During training camp the 49ers mix and match players over the course of each practice, trying to figure out the best fit for the defense. The free agency rules preventing veteran free agents from practicing with the team until August 4 throws a bit of a crimp in the plans. The free agency rules have kept out Alex Smith, Ray McDonald, Tony Wragge, C.J. Spillman and others, which affects the daily training camp depth chart.
Tuesday's practice saw an interesting twist on the 49ers starting defense. Several 49ers are banged up including Shawntae Spencer, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Isaac Sopoaga, and Ahmad Brooks. None of the injuries is too huge, but the team doesn't want them to get any bigger so they're shelving them for the short term. This led to some backups moving into the first team defense for Tuesday's practice. After the jump, check out the starting defense on Tuesday.
Right defensive end: Ricky Jean Francois
Nose Tackle: Ian Williams
Left Defensive End: Will Tukuafu
Right Outside Linebacker: Aldon Smith
Inside Linebacker: Keaton Kristick
Inside Linebacker: NaVorro Bowman
Left Outside Linebacker: Parys Haralson
Cornerback: Tramaine Brock
Strong Safety: Taylor Mays
Free Safety: Reggie Smith
Cornerback: Tarell Brown
One of the drawbacks to not attending every day of training camp is its hard for me to get a full grasp on how these guys are performing day-to-day. As I watched on Tuesday, Reggie Smith grabbed a pick off a Kristick deflection and he made a second pick that was much more clean. On the second one he read Colin Kaepernick's eyes, soared in and made the easy pick.
I can't really tell you a lot about the performances because of the lack of context. However, I will agree with Maiocco's comments about how he clearly looks like a starter. Even with only a day's worth of practice I got that sense that Smith is bringing his A-game to camp. We still have no idea what's up with Dashon Goldson, but if he does re-sign we could see some serious battles among the safeties for playing time.
It was cool to see this particularly defensive line unit. RJF will see a mix of playing time on the defense line and when Ray McDonald can start practicing that will move him around. Isaac Sopoaga was dealing with a hamstring strain early in camp and has yet to practice with the first team defense. If McDonald slots in at left defensive end, does RJF move back over to nose tackle if Sopoaga remains out? I'm heading back down to camp on Thursday so I'll keep an eye out for how the first team defensive line is structured with the veterans back in place.
As for the corners? Well they've got Carlos Rogers added into the mix and that changes things a little bit. Shawntae Spencer sat out a second day of practice but should be back soon. In the coming days it will be interesting to see how quickly Carlos Rogers is immersed in the defense and where he slots in for now.
I've got some comments about Aldon Smith, but I'm going to save those for a post later this morning that includes some comments from Joe Staley. One for you: he has some crazy long arms. Just insane. He looks like a little like Manny with how tall and big he is.