For now, Ross Dwelley is the 49ers’ No. 2 tight end behind George Kittle.
Dwelley was an undrafted free agent out of the University of San Diego who joined the 49ers last April, was cut at the end of training camp, was signed to San Francisco’s practice squad and then played in 11 regular season games for the Niners in 2018.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught the only two passes thrown his way as a rookie, for 14 total yards.
On a team with Kittle, veteran Garrett Celek and former Stanford standout Kaden Smith – drafted in the sixth round this spring – Dwelley is the least-known tight end on the San Francisco roster.
Yet with Celek out with a back injury that could sideline him a month or more into the regular season, Dwelley is getting plenty of opportunities to make the roster.
As Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat noted this week, Dwelley in practice has shown an ability to get open and make plays against 49ers defenders. This week, he made one particularly good reception against safety Adrian Colbert, good for 15 yards.
Kittle says Dwelley is "light years ahead" of where he was a year ago.
"He does a lot of things similar to me," Kittle told Cohn. "He’s consistent and hungry for opportunities. I didn’t do the last two minicamp practices and he thrived during those. That’s what everyone wants to see. He’s going to make a big push during the preseason."
Dwelley, who played high school football in El Dorado Hills, near Sacramento, started 44 games for the University of San Diego, which plays in the lower-level Football Championship Subdivision of the college game. Over four seasons he had 197 catches for 2,305 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Recently, Kittle said Dwelley has impressed with his intelligence.
Said Kittle: "His understanding of routes and just the offense itself is incredible. … It’s really fun to see just how well he’s developed. You can put him out there with the ones (starters) and he does everything he’s supposed to do."
He'll get his first game opportunity Aug. 10 against the Cowboys in the 49ers' preseason opener.