The 49ers are set to begin the on-field portions of their training camp this week, so let’s look at the five best one-on-one battles to watch.
The San Francisco 49ers‘ 2020 offseason has been a weird one, notably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dates have been pushed back, on-field team workouts during the spring were eliminated, online meetings became the norm and so on.
But many of the age-old storylines about training camp remain the same. There are going to be a number of players on the 80-man offseason roster vying for placement on the Week 1 53-man roster. Those with less of a chance to make an already-crowded Niners depth chart hope to at least impress other teams around the league in a last-ditch hope of landing a job elsewhere.
Although that’ll be difficult with limited members of the media present for camp practices and zero preseason games.
One of the more entertaining elements of camp practices are all those one-on-one matchups: wide receivers versus defensive backs, pass-rushers versus offensive linemen and so on. They’ll ramp up during seven-on-seven and full 11-on-11 drills, too.
So, which ones are the favorites to watch when official practices kick off?
Let’s take a look.
49ers Camp Battle No. 5: Jerick McKinnon vs. Kwon Alexander
The Niners are hopefully going to get a full season’s worth of work from their prized free-agent pickup from 2018, running back Jerick McKinnon, who spent the last two years on injured reserve after tearing his ACL just before Week 1 that year.
McKinnon, of course, is part of a triad of capable runners, also including Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert. But McKinnon is going to be under the microscope, namely when thinking about his own unique abilities and what he can offer to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
On the flip side, Kwon Alexander is San Francisco’s best run-stopping linebacker and is primed to return as the defense’s base weak-side (WILL) defender, which is responsible for handling run duties to that side of the field.
Alexander is also returning from a lengthy pectoral injury despite valiantly gutting it out during the playoffs last year.
These two highly athletic and mobile first-team players are likely to create some provocative moments during training camp.