Jimmy Garoppolo: Dante Pettis a 'tremendous talent'


The San Francisco 49ers propel toward training camp amid of fog of unknown.

On paper, the Niners look like a squad who could at least make some noise in a crowded NFC West. As far as NFL teams go, however, San Francisco ranks among those with the most questions entering the 2019 season.

How will Jimmy Garoppolo bounce back from an ACL tear? How will the running back situation sort itself out? Can the defensive front be the best in football if it can stay healthy? Has the secondary group improved enough? Can Kyle Shanahan not lose double-digit games as a head coach? How will the receiving corps shake out?

As to that last question, second-year receiver Dante Pettis appears poised to snatch the No. 1 role. After coming along slowly his rookie campaign and dealing with injuries, Pettis flashed traits that suggest he could be a go-to target in San Francisco. In the final five games of the 2018 season, Pettis generated three tilts of 77-plus yards (including a 129-yard day against Seattle) and four total touchdowns.

Through offseason workouts, Garoppolo is impressed with Pettis.

"Dante is something else," Jimmy G told Sporting News this week. "His physical ability is different from most receivers, and different from any receiver I've been with. How he moves, it's very long and gangly, but he makes it work. He has enough explosiveness and power to get out of cuts when it doesn't look like he can.

"I'm thrilled about it. It makes my job easier for someone to win one-on-one opportunities like that. He's a tremendous talent and keeps working, grinding to make big things happen."

Pettis entered the NFL known as a good route runner, and that showed in the games he was healthy last season, displaying an ability to gain separation at the top of routes and make himself available for the QB. Pettis might not possess elite traits like size or speed, but as Garoppolo noted, he owns the explosion in and out of breaks to get open.

Pettis could become Jimmy G's go-to wide receiver in 2019 if he can stay healthy. The Niners receiving corps is hella young, with a 28-year-old Marquise Goodwin the eldest of the crew entering his seventh season. Jordan Matthews, six years, could be a veteran presence if he makes the final 53. Outside of those two, it's all players with less than three years of experience: Pettis, Trent Taylor (Year 3), Deebo Samuel (R), Jalen Hurd (R), Kendrick Bourne (Y3), Richie James (Y2), Max McCaffrey (Y3) Malik Henry (R), Shawn Poindexter (R).

Starting with Pettis making a Year 2 leap, how that young group performs early in the season will go a long way in determining the success of Jimmy G's passing game.