Now healthy and stronger, Dante Pettis can’t afford to underwhelm 49ers again


When Joe Montana and Dante Pettis showed up to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, they were there to promote a junior golf exhibit, not the 49ers’ future.

But that wouldn’t prevent Joe Cool from registering some cautious optimism on the 49ers’ passing game, one year removed from the disappointment of Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending ACL tear and Pettis’ underwhelming rookie campaign as an outside, field-stretching threat.

“You can take a look at how the quarterback comes back and what have they added to the team to help him on the outside – it’s been a big need for them,” Montana said.

Asked about Pettis, the 2018 second-round draft pick who was hitting golf balls nearby, the man whose wide receiver standards were formed in the company of Jerry Rice was succinct: “We just have to make sure he can get open.”

The 49ers obviously need him to. And if he can, Pettis could emerge as Garoppolo’s No. 1 target, or at least lighten the workload of record-setting tight end George Kittle.

Pettis is stronger than during his rookie year, out of necessity, when he finished the season at 180 pounds — not big enough to grapple with ball-hawking NFL defensive backs.

“I know it’s something I have to work on,” Pettis said while flexing his biceps during a training camp interview. “I think it paid off a little bit.

“I feel I have more strength to fight off a defender or when they try to rip the ball out.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan made sure Pettis knew the importance of his mission: “There’s a whole other level that he can reach. He needs to do it with size, with mentality and just getting after it every day.”

A Week 4 knee injury hindered Pettis’ debut season, ultimately sending him to injured reserve with one game to go. He had five touchdowns among his 27 receptions and 467 yards as a rookie.

He flashed the potential that made him a second-round pick of Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, making acrobatic catches reminiscent of his days at Washington.

Shanahan and Lynch said in February they wanted Pettis’ second year ascent to rival that of Kittle’s breakout season. Kittle merely set the NFL single-season record for yards by a tight end.

New 49ers receivers coach Wes Welker has just the plan for Pettis.

Dante Pettis just went 75 yards in Seattle

: FOX #GoNiners

— NFL (@NFL) December 2, 2018

“I want him to just have that mentality like, ‘You’re going to make every damn play out there,’” said Welker, a former star receiver for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Relayed Welker’s words, Pettis owned it.

“That’s something I didn’t do that good of a job of last year: I wasn’t making those tough catches,” Pettis said. “That’s something I’m working toward.”

The 23-year-old Pettis has been working alongside a receiving corps that’s relatively young led by Marquise Goodwin, 28, and Jordan Matthews, 27. But the 49ers used second- and third-round draft picks for two more wide receivers,

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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