49ers' competition at right guard off to slow start
SANTA CLARA — The 49ers’ top competition for a starting job in training camp involves two competitors who haven’t competed.
Every position on offense and defense is set except right guard. The 49ers want to have a right guard competition. But Joshua Garnett and Jonathan Cooper, the main competitors, are injured. Neither practiced with the team on Wednesday.
Garnett missed his third practice in a row with a vague knee injury he suffered Saturday, the first day players wore pads and hit each other. The 49ers say Garnett “banged” his knee. He spent Wednesday morning rehabilitating on a side field, where he sat on a box, stood up, then sat back down on the box again. He did this all morning.
Cooper hasn’t practiced with the team since he signed this offseason. He had surgery on the MCL in his knee in January, and missed all of OTAs and minicamp. On Tuesday, he returned, kind of.
Cooper warmed up with the offensive linemen and participated in their individual drills. And on Wednesday, he even engaged in one-on-one pass-rush drills with the team’s defensive linemen. He’s making progress. But he hasn’t played with the team in an 11-on-11 scrimmage.
“I’d like those two to get out there,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday after practice. “It’s tough to make this team if you’re not out there. I was a little surprised Garnett didn’t make it today. I’d be more surprised if he’s not out there tomorrow.
“Cooper’s really day-to-day. We just put him in individual. I think today was his second day of individual in a row. We’ll probably continue this week and see if he’s ready for practice next week after an entire day off.”
Sounds like the nature of the competition has changed. They were supposed to compete for a starting job. Now, they’re also competing just to stay on the team. If they miss too much time, the 49ers could cut them.
Shanahan clearly wants Garnett to practice today, or else. Garnett’s spot on the roster is not strong. He is a holdover from the previous regime, which traded up to draft him in the first round of the 2016 draft. The current regime — Shanahan and GM John Lynch — is not committed to Garnett.
Last year, the 49ers instructed Garnett to lose 20 pounds. He didn’t fit Shanahan’s style of offense. During training camp, Garnett injured his left knee, had surgery and missed the entire season. Now, the same knee hurts.
The 49ers aren’t particularly committed to Cooper, either. They gave him just a one-year contract this offseason. If he’s hurt when the season starts, they could cut him and save $2 million.
The 49ers will take anyone who’s healthy at this point. That’s the state of their disappointing right guard competition.
“It has given opportunities to other guys, guys like Erik Magnuson and Mike Person,” Shanahan said. “Some guys have gotten more reps. That’s a part of football.”
Magnuson and Person aren’t the most talented right guards on the roster, but they’re the most prepared for the regular season because they’ve taken most of the reps with the starters in training camp.