Niner Noise details what Dante Pettis has to do to make the 53-man roster.
Following the end of his rookie year, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis was looking like a key contributor for the Niners as they transitioned from rebuilding to contending. While the transition did happen last year, Pettis’ second year did not bear good news.
When Pettis was drafted in Round 2 back in 2018, the expectation was he could provide an incredible spark in the return game while bringing speed and smooth route running for the receiving core. Well last year, Pettis lost his punt return job to Richie James Jr. and his overall play declined to the point where head coach Kyle Shanahan simply benched him, including Pettis being inactive in the Super Bowl.
With several inactives, Pettis is facing a pivotal offseason and training camp. Now he is the perfect embodiment of someone on the roster bubble; there’s an equal case for him making the roster or not.
Let’s see what has to happen for Pettis to be nearly guaranteed a spot on the roster.
Dante Pettis’ Health with 49ers
The biggest football issue for the 49ers this offseason has been the health of their wide receivers. First, Deebo Samuel, their functional WR1, suffered a Jones fracture, and then James broke his wrist. While talking about the fallout of the Samuel injury, Niner Noise’s Elvis Jerez pointed out how Pettis could receive a bigger role simply out of necessity.
While injuries can be seemingly random, Pettis’ biggest asset right now will be availability, and it’s up to him to preserve that for as long as he can.
Show Something Unique to 49ers
The other major issue with Pettis for his roster chances is simply how unique he can be for the Niners on their roster. A player like Jalen Hurd or Kendrick Bourne fills a specific skill set San Francisco is looking for. A guy like the rookie, Jauan Jennings, may be a bit repetitive, which is why his roster chances are still up in the air.
A lot of what Pettis offers, his return ability and talent to stretch the field, is available in the form of the 49ers’ second first-round pick, Brandon Aiyuk, who is a burner and is also explosive as a returner, though Pettis’ college return stats are unparalleled.
What that means is Pettis cannot rest upon his basic skills and assume that earns him a spot on the roster.
Pettis has some of the crispest route running on the roster. He has the capacity to be much more than what he’s shown. With Aiyuk learning the offense in the wings, Pettis will have to show that extra something to justify his place on the roster. Whether it be his return ability, a marked improvement at contested catches or something else, developing that crucial skill will be critical for his roster chances.
Dante Pettis Finding His ‘Inner Dog’
This part is a bit of conjecture, but from Shanahan’s comments in the past (h/t Sacramento Bee), it seemed one of the biggest negative criticisms of Pettis was a lack of fire at times. To find his proverbial “inner dog” doesn’t mean Pettis needs to post 20 workout videos every day showing him focusing on the next season.
Rather he needs to find a more aggressive side on the field that allows him to play bigger than he is. That aggressive side would only amplify his abilities for San Francisco.
The recent injuries to the wide receiver room have only aided Pettis’ quest to keep his roster spot. However, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and growth is necessary for Pettis to guarantee that spot for next season.