There are surprise elements in the 49ers’ roster. They are boom-or-bust players. They provide intrigue, excitement, hope – until proven otherwise.
When the 49ers report for training camp next Tuesday, here are five players to keep on track toward a potential breakout season:
1. Jalen Hurd, wide receiver
He has been a legendary playwright for two years after he was drafted in the third round. It is due to debut in a two-touchdown exhibition against the Dallas Cowboys. After: A back fracture that wiped out his rookie season, and then a torn anterior cruciate ligament on his second day of camp last year.
Hurd, who worked with a trainer during off-season workouts, looked in positive spirits and could struggle for the wide open No. 3 spot to complement starters Brandon Ayuk and Deebo Samuel. Instructors will likely slow the establishment of the herd in field work, as is the case…
2. Dee Ford, Defensive End
His pass-rushing career came to a sudden halt after last year’s opener with neck and/or back problems. He rehabilitated with the team until the start of the off-season program when he left for further medical evaluation. If cleaned, it will take enough practice to eliminate the rust but not go full steam.
Ford certainly impressed the 2019 team’s Super Bowl run with his first-stage blast from the opposite edge of Nick Bosa. He has already raked in $34.5 million since coming to the Chiefs (for a second-round draft pick) in the 2019 trade. His renegotiated contract calls for a $4 million salary this year. Whatever Ford can provide will be a bonus, if he is cleared to play again.
3. Samson Abukum, Defensive End
The 49ers signed Abukam away from the Rams in free agency as a clever contingency plan if Ford couldn’t play. Abukum is young, fast and durable. He has yet to produce five sacks in a season after four years with the rams.
If he can’t produce, and if Ford is sidelined, the 49ers’ pass crowd could be in trouble, unless Arden Key or someone else comes to the fore to complement Bossa. The 49ers signed Abukam to a two-year, $12 million deal, and he’ll need to prove himself in a bigger role in 2022 to increase his salary by $5.9 million.
Have fun going up against Trent Williams at Camp!
4. Travis Benjamin, wide receiver
Benjamin was one of three players from the 49ers he picked up last season due to COVID concerns, so how he fits into this roster could provide an exciting twist. At age 31, Benjamin still garnered rave reviews for some of his speed and routes in the off-season program. Plus, he could be the No. 1 return specialist, although he has to prove to be a better option than current Richie James Jr.
5. Tony Jefferson, Security
For a year, taking a $1 million flyer on Jefferson seemed like a very clever move when Tarvarius Moore tore an Achilles on the same day, June 7. Jefferson hasn’t played since an ACL tear in October 2019. Arizona Cardinals (2013-16) and Baltimore Ravens (2017-19). Linking Jefferson to Jimmy Ward could work if Jacquiew Tart suffers a setback in his return from toe surgery. Other safaris in the mix are Marcel Harris, Tavon Wilson, Jared Maiden, Kai Nakua and rookie Talanoa Hufanga.