49ers training camp: 3 players who must impress to avoid being cut

Ahkello Witherspoon #23 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Ahkello Witherspoon #23 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /
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Richie James, 49ers
Wide receiver Richie James #13 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

No. 3. 49ers Wide Receiver Richie James

This offseason has been pretty rough for us all, but wide receiver Richie James must feel especially unlucky.

The former 2018 seventh-round pick from Middle Tennessee State was probably elated when the 49ers chose not to re-sign veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders, thinking that he could see more opportunities come his way during training camp and hopefully into the regular season. And while no one ever wishes injuries to fellow teammates, his chances seemed even greater when fellow wideout Deebo Samuel suffered a broken foot on June 16. The door for James to make a greater impact seemed wide open.

And then the Niners selected Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the first round of April’s NFL Draft. With fellow wideout Trent Taylor set to make his return from injuries the past two seasons, and the additional free-agent signing of veteran receiver Travis Benjamin, the thought of additional looks as a receiver and/or a returner both took a major hit.

Unfortunately for James, the hits didn’t stop there. Two days after Samuel’s injury was reported, James suffered a broken wrist while training as well. His timetable for a return is sometime in mid-August.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for him, as it will most likely be a shortened camp as it is for NFL teams due to the pandemic.

And while James had made a splash with big-play ability as a receiver, the 49er receiver room is still quite crowded. His best chance more than likely would have been in the return game, but both Taylor and Aiyuk have experience returning kicks as well.

If James struggles in any way returning from his injury, the chances of him making the team in any capacity go from slim to none.