Jerome Simpson came into 49ers training camp with two things in his favor.
First, the Niners have roster spots up for grabs at the wide receiver position. And second, there’s a new coaching staff in place that brings a fresh perspective in evaluating holdover players.
So far, Simpson is taking advantage of his opportunity.
On Monday, Simpson broke free down the sideline to gather in a long throw for a touchdown from quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He’s also shined in drills throughout the early days of camp.
At age 30, the 6-foot-1, 193-pounder is looking more like the quick and athletic receiver who had 50- and 48-catch seasons for the Bengals (2011) and Vikings (2013) than the guy who played in just five games with five catches for the 49ers in 2015 after sitting out the entire 2014 season.
Torrey Smith appears locked in to one starting wideout spot, but the rest of the jobs are open, and Simpson is making an early bid to be heavily in the mix in 2016.
“He’s really flourishing in what we’re doing right now, and he’s a guy to keep an eye on as we continue to move,” Kelly told the media Tuesday. “If he continues to make plays like that (the long TD grab Monday), he’ll be a real nice advantage to add to Torrey, to have some speed on the outside like that.”
Smith, too, has been impressed by Simpson. He told 49ers.com writer Joe Fann that Simpson is “explosive.”
“He’s a freak,” Smith said. “Everyone remembers the flip he did a view years ago (in leaping over a defender for a TD an NFL game). He has more energy than anyone on the field, every single day.”