HOUSTON – Joshua Garnett worked primarily with the 49ers’ No. 1 offense during practice Thursday, as he has gotten healthy and inserted himself into the competition for the starting job at right guard.
”It feels great to be out there with the boys, and running around with them,” Garnett said after the 49ers’ second practice against the Houston Texans. “I was out here doing all the reps today. I’m feeling good.”
Garnett missed two weeks of practices and the 49ers’ first exhibition game after banging knees with a teammate in practice on July 28. It was the same knee that required surgery last August, knocking him out for the entire season.
He showed some rust on Wednesday with some missed assignments, but he otherwise looked good enough to move up to the first team on Thursday.
“He looked good on tape yesterday.” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He definitely looked healthy yesterday. The test will be after fatigue sets in. Today was his second day in a row. We upped his reps, so I’m looking forward to watching the tape when I get in.”
Garnett, a first-round pick from Stanford in 2016, is competing against Mike Person and Jonathan Cooper for the starting job. Cooper has yet to spend much time working with the first team after slowing rounding into shape after sustaining a knee injury in the final game of last season while with the Dallas Cowboys.
Garnett is expected to see significant action Saturday night against the Texans and could even be in the starting lineup.
“Whatever coaches see on tape and whatever coach says, that’s what I’m going to roll with,” Garnett said. “Whether I’m going with the ones, twos or threes, I’ll go out there and go as hard as I can.
“Every day is important, not just the games — every practice, every walkthrough, every install, every meeting. I’ve got to approach it with that mindset.”
Garoppolo’s Evaluation of Practices
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said the 49ers’ offense benefitted from the two days of work against the Texans’ defense. Houston’s defense appeared to have the upper hand during the practices, which serve as warmups for Saturday’s exhibition game.
“I think it was good,” Garoppolo said. “They gave us a lot of different looks that we’re not used to getting. They run a different defense than what we’re used to so it got our guys thinking and I think we handled it very well.”
Garoppolo and the first-team offense were stymied during a pair of two-minute drills at the end of practice. On the first play of the first series, Garoppolo’s arm was hit as he was throwing. The pass fluttered into the secondary for an easy interception by safety Kareem Jackson. When Garoppolo got another chance, the 49ers’ offense failed to record a first down on four plays.
“To me, it’s most important because you get different coverages,” Shanahan said. “You go against our defense, you’re going against cover three about 90 percent of the time. So it’s nice to get some different looks, some more two-shell defenses, some clouds, some quarters, things like that. So it’s good work.”
Running Back Rotation
Jeremy McNichols handled most of the first-team reps at running back with Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder) out for the remainder of the exhibition season. Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and newly signed veteran Alfred Morris split the duties.
“We just try to get a look at everyone,” Shanahan said. “You try to give everyone their opportunity. We have had guys down and other guys like Joe [Williams] and Raheem, they have gotten more opportunities with the (No. 1) offensive line. So we wanted to give all of the running backs as well as you can, time with the one O-line. Also, you want to see them go against some NFL defenses. Sometimes those twos and threes aren’t quite NFL defenses, yet.”
Offensive Play of the Day
Garoppolo and rookie receiver Dante Pettis hooked up on a 30-yard corner route. Garoppolo lofted the pass to Pettis’ back shoulder, and Pettis tracked the ball and made an over-the-shoulder catch.
Defensive Plays of the Day
The No. 2 defense had an outstanding sequence during its two-minute drill. The series started against Houston with Jeremiah Attaochu breaking free for what would’ve been a quarterback sack of Brandon Weeden. (The ensuing pass was completed for a first down.) Then, on the next four plays, linebacker Fred Warner, safety Antone Exum and cornerback Tyvis Powell broke up passes. On fourth down, Greg Mabin recorded the interception.
Mental and Physical Test
At the suggestion of 49ers nose tackle Earl Mitchell, who played four seasons with the Houston Texans, left tackle Joe Staley was one of several players who took intravenous fluids before practices to combat possible dehydration from the heat.
“I had two IV bags yesterday and I went with one IV bag this morning,” Staley said. “I felt a little more sluggish today, so I think two is the go.”
In 12 NFL seasons, Staley has never experienced anything like the two days practicing in the Houston heat. The two-hour practices began at 9:15 a.m. Along with the suffocating humidity, the temperatures reached the mid-90s.
“It’s good to get work in an environment that we don’t usually get work in,” Staley said. “Training camp in California is probably some of the nicest weather you’re going to get in the NFL. So to come out here and work through the heat and test yourself mentally, it’s good for everybody.”
This ‘n’ That
There was a scary moment for rookie safety Terrell Williams, who fell hard on the concrete at the side of the field after a one-on-one coverage drill. Williams injured his knee. But afterward he was walking around fine, and said he felt fine. . . Rookie safety Marcell Harris sustained a hamstring injury in practice Wednesday and was not available. . . Mostert caught a deep pass against linebacker Zach Cunningham from Garoppolo on a wheel route. . . Exum recorded an interception at the sideline on a Joe Webb pass attempt intended for tight end MyCole Pruitt. . . . D.J. Reed broke up a well-thrown Deshaun Watson pass 35 yards down the field intended for rookie receiver Vincent Smith. . . Texans safety Kevin Drummond intercepted a C.J. Beathard pass that deflected off the hands of tight end Cole Hikutini. . . Watson hit tight end Jordan Akins on a 25-yard touchdown against the coverage of Reuben Foster. . . Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon had an eventful three-play sequence against DeAndre Hopkins in a two-minute drill. Hopkins caught a 20-yard pass on Witherspoon. On the next play, Hopkins was flagged for offensive pass interference. Then, Witherspoon broke up a pass intended for Hopkins. . . Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman did not practice during team drills and will not play in Saturday’s game. But Sherman and Hopkins spent some time helping each other on technique after practice.