San Francisco 49ers enter training camp looking to lay winning foundation

49ers playing long game with QB situation (2:06)

Dan Graziano and Field Yates break down the 49ers' plans at quarterback for this season and beyond. (2:06)

The San Francisco 49ers open training camp on July 27 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Here's a closer look at the 49ers' camp:

Top storyline: This season isn't so much about turning into overnight contenders as it is about taking a step in the right direction for their long-term future. Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have injected some optimism into the franchise, but they also are well aware a major turnaround in just one season is a long shot. So they began rebuilding the roster with guys who fit the mold of what they want, making internal tweaks in an effort to alter the team's culture. This year's training camp is as much about setting the tone for what Shanahan and Lynch want the 49ers to be in 2018 and beyond as it is about the results on the field in 2017.

QB depth chart: Brian Hoyer is the starter and clearly the most comfortable in Shanahan's offense. Matt Barkley is the favorite to be Hoyer's backup, allowing the Niners to groom third-round pick C.J. Beathard. Beathard could pass Barkley at some point, but so long as Hoyer is healthy, he's the guy who will lead the offense.

Bubble watch: The Niners didn't hide the fact they received calls about tight end Vance McDonald, and subsequently shopped him to other teams during the NFL draft. McDonald will have a fair chance to make the roster, but the 49ers have other options at the position such as rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini. McDonald has a relatively big salary-cap number, but the Niners can absorb it if they feel they have better options. A strong camp could be necessary for McDonald to stay.

That rookie could start: Defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster are expected to win starting jobs, but cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is another rookie to watch. Witherspoon, a third-round pick, has the size and length to be a perfect fit in coordinator Robert Saleh's defense, and there's an opening opposite Rashard Robinson. Witherspoon has to prove he won't be a liability tackling in order to win the position from the likes of veterans Keith Reaser and Dontae Johnson. Kittle also turned some heads in the spring and could elbow his way into a job.

Finding fits on the offensive line: During organized team activities, the 49ers had Garry Gilliam and Trent Brown rotating at right tackle, Brandon Fusco, Zane Beadles and Joshua Garnett working through the two guard spots, and Jeremy Zuttah and Daniel Kilgore battling at center. Those position battles will continue into training camp, as Shanahan seeks the five best to form his starting offensive line.

Whither Reuben Foster? Foster's surgically repaired right shoulder will be watched closely during training camp. This spring, Foster participated in all activities that didn't include contact with the hope he'll be ready to go for training camp. Foster has a good chance to win the starting weakside linebacker job, but he has be healthy.

Jimmie Ward's new old position: Ward is moving to free safety after spending his previous three NFL seasons at cornerback. It's not a huge adjustment for Ward, who played free safety in college, but it is one of the most important moves to watch as the season approaches. The free safety in Saleh's defense is often left alone in single-high looks, which means he's the last line of defense. A smooth transition by Ward will be critical if the defense wishes to improve in 2017.

For daily updates at camp, check out the San Francisco 49ers clubhouse page.