we’re taking a look by position at where things currently stand for the San Francisco 49ers and what roster battles can be expected in the weeks ahead. Our first installment comes at the quarterback position, where the question isn’t so much who will make the roster but how the freshly-paid Jimmy Garoppolo will look in his first preseason as the 49ers starter.
Currently on the 90-man roster: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens, Jack Heneghan
53-man roster locks: Garoppolo, Beathard
Outside shots: Mullens, Heneghan
Outlook: Barring something unforeseen, the quarterback position in San Francisco will look the same as it did towards the end of last season, with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter and C.J. Beathard as the backup. The focus come training camp will be almost completely on Garoppolo and how the offense performs under his command.
The 49ers offense was as effective and energized as it’s been in years in the five games Garoppolo started in 2017, even though he was learning Kyle Shanahan’s complicated offense on the fly. He’s since then had an entire offseason to learn the offense from scratch and said during the spring he has an increased level of comfort as a result.
“I think just being comfortable in my environment and knowing everybody now,” Garoppolo said in June. “Last year I didn’t know everyone’s name so that’s tough to begin with, and I’m trying to learn everything week-by-week. It was a whirlwind last year, but now things have slowed down. I feel more comfortable in the environment and being more and more used to everything. It’s a great situation. I love being here. I think we’ve had good OTAs and we’re working hard right now.”
Garoppolo reportedly had some ups and downs during the spring in the practice sessions that were open to reporters, but 49ers coaches seemed to be encouraged with what he was showing in workouts.
“Every day it’s getting easier,” quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello said in June. “It’s his first real time through the installation, so hearing it for the first time and executing it for the first time, with each rep you can see him getting more confidence and command. He’s just got a presence out there and he’s into it. He loves studying the game and I think he’s ascending every day.”
The best look fans will get at the offense with Garoppolo under center will come in Weeks 2 and 3 of the preseason against the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, two games in which the first team offense will be getting their most reps of the preseason. Other than that, fans will be seeing a whole lot of Beathard, who will be looking to take the next step after seeing some time as a starter last season, as well as Mullens, who spent the 2017 season on the practice squad but drew some positive reviews from 49ers coaches. The undrafted rookie Heneghan will get a few snaps along the way as well.
Early roster prediction: This is one position where things seem cut and dry – Garoppolo and Beathard will be on the 53-man roster, while Mullens could be heading back to the practice squad, unless he plays so well the 49ers felt the need to stash him on the roster rather than lose him to waivers. Assuming the 49ers kept only one quarterback on the practice squad, Mullens would be the clear favorite to land there over Heneghan.