We’re officially 20 days away from the San Francisco 49ers reporting for 2022 training camp.
And beginning July 26, there will be positions up for grabs and spots on the depth chart on the line.
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Star power will be on display next to Levi’s Stadium as the 49ers will aim to top their 2021 NFC title game appearance. Who knows, maybe a certain trade finally happens (Jimmy Garoppolo) and a certain contract gets finalized (Deebo Samuel) before or during camp.
But outside of Jimmy G and Samuel, there are members of the 49ers who we believe will need the timeframe of late July to August to prove they’re capable of breaking out in 2022. They can use camp to set the tone for a potential breakthrough plus distance themselves from the competition they face. For these 49ers, they were chosen for the following reasons: Where they were drafted, the possibility of replacing an instrumental piece to their scheme or aiming to come back from an injury-plagued season.
Heavy on 49ers chose five players who fit the said descriptions. And for some of these ‘Niners, the final week of July presents a prime opportunity to either erase the personal disappointments of 2021 or let it be known to their team that they want to be No. 1 on the depth chart for their position. Here are the five:
Trey Sermon, Running Back
Here’s what’s become telling about the 2021 third rounder Sermon: Bleacher Report’s Joe Tansey named him as a trade candidate on Wednesday, July 6.
“If Sermon enters the regular season as the No. 3 or No. 4 running back, it may be worth trying to grab a draft pick in return for him so he can find playing time elsewhere,” Tansey wrote.
This camp period presents a great time to take things personal if you’re Sermon and for him to prove he can be the touchdown threat that he was at Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Aaron Banks, Left Guard
Banks has a great chance to prove why the 49ers chose to avoid free agency and the draft to find the blindside guard replacement for Pro Bowler Laken Tomlinson.
Per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows back on June 1 before minicamp, Banks has shown signs of taking care of his body for the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus’s Mike Renner penciled in Banks as the starting LG, saying “The player to keep an eye on is former second-round guard Aaron Banks, who played just five snaps as a rookie in 2021. But he’s a former second-rounder and has a golden opportunity to replace Laken Tomlinson on the left side.”
Banks has huge shoes to fill with Tomlinson’s departure. But he can use camp to prove he’s the future fixture at Tomlinson’s old spot.
Jake Brendel, Center
Brendel is plugged to take over for the other departed Pro Bowler on the S.F. line Alex Mack. Yet, the seven-year veteran could face the most competition for his spot. And from undrafted rookies.
Dohnovan West was projected to be drafted in the sixth round by nfl.com and as high as the late third round by Bleacher Report, but went undrafted. West, though, established himself as one of Arizona State’s top run blockers for the Sun Devil’s run-heavy scheme. He’s not the only intriguing newcomer.
Jason Poe of Mercer has been lauded for his rapid-fire feet and having the athleticism of an H-back. Head coach Kyle Shanahan may be intrigued to figure out how to use Poe’s reported 4.89 40-yard dash speed.
But one advantage Brendel does have over both: Quarterback Trey Lance told reporters on June 10 that he’s spent his most time with the veteran.
Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle
As deep as the 49ers are in the defensive trenches, they could be more stout with a healthy Kinlaw.
Unfortunately, the former top 20 pick and replacement for DeForest Buckner is yet to play a full season. Now entering year three, plus with two seasons left on his rookie deal he signed in 2020, the time never felt greater for Kinlaw to prove he can still be impactful up front.
Reports from minicamp were Kinlaw looked leaner and quicker — even getting Barrows thinking the 49ers “brought in a new tight end” in his June 10 mailbag column. Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area listed Kinlaw as the highest ranked potential breakout defender on Tuesday, July 5. But again, health is integral for Kinlaw.
Emmanuel Moseley, Cornerback
Like Kinlaw, Moseley was greatly impacted by his own injury. But his high ankle sprain robbed him from a potential Pro Bowl berth.
Before his injury versus Seattle in Week 13, Moseley hadn’t allowed a single touchdown his side. All-Pro receivers like Davante Adams, De’Andre Hopkins and D.K. Metcalf also struggled versus him in coverage.
And now: Jason Verrett is back and healthy, Charvarius Ward is on board, Ambry Thomas emerged late last season and Moseley is entering a pivotal contract year.
He could form a highly-rated CB tandem with the new addition from the Chiefs Ward. But he must distance himself from the competition and show his strong 2021 before the sprain was no fluke.