Javon Hargrave looks dominant in first game with 49ers, will look better next to Nick Bosa

Javon Hargrave looks dominant in first game with 49ers, will look better next to Nick Bosa

SANTA CLARA – Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave sure enjoyed his debut in a 49ers uniform at Levi’s Stadium, albeit for a preseason affair.

“Still, I felt the energy as soon as I went out there. It was a great feeling,” said Hargrave, the 49ers’ prized acquisition in free agency after he defected from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hargrave and the 49ers’ defensive line await an even greater feeling: Nick Bosa joining them and ending his training camp holdout.

It’s believed Bosa’s agent and the 49ers’ brass are in the throes of contract talks, with the outcome still expected to yield the NFL’s largest-ever contract for a non-quarterback. If skipping training camp was Bosa’s preference, this is the final week of such practice. Friday’s game against the Chargers and Bosa’s brother, Nick, is the last before the 49ers essentially switch into regular-season mode.

With under three weeks until the Sept. 10 opener in Pittsburgh, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is not panicking about getting Bosa up to speed once he arrives.

“You guys have been around longer I and I’ve seen from afar: I think he’ll be fine when he gets here,” said Wilks, noting he doesn’t check with the front office on Bosa’s status because that is “not in my pay grade.”

“Bosa is top of the top, from how he trains, to how he eats, to how he practices, and I see why he’s Defensive Player of the Year and why he makes the plays he makes, because of how he works,” defensive tackle T.Y. McGill said. “When you’re around guys like that, it’s contagious.”

Bosa’s arrival will have a massive impact on the overall team, and Hargrave could benefit most, as he won’t draw as many double-team blocks as he did in Monday’s practice. Hargrave’s pass-rushing speed led to a career-high 11 sacks last season with the Eagles before signing with the 49ers in March (four years, $84 million).

“He’s everything we saw on tape, everything he’s been in this league the last couple years,” Wilks said. “Dominant force up front. It will be hard to single-block him. I’m looking forward to him being that force inside.”

Hargrave made a positive first impression Saturday night in the 49ers’ walk-off 21-20 win over the Denver Broncos. One play stood out among his 10-snap christening: On second-and-5, Hargrave shed his block and tackled Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson on a scramble that came a yard short of the first-down marker.

“It was fun. I was excited to finally be back playing football and in a different atmosphere,” Hargrave said. “We still have to work on little things but we’re heading in the right direction.”

The last game in which Hargrave suited up was the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss after an NFC Championship victory over the 49ers. This is his eighth season, having played his first four with the Steelers.

In Monday’s practice, Hargrave lined up on the inside next to Arik Armstead, but the edge-rushing spots have been in flux without Bosa. One snap, it’s Clelin Ferrell. The next, Alex Barrett. Another option returned Monday in Drake Jackson, a potential starter who intercepted Brock Purdy for what would have been a pick-six in a game setting.

Inside the 49ers’ locker room, Hargrave’s upbeat veteran presence neighbors the locker of rookie kicker Jake Moody. Jimmy Garoppolo previously occupied Hargrave’s locker. “That’s what they tell me. Kittle made sure I knew that,” Hargrave said. “They said it’s one of the best lockers, so I’m feeling it.”

Sitting next to Hargrave in the defensive line room is McGill, a former teammate on the Eagles who said: “He’s a humble guy. First day he came in (to Philadelphia), anybody can talk to him. He’s giving advice where it needs to be. I sit by him in the meeting room so I’ll ask what I should have done better, and he always gives me an answer.”

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Just like Saturday’s opening script, Deebo Samuel was a hot target for Purdy in Monday’s practice. They connected on seven completions, including back-to-back throws after Jackson’s interception at the line of scrimmage.

A year ago, Purdy wasn’t exactly on Samuel’s radar, at least not until the preseason finale in which Purdy completed 13-of-20 passes for 182 yards with an interception against the Houston Texans.

“I go back to that preseason game where he made a couple of plays and you see he wasn’t scared of the big moment,” Samuel said. “Then when he got his chance (in the regular season), he wasn’t scared then. It was kind of shocking to see how well he was playing with no practice with the ones and the twos, but to be level-headed and get the job done.”

Purdy’s first three passes Saturday targeted Samuel, producing 25- and 14-yard receptions. It was a reflection not just of their budding chemistry but of Samuel’s offseason turnaround after a self-described “awful” 2022 season. Physically, Samuel said he has “a little more to my step, and a little more to my speed, so it’s a little more power.”


Running back Elijah Michell (groin) returned to practice after a two-week hiatus and had three carries in team drills, plus he caught Purdy’s first pass. … Tight end George Kittle (groin) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (hamstring) returned for position drills but did not take part in 11-on-11 action; Kittle caught passes from Brandon Allen on a side field, instead. … Defensive tackles Javon Kinlaw (illness) and Kalia Davis (hamstring) returned to practice, and Davis made back-to-back run stops. … Left tackle Trent Williams did not practice. … Running back Brian Hill was re-signed. He had a brief stint in 2021, and he more recently played in the XFL. … Defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile was waived.