The San Francisco 49ers open training camp on July 26 at their training facility in Santa Clara, California. Here's a closer look at the 49ers' camp:
Top storyline: If all goes as expected, the three words Jimmy Garoppolo hates most -- small sample size -- will no longer be tied to the Niners' franchise quarterback. Garoppolo, entering his fifth season, is finally going to be the undisputed starter and get a chance to prove he can succeed over the course of a full season. The expectations surrounding the Niners are huge for a team that was 6-10 a year ago. Most of that optimism is tied directly to the belief that Garoppolo can be the player who led San Francisco to five straight wins to close out last season over the course of a 16-game schedule and, perhaps, beyond.
QB depth chart: Let there be no doubt, this is Garoppolo's offense and, really, his team. The Niners will go as far as he can take them. Second-year signal caller C.J. Beathard is his backup after getting some valuable starting experience in 2017. Nick Mullens spent last year on the practice squad and will get the chance to continue to develop behind Garoppolo and Beathard, though it's unlikely the 49ers will carry three quarterbacks on the active roster.
Bubble watch: Winnable roster spots won't be as abundant this year as they were last year, but there are still a few veterans who could be pushed for spots. Receiver Aldrick Robinson will get plenty of competition from the likes of Kendrick Bourne and Richie James for a place on the receiver depth chart. Guard Joshua Garnett was a first-round pick just two years ago and has re-shaped his body to better fit the scheme, but with Jonathan Cooper and Laken Tomlinson positioned to win starting jobs, Garnett will have to prove that fit to win a spot. The fact that others, such as Erik Magnuson and Mike Person, bring more versatility could also factor into that competition. Also, running back Joe Williams has some work to do to win a job in his second season after entering the league as a fourth-round pick many believed could push for a starting job.
This rookie could start: First-round pick Mike McGlinchey was poised to handle the starting right tackle job immediately after the Niners traded Trent Brown to the New England Patriots. McGlinchey's polish and ability to make a difference in the run game appealed to the 49ers and he should step in from day one. None of the other 49ers rookies are as much of a sure thing, though second-round wideout Dante Pettis has a good shot to be the team's punt returner right away after a record-breaking college career at Washington in that role. Third-round linebacker Fred Warner could also have a chance to play early as Reuben Foster serves a two-game suspension, and fifth-round cornerback D.J. Reed could potentially push for playing time in the slot and as a kick returner.
Richard Sherman's recovery: The Niners' biggest offseason addition was held out of organized team activities this spring, but Sherman looks poised to participate fully in camp. Sherman's ability to regain his previous form will be one of the biggest storylines of this camp and the season. During the offseason program, Sherman wasted no time taking on a leadership role for the secondary. Now, he will have the chance to lead by on-field example.
Sorting out the secondary: Assuming Sherman jumps into his expected starting role, the Niners will have plenty of other competition at spots on the back end. Jaquiski Tartt will start at strong safety but there's a lot to figure out when it comes to free safety, the other outside corner job and the nickel corner. Jimmie Ward spent the spring working at outside corner and could push Ahkello Witherspoon for a starting job opposite Sherman. He also could battle Adrian Colbert for the free safety spot and/or K'Waun Williams for the slot role. Or, perhaps, those players stay put and Ward serves as a sort of highly-paid utility man in the defensive backfield. The Niners also need to figure out whether Reed can push Williams for the nickel job and identify their best candidate to be the backup strong safety.