Dante Pettis made just one catch Thursday night, but he showed the 49ers what he can bring to the Niners as a rookie.
In San Francisco’s exhibition opener against Dallas at Levi’s Stadium, a 24-21 victory over the Cowboys, Pettis – a second-round pick out of the University of Washington – hooked up on a 53-yard pass from backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.
On a second-and-3 on the first drive of the third quarter, Beathard took the snap at the 49ers’ 37-yard line, faked a handoff and rolled right, planted and heaved a spiral deep, catching Pettis in stride ahead of two Cowboys defenders at about the Dallas 18-yard line. He quickly was tripped up and dropped at the 10.
After a short run and two incomplete passes, the 49ers’ Robbie Gould kicked a 26-yard field goal to cut the Cowboys’ lead at the time to 14-10.
Pettis has been impressive in spring drills and the first stage of training camp, showing great speed, good hands and an ability to run crisp routes. His addition to a wide receiving cast that includes Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garcon and Trent Taylor should give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo targets all over the field. Plus, he's one of the greatest punt returners in college football history and could add punch to San Francisco's special teams in 2018.
After Pettis made the 53-yard catch and run Thursday night, Dylan DeSimone of the Cover Four podcast tweeted: “Dante Pettis as a route runner is another level. He’s having a real strong rookie camp for the #49ers. It’s looking like he is going to be hard to hold back this year.”
This week, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said he’s pleased with the progress Pettis is making and impressed by his athletic ability.
“He’s a very smooth, under-control athlete who’s got great vision, great balance,” said Shanahan. Pettis wasn’t perfect, however. He dropped a well-thrown ball in the first half.
Another rookie wideout, Richie James, also had a nice game in his debut. The seventh-round pick from Middle Tennessee State had four catches for 46 yards, including a 9-yard reception from Garoppolo on the 49ers’ first drive of the game and a 7-yard pass from Nick Mullens at the end of the game for a game-winning TD.
Garoppolo played just the first series, completing 3-of-6 throws for 34 yards before giving way to Beathard, who completed 10-of-20 passes for 181 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
The 49ers’ next exhibition game is Saturday, Aug. 18, in Houston vs. the Texans.