Bruce Ellington was going to get his big shot in 2016. In Chip Kelly’s new offensive scheme, the former South Carolina standout — heading into his third NFL season — was eager to play a much bigger role in the offense as both a wide receiver and punt and kick returner.
After catching six passes as a rookie in 2014 and 13 in 2015, Ellington was certain to be a bigger part of the passing game under Kelly.
Early in last year’s training camp, Ellington looked like a dangerous piece of Kelly’s passing attack.
“Bruce Ellington, that’s one guy that’s hard to cover,” said defensive back Jimmie Ward. “Bruce is very shifty and he has great speed.”
Instead, Ellington suffered an injured hamstring and lost his entire season.
Now, Ellington — a fourth-round pick in 2014 — faces a much tougher road.
With a new general manager and head coach in place, a healthy Ellington comes back with much more competition at his position. This offseason, the 49ers have added veterans Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson, re-signed Jeremy Kerley and drafted Trent Taylor. Plus roster holdovers Aaron Burbridge and DeAndre Smelter will be in the mix, too.
Ellington could have made a statement during recent organized team activities, but that didn’t work out, either, as he was held out because of a sore hamstring.
Now, Ellington apparently is eager to be 100 percent ready for the start of training camp in late July. David Fucillo, writing for SB Nation’s Niners Nation website, noted Ellington is working out in Miami right now with fitness trainer David Alexander, along with teammate Carlos Hyde, the 49ers’ No. 1 running back.
Ellington’s greatest asset is his speed and quickness. He’ll need to be fully fit to earn a roster spot and playing time in 2017.
Wrote Fucillo: “Ellington enters training camp with a lot of work to do. … Ellington (is) competing for the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart and potentially a return role. Ellington has flashed skills in the past, but has never been able to consistently stay healthy. And with so much competition in front of him, even the slightest injury costing him any time in training camp could be enough to get him cut by the end of camp.”