Garnett vs. Cooper Duel at Right Guard Off to a Slow Start

Injuries to both former No. 1 picks have limited the players' time in practice and irritated 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan

This is a make-or-break training camp for Joshua Garnett, yet the young guard has gotten off to a slow start.

Garnett, a first-round pick by the 49ers out of Stanford in 2016, was supposed to compete with another former first-round pick, Jonathan Cooper, for the starting spot at right guard this summer. But Garnett and Cooper have both been injured, meaning Erik Magnuson and Mike Person are taking first- and second-team reps.

Cooper — acquired from the Cowboys — had knee surgery this offseason and is coming around slowly. On Wednesday, he took part in some team drills, according to Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Garnett missed his third straight practice because the team said he “banged” a knee Saturday in practice. On Wednesday, he worked out on a side field while his teammates practiced.

That’s not what head coach Kyle Shanahan had in mind, and he sounded a bit irritated about it when speaking with reporters after practice Wednesday.

“I’d like those two to get out there,” Shanahan told the media. “It’s tough to make this team if you’re not out there. I was a little surprised Garnett didn’t make it today. I’d be more surprised if he’s not out there tomorrow.”

Garnett was sidelined all of last season because of a knee injury, and spent a lot of that time dropping weight and getting in better shape to fit Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, where movement – pulling outside and getting downfield – is crucial by the offensive linemen.

Certainly, the 49ers don’t want to go into the season with Person, a 30-year-old journeyman, or Magnuson, a 24-year-old former undrafted free agent, in the starting lineup. The team would love to see Garnett and Cooper fight it out over the exhibition season to bring out the best in one another.

Right guard is the only position on the offensive line still to be determined. Joe Staley (left tackle), Laken Tomlinson (left guard), Weston Richburg (center) and No. 1 pick Mike McGlinchey (right tackle) will start in the season opener, barring injuries.

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